Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting Comfortable

Yesterday we walked around town some more.  We went to an underground mall area in an old subway.  We had remembered this place from our first trip in April.  And oddly enough, when going into a certain store, the store owner there remembered us as well.  We did a little shopping and then went up to ground level.  We were in front of the presidency building and finally saw the changing of the guard out front.  We had tried to see this back in April but always seemed to miss it by just a couple minutes.  While we were watching, we caught the first glimpse of a melt down.  He didn't want to stop, he wanted to keep walking.  When we stopped, he started screaming and pulling away and wanted to do what he wanted to do.  Hmmmm, more on that later.  After we got him calmed down, we headed back for lunch and a quick nap.

We had to wake him up from his nap because we had an appointment with the local clinic for a medical check-up that is needed to complete the passport/visa.  When we were picked up to go to the clinic, there was another couple with us from Louisiana.  They are adopting sibling boys, ages 2 and 3.  A very nice couple and our son was excited to see other kids going along with us.  We had a pretty long wait at the clinic but he did wonderfully.  He was very passive sitting in Michelle's lap and seemed concerned that one of the other boys were upset.  Our little guy seems to be very caring and compassionate.  The Dr. was very nice and we were in and out of the exam quite quickly.  Upon leaving, we asked to be dropped off at the mall where we got a few essentials needed at the apartment.  At the grocery store, we got one of the carts with a little car in the front.  He absolutely LOVED it.  He was cracking up as we shopped through the store.   After shopping, we went to put the cart away.  I was afraid there would be a fight but he got out when I told him we were done.  What a good boy.  As we walked out of the store, we saw a little car that you put some money in and take a ride.  We let him ride it.  He again was cracking up.  Then when it was over......that's when it happened.   Melt down!!   He did not want to stop riding in the little car.  He was screaming.  Pulling away.  Real tears started to flow.  He was not a happy boy.  I was in another store while Michelle took him on the escalator.  He had loved riding the escalator before, but now he was still focused on the car.  I came out and we both took him out of the mall.  He started to calm down, but kept sniffling and would occasionally whine a little and say "Kova" (car).  He eventrually calmed down.  Crisis averted.  We stopped by a playground and let him play a bit before taking the long walk back.  Remember, we had been dropped off at this mall.  We stopped on the way back at a street-side pizza place and got a couple slices of pizza.  (Three big slices, I mean BIG, with two drinks for a total of about $6 American dollars.  Gotta love the food prices here.)  We sat and ate in the main pedestrian boulevard and enjoyed people watching for a bit.  We then headed back to the apartment to turn in early for a change.  Before bedtime, we decided to try the bath again and he suddenly loved it.  He wanted to play and splash around.  He didn't love getting shampoo and water on his face, but he handled it well and was perfectly fine when we wiped it off with a cloth.  After the bath, we were watching TV and the movie Garfield was on.  He laid next to me on the couch and was cracking up at the movie.  Again, very comfortable as if it had always been like this.  Bedtime went very well again and then was our chance to skype with the kids at home.  A very wonderful ending to another long day. 

This morning, he apparently decided to wake up and spend the morning testing us.  He kept pushing the limits and checking to see what else he could get away with.  Sometimes being a little silly, sometimes being outright defiant and whiny.  We've been prepared for this and we've been reading up on it so it was no surprise that as he got more comfortable with us he would begin to test us.  But my thought is, why would this behavior surprise any of us?  Isn't that exactly what we all do with God?  When we give our lives to Him, we just can't believe that anyone would love us the way that He does and we are on fire, obedient to do what He asks and just thrilled to be in His presences.  Then we get a little comfortable and start wanting to do things ourselves.  We test the boundaries, sometimes being completely defiant.  And just as our Father always accepts us back with unconditional love, our son will also learn that while our spirit might be tested, our love will never fail and we will continue to love him unconditionally.  We aren't going anywhere, just like our Father is always there.  Yes, we expect tough times.  We expect times to be frustrated and we expect times to be discouraged.  There may even come a day when it is so discouraging that we want to sit down and cry.  My only question that I have for myself and for all of you often does our Father weep at our behavior.

The parallels to our son's adoption and our adoption into God's family again shows itself to me. 

Thank you Lord for always loving me and continually teaching me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thanking God for this Amazing Time

I had planned on posting something new by now, but we had a slight casualty with an adapter and thus we had no way to charge the laptop.  We have a converter now so we're good to go....for awhile.  Yesterday as we woke up, he seemed very still in his bed.  Michelle went to him and he seemed to ignore her.  We were worried that he might be confused, or scared, or something.  Then, he suddenly rolled over with the biggest smile and showing those big dimples of his and he pointed to the other room, ready to get up.  He had a big breakfast (he is a very good eater) and he loves milk.  In fact, he tries to drink it so fast he almost can't help but pouring it down the front of his shirt.  Not that he is that messy, but he just wants it more and more.  We hung out in the apartment awhile, watching some Baby Einstein videos.  He seemed to like the video ok, but he definitely liked the music.  He is going to be a musician someday, I have no doubt about that.    After playing and hanging out awhile, then lunch and a short nap (during which time we skyped with our kids back home and Thank You Lord for giving someone the wisdom and technology to develop Skype!!!), we then were taken to the police station to fill out some papers and get his picture taken for his passport/visa.  While we were waiting, I stayed inside and Michelle took him outside for just a bit.  He is definitely a momma's boy already.  When it was time for his picture, they wanted him up on a stool.  He was too short to sit on it and be in the picture.  But he does not like being picked up, not at all.  So he was very unhappy to be put on the stool to sit on his knees.  He was told to smile and he gave a very big, cheesy, but very forced smile for about 1/2 a second.  Needless to say, the camera caught the very unsure look just a fraction of a second later.  But it was what happened immediately following that was so special.  When he got down, he ran to me and wanted me to hold him.  He leaned into my chest, knowing that I would protect him.  Michelle noticed it too and we were both very thankful that he already sees us as his security.  Now don't forget, I said he was a momma's boy.  More on that to come. 

After the police station, we decided to take a walk around the city.  And walk we did.  I can't believe that his little legs walked around that much.  Remember, he does not like to be picked up, which includes being held.  We went through a park in the middle of the city and got some ice cream.  Oh my goodness, he ate it in a hurry and was ready for more.  We then went to two different playgrounds.  He very much wanted to be involved, and he loved watching the other kids play but he was just a little unsure himself.  That's ok, it will come.  At one time, I was following him and he looked up and noticed that Michelle wasn't right there.  "Mama!!"  He looked around for her.  Again, "Mama!"  Now mind you, this was never a scared cry, just a shout to make sure she was there.  Then he saw her and ran her way.  He didn't run up to her, he just played in that part.  He just needed to know that she was there.  This may seem like such a small thing, but I would imagine that most of you reading this will understand how huge this is and how grateful we are that he is understanding and accepting his place with us.   He was still wandering around watching others when he finally got the courage to step up on a small step and jump off.  "Bravo", we said.  He liked being acknowledged and so he did it again.  "Bravo".  He then decided that he would let me lift him up on to the slide.  He didn't want to climb the steps, but he was ok with me lifting him.  Perhaps a prelude to being lifted and held, we will see.  After walking around a bit more, it was time to eat and venture back to the apartment.  He curled up with us on the couch and we watched the movie Cars.  He loved it.  Of course, everytime we walk down the street, he says (in his own language)  So we had no doubt he would love the movie.  Then it was bedtime and he goes to bed so great.  If he is scared, he is keeping it to himself and not saying a word.  A little worried that this could be the case, we went in to his room a few times just to assure him that we were there, we aren't going anywhere and he is safe.  (He probably thought, 'leave me alone, I'm tired'  :)

Then this morning, with no computer to finish the movie we had started, we ventured out for some short walks.  Just a very relaxed day until this evening when we went to dinner.  We decided to go to a traditional restaurant with singers and traditional native folk dancing.  It was about a two and a half hour dining experience, but he loved it.  He was so intrigued by the singing and dancing.  He was holding a roll of mints (just for something to hold on to) and he began singing into it like a microphone.  Then he heard a trumpet playing and he began to "play" the roll of mints like a trumpet.  This caught the eye of one of the singers and she came over to him and asked his name.  He was a little shy, but very excited to be included in the show.  At one time, when I was taking him to the bathroom, he was a little upset that I was having him wash his hands instead of letting him rush back to the table.  As soon as were dried, he tried to run off and he yelled, "Mama".   Seeing Michelle, he smiled and was good.  As the evening wore on he was getting a little tired so he crawled up into her lap and let her hold him, her arms around him and his around her.   Big step.  Thank you Lord.  We are so very grateful.  We know that we cannot expect every day to be like this and we are prepared for whatever may come our way, but we are very grateful for the way the Lord has blessed this first leg of our journey.  As I sit here writing this, thinking of how the first few days have gone and knowing that it is entirely God's doing, I am a bit overwhelmed.  Coming into the adoption world a bit reluctantly, God had to break me down and show me that I am not in control, it is nothing I have power over and it's not about me.  Now, after breaking me down and getting me to surrender the process to Him completely, He has given us this wonderful ....well, the only word I can think of is family.  That's what we are.  Family.   Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."   Thank you Lord for revealing to me my God given desires and thank you for fulfilling them. 

God bless you all. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Starting Our New Journey

Well, let me bring you up to speed on how the week has gone thus far.  We left home Friday afternoon and had a series of three planes and travelled for about 16 hours by the time we arrived at our destination airport on Saturday evening here in Eastern Europe.  Of course, just to test us a little, our bags were THE last ones to arrive on the baggage carousel.  But all was well, everything arrived safely.  Our driver met us and took us to the apartment that we will call home for the next week.  It is a nice little two bedroom apartment.  We got quickly settled and then ventured down the street to the local market to get a few items to make meals while we are here.  After that, we went a little further down the street to get something to eat and then we retired early that evening, knowing that the next day would be big as we would travel 3 hours to get our son.   The next morning, the driver was to pick us up around 8:45 for the drive to the mountains to the orphanage where our son is. 

Satan perhaps thought that he could throw a wrench or two into this day, but we serve a mighty God and His ways and plans are already in place and satan will have no hold on this process.  We were anxious to get started and we went outside to wait for our driver a little before 8:45.  We waited....and waited....and waited.   Then our driver called, "I'm trying to get to you", he said.  "All of the roads in the main part of the city are closed for a marathon being run today.  You may have to walk somewhere to meet me."   After a brief conversation, we decided that we would walk to a church that we knew about.  He found us there, and we were on our way.  A little later than planned, but still on our way.  As we travelled a few hours southeast, into a mountainous area of the country, Michelle and I both shared how we were getting a little nervous.  So many thoughts were going through our heads and what the day would have in store.  We weren't sure how it would go, how he would respond to us, how the caregivers would respond, or anything.  We arrived at naptime, just after lunch.  Our little guy was awake and waiting on us, and all the other precious children were tucked away in their beds for their naps.  As we entered, he seemed excited to see us.  We were certainly excited to see him.  He had a recent haircut and was wearing some clothes that we had previously gotten for him.  You could see that the caregivers wanted to make sure that the process started with the connections that we had longed for.  We asked a few brief questions, signed a couple papers, and we were on our way.  It was so precious to see the tears of the caregivers as they told him good bye.  We gave them a hug and thanked them for the care that they had given to our son.  As we left, we were headed to the stairs to walk down to the car when we were asked to wait while one of the caregivers walked up.  She had a little tradition to perform, pouring a jar of water onto the stairs before he left.  We asked what it was for and were told that the symbolism of the water was that they wished his life to flow easily as the waters traveling down river....effortlessly.  Very sweet.  We all said our good-byes and got back into the car for the ride back.   That lasted about 30 seconds as our driver discovered that we had a flat tire.   He also discovered that the tire wrench would not work on one of the lugnuts that was a slightly different size.  A few minutes later, one tire store later, and two tire changes later (from flat to spare, and from spare to newly repaired tire) and we were again on our way. 

As I mentioned, we were in the mountains.  Traveling down the mountain with the winding roads and with our little guy being on a long car ride that he is not used to did not settle well with the fact that he had lunch just before we arrived.  After the moment of car sickness, followed by a quick stop to clean up, all was fine and he soon took a nap in the car.  Very precious to see him with his head leaning against Michelle's arm.  We finally got back to the apartment and it was time to walk a little.  Being cramped in the car for a few hours we all just needed some exercise.  After a walk and another trip to the market, we got something to eat and then headed back to the apartment to hang out and just spend time getting to know each other.  He is such a wonderful boy.  He is very inquisitive.  He goes through bouts of being overly active, to bouts of being very quiet and intrigued by the toy or item in front of him as little boys often do.  The evening felt natural. 

At bedtime, we laid him down in a bed in the same room that we would sleep in.  He wanted a special toy that he had latched onto, and we smiled from the other room as we heard the sounds of the toy over and over and over.  After a few minutes I went in and told him it was time to go to sleep and I took the toy to the other room.  No cries, no complaints, he just said good night and went to sleep.  He awoke the next morning with giggles and excitement for what new things would await us today.  As I write this, we are dressed and playing, just waiting for a couple appointments that we have today.  He is the same boy this morning that he was last evening.  Thank you God that he does not seem afraid or worried.  I pray that he will always trust us and know that we are always here to love him, to protect him, just to be with him......forever. 

More soon as the week progresses.  Thank you all so very much for your prayers in this process.  It is so exciting seeing the new path set before us.  We know the road will be long and we know that the path will get quite narrow at times.  We are prepared because we know that God is leading the way.  The path might be narrow, but it is well lit.  God Bless.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

God Rocks......Period!!!

Ok.  this will be short but we just have to tell what amazing news we received today.  First of all, if you haven't read my post from yesterday you need to.  I explain that we are ready for our little guy to come home.  It's time.  We're done with waiting.  We had been told that our court date would be October 20, so I posted yesterday with the idea that we are finally in the right month.  It's finally going to be THIS month.  Well, guess what.  October 20th is a Saturday and thus not the correct date.  An oversight in the communication stream, or something.  The court date is really......October 2nd.  Guess what today is?   Yep, October 2nd.  We received word this morning that our court was held today and we passed.  Now we're on stand-by as we prepare to leave within two to three weeks.  AMAZING!!!!!   Thank you Lord.  How awesome is our God that within less than 9 hours of my post saying that we're ready for the wait to be over, we get the call that the wait is over.  When Michelle told the kids the news, Emilie held her hands over her mouth and then said, "God really does work miracles."   Spencer was more subdued (of course) but he did get on his phone and started texting people about the news.  That's all for now.  My head (and heart) are so full that I'm not even sure what all would pour out of mind right now. 

Thank you all so very, very much for your prayers.  As my post said last night, this is not the end, but merely the beginning.  We still covet your prayers and I will continue to update on this blog. 

God Bless.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Enough Already!!!!

Wow,  It has been so long since I last posted.  I know, and I'm sorry.  But today is strategic in writing this post.  You see, we can now say that THIS MONTH we will be able to call our child OUR child.  We have finally hit the time when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We are just a few weeks away from officially having a new son, and then just a few weeks more away from bringing him home.  We may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but believe me when I say that the Light has always been shining through this process.  I think the hardest part of the entire process has been the waiting, but I have no doubt that we've learned things during the wait.  Now, don't get me wrong, it hasn't been a fun wait.  We are ready.  Ready for him to be home with his family.   When one talks about prayer, we often learn that God does answer prayer though it may not be in the way we had hoped for.  He may answer in one of three ways:  Yes, No, or Wait.  I sometimes think that the hardest answer is Wait, but it also may be the answer that brings about the most growth.  Now in this situation, I don't for a moment believe that God has been testing us with this wait just to see if we are committed, or to test our perseverance, or anything like that.  This child needs to be home with his family and I don't believe that the God that calls us to care for orphans and widows in their distress would throw in an added wait to see if we are for real.  God knows our hearts.  This, I feel, was not his original plan.  Likewise, I hear people sometimes say that this child was born to be with us.  Hey, maybe we could even tell him that someday when he asks about his birth parents, about being abandoned, about how he came to live with us.  "Well, honey, God created you to be with us from the very beginning".   Hogwash!!!  Forgive me if you've used this phrase or have thought this before.  But I don't believe that for a moment.  God's design was not for a child to be abandoned so that he would grow up in an institution.  Our God is a God of love.  Abandonment is not a biblical principle and I refuse to believe that the God that I serve would ever plan for abandonment, cultural adversity, and displacement to be THE plan for a child's life.  Now, I did say that our God is loving and I know that He is very good.  Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."   God doesn't design abandonment, but He can work for good even in the abandonment.  And I don't believe that God designed delays and additional waiting in the placement process, but He can work for the good in that as well.  For those of you thinking about adopting, please understand that I am not saying that this particular waiting is a part of THE process, but it has been a part of OUR process.  I've known other adoptions that have gone more quickly and I've known others that have taken longer.  It is not my intention to compare our adoption to others and place any judgments, good or bad, in those comparisons.  But just let me say this, we're ready.  We've been ready.  Enough already.   The process for the country we are dealing with has been said to take about 3 to 4 months after the first travel date.  Some of you may remember that our first travel date was in April.  Well, it's been more than 3 or 4 months and we are definitely ready.  I know that many adoptions have been right at that 3 to 4 month mark and I have no doubt that future adoptions will be in that time frame as well.   There are many wonderful people both in America and in our child's country, that work hard to minimize the wait time.  Things happen.  I don't believe that God designed it this way.  I'm not necessarily saying that this is the work of Satan, but I do know that if it is that God is going to have the last word because our desire and our sense of urgency has not wavered.  If anything, our faith in this process has gotten stronger.  This is our son.  Whether the paperwork shows it legally yet or not, he's ours.  We've known in our hearts for a long time that he is ours and it's time to bring him home.  God, thank you for helping me to grow during this waiting period.  I think I've grown now, thank you, I'm ready to be done with the first phase.  Yes, the first phase....the beginning.  This process is not "adoption".  Adoption doesn't stop when you bring the child home.  Heck, that's when it starts.  This is merely the prelude.  I'm now ready for the main event. 

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak at an adoption conference that was held by our agency.  It was a fantastic one-day event with several classes and sessions that met the varieties of needs that are present when you have dozens and dozens of people gathered to hear about the different facets of adoption.  I was on a panel of Fathers in Adoption with two other men and I was truly blessed by the turnout for our session.   There were many couples in attendance that wanted to hear from the dad's point of view about the process of adoption.  (time for a quick plug.  Plan now to begin looking for information for the 2013 Crossroads of America Adoption Conference late summer/early fall of next year.  You won't want to miss it).   There were two questions from our session that stick in my mind, particularly as it pertains to the waiting process and to the urgency that we currently feel.   One question was, "when we had a child biologically, my wife prepared the nursery for our daughter; bought clothes, painted things pink, and all that.  How can you prepare for an adopted child when you are in that waiting period and haven't had a referral yet?  One, my wife doesn't like to sit back and not be active, but also how can I as a dad be doing anything"?  Great question.  (one of many, many great questions).  One of our answers to this was to  prepare yourself.  Later there will be paperwork and processes and things to be done.  Take the time now to start preparing yourself for when your child comes home and even long after he's been home.  Learn about attachment issues and behaviors.  Learn about the culture and the history of the country your child is from.  Down the road, when your child asks what their home country was like you don't want to say, "wow, good question.  Maybe I should look into that."  I think it would be so much better to say, "I've been waiting for you to have questions about that.  There is so much history that is very fascinating.  Let me tell you've what I've learned."   Prepare yourself.  and your family.  That's what we are learning now, even in the final wait.  And what I've learned is that we are prepared.  We're ready.  Our children are ready, our home is ready. 

The other question we were asked was "since guys are not as emotional as women and it may be harder to feel 'connected' with the adoption process, did you have a time when you can think of that the fatherly instincts started to kick in"?   I immediately thought of a time.  It was at this same conference, one year earlier.  I was not a speaker, we were attendees.  Going into the conference, Michelle had shown me a few pictures of some children from the country we were pursuing.  "what do you think of these kids"?   "Cute", I said.  They were pictures.  I'm sure there may have been sad stories to go along with the pictures, but I wasn't going there.  I was prepared to wait for the country to match us with the profile we had filled out.  "Well what about this boy?", Michelle asked.   "Boy?  Are we thinking boy?  I mean, we weren't only saying girl either, I just hadn't been thinking of a specific gender."  Well, while attending the conference and hearing many different stories and pieces of information, something clicked.  The fatherly instincts kicked in right then and there.  "Show me that picture again....that's our son.  Get him off this list.  We need to get paperwork going, quick.  We need to get him home."   I can't really explain how and why it all happened that way, except to say that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him.  This was truly God.  He didn't design for this child to have the life of an orphan, but He now was molding our family and our hearts to prepare us to bring this child....THIS child....home.  Yep, the instincts kicked in and I've never looked back.  One of the greatest compliments that I've received throughout this process has been from my friend Josh.  Josh and Stephanie have become great friends that we met through the world of adoption.  We've really formed a wonderful family bond with many, many people.  Josh told me at the conference this year that he was amazed at the change in me from last year's conference to now.   Basically, he was saying that I went from that deer-in-the-headlights look, to someone who knew exactly the path that God has us on and is determined to help not only our own child, but to help as many children as we can to find their forever families.  That is what we continue to focus on. 

Our process won't be over this month, it will be beginning this month.  But even as we begin our main event, it is our desire to be whatever source of information that we can to as many families as possible so that they can start their prelude.  Statistics show that there are around 150 million orphans worldwide.  We are creating one less.  Many others have also created one less (or two less or five less or 10 less).  But no one can adopt all of these children themselves.  The epidemic is only going to get better when people answer God's call on their lives to take a step of faith.  What's holding you back?  Money?  Please!!!, I've tried that one.  It doesn't work.  God won't even give you the satisfaction of thinking that money is a viable reason not to adopt.  Very few people, and I mean very few, go into adoption with all of the funding in place at the onset.  But I personally have never heard of anyone stopping the process because they simply couldn't raise the money.  Is it easy?  Well, is anything that is so totally worth it ever really EASY?   No, but it happens.  Sometimes you can't even explain why, but it happens.  So, if not money, what other excuses might you have?  Fear?   Understandable, but God tells us to fret not.  Philippians 4: 6-7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanskgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."   Fear has no power over us.  God has given us a way, Jesus Christ IS the way, and fear, anxiety, and worry have no place in our lives.   Fear isn't wondering if a child will "fit" into our family.  Fear is these children wondering if they will live to see adulthood; wondering if they will ever experience the love of a family.  That's real fear.  Our "fear" should be turned into great triumph.      150 million orphans.  That's too many.  When are you going to join us and say Enough.....Enough Already!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome to the Table

Friends, it has been too long since I last wrote.  I'm very sorry.  On the last post, we had just returned from our initial visit to eastern Europe.  We are still in that waiting mode.  We have had medical exams updated, background checks updated, and trips to the statehouse to have already notarized papers officially apostilled.  (which, by the way, I'm told is pronounced AP-us-stilled, not uh-POS-tlled as I had believed.  But I'll be guided by the Secretary of State and change my way of speaking.)  I get to wondering, does anyone's background check come back "bad" on the fifteenth try?  I mean, really?!?  Unfortunately, I'm sure that it does.  We've done all we can on our end and we now await a court date in our child's country.  We will have a representative at the court on our behalf where the papers will be signed to officially make him our child.  As hard as the waiting has been, I think that is when the despair and urgency will kick in.  At that time, all paperwork will say that he is ours.  We are very happy with the situation that he has been able to grow up in thus far, but I can't imagine MY CHILD being in another country without me.  To be totally honest, it already feels that way but there is nothing we can do until it is all official.  So we wait on due diligence.  Most everyone has been very helpful in the process and I know that it just takes time, but it's hard.  I've written about it before, but the waiting doesn't get any easier.  I did have something happen this weekend that gave me a different perspective on the waiting.  As many of you know, I'm a terrible waiter.  I'm certain there are some people out there that just sit back and relax and say, "It takes time, I know that.  God will oversee it all and He'll get it done in the appropriate time."   I know that, and I believe that, but in my head I'm thinking about a million things that MUST be done, or COULD be done, or SHOULD be done...on and on.  Well this week, I and a few others were helping a friend move a swing-set/fort from the backyard of their old home to their new home.  It was heavy and awkward.  We hoisted it up onto a flatbed truck and thought, "that wasn't too bad.  Meet you at the new house."   Then we heard the whirrr of the truck engine.  Whirr, but no Vroom (don't you love my highly technical, mechanical talk)?   The engine was turning over, trying to start, but it just wouldn't fire.  After numerous tries we determined that the gas gauge must be off and it must be out of gas.  We located a can, put a few gallons in the tank and tried again.   Whirrrrr, whirrrr, whirrrr......whirrr, whirrr, whirrr.  Still nothing.  Finally, a guy familiar with the truck arrived to help us.  He moved the gear shift into drive, then slammed it hard up into park.  Whirrr...VROOM.   It immediately fired.  It just wasn't fully in park.   I always thought that an engine would only click or something if not in park, but this one did try to turn over.  But it wasn't until it was fully and totally "parked" that it actually "fired".  Psalm 46:10a says, "be still and know that I am God."  I've heard it before.  I believe I've written about it before.  But this weekend, I saw it in a new way.  You see I've been saying to God, "ok, I'm being still".  But I only appeared to be in "park".  To those around me, I look parked.  Calm, rested, relaxed.  But in reality there are things that nobody can see that suggest that I'm in gear, trying to move.  It's not until I am fully parked that I can fire.  God says, "I've got this one" but I have a hard time "parking" to let him spark my ignition. 

As I've looked back over my life, I've seen that pattern so many times.  On the outside, I look to be in control and settled.  I appear to be in relationship with Christ, but there are things going on under the hood that suggest otherwise.  I pray to God and tell him, "Lord, I'm so sorry for those times when I've let You down."   And it's amazing the response that God gives back upon hearing those words.  "My child, you can never let me down...because you don't have the ability to lift Me up.  It is I that lift you up.  You are my created being.  I don't make junk, so stop thinking that you're failing, or worthless, or whatever.  Just relax.  Be still and let Me work through you.  You'll see how wonderful it is when you let Me be in control."    You see, all this time when I've made mistakes, I've been quite ashamed.  I've often dwelt on the times in my life that I've failed.  But the problem with that is, I haven't failed.  I have succeeded.  My life became an absolute, unquestionable success story the moment that I gave my life to the Lord and accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour.  Is life perfect?  No, not here on this earth.  But in Romans chapter 4, we are assured that to those whom believe in the One who raised Jesus from the dead, that our belief is credited to us as righteousness.  Righteousness.  Perfection.  In God's eyes we are perfect. 

There is another Bible verse that I've quoted before, thinking of it as a goal.  I've heard many others use it, and it's quite good.  It's in Matthew 25.  "Well done, good and faithful servant".   The context is in the parable of the talents where the men took their master's money and put it to work to earn more.  He was telling the men that they did good and deserved to be in charge of other things.  We often use the phrase as something that we want to hear when our life on this earth is over.  "Well done, good and faithful servant."   Well, it probably won't surprise you based on what I've already written, but I used to feel a ton of pressure from that verse.  Pressure that I put on myself.  Rather than embracing the grace that God gives, I've condemned myself far too many times and thought, "so much for hearing that verse".  Let me tell you, God's grace is sufficient.  It is amazing.  And for the times that I'm lost, God comes to find me.  Just like in the world of adoption, and just like the one lost lamb, the shepherd will seek out the lost one and bring it back into the fold.  Friends, don't get caught up in thinking that you, as believers, are anything less than righteous.  God doesn't make junk.  So I'm learning how to accept his grace and mercy and allow myself to live freely.  Live fully in His awesomeness.  I still have a little issue with the "well done, good and faithful servant" verse.  But these days it is to keep myself in check.  It's the "done" part of the verse.  Well "done", as if it is my own doing that earns me a spot.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the verse and the bible does tell us that faith without works is dead, so I know there is "doing" to be done on our part.  But for me, I have to be careful to check my pride and not think too highly of myself and what I have the ability to do.  So for now, instead of "well done", I like to sit back and imagine my Father's house, with all the rooms, and lots and lots of food and hear him say, "welcome to the table.  I don't care if you've done enough, because you never can.  I don't care if you've made mistakes, because you always will.  I just care that you loved me and sought to put me first.  So welcome to the table."  

This adoption process has really helped my relationship with Christ.  I look at things so much more clearly, with less cynicism and with more grace.  I'm still growing, I hope I always will be.  I cannot wait to get our child home and to share God's love with him, just as we've been sharing God's love with our biological children.  Watching them grow in Christ has been so amazing.  Soon, hopefully soon, we will have another one home to love, teach, and to watch grow.  We know from studies that gathering around a meal is a great nurturing and attachment tool.  We can't wait to bring him home and say, "welcome home.  Welcome to the table".  With God's grace, he will one day hear those very words from the One that it matters most...."Welcome to the table, my beloved child".

Sunday, April 22, 2012


About a week ago we returned from our first trip to eastern Europe.  Michelle and I both had the exact same word to describe the feelings we had from everything that has transpired up to this point....surreal.  I know that may sound like a cop-out, but it is so true.  The night we got home, we laid in bed and I said, "can you believe we were just in Europe yesterday?"   "Nope", was her reply.  "It doesn't seem possible.  The day we've been waiting and waiting for; praying for; longing for; has now come and gone.  It's unbelievable".  
Since starting this process back in the summer of 2011, we have gone through every detail, step-by-step, that is needed to be done locally, nationally, and internationally.  Each step we completed would get us one step closer to FINALLY making the trip to meet our child.  I write it that way because that was the emotion we felt for nearly a year.  Waiting to FINALLY see our child.  Well guess what?  We've seen our child and it doesn't at all feel like FINALLY.   The week was wonderful for many reasons:  we did meet our child, we saw the culture and history that surrounds him, we met the wonderful people currently caring for him, we made new friends, and we put a whole new perspective on our mindsets.  (well, maybe not completely new because we do understand the journey that we are on but sometimes we have to remind our heart and emotions that the step we are taking is often just that....a step.  It's a step on a long journey).
Let me try to explain some of the week's events.  As always, we do ask that you respect the privacy of the child, the country and the process so some details will be left out...but I'll do my best to give you a feel for what our week was like.  It started on Saturday, April 7th.  We took Spencer and Emilie (ages 11 and 8) to grandma and grandpa's house as we headed to good ole Indianapolis International Airport.  Funny, the word "international" meant so much more this time than for other flights I've been on.  As we dropped the kids off, Emilie came running after us down the driveway.  She was crying and saying, "take me with you....don't go....I don't want you to leave."   We played it off that it'll be no time at all before she has forgotten that we were even gone and she would be having a great time.  While we hoped that to be true, inside I was dying.  This is my little girl.  My child that I've sworn to protect.  She was scared and already missing us.  It broke my heart, but it also let me know the bond that we have with our children.  I probably would have been more heartbroken if she had said, "yea, ok.  See ya, have fun" as she was running out the back door to go play.  So we left a couple children that we had sworn to protect in the capable care of family and friends and we headed to seek another child that we have now equally sworn to protect....and love.  4 Airports and 18 hours later we arrived at our destination.  We expected to meet a driver/translator that would show us around for the evening and then settle in to leave for the orphanage the following morning.  We did meet our driver/translator, a wonderful guy, but instead of hanging out with him we found out that he had another family to pick up at the airport so he would be dropping us off a the hotel.  DROPPING US OFF!!!!  Wait!  I can barely pick up the foreign phrases that I've learned on the CD we've been listening to.  I can't speak the language conversationally.  We just might starve on our very first evening.  He showed us the hotel, a good restaurant, and a trusted place to exchange money...hmmmm, I presume this meant that there were un-trusted places to exchange money...(had to make a mental note of this fact.)   My concerns were totally unfounded and quickly changed.  We got along just fine, had a good meal, and were more than ready to turn in after the long  
   The next morning we were picked up and headed to the orphanage 3-1/2 hours away.  As it turns out, the other family that our driver needed to pick up was heading to the same orphanage.  This would be that family's second trip which meant they were picking up their child to take home.  How exciting.  I mentioned before that we were FINALLY taking our trip.  We have learned along the way that there is no FINALLY to it.  This family was FINALLY on their second trip, we are waiting to be there soon.  But that FINALLY will give way to the next finally.  Finally our child is speaking fluent English.  Finally our child is attending school.  Finally everyone accepts our child as not being "different".  Finally Spencer is starting high school.  Finally Emilie is out of grade school.  Finally kids are getting married.  Finally we have a grandchild.  All of the "finallies" lead to the next finally.  Did you notice how the finallies went from child to child?  Kinda sounds like a family, doesn't it?  :)
     So we had a wonderful talk with this family on the ride to the orphanage.  They told us about everything that we should expect.  We had already been told a lot from some friends that had gone before us and paved the way for our adoption and you know what?  Just like the children, there are no two stories exactly the same.  Our friends here in Indiana have a different story than our new friends on the trip and both are different from ours.  I love it.  Each one is unique.  Don't get me wrong, the advice is invaluable.  It was so incredibly helpful and we hope to be able to pass advice along to the next family as well.  But it was also nice to not know exactly everything.  Something about the mystery and the intrigue that made it wonderful.  It's our story.  It's our child's story.  Ours alone.  There's something special about that.
   At the orphanage, and for the next three days, we spent time with our child.  We got to know him, and he got to know us.   Well, as much as we could.  We played together, we laughed, sometimes we just sat back and watched him.  At one point I watched as he went to a window and looked outside at the cars, and the trees, and the birds, and the dogs.  For a brief moment I thought, "I didn't come all the way over here to sit back and not be engaged.  I need to get up and "do" something with him."   But then a thought came to my mind.  For you parents out there, you know when your newborn is asleep in their crib and they are in their familiar element and they have that sense of security?  Do you recall just watching them?  Watching them sleep?  I mean, come on, how much joy is there in watching a person sleep?  Well when it's your child there is unimaginable joy.  That's what this was like.  There was an odd sense of calmness and serenity in simply watching him in his element.  I thoroughly enoyed it.  As for what we saw of our child, he was energetic.  To call him a giggle-box would be a major understatement.  He has the type of giggle that would instantly brighten a room.  Each meeting brought with it a little more familiarity.  On our first meeting, he was excited to have visitors.  The next meeting he was excited to see us return.  After that, it appeared that he had been waiting for us and was excited that we had arrived.  That's where it started to get tough, because on Wednesday afternoon we had to say good-bye.  Not until tomorrow this time, but for an extended time.  We're not sure what all he understands and it was really difficult to know exactly what to say.  We decided to not dwell on the leaving, not wanting to confuse him or scare him or anything.  As we left the final time, it seemed obvious that he somehow knew.  All I can say is that it was a very difficult departure.  One way that I can describe it is that when we left the US, we left Spencer and Emilie in the capable hands of family and friends.  They had things to do, kids to play with, adults that loved them and cared for them...and I was dying inside being so far away from them.  Now, we are leaving our child....with things to do, friends to play with, adults to love and care for him....and we're dying inside.  We started thinking of all of the things going through his mind the next day when we didn't show up.  It was killing us.  We missed our children at home.  We missed our child in Europe.  Our emotions were all over the place.  Oh, how we wanted to be like the family we had met...on their second trip, taking their child home.  We reminded one another of something we were told during the waiting period.  We had anticipated this moment would be difficult, but we were told, "you can NEVER go back for your second trip without leaving after your first trip".  So that's how we tried to look at it.  This leaving, as hard as it was, was merely another step closer to bringing our child home....FINALLY.  As we lay around in the hotel room the night before our travel back home, we received reports of how Spencer and Emilie were doing.  Grandpa says they were "great. No trouble at all.  A big help."  We learned from a friend that Spencer had taken it upon himself to help Emilie with her spelling words and that  they both were being very fun, considerate, and helpful at the respective homes of the friends they were staying with.  One very dear friend told us how things were going and said, "they are wonderful children.  You guys have done a great job."   I started to cry.  (Ok, I'm crying now writing this).  The complexity of the week started to get to me.  I was so proud of the reports we received from the states, I was so distraught over leaving Europe.  It is all so...surreal. 
   The travel back was even longer than going over.  We had a six-hour layover in Toronto.  The in-flight movie audio wasn't working so we tried to read lips during some of the movies (to be honest, considering what they showed we were actually quite glad that watching and listening wasn't an option).  From the time we got up in Europe to head to the airport until the time we walked in the doors here at home was 25-1/2 hours of continual travel time....exhausting.  The next day I went and got Spencer and then he and I went to get Emilie.  On the way home, Emilie started getting emotional.  "What's wrong honey?"   "I just really missed you guys.  I had a good time with my friends, but I need to get home and see Mommy."   When we pulled in the drive, she jumped out of the car, sprinted into the house and jumped into Michelle's arms, crying.  She felt the way that we will all feel once our second trip is completed.  Everything is in it's place and the family is all at home together....FINALLY!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

One Step Closer...

Thank You to everyone that has been following our blogs and supporting our journey.  We appreciate each and every one of you more than you could know.  Because of your help and support we are now ready for the next leg of our journey...our first trip.  We will be traveling to Europe before long to meet our child.  What amazing emotions we have right now.  Actually, the last couple weeks have been quite an amazing journey.  In the span of 48 hours we received news that took us from relief, to joy, to unbearable pain, to confusion, to sadness, to ultimate jubilation, to fear and then finally into the arms of Jesus....yes, all that in 48 hours.   On a Monday, we received word that we were receiving a fairly sizeable grant.  This was an amazing answer to prayer.  As we were basking in the joy of receiving the grant, we received some rather disturbing personal news that was quite saddening and confusing.  We went to bed that night not knowing what to feel.  The next morning, we received THE call we've been waiting for....our first travel date information.  The confusion turned to joy and I found myself telling God that we would deal with the other stuff later.  It was just too much right now.  Well, I think the stress of everything got to me as I had a rather scary medical "episode" in the middle of the night on that Tuesday night.  So again, fear crept into those places where we wanted joy to be.   I told a friend that evening, pastor Jerry, that I honestly found myself being afraid to go to sleep.  He called me at bedtime and we prayed together over the phone.  He commanded satan, in the name of Jesus, to back off.  He prayed for calm and for peace, for it is in our fear that satan finds a foot hold.  He helped me to see past all of the "stuff" and simply allow myself to sink into Jesus.  And you know what?  I slept great that night.  I don't think satan is too happy about us following God's commands to care for one of His children.  I believe it is no coincidence that the upsetting news on Monday night and the medical issue on Tuesday night came just when we were receiving the exciting, but anxious, news of moving forward with our adoption.  Satan uses our fears and anxieties.  He seeks for any way he can to throw us off God's path.  Jerry, I am so thankful for your prayers and your assuring words and re-instilling in me the confidence that I have in Christ, knowing that He is bigger than my junk.  He's bigger than this adoption.  He's bigger than I am, and He's bigger than satan. 
      As I write this, I wonder how many of you have felt that same way recently?  Have you allowed fear and doubt to come in?  Maybe you wanted to apply for a new job but you suddenly found that you were questioning your qualifications.   Maybe you put an offer on a new home and now you can't sleep, feeling sick with the thought that you're stretching your income further than you should.  Maybe you or a loved one are in the midst of a medical issue and you're scared...afraid of bad news...afraid of the unknown...afraid of death.  You certainly don't need to have my experiences to have fear raise its ugly head.  But know this...our God reigns.  Period.  I am not fear.  I am not doubt.  I am not anxiety.  I AM a child of God.  I know that I know that I know that my God is the God of all creation and He watches over me.  He calms me.  He gives me the peace that surpasses all understanding and He knows me.  Wow!!!!  
    So this week, I have claimed it.  I claim that which God has supplied, that we are following His will and we are so excited about what this next phase brings.  I have always been a chronic worrier.  Every little thing would become bigger in my mind and I would get sick to my stomach and fear the worst.  My weaknesses seemed to always pull me down.  Well, there's a reason they are called weaknesses, it's because I'm not very good at them.  Someone once told me to concentrate on my strengths and let God handle my weaknesses.  So we are now concentrating on the strength of stepping out in faith and following Him.
    Let me tell you some of the weaknesses that God has handled.  As I said, I'm a worrier.  I most often have worried about finances.  That is probably because I feel a sense of responsibility to provide for my family while knowing in the back of my mind that I made some poor financial decisions in my young adult life and I never want to go back there again.  So with this adoption process, there are financial responsibilities that are bigger than anything I can handle.  Guess what?  God's got it.  We have received grants so far in the amount of nearly $10,000.  We have had fundraisers that I thought (catch that...I thought) would be successful that really weren't what I expected.  And we've had others that I was skeptical about that turned out quite nice.  I think one of the greatest joys is to see how other people have joined in with us on this journey.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had a hard time asking for, or accepting, money from others.  Well when God lays it on someone's heart to help bring one of His children to a forever family, you don't stand in the way of their blessing.  We've had tremendous support from so many people.  One wonderful woman has sent us encouraging notes, notes of prayer, stamps, a little money here and there, and then a large sum that she had prayed diligently about and she was so excited to give and be a part of our journey.  Others had given to an organization that offered us a matching grant.  When I called about the amount that had been given so far, they said it was X number of dollars and 45 cents.  Believe me, I want each and every one of you to know that the 45 cents is every bit as important to us as the larger sum of money or as the $10,000 in grants.  They say it takes a village to raise a child and I know that it takes a lot of "45 cents" to raise the funds.  So from the very bottom of our hearts we want to thank you for blessing our family and for bringing us a step closer to having our child. 
    I still have many things swimming in my mind, but I want to leave you with this thought.  Do not let your circumstances dictate anything about who you are.  I know that I fail at that sometimes, but I have to remind myself that I am a child of God.  I am.  For just two very small words they are certainly very powerful.  Jesus said I am the Son of God.  I am the resurrection and the life.  I am the way the truth and the life.  I am the good shepherd.  I am the true vine.  And Jesus said, "most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am".   Letting go of our fears is not at all easy to do, but can you allow yourself to try to give it over to God?  He'll do amazing things in your life if you just get out of the way and let Him have control.  Can you try?....I am.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What moves you?

Emotions are a funny thing.  You hear people say things such as, "that was hilarious, I needed a good laugh."  Then the same person might say at a later time, "I need a good cry."  I'm not going to get into any kind of biological, physiological, hormonal explanations about emotions.  Basically because I wouldn't have a clue of what I was talking about.  I do, however, know that I want to be moved.  I find myself watching YouTube and being drawn to the "tug at your heartstrings" videos.  Sometimes we even find ourselves watching video of terrible disasters just because the story is so "moving".  Why do you think the news leads off so often with a tear-jerking story?  It's moving and they know that is what will keep the watching public on their channel.  So as we've been in this adoption journey, I've been thinking a lot about being moved.  But in a slightly different way.  Yes, there is certainly emotion in it, but I'm being drawn to move closer to God.  I find myself asking God where He wants me.  I want to be moved, but moved to act in accordance to what He wants of me.  When you get down to it, I think that is the whole reason that I finally jumped on board with this adoption.  And quite frankly, I believe it BETTER be the reason I'm on board.  Because if it was just emotional.....well, we've got problems.
     Think about this for a moment.  Have you ever bought a sports car because the commercial made it look so captivating that you just had to have it?  How about a vacation?  Ever go to Florida because your friends went to Florida and they made the beaches sound so awesome that you just had to experience it for yourself?   Were you still happy with the sports car after you had it awhile?  What about after filling the tank with gas far too often because of the low mileage?  And the vacation.  Oftentimes we have a great time, but sometimes we find ourselves thinking, "this isn't as good as our friends made it sound and it was awfully expensive.  Maybe this was a mistake."   You see, emotions sometimes lead us to poor decisions.  Ever eat a gallon of ice cream to emotionally handle a heartbreak?  You see my point.
     So in our adoption, when I say I want to be moved it is to be moved by the One that created me to have these feelings to begin with.  That is a movement that I want to trust, not my own hormonal reactions.  Now, here's where it gets tricky.  I believe we can be moved to do wonderful things, but I find myself being very confused by the fact that we have to be SO moved to act.  Let me ask you a few questions:  If your brother or sister and their spouse were terribly taken from this world in an accident and left behind a young child, would you take them in?   What if it was a close neighbor that perished with no other family around, would you take that child?   How about someone in the community that was in a tragic car wreck, the whole town talked about it, and the child had no place to go at all?  Would you offer them a room and a loving family?  How about an earthquake in a totally different country that destroys villages, homes, orphanages?  If the children from those orphanages are displaced with nowhere to turn, would you step up and say, "that's terrible.  Yes, we can help.  We'll come to their aid"?   I'm guessing most, if not all of you answered yes to at least one of these questions.  I know that many people joined in when the word was going around about children needing homes after the terrible earthquakes in Haiti.  So many people were willing to come to their aid.  They had seen the devastation on TV and on the internet.  It was terrible.  It was so......emotional.  So why does it take the media blitz of a tragedy, or something that is more "personal" and hits home to make us act?  What, you think it's not tragic enough that 165 million children in the world don't have a family?   Children world wide are longing for someone, anyone, to hold them at night and tell them that they love them.  I know that my children sometimes have bad dreams.  It completely tears my heart out to think about a child waking up with a bad dream, only to discover that the bad dream is based on the reality of their own life, and not having anyone to come sit with them on their bed and tell them it's going to be alright.  Is that in the news papers?  Nope.  Do we see it on the evening news?  Nah, it's not "moving" enough.  It's an everyday occurence in all corners of the world.  Nothing special about that story.  Wake Up People!!!  If being without a family or homeless or abandoned or neglected as children is not tragic enough for you then we are in a sad, sad state. 
    Now please here me, I am not judging.  I struggle all the time with doing the right thing, doing enough, following God's call.  It's not easy.  But how can we know about these tragedies and turn our heads and do nothing?  165 million seems awfully overwhelming.  Surely I can't make a difference.  That would be like trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun.  But if not me, then who?  If not you....who?  Who will step up and say, "you know, I really meant it when I said I'd take in a child after the earthquake.  So if that didn't play out, maybe we can take in another child that just as desperately needs a home."   Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people responded to the urgency of the situation after the earthquake.  What if we go ahead and act, not waiting on another tragedy?  If we follow God's command to care for orphans and then ask God how to spread that truth to others, how long before the orphan crisis is gone?  165 million....that's a large number.  But I'm a math guy, so let's break it down.  If I adopt and it get's two others to adopt.  And they get two each to adopt and so on and so on, then after a series of 15 relational connections, over 16,000 children would be adopted.  That's the power of God's word spreading through his family of believers.  Can we make a difference?  You bet we can.  We just have to start.  Every mile ever run began with a single step.  Every building ever built starts with a single shovel to break ground.  So how do we start?    That all depends.  The real question is....what's moving you?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Struggles and Blessings and Friends....Oh My!!

We are currently in the waiting phase of our adoption.  There isn't anything wrong with waiting and it certainly is no criticism of the process, but sometimes waiting is hard.  There is a John Waller song called "While I'm Waiting" that says "While I'm Waiting....I will serve you."   Tonight was an opportunity to serve God and we are so blessed and amazed at how it all turned out.  But let me back up just a bit and tell you how the latter part of the week went.  It was a struggle.  We drove to a town about 25 miles north of us to get a TV antenna.  You see, one of the things that God has been saying to us during this journey is that we have too much stuff.  We are addicted to shows that make us lose our minds while we're watching them.  We walk in the door and gravitate toward the TV.  All too often, our family time is spent together in front of hundreds of channel options (most of which really aren't worth the time).  So we feel that we need to downsize our lives a bit and we are cancelling our cable subscription. Sports Nut will no longer have ESPN.  This fact has troubled our son tremendously.  But what are we teaching our children about having idols before God when it is clear that the TV is an idol in our own home?  It's time to stop.  We got an antenna so that we can get just the few local stations like we had when I was growing up.   Funny, I don't recall feeling like I was deprived back then.  Half a dozen channels seemed like plenty to me.  So here's where the struggles of the week started.  Driving home, something in the car kinda snapped.  The steering wheel, which had formerly been pointed straight up at 12 o'clock, was now pointing at 10:00 o'clock and we were still driving forward.  Then the car began to pull all over the road and it was really difficult to keep it steady, even at 40 mph.  All the way home, I heard the cash register in my head and feared the worst.  Would we fix this car?  Would we have to buy a new one?  We can't get a new one right now, not with everything else.  It won't be looked at until Tuesday, but I went to bed that night with the problem running through my head. 
    The next day, we talked about some medical bills that had come up unexpectedly.  (This started the cash register chiming in my head again.)  And then, I had picked up a couple pieces of mail at home and opened them in the afternoon.  One was the water bill.  It was 4 times its usual amount.  I called the water company and they informed me that the meter reader had noticed that our meter was "spinning like crazy.  You obviously have a leak somewhere."  Gee, thanks for letting us know.  I was getting overwhelmed.   Everything was falling apart in the span of about 20 hours and I couldn't take it.  I went home to try to find the source of the leak, but I felt sick.  The old feelings of inadequacy from past financial issues was beginning to rise up inside of me.  In my head, I heard a saying that I've heard from others...God will not give you more than you can handle.  Usually, it is followed by someone saying "God, I wish you didn't have so much faith in me to handle all of this."   Well you know what?  That saying is wrong.   Dead wrong.  I think it may come from the book of 1 Corinthians where Paul tells us that God "will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."  Sounds similar, but dealing with temptations and dealing with misfortunes is two different things.  I definitely believe that we sometimes get more than we can handle.  This week I felt like it was more than I could handle.  But you know the glory of it all?  It is never...I repeat NE-VER more than what God can handle.  He knows what we are going through.  He doesn't expect us to do it alone.  Not that we should sit back and be slugs and do nothing, but what we do is in His strength, not ours.  So I was able to go to bed last night much more at ease just waiting to see how God was going to work.  That takes care of the "struggles" part of the week.  Tonight, God rewarded us for having faith through the struggles by blessing us immensley through the freinds that He has put in our paths. 
     Michelle and some friends put together a fund raiser.  We were selling necklaces and books to help our adoption and to support Amazima, an organization founded by Katie Davis.  She is the young girl I've written about before that now lives in Uganda and ministers to the people there.  She is also supported by 147 million orphans, an organization that we have partnered with.  We partnered with them to help raise funds for our adoption by selling t-shirts, the necklaces, the books and other items.  Yes, this was to help raise funds for our least that was the only intention when we first contacted them a few months ago.  But this family of adoption, and orphans, and children in need around the world has really started to grow on us.  We had so many people come to the event tonight that just have a heart for children and wanted to help in any way they could.  At one point, I was talking with one of the ladies that helped organize it.  She saw the table of merchandise that was much smaller from all of the sales and commented, "looks like tonight has been a success."  I looked at the table, and found myself telling her, "yes, it has gone well and I'm happy we were able to raise some money.  But it's strange.  This adoption has become so much bigger than us.  It's not about our adoption anymore."  Don't get me wrong, we are very excited to bring our child home.  But it needs to go so much further.  I feel burdened for all of the children that we can't help and we just have to find a way to get the word out and put that passion into the hearts of others.  Our friend looked at me and smiled.  "I know.  I can see the passion that you have and I read it in your blogs.  God will do great things."   So tonight, we were blessed beyond belief.  Blessed by God through our friends, and their friends, and friends of friends....   It was a wonderful evening and a great end to what would otherwise have been a difficult week.  Struggles and Blessings and Friends.  God puts them all in our path.  It's how we deal with them and how we allow God to work through them that matters.  Does God allow more than we can handle?  I believe that He does.  But He's a big God.  Bigger than a busted car, bigger than a leaky pipe....and yes, He is bigger than millions of orphans.  I know He is stirring in the hearts of others.  Are you allow Him to stir in your heart?  Are you listening?  What's holding you back?  Money?...God is bigger.   Fear?...God is Bigger.   Selfishness?....God is Bigger.   I'm learning new each day how much my God is bigger than my circumstances and He blesses me over and over in the process.  Be blessed my friends.  Be blessed by our big God.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Be Still...

Well, here's where we are in the process.  We have all of the paperwork done that needs to be done in the US.  We put all of that paperwork together in one packet which is known as the dossier.  That dossier has been sent to the country where our child is.  Now....we wait.  And it's hard.  We feel there is so much we could be doing.  But we continue to wait.  There is no reason at all to wonder or worry about whether or not everything will be "accepted", but still the anticipation of getting that call that tells us when we can go to meet our child is hard.  Remember being ten years old and having a birthday coming up?  We used to count down the days....2 more weeks....1 more week....5 more days....2 more days...  I think we made it harder on ourselves by wishing so badly that the time was here.  It's like with expectant mothers.  Perhaps your actual due date is still weeks, even months away.  But when you have a dr. appointment where you know you will have the first ultra-sound and it will be the first time that you hear your child's heart beat, it's a hard wait.  I can't wait to give my child a hug and hear his heart beat against mine for the first time.  I'm ready.  I want to go now.  Fortunately we do have some things we can do in the meantime.  We do still have funds to raise.  (Perfect time to mention the 147 million link on this blog's home page to help with our fundraiser).  But even with that, it's not getting us to our child.  As I sit and realize how hard it is to wait, I can't help but think about Psalm 46:10.  "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."   Now I have no problem knowing that He is God.  And what's neat about the latter part of this verse is that He will be exalted among the nations.  Multiple nations.  In our case, we will exalt Him here in the United States and we will exalt him in southeastern Europe when He takes us to our child.  That's really cool.  I know that Michelle and I can't do this ourselves and that God is doing this.  God is making a way for these children.  God is making a way for our child.  He is a loving enough God that He is bringing us along for the ride.  He is gracious enough to give us HIS child.  So we are waiting for God's child to come into our home so that we may raise him to know God more intimately.  To know the very one that created us and brought us out of our own seclusions and became our Father.  To that glorious end, I think I can wait.  But "be still"?....c'mon.  I can't be still.  My mind is always racing about what I need to do next.  What's the next step?  What should we do to prepare to travel?  Is the room ready for another child?  How will we introduce this child to our family and friends?  Do the schools know that we are bringing another child into this community?  Will he learn English quickly enough to be at his age appropriate grade level or will he need to take a step back to have time to learn?  So many things to think about and to prepare to.....WHOA.  Easy Tony.....Be Still.   Ok, Lord.  I hear you.  I know the verse.  Be Still.  But how does sitting around doing nothing and acknowledging that you are who you say you are get anything accomplished?  Be still.  Really? Just give me something to do.  Well, I would imagine that many of you have had similar thoughts when you've faced a tough decision or you've prayed about something and have not yet gotten an answer.  How do you just be still?  I did a little digging and found that the Hebrew word that we translate as "Be Still" is rapah.  Rapah does mean to be still, but as such to abandon or to stop.  It's like God is saying, "Stop!!!  Enough!!!"  "Give it a rest already."   Here is what I hear God saying to me; "Look, I've got this.  You've done your part.  All I ever asked of you was to be willing and to follow the steps laid out before you.  I've got the rest.  Actually, I've had it all the whole way.  I gave Michelle this vision long before you were ready for it.  I brought you along slowly, even allowed you to have doubts, so that when you jumped it would be with both feet.  I closed doors that you THOUGHT you wanted to walk through, just to bring you to where I wanted you and gave you the heart and passion to want it as well.  I've orchestrated everything.  When you went to get your fingerprints and you had a cut on your finger to where they said you would probably have to reschedule, and how they gave it a try but didn't hold out much hope that the computer would read the print, and how it came out perfectly on the first try and they said 'wow, that worked so much better than I imagined' really think that was YOU?  C'mon Tony.  Relax.  I've got this."   Wow, thank you Lord.  Thank you for reminding me that I am your servant and that this entire process is not about me.  So I will wait.  In the the abandonment of my anxiety...I hear God telling me to delve into His word.  To be as into Him as I can be so that I can be into my children the way that a father should be.   Why do I need to spend more time with God during this journey?  Because I want our child here with us.  Because I want our biological children to grow in their love and their knowledge of God.  And if that's what I want, I need to get as close to Him as I can to allow Him to do that for me.  Psalm 37:4, "Rejoice in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."   I'm learing that as my heart desires Him...and Him only...that He will then give me that which pleases me as it brings honor to Him...fatherhood.   Be Still?  I won't be idle, but I will relax.  "Relax", He says, "I've got this.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.  You won't believe how it will all come together!!!"  Actually Lord, I DO believe.  Thank you for giving us the unwarranted priviledge to love your children and to see you at work.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gloriously Mad!!!

So, what in the world kind of title for a blog post is "Gloriously Mad"?   Well, let me tell you.  It goes way back to my reluctancy to become an adoptive parent.  I think I've mentioned before that I came up with every excuse not to adopt.  I used financial arguments.  I used space in our home arguments.  I used the busy-ness of life arguments.  Whatever it was, I had a reason why it wasn't going to work for our family.  Now, in May of last year we made the decision to begin the process.  But even after that, I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the whole picture.  Michelle began to show me some pictures of children that were available to adopt.  Through looking at the pictures, it made the process more real but they were still just pictures.  It was moving to see the need, but it was not personal.
So on October 1st, I attended a conference with Michelle in Indianapolis put on by our agency.  Michelle had attended the day before and she was pretty excited.  I went in with cautious optimism.  Optimistic because I knew this was the process that God had called us to...but cautious because it was still hard to just "put myself out there" and be totally vulnerable.  Vulnerable to the needs...vulnerable to my heart...vulnerable to God's will.  I know now that there is more comfort in being in God's will than one could ever know, but at the time the control-freak in me did not want to give up my handle on the situation.  (Ha, some handle.  I was clueless, was a basket-case emotionally, and would argue both sides of a topic which just added to my own confusion).   During this conference, we met Carolyn Twietmeyer.  Carolyn is the founder and director of Project Hopeful, an organization with a mission to educate, encourage, and enable families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with HIV/AIDS.  I had the privilege of speaking with her husband, Kiel for a while.  What a man with a heart and passion for God.  He brought out the passion in me as well.  Carolyn shared their experience with the group during lunch.  They are a family of 16 with 7 biological children and 7 adopted children.  I'm fairly certain that if you looked in the dictionary under the term "passion for adoption", you would see a picture of Carolyn.  Their story is very inspiring and moving.  I truly believe that God was at this conference.  And I'm not sure, but I think He was looking for me there.  Remember the pictures of the children I was talking about?  You know, the ones that were just "pictures"?  I looked at them again, and I began to wonder if any of them could be our child.  Hmmm, it was starting to get personal.
     The conference was a wonderful teaching tool for adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents, or anyone that was just intrigued by the idea.  There were many classes to attend with key speakers that had vast knowledge of the given subject.   In one of those classes we met Amy Moore.  Amy works for the agency that we are using but Michelle and I had not yet had the opportunity to meet her.   She is an adoptive parent and had shared her own struggles with the idea, the process, the transition and so on.  But she would not change a thing.  In fact, it was through her adoption that God pointed out to her a passion that I gathered she did not realize that she had.  People would ask her, "why would you want to adopt a child internationally"?  She tried to give answers that people would understand.  She tried to "reason" with people that quite honestly might not have been able to be reasoned with.  She gave statistics and facts and thoughts and feelings and then, after being asked the question again she, gave her best answer...."Why Not!!!!"
     Why not?   Why not adopt?  God, why don't people adopt?  Why not us?  Why not you?   Suddenly, with two little words I started looking at the whole thing differently.  Scripture started flowing through my head.  James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress".    Isaiah 1:17 "Learn to do good.  Seek justice. Help the oppressed.  Defend the cause of orphans.  Fight for the rights of widows".  Matthew 18:5 "and anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me".    These aren't cute little sayings.  They aren't even flippant suggestions.  These are commands from God in His Holy Word.  
     Suddenly, every one of my excuses for why we couldn't do it were destroyed.  We don't have the finances to adopt.  WHY NOT?  Because we want our 500 cable channels more than a child needs a home?   Because my high-speed internet and my smart phone bill and my car payment and my gym membership are all more important to me than a human life?
     We don't have the room for another child in our house.  WHY NOT?  Because the clothes that our kids have now won't all cram into a smaller space while children around the world are lucky to have the clothes on their backs, let alone a different shirt to change into?   Because it would be a little crowded for one of our kids to share a room while in Africa a family of 14 shares a one room hut for living, dining, and sleeping? 
     We don't have time in our lives for another child.   WHY NOT?  Because we are so selfish with our biological children that we would rather pursue whole-heartedly their material wants rather than to show them what a Godly love for mankind looks like?  I have to admit, this last one has been hard.  I love my children and want to give them everything.  But I'm learning that "giving them everything" is starting to look more and more like "giving" them nothing and instead just loving them, sharing the needs of the world, talking about their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Yes, those two words hit my ears and God said, "Aha.  That's it".  (As if He was shocked.. HA!)  He knew why He had me there.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed for all of my past excuses.  Suddenly, my head finally caught up with my heart.  Instead of thinking "logically", I began thinking with compassion.  I allowed myself to fully feel what I had been supressing for so long.  All of the emotion that I had kept bottled up was pouring out.  And I was mad.   Gloriously mad.  No more excuses because they couldn't hold water any longer.  It made me mad.  No more reasons to be able to keep my emotions in check.  It made me mad.    No more being sentimental about the plight of the orphan but never being personal about the plight of OUR orphan.  Oh, I was mad.  Gloriously mad.  God had opened my eyes to all of my past....yuck.   And I was done with it.  "Honey, we need to go over their and get our child.  Whatever we need to do, rush the paperwork, call somebody, whatever.  Our child is there."  Suddenly the urgency set in. 
   Today, instead of spending my time worrying about bills, or time, or deadlines...I find myself thinking about our child.  And about other children.   Worldwide.  There is an epidemic out there.  I had always thought that once we get our child home we would just be a "normal" family raising three young children instead of two.  We'll adapt.  We'll blend in.  Things will get back to normal.   I no longer feel that way, because I know that as long as there are children in the world that need a forever family that Michelle and I will not be able to be complacent.   We will work diligently to follow God's call on our lives to educate and bring awareness to this problem!  Will we spread the word to others and share our experiences and passions so that more children might find their forever families?...Why not?    Will we adopt again ourselves?...Who knows, but why not?
   So I guess that just leaves one last question.......What's your "Why Not?" 

Monday, January 16, 2012

A New Way of Thinking?

Something has struck me, recently, about the way that we look at things.  Let's take for instance the Israelites as they fled from Egypt.  After a while, they began to complain and there was murmuring that they wished they could just go back to Egypt because at least there they had food and shelter and they knew what they could expect.  As we, today, read these passages I am assuming we take one of a couple different stances on the subject.  We either feel sorry for them for not realizing the promise that was set before them, or we think of them as ridiculous for just not getting it.  Their restlessness and disobedience just kept getting them into more trouble.  All because they couldn't just be patient and wait on the Lord.  But as I've pondered that, I realize that both reactions that we might have are based on the fact that we have the benefit of knowing the outcome.  We don't have to have faith about leaving Egypt because we can simply turn a few pages and read how Joshua escorted them into the promised land.  It's easy for us to be judgemental when we know the outcome and we see others "just not getting it." 
     This has been on my mind this week because I've been looking at things a little backwards.  I've been looking at them from my point of view.  In the world of adoption, we often use the phrase "It's not about you."   I believe that with all of my heart, and yet I have found it at times to be difficult to actually incorporate that thinking into the process.  Our family and friends help us to get the word out by saying, "come to our fundraiser to help raise money for the Stewart family."   We sit in small groups and here our supportive friends saying, "how can we pray for you guys in your process?  it must be so hard on you while you're waiting."  Even I catch myself thinking as I prepare support letters; "this is the hardest part of the process.  I hate asking people to send me money."  Wow, did I really just say that?  Send ME money?  That thought really crosses my mind?  Like I have the nerve to believe that I am just a nice enough guy that people will knock on my door and say, "Hello.  I know you don't know me and I don't have a clue who you are but you just seem like a good guy that could use a dollar.  Here you go."   The nerve of me!!!!
     Now, to all of our friends and family, please don't get us wrong because we love....LOVE...all of the support and prayers and everything that we get from you.  And we know that the motive is just.  The problem is that the focus is all wrong.  Our focus is wrong and we have led you to the point where your focus is wrong and for that I am sorry.  Let's change our thought process to statements such as "come to our fundraiser to raise money for the orphans of the world and to bring them home to a forever family.  We'll start with bringing one home and not give up as long as there are children needing homes."   Or maybe, "Where are you guys at in the process?  How can we be praying for this precious child until he is home in your arms?"  Or the change in my own thought process to, "I really don't like to ask for money for myself, but I pray that you will all understand that this is for a child that needs and deserves a forever family to love him and be there for him as he grows."   Because it's really not about us.  And it's not about you either.  I would love for all of you to support us and I truly believe that you will be blessed by taking part in the process.  But if you want to do it so that you can go to your inner circle and stand on a soap box saying, "guess what I did?  I gave money to bring home an orphan.  I was a part of their story.  I did this.  I did that.  I, I, I...."   If that's your motivation then I politely ask you to stop.  Stop pretending that God doesn't know what you're up to.  Stop pretending to yourself that you're holy for doing such a wonderful thing.  Heck, stop reading this blog if that is the only motivation that you have to be a part of an adoption -- some sort of pompous, self-assuring pat on the back.  Forgive me for being forward, but I know all of these mindsets because I've been there.  I've had to tell myself, "don't be so outspoken to let everyone know about this GREAT thing that you're doing."  "Don't play the martyr and tell everyone how expensive it is."   That's a good one, by the way.  I've even caught myself saying things such as, "oh it's hard.  And I still don't know how we're going to do it, but God will provide in His timing."   Nothing wrong with saying that, right?  Well, there is if your motivation is to let everyone know how poor and pitiful you are and how desperate you are for their help.  Pitiful?  Well, yes.  Just plain pitiful 
    I know I'm being quite vulnerable in sharing this, but I'm doing so to let you know that God has brought me to a new place of understanding.  A better place.  Let's go back to the story of the Israelites.  Think for a moment how hard it must have been.  How hard to trust and have faith while eating manna day after day after day.  How hard to be told that the promised land awaits while still waiting in the desert year after year after year.  I can see how it would be possible to believe that they had made a tactical error and that three meals and a roof over their heads in Egypt didn't look all that bad to them anymore.  Well, I'm thinking about our child that will be coming home to us and I wonder some things.  I wonder if they'll feel they will be leaving everything they've ever known.  Their home.  Their bed.  Their language.  Their foods.  Their customs.   What fears will they have about coming to a land where they don't know the people.  They don't speak the language.  They don't know how to tell the dog to stay down or how to say that their tummy is upset.  They may cry at night and not be able to explain exactly why.  It breaks my heart to know that there are so many children needing homes and it bothers me to think that, once adopted,  they'll be leaving the only home they have known up 'til now.    But God really did have the best interests planned for His people.  And just like the Israelites going to the promised land, this child will have the promise of a forever family.  A father and mother and siblings that will always be there.  And more importantly, he will meet the One that brought him into being in the first place.  What he'll do with that meeting will not be in our control, but you can be sure that we will arrange the conference.  Yes.  Shame on me for thinking at any time in this process that it is even remotely about me.  SHAME ON ME!!!
   So now that we've gotten that out of the way, where to do go?  It's really quite simple...we go to God's word.  Not to use scripture as leverage to make others feel bad about themselves.  Not so we can stand on the street corner and boast of the verses that we have memorized.  We go to God's word to dig deeply into His thoughts, dig deeply into His commands....just dig deeply into Him.   Michelle and I did not come to this process haphazardly.  We prayed over it and we followed God's lead.  I pray that many of you will follow us in support of these children.  Whether you support our adoption or someone else's adoption or if you adopt a child yourself really is not the point.  The point is that God calls us to get involved and to care for these little ones.  I truly believe that God has blessings to bestow on us for following Him when He calls.  In our instance, He has called us to adopt.  Will my blessing be having an organization call and say they want to fund our entire adoption?   I certainly hope not.  Because if our blessing in this process were to halt at the very beginning and to have anything to do with monetary values then we just aren't getting it.  The blessings will come in the little things like seeing our child chase after a butterfly in the front yard.  Or hearing giggles in the bedroom when they are supposed to be asleep.  Or hearing the belly laughs as the kids all sit around and tell stories about how ridiculous daddy can be.  Or hear the clapping and cheering as they score a basket, or hit a homerun, or play in the school band, or bring home a good report card, or graduate high school, or find a soul mate to share their life with, or bring their own child...a new Stewart...into this world.  No, the blessings don't stop at the adoption process.  That is merely the beginning.  Just like this lifetime is merely a beginning once we give our lives to Jesus.  At that point, even the next 80 years are just the beginning. 
  So shame on me for having the nerve to think that this process is about me.  And shame on me for having the nerve to think that this process is about adoption.  It's not.  It's about people; God's people.  It's about children.  It's about love.  Or as my 8 year old daughter likes to say, "It's all about Jesus and God." 
     So what does God's word say for just such an occasion?  Michelle has shared a version of a verse that I can't get out of my mind.  "...once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do.  God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act."  Prov 24:12.
     He holds us responsible.  Responsible to act on what we see and know to be right in the eyes of our Lord.  Responsible to act with a right motive, one that puts these children first...and last...and always.  Responsible to act for absolutley no selfish gains and for no promises of prosperity other than the blessings of following God's matter what that is.
    I was listening to a song today.  "If you can use anything Lord, you can use me...Take my hands Lord, and my feet.  Take my heart Lord, speak through me.  If you can use anything Lord, you can use me."  I'm here Lord.  Use me.  Won't those of you reading join me?  Follow the Lord in what He is calling you to do.  Don't pretend that you don't know.   Receive your blessings, the blessings of life.   The blessings of A life; that of a child.