Wednesday, November 26, 2014

recounting his deeds


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of thankfulness I will tell you this: We have plenty for which to be thankful. In a year of excruciating waiting and uncertainty, the fact that God is with us, has a plan for us, has a plan for Sweet C, and has given us everything we need to fulfill our purpose for him is not lost on me. I acknowledge and am thankful that "from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever."

I am so incredibly thankful for the people God has placed in my life. Until now, I have not fully recognized the true value of being surrounded by and in community with amazing people--friends, family, husband, kids--who are REAL about struggles and full of grace, who love the Bible, and who are learning to be more like Christ daily.

And I am incredibly thankful for people has placed in my life from a distance. One person for whom I am thankful is Sarah, my friend in Cali (it sounds so cool to say it that way), who sends me Bible verses EVERY MORNING to remind me of God's promises.

And she sent me this one this morning: "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1)

And since that's the case, here's a quick (not inclusive) recounting of his wonderful deeds for us lately:

- Christ's intercession for us at the right hand of God.

- This difficult journey that has stripped away things that I once thought were important and replaced them with things that really ARE important.

- Sweet C's wonderful life


- provision

- Brody's adoption journey and the amazingly sweet personality of his


- Brecken's crazy-early birth journey and his awesome individuality


- movement in DRC (Yes, movement!!!)

- great friends and family

- God's calling in Brad's life and the fact that he uses his amazing leadership skills to equip and train others for leadership, including our own children.


The list could go on for miles, but I'll stop there.

My heart is thankful. I hope you have plenty for which to be thankful, too.

Reminder: Please continue to pray with us for the families and children affected by the DRC suspension of Exit Letters. PLEASE keep praying specifically that the suspension will be lifted, that we will finally receive C's paperwork, and that the stuck children will be home for Christmas!!!

(PS -- I've collected an assortment of biblical promises and truths about the heart of God for the orphan on Pinterest here, if you're interested. When pleading on behalf of his [stiffnecked] people, Moses reminded God of his promises for their future inheritance, and God changed his mind about destroying them [Exodus 32]. This might mean, then, that we can (should?) remind God of his promises for the orphan in our prayers asking him for help in "setting the lonely in families." We need not remind him because he has forgotten, but because a Father likes to know his children remember his words.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the hands and feet

The next time I saw her she was wearing her jacket again, only this time she was inside her own home.

The weather was turning very chilly for a day in early November, and neither her house nor her body looked like it had insulation to spare.

Although her house looked dark and lonely, the TV was on and I heard her come my way as I rang her doorbell.

I hardly ever answer the door when I'm home alone and not expecting someone I know--or the UPS truck--to come by. I am just a weenie like that. But she came to the door immediately with a curious look on her face.

I introduced myself again in case she had forgotten, and she nodded as though she remembered me.

"I just came to check in and make sure you're doing ok," I said as Brody made his way up the stairs to us. He had finagled his way out of his seatbelt and the car door because he cannot resist a social situation. That is where he and I are very different.

Brody had also asked about her in the days that followed our first meeting. "What's Velma doing? Where's her family?" I was a little worried about the questions he might ask of her today.

"Do you need anything?" I asked. This is one of those situations where you hope you're not insulting someone by assuming they need help, but it was also pretty clear that she couldn't do things on her own.

"Yes, actually," she said. "Do you see that bush over there? It gets bogged down by snow every winter and pushes into the house. It's way too big but I can't do anything about it by myself."

I exhaled a silent prayer of thanks for God's hand in giving me an easy task first. "I see that bush. It does look like it could cause some problems. My husband is out of town but when he gets back I'll bring him over here and we will try to take care of it for you. Would that be ok?"

"Oh yes," she said. "I would appreciate that."

At this point, Brody began ambushing the conversation with questions and suggestions about how we might fix that bush. I smiled at him and looked back at her, hoping she could remember a time when she had a young child who asked too many questions.

"Ok, good. Do you need anything else?" Time to leave before Brody asked her all of the personal questions he loves to ask strangers.

"No, I think I'm doing ok. Thank you for your help. That's really kind of you."

So my family will be back at her house tomorrow--possibly with some strong and helpful young men--to take care of that pesky bush, and to bring her a blanket and bread, with hopes that we can do even more.

I don't share this experience to try to show you how great of a person I am or even how great of a Christian I am. I actually hesitated to share this whole experience because I often fear that people will think that I think I'm pretty awesome for caring--for obeying God.

I'm not awesome. My heart is quite cold, actually, and I've made a thousand mistakes that sometimes keep me up at night, a fact that I acknowledge as sinful in and of itself. (Because who do I think I am to try and bear burdens of mistakes that Christ has already carried and removed for me?)

However, God has been doing a work in me, breaking me for widows in addition to orphans. He has been showing me what I've been missing in my busy-ness, in my selfishness disguised as introversion, in my insecurity, and in this weight of adoption waiting.

So please be encouraged. I am a shy nobody, but because of God's great power in me there is now a widow who will hopefully see the Gospel in motion, in the hands and feet of His people.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

waiting with the widow

{A continuation from yesterday's post.)

I watched her struggle to cross the bridge through the winds that beat across the side of her face, rippling her jacket away from her frail body.

Surely, I thought, her car is nearby and she's walking a short distance to get to it.

But I didn't see anything nearby except for the throngs of cars speeding past her, seeming not to notice that she was well into her 80s or 90s and struggling through the wind.

Should I help this woman, God? Is this a woman I can help? 

I have been praying that He would open my eyes and heart to widows, who are often harder to identify--yet often as lonely and in need--as orphans.

Because maybe it's possible to be a family to a widow while--and after--we wait to be a family to an orphan.

I drove past this woman, still looking for a car that might belong to her while hoping another car would stop for her. I saw neither, and as I continued to drive I prayed that God would show me what to do.

Is this her? Why is no one else stopping for her? 

Clearly, Jenny, you are supposed to go help that woman. 

It was almost as if I needed a hundred affirmations that this was God's design, although my heart identified it as such from the first moment. Five hundred yards past where I drove past her, I finally turned around using side roads and parking lots. I'm embarrassed to say it took me that long to obey, but it did.

When we finally arrived back at the intersection where she was starting to enter the Walmart parking lot, I opened my door enough to show her I was harmless--a woman with two crazy kids in the back--and called out, "Can I help you? Do you need a ride?"

She seemed surprised but thankful.

"Yes," she said. "I'm going to have my phone fixed because I need to use it before the storm comes tomorrow."

"I'll take you."

She hobbled over and in, somewhat hesitantly, and thanked me humbly. She looked cold and relieved to be inside a moving vehicle. I introduced myself and my boys in the backseat, then asked her name.

"Velma," she said.

We made our way to Walmart while I figured out how to best help her. I wouldn't be much help with two toddlers to slow us all down, so I dropped her off at the front door and the boys and I waited and watched for her while eating a bag of trail mix in the car. She was in there a very long time, and I began to wonder if she had come out a different door without me seeing her.

I drove closer to the door and waited, making sure to get out of the car when I finally saw her tiny body emerge from the store.

They had fixed her phone and we were now off to take her home to her tiny house almost a mile away with overgrown shrubs and unraked yard. It was clear she couldn't keep up with the work herself; I didn't even know how she'd walked all that distance to get to the store.

When I asked her for her phone number, I watched her nervously fumble to find her address book and calendar, then her phone because she didn't know her phone number. She finally gave me a slip of paper with her number on it, except it wasn't her phone number. It was her address, which I already knew because I was sitting in her driveway.

I asked again if she could find her phone so I could type my number in for her. When she finally found it, it was clear she had forgotten why she was looking. She apologized. "I had a stroke a year ago and I can't do some things I used to do. It's embarrassing."

I smiled while wanting to cry for her. I asked if she had family nearby. It seemed as though some lived a county away, but it was pretty clear she was on her own.

Finally, I wrote my number down for her and used her flip phone to call my own so I could save her number in mine. I told her to call any time she needed anything; I'd be glad to help.

As I rolled out of her driveway, I watched her fumble for keys at the door, thinking about how hard it must be to live alone, for one thing, and to struggle with the daily tasks of living, too.

I wondered if her neighbors helped her at all, if they even knew she needed it. I wondered about her family. I wondered how she would have made it home from Walmart.

Then I drove away, thanking God for opening my eyes to this widow, praying for her, and knowing I would return in a few days to check on her. She wouldn't remember my name or number, but she'd know someone cared.

Monday, November 17, 2014

waiting and the widow

Yes, another blog post about waiting. We have heard nothing new. An agency rep who was supposed to go to DRC got her passport stolen while on the plane and spent several days on planes or in holding, waiting to come back home. Therefore, there are no feet from our specific agency on the ground to check on C's case and let us know WHY we are still in the court process 13 months later.

(I realize that others have waited much longer...and it breaks my heart to the core. PLEASE watch this video from Both Ends Burning to see what that waiting is all about.)

I could let the waiting drive me crazy (and don't get me wrong...I sometimes do, often at 3 am, which might explain the cold sore overtaking my nose and the dark under-eye circles). However, that's not helpful or beneficial, especially for my kids or husband at home with me. (And I don't think it's necessary when I choose to rest in God's perfect peace.)

Orphans remain heavy on my heart, but I feel more powerless now than ever to help them. I haven't written much about them in a while, and I think it's because I have shut myself off from it for a bit, feeling powerless and frustrated and burdened all at the same time.

However much I'd like to do something more, we are in a bit of a holding pattern.

It wouldn't be wise to start another adoption (from anywhere) right now. DRC's laws state that only two children can be at home to adopt from their country, and although the judges have often overridden that rule in the past to get children into families, there has been talk that they are becoming more strict in that law. We have heard DRC's parliament is rewriting the adoption laws, so we must wait for those to be approved by vote to see what they say. That said, if we were to add to our family while we wait for her to come home, it might put her future with us in jeopardy.

We have discussed foster care. However, we have decided that it wouldn't be fair to a foster child who gets placed with us, only to have to go somewhere else while we travel to get C (which has taken several weeks of traveling in the past).

We aren't in a place where we can give any extra significant financial amount to charities who serve orphans, foster families or biological families who are getting their acts together to get their children back from the State. And honestly, our time is full of other events and ministries and commitments in such a way that we can't even volunteer much of it to help serve.

So what do we do when we want to live by James 1:27 but can't help an orphan through adoption or foster care?

As it turns out, James 1:27 isn't just about orphans. It says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

There are widows, too. They may not be as cute and cuddly as small children, but they are just as in need of a helping hand or a warm smile, and most are probably more lonely than the orphans. 

So I've been praying for God to open my eyes to the widows. Turns out, they are everywhere, just not as noticeable as orphans. 

Some are young with three children and a half-million things to get done themselves by the end of the day. Some are old with children who live across the country without the opportunity to visit. Some are wives and mothers who live as widows until the return of their husbands serving abroad. Some have lost their husbands to other women or other interests. 

Some are old and frail, walking a mile over a narrow bridge in the crippling wind to get to the store. 

And just like that, I saw her...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the hidden benefit

After a few months of staying home with the boys, we are finally getting into a certain rhythm of life. This rhythm is only slightly slower than the rhythm we had when I was working, but it is different nonetheless.

Yes, I am able to spend more time with our boys, which I love. However, I'm slowly discovering an amazing hidden benefit of staying home: deepening friendships.

Let's be clear for fear that you will think I am a loser: I had friends when I was working. I saw many of them often in the halls of my school building, I talked to others occasionally (via text, of course), and even spent time with a few of them on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes even Sunday afternoons if I was feeling ambitious.

But those friendships often lacked a few vital pieces of relational currency: Time & energy. Quite simply, I had no time for friends, nor did I feel like putting extra energy into anything that didn't involve getting my mile-high laundry done, grocery shopping, or scrubbing the dirt off of my boys after a day outside.

And since I didn't have time or energy for friends, my friendships weren't particularly deep. They often--not always, but often--consisted of some pretty empty "How are you's" and "Have a good day's," along with some "Everything is greats" for good measure.

Other people who are more extroverted and amazing than myself are much better at navigating this no-time, no-energy conundrum. They can probably ask genuine questions like "How can I help you today?" and be honest in their answers by saying, "Glad you asked. I'm going to be honest: I'm really struggling today."

But that was not me when I was working. Yes, I had great friends at work and loved seeing them every day and enjoying an occasional deep conversation, but I also couldn't muster up the energy to go past much of the everyday smalltalk we all experience. I had usually used up all of my emotional and social capital by the end of each day, and at 3 PM, I wanted to go see my kids and get on with the 15 errands we needed to run together.

And don't even get me started on nights out with friends. Weekdays were basically out of the question because the next day of school and the connected 5 am wakeup loomed in front of me, telling me to shut it down at 8 PM.

Weekends were often off-limits, as we had a gazillion to-dos to accomplish before the next Monday rolled around, not to mention the fact that I wanted to see my kids because I had just handed them off to someone else for 45 hours the week before.

I will admit here that I was probably wrong in not putting more effort into creating bonds. I was probably selfish in not offering more of myself--"my" conversation, "my" time, "my" attention--to others. Often, however, I suspected they were feeling just like me. And often, I wondered--and still wonder, at times--what I had to offer anyone anyway.

But now, with some extra time and--really, most importantly--extra social energy, I am experiencing the hidden gem of deepening friendships that move beyond the "Hello's" and "How are ya's" and into the "How has your day been's" and "How's it going with that discipline thing with the boys?"

This has been a season of friendships with real talk, joy, struggle-sharing, increased vulnerability, and encouragement.

It's been a season of texted prayers for my family and for Sweet C, just at the right time (namely, when I was increasing my walking pace while walking by the little girlie clothes at the store, because sometime it hurts to look).

It's been a season of receiving unexpected gifts in the mail from a dear-but-far-away awesome-sauce friend.


And it's been a season of deepening relationships with my boys, learning how to be a better wife and mom from an older woman of God, community-building at church, and truly enjoying some girl time on the weekends or on Monday mornings.

I am ever so thankful for this season, and I am learning to enjoy it without worry.

((And working-moms-who-don't-want-to-be-working-moms and who aren't in this season...please know that I feel your pain. I know what it's like to have the energy tank on low or empty and to feel that you are failing everyone all at the same time. (Please tell me it wasn't just me who felt that way.) I don't know what it's like to do all of that well, as many of you probably do. You all are probably WAY better at managing friendships and social energy than I am, and I assure you, you are failing no one. I fail my kids DAILY from home, and I fail on budgeting our one-income, minister-paycheck budget almost hourly. So just because I'm now parenting from home doesn't make my parenting any better AT ALL. Please understand this. Hugs to you, and know that I miss seeing many of you in the halls.))

Monday, November 10, 2014

groans

Last week we began praying big for specific results.

First, that we would get Sweet C's paperwork by last Friday so that I could finally go file paperwork in DRC and, most importantly, meet her in person.

Second, that the stuck children of DRC would be allowed to come home to their forever (legal adoptive) families by Christmas 2014. What a great Christmas present that would be!

We did not receive C's paperwork by Saturday of last week, so I guess you could say God's answer was "not yet."

This is always an answer that's hard to take. "Not yet." "Be patient." "In time." "Wait patiently."

It stinks, but our self-induced end-of-the-week deadline was rather arbitrary. So I continue to pray, but sometimes I lack the words. I've been writing down verses about God's character and promises--his promise to fight for his people, his defense of the fatherly, his compassion for the fatherless-- to pray back to God. (I shared some of them here and here.)

But sometimes I just say, "Lord, you know what I really want. I want her home. I want to get through this court process, meet her, hug her, smother her in love and bring her home with us forever. And I really want it soon."

And sometimes I think that's ok.

My dad had some major heart problems beginning the summer before my freshman year of college. He had several surgeries, stints, and--finally--a new heart valve. At one point, my family was brought back to the private room with the chaplain--never good--because my dad's heart was able to pump on its own after taking him off of the pump used during surgery.

You know how I prayed during this time? Uttering groans. Cries. Tears. Moans.

And I think that's ok.

God heard, no matter how it sounded. 

Romans (8:26) says that "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

My mom shared that verse with me when my dad was experiencing all of his heart troubles, and I have never forgotten it. (My dad is healthy and as awesome as ever today, by the way.) 

I feel like I've had plenty of experience allowing the Spirit to intercede for me when all I can do is groan or--essentially--say, "Remember my prayer from earlier today? Here I am to repeat it."

So often, I am not sure what to even say to God. It's not that I'm mad...I'm just at a loss for words.

This court process is taking "forever." I have no idea why, but I can only gather that our agency is having difficulty obtaining our paperwork (like her Judgment, Supletiff Judgment, etc....and no, I don't really even know what all of those are).

There's a lot to be said for specific prayers, but maybe putting my own arbitrary timeline on C's case isn't in the best interest of any of us. It may, in fact, inhibit the work God is doing in us, in DRC, even in our church or family.

I have no way of knowing, but right before the verse mentioned above, there's this one: "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." --Romans 8:25

So, I will keep praying--and I ask that you do, too--that we get her paperwork SOON. ASAP. ANY SECOND.

Sometimes I believe my groans translate like this: "Bring her home in a time frame that absolutely blows our minds and reveals your power and brings you glory."

And for the stuck children of DRC, my prayers--along with literally thousands and thousands of others--are that they are home with their families for Christmas. Because I still believe in the power of prayer, and mostly, in the power of our great God.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

fervent prayers

Consider this your daily reminder to pray big (and pray fervently/passionately) with us.

Specifically...

We are praying for the stuck children of DRC to come home to their adoptive families for Christmas.

We are praying to receive Sweet C's paperwork in our hands this week!

Consider:

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them."  - Psalm 145:18-19

"Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." - James 5:16 (If you feel as though you are not a "righteous man" who is capable of praying effectually, read on into James 5:17 to learn what it says about Elijah.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

praying big

We continue to Dream Big, but now we are praying even bigger.

Today is Orphan Sunday, and our hearts ache for children who live as orphans all around the world--and often next door without us realizing it. It's so hard to imagine what it's like to live as an orphan, yet our eyes are being opened more every day to the specific trials they face.

Please join us to day in praying for orphans across the globe, and specifically in praying for the children of DRC who are not orphans but continue to live as such. They have been legally adopted and have all paperwork complete except for the Exit Letter they need from DR Congo's DGM office.

We are praying to have them home for Christmas, which might seem like a large task but we know that it's not too large for God. Nothing is too hard for Him; no dream is too big. With His Word He spoke the Earth into existence, so bringing these children home isn't too much for Him. In fact, I think we often ask too little of God.

We tend to think we have everything under control ourselves and don't need Him to work daily in our lives. We have bought into such a sham. The truth is, God is in complete and absolute control, and no matter how many human efforts we make to bring these kids home, nothing happens unless the Lord ALMIGHTY--author and creator--allows it.

So, yes, our prayers that the stuck children of DRC are home for Christmas are big prayers. But we can't just dream big anymore--if we have believed that in the past we have been wrong. We must pray big, too.

On top of that, we are praying specifically that Sweet C's final adoption paperwork gets into our hands THIS WEEK so that we can declare her as our daughter--an orphan no more! This would mean we could finally go meet her and file paperwork at the Embassy.

I am begging God for these things daily and nightly. I am begging you to join in praying big for these precious children and their families daily.

Consider:

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:16 (C's name means mercy...kind of changes the meaning of this verse for me sometimes!)

"You in your mercy have led forth the people which you has redeemed: you have guided them in your strength unto thy holy habitation." - Exodus 15:13

"The Lord thy God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing." - Zeph 3:17

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17

(And thank you, Dear Friends. While I am lifting prayers, I am also praising God for those of you who have been so encouraging and generous, who have remembered our hurts and who continue to lift up prayers up on our behalf. I am also praising God for teaching me so much.)