Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring

We spent last week on the dreamy beaches of Hilton Head, SC, relishing the warmer breezes that ushered out our memories of the late winter blast we recently experienced in Missouri. 

The blue skies, teal-tinged gray waters, and green leaves of South Carolina accented a stark contrast in the absolute blah-ness of Missouri's landscape when we left it. It was all browns, tans, grays in Missouri, and we were suddenly surrounded by vibrance at every turn in South Carolina.

And on our way home, the vibrant passing landscapes struck me. Blues and soft grays near the Appalacian Mountains in Tennessee, green pastures in Kentucky (beautifully familiar to me in March), and rolling, vibrant hills of Southeast Missouri. 

When we pulled up our driveway, I was struck by the tender and bright green grass, which replaced the dull, prickly grass that had been there just a week before. 

The calendar said Spring had come, and our yard reflected that change in no subtle way. 

I am so thankful for seasons. Not only do I need a reprieve from winter in our weather, but I also need a reprieve from winter in my heart, from seasons of busy-ness, from seasons of feeling unsettled and disheveled. 

Lately I've been feeling overextended. I am, in no way, as busy as I once was when coaching and teaching with two tiny kids. However, I have been a new sort of busy that comes with having two growing children, an adoption in progress, a changing family and added responsibilities/expectations in my new role as a "pastor's wife."

That said, after a period of evaluation, I realized I had a lot of great weekly commitments that often left me feeling harried and less-than-thankful as I gathered kids, got them dressed, fed them, and strapped them in the car with clean teeth and matching shoes, only to drag myself into a place that wasn't necessarily fulfilling or replenishing to my worn spirit. (And it's not that some of those things I was doing weren't great, amazing things...it's just that there were too many things for me to focus on the Main thing.)

I needed to cut some things out. Again, there were a lot of good things filling my time, but I didn't stay home to fill all of my time with those good things. I chose to stay home to be a Mom. I chose to stay home to focus on "training up our children in the way they should go," and to be ready to welcome Clementine when the time comes for her to join us. I chose to stay home to spend time with my kids and show them Jesus. But none of that was happening. 

So I made some cuts in life. No more Fight Club (i.e. Huge Bible Study). No more intense fitness bootcamps. I reduced and refocused meeting times with others. No more Facebook on my phone (I was checking for DRC adoption crisis updates semi-constantly...it was unhealthy.). 

And today--a day when we'd usually have to rush off to Fight Club--the boys and I had a grand day at home. They played all over the house and around it. We read books and Jesus stories and sang Seeds of Worship songs in the car on our ONE-and-only trip out of the house to a meeting at church. We talked about the hard, sometimes scary thunderstorms and how the grass and flowers in our yard will be even prettier tomorrow because of them (a lesson I have learned repeatedly in my own life). I laid with them in bed for twenty minutes and relished the extra snuggles just because I could. I wish I could say this was all normal for us on a daily basis, but it's not. However, I hope to make it the new normal. 

I even tackled the disgusting pee-tinged shower curtains in their bathroom (clean now!), caulked the tub, moved their twin beds downstairs and replaced them with a queen mattress that they'll share, painted that Empire Dresser I've been dismantling and sanding for weeks, and removed some winter clothes from my closet. 

Today was a good day, and it happened because I said no to some good things and yes to some greater, more important things. (And, yes, getting the pee out of those shower curtains was extremely important.)

This is a new season. Like any season, there are parts of this season that aren't ideal. I'd like to be exercising more. I'd like to stop doubting myself. I'd like to make relationships more of a priority. I'd like to be able to plan with more specificity for the future. I'd like to be more outgoing and encouraging to others--or I'd at least like to want to be more outgoing and encouraging. But I think part of this season will help me figure that stuff out, and that means part of this season entails being home more, doing more reflecting, praying, and studying on my own. 

It also means I'll have more to give my kids.

Next season it will all change again. But right now, I think this season--Spring in my heart and everywhere else--is perfect.

(PS--If you've never done a study on Ecclesiastes, I highly recommend you get on it. It's not all sorrow and sadness, as I once thought. Thanks to a special study from a Bible teacher in KC, I fell in love with it four years ago and it has continued to rock my life in the best ways possible.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sweet Clementine

In case you missed yesterday's post, we officially (by DRC court declaration) have a DAUGHTER. She officially has a forever family. We are excited to finally--17 months after seeing her face--be done with this part of the process.

I have mentioned that her given name, Clémence, means "mercy." We will call her Clementine, which is derived from Clémence and means "mild & merciful." Clementine. It's a sweet name for a sweet girl.

Each one of her pictures in our last update featured her beautiful smile, shiny eyes, full cheeks, and a wrist-ful of bright bracelets (and a round belly!). She is a dollop of sweetness in this sometimes bitter journey of adoption. 

We decided to alter her given name slightly because Clémence has proven difficult for Americans to pronounce correctly. As (former?) educators, Brad and I have seen the frustration of a student whose name is never pronounced correctly, and with all the differences Clementine will experience in her sweet little life, we don't want her name to harshly proclaim "I am not from here." This is a delicate balance. We want her to take pride in beautiful DRC, but we also want her to feel at home here. I tend to think part of that balance begins with having a name that reflects and respects her home country while also helping her feel at home here. (More on her name here and here.)

So Clementine it is.

Picture me singing "Sweet Clementine" to the tune of "Sweet Caroline." Because that's what I have been doing.

Dear Lord, please continue to be merciful with us.

We still have a LOOONG (months? years?), difficult road ahead to get her home, and just yesterday we learned of the tragic death of yet another child who was stuck in the court process in DRC. He, along with four others, died of dysentery due to unclean water. Our hearts ache for him and his family, who were never allowed to be together because of senseless politics.

(A bit of DRC adoption backstory can be found here.)



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

DAUGHTER

More good news to share: We have a daughter. We are officially a family of five!! (Unfortunately, we still have a LOONG way to go before we are a family living under one roof.)

Photo: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com
I learned yesterday (thanks to my rudimentary French skills) that our Act of Adoption, the final step in the DRC court process for adoption, was completed January 23, 2015. My agency rep had actually sent the documents to me about a month ago when she told me some documents were completed with my husband's name written wrong; however, I didn't want to obsess about the incorrect documents taking ANOTHER several weeks to complete, so I didn't look at them.

I should have looked! Then I would have known! We have a DAUGHTER!! She is officially a Lotz.

We are still waiting on some documents to be corrected with my husband's real name, and when we get those documents it will be time to file our I-600, which will begin the US investigation phase of the adoption.

But according to DRC courts, she is our daughter. And that's something big. And it's especially timely, considering the new laws that are apparently being made in DRC "soon" and a few other Lotz family dynamics.

We had originally planned to file our I-600 in DRC, which is said to cut down on the investigation timeline. However, our plan may have to alter a bit based on timing.

But for now, we continue to wait. We continue to fight for her release. We continue to trust in the God who created all things and has jurisdiction over all things, even DRC Exit Letters.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

a slow pulse

Today I saw one of the greatest sights I've seen yet in this adoption journey: a name. But not just any name; it was C's first name with our last name!

Clémence Lotz (PRON: "clay-monts loats")

Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

If you remember from this post, some of our documents were done incorrectly, as they had Bradlee's name written wrong. We received one of those corrected documents today, and we are waiting for them to correct the others.

Today's document was the Judgment of Adoption (finally!!), which means the next document we receive SHOULD BE (fingers crossed and prayers lifted up) the Act of Adoption, the final step in the DRC courts. The Act of Adoption takes place 30 days after the Judgment of Adoption and officially pronounces her as our daughter and enables us to file I-600 paperwork with the US government so they can begin their investigation into her status as an orphan.

The good news: This Judgment of Adoption was dated October 29, 2014. This means our Act of Adoption should have been done November 29, 2014. The bad news: We don't know where it is, but we are hoping it's on its way. (It can often take a 2-3 months for the paperwork to get into adoptive parents' hands...just a part of the process there.)

We still have a long journey ahead of us in this adoption, but we are so thankful to see that something is happening.

The name "Clémence" was given to her by one of her first caretakers. It means mercy. We continue to pray for just that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

hope for salty girls

I've made it no secret that I fall on the salty side of the sweet-salty personality continuum. Blame it on my upbringing as the youngest and the only girl of three kids, or blame it on my natural instincts toward sarcasm and dry humor. Or blame it on my middle school years.

One thing we can't really blame here is my diet: I eat plenty of sweets; too bad the bible verse doesn't say out of the overflow of the stomach the mouth speaks. If that were true, I'd be the sweetest little thing you'd ever meet.

But the fact remains that I'm not sweet. I'm salty. I thoroughly enjoy subtle dry humor, and I'm much more likely to laugh at a sarcastic comment spoken in jest than I am to smile at a dripping-with-honey compliment. 

I often see this as a negative aspect of my personality (fits right in the negative category between my anti-social tendencies) and my awkward conversational pauses, which I alluded to here). Most girls, including myself, would prefer to be described as sweet over salty. No one ever says, "Oh, you're such a salty woman," or "You are just so sassy," and means it as a complete compliment. 

But if you're a girl/woman in the salty boat with me, hang here for a minute. There's some biblical encouragement headed your way.

(Please do not take my comments here as a complete critical and biblical analysis of the Scriptures below. I aim to simply show that salt, when referenced in the Bible, isn't necessarily bad.)

Photo cred: tetronaturale.com.

Consider...

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Matthew 5:13
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Mark 9:50
50 Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.

From the verses above, I can garner that "salt is good." Salt preserves, salt makes things satiable, and salt adds flavor. This is not to say that honey and sweetness don't have their benefits, but salt has several redeeming qualities, one of them being to make things extra tasty and easy to consume. Therefore, my personal saltiness should not be used in a way that defames Christ, but in a way that glorifies Him, makes others want to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8), and makes them thirst for living water (Jn 7). 

This gives me, a salty girl, hope. This also challenges me to use my "salt" in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. At times, I have been discouraged by my saltiness, which I often see simply as "unsweet." And if I'm honest, my conversation has often been seasoned with too much salt and not enough honey. This is something I acknowledge and have prayed about. However, I still think God made me this way for a reason. It doesn't give me free reign to say and do as I please without regard to the feelings and tender hearts of others; it just means I communicate and think a bit differently. And that's ok.

I think a lot of people have some saltiness inside, and that means they can appreciate the salt in others, particularly when given the choice between artificial--fake--sweetener and salt. (Who wants to meet someone who fakes the perfect family, perfect kids, perfect marriage, and perfect relationships when we know not everything is perfect. Who wants to experience sugar-coated conversations about peace and love and joy when you know that person is severely unhappy on the inside? Not I. Give me salt or give me authenticity...do not give me artificial sweetness.)

If given the choice between fake sweetness or saltiness, I would choose the salt every time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Weeping Room

For the Lotz's, this weekend's featured events in our area included the World Missions Conference at our church, which we enjoyed, and the great return of snow and ice that we could have lived without. I'll spare you my ranting about winter (Let it END, already!), and instead focus my energy on the World Missions Conference.

Honestly, I am going to focus on a very small portion of the WMC, the "symposium" of sorts on sex trafficking. I do not wish to downplay the AMAZING and selfless things the missionaries from our church are doing around the world (and in our own area, for that matter), but the sex trafficking information hit hard, probably because it hits in our hometown and we don't even realize it. (Oh, you thought sex trafficking was just "over there?" It's here, too.)

I cannot unpack everything that was said at the gatherings. Everything that was said was important, yes, but I'll hit just a few of the high notes for now and possibly return with more details at a later date.

You need to know that 2,200 children are reported missing each day in America. 2,200 EACH DAY. In AMERICA. (Not Europe, or Asia, or Africa...just America). 2,200 includes only the number of children that are reported missing, not the ones who go missing unnoticed (sad truth) or unnoted.

Of those 2,200 reported missing children, ONE THIRD of them will be approached by a sex trafficker within 48 hours. 48 hours...TWO DAYS. That's all it takes, and if that child has even one ounce of low self-esteem, you'd better believe the sex trafficker will notice and take full advantage. They are very good at what they do, and what they do is manipulate vulnerable people.

Prevention is key here, and part of prevention is strong families, particularly warm, loving, and involved fathers. Strong communities and mentors also play huge roles in this fight,

This tragic phenomenon presents the church with an opportunity to get involved and to partner with government agencies, healthcare systems, hospitality industries, the FBI, and the judicial system to create sustainable methods for prevention and solutions to this widespread problem. In partnering with such organizations, we (the Church) have the opportunity to gain the trust of our government, police officers, and judicial systems while also opening ourselves to worlds of hurt, vastly different populations, and individuals who, like ourselves, need to be loved in a safe community.

(I could spend a day unpacking that last paragraph, but I don't think it matters as much as the next one. As a side note, the founder of FREE International, Michael Bartel, was an absolutely profound speaker who is passionate about this cause and has garnered the trust of our national security and judicial systems to fight this problem on multiple levels. Every word that came out of his mouth was seasoned with biblical Truth, and it was overwhelmingly clear that he is doing that Lord's work because of the Lord's work in him. Please take a look at FREE International's website  to learn more.)

Like many other people who heard the stats and stories last night, I feel like I should get involved imeediately. I feel like I should do something, save someone, kick down a brothel door, walk the streets as a rescue worker. But I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing and, most importantly, I wouldn't have spent any time in absolute HEARTBREAK over the problem, which is absolutely important in these situations where heartbreak "on the front lines" could thwart my initial zeal.

You see, it's easy to jump into a new mission of salvation or rescue, but it's harder to stick with it when reality comes pouncing in to shove our assumed failures into our faces, steal rescued girls back to their "normal" way of loving, and push one more man into the pit of pornography. If we are not prepared, if we haven't felt the absolute crushing blow of heartbreak for one person's devastating situation, too many hard moments threaten to tear us away from our mission. Too many girls choose to return to their exploited lives, and we won't understand it. Too many months go by on an adoption we thought would be a breeze compared to our last one, and our hearts grow weary. Too many orphans die without clean water. Too many foster children grow up to create more foster children, despite the best efforts of people willing to try to help.

It's easy to jump into a new cause, but it's hard to stick to it. That's because, as one presenter--Shauna Storey, of NightLight International--put it, we must first spend some time in the Weeping Room.

During a particularly trying season of Shauna's life when she was learning about the plight of sexually exploited women, she spent a lot of time crying and processing what she was learning. In processing her thoughts and the devastating information she was reading, her friend told her an important and life-altering story.

Her friend had a dream. In her dream, there was a house, and the house represented God's relationship with his people. She entered the house, and the first room was a very luxuriously designed, comfortable space called the Intimacy Room. People lounged in the chairs and felt close to Jesus as they sat comfortably in the luxuries He provided to them.

From that room, she could look around and see a few other rooms: a Study where people were studying Scripture, a kitchen where people were eating daily bread, etc. Then she saw a closed door.

"What's that door?" she asked Jesus, who was showing her around.

"Oh, that's the door to the room where I spend most of my time," said Jesus.

"Well if you spend your time there, then I want to be there, too," she said.

"I don't know if you want to join me in there," He said. "Not many people do."

"No, I do," she persisted. "Please take me there."

So He did. He opened the door, which led to a long hallway. As they walked the hallway, she realized it was much longer than it had originally appeared, and the path got smaller, until eventually they were crawling on their hands and knees to get through. When they reached the end of the hallway, they entered a small room featuring only one chair that faced a large window.

"What is this room?" she asked.

"This is the Weeping Room. That window allows me to see the suffering of the entire world, and this is where I spend almost all of my time, weeping over the suffering of the world."

"Oh," she said with dismay while looking around again. She saw another closed door. "What's that door lead to?"

"That's the Strategy Room. It's where people go to search out solutions for the suffering of the world."

"Well," she said with more enthusiasm, "then I'd like to go there."

He replied, "You can only go there after you've spent some time in the Weeping Room."

And I believe that's truly how it is. We don't understand what the suffering will be like until we walk and weep through it a bit. And only then can we see that one vulnerable girl or one orphaned child is worth the trouble, pain, and setbacks we would face to rescue her. No one really wants to spend time in the Weeping Room, but if that's where Jesus is maybe we need to be there, too.

What about you? Who or what are you weeping for?