Friday, October 21, 2011

Meeting Birth-Mom; My Joy, Her Pain - Pt. 2

Meeting Brittany, our girls' birth-mom, was an emotional roller-caoster. What exactly do you say to someone who is giving up their children and telling you they want you to care for them? "Thank you," doesn't even suffice. For weeks afterward I hit such extreme highs and lows emotionally that I was a wreck.

I felt joy that the girls we loved so much would become ours.

I felt guilt for feeling any joy about something so tragic.

I felt sorrow for the pain Brittany was experiencing in losing her girls.

I felt peace that this decision was not ours.

I felt regret that we had not been able to help Brittany keep her girls.

I felt jealousy that I would not be the only Mama in the girls' life.

I felt happiness that we could continue contact with Brittany.

I felt confused because none of this was easy for anyone involved.

In the weeks and months that followed, we visited with Brittany. Two strangers in love with the same kids can make for awkward conversations. Then again, two strangers in love with the same kids can bring two strangers close together. Brittany's life is not stellar. She has many issues to deal with and clean up. But being able to continue being a part of her girls' lives offers her the hope she needs to keep striving for a better life.

Before leaving for Georgia, we had a last meeting with Brittany. As expected, it was emotional. (Not for the girls, mind you. They seem to have adapted to all of this rather well.) It was hard for Brittany and me. When she called me afterwards, I offered to let her talk to the girls again, but she declined. "Sometimes, I just don't want to talk to them or see them anymore," she said. "It just makes me sad to keep being reminded of how much I messed up my life." I gripped the phone as a new feeling crept into the salad bowl of emotions I kept in my heart - panic. She wasn't going to leave them, was she?

I understood very well how she felt. My mother had been a foster-child and I knew a lot about the feelings of guilt and remorse that surround the loss of a child to the foster care system. But I didn't want Brittany to quit on the girls either. They regarded her as a regular part of their lives. She was making progress in many different areas of her life. She was trying hard to get on the right track. For their sake ... for her sake ... I didn't want to see her step out of their lives.

"Don't leave them," I nearly pleaded into the phone, "They need you!" God had brought me to the point where I knew I would never be their only mother. They would always have two. Although, I had struggled to come to that decision, I had never once regretted it. And now I feared I was losing her. I needed her to still see the importance of her role in their lives. We talked for a little while longer about it. "Maybe," Brittany hesitated, then continued, "Maybe you can keep encouraging me, even while you're in Georgia?" "Absolutely!!!" I promised.

After I hung up the phone, I sat thinking for a long while. Adoption is horrible. No! Adoption is beautiful. The sin that causes a need for adoption is horrible. But God can still take something that is so heart-wrenchingly painful and transform it into something of exquisite beauty. That's my prayer for Brittany. That's my prayer for all of us.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me ... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61: 1, 3


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meeting Birth-Mom - My Joy, Her Pain, Pt. 1

Not everyone can or chooses to meet the birth parents of their adoptive children. Each situation is so different. I have been privileged to meet at least one of each of each of our children's birth parents. The following is a flash from the past. It's something I wrote immediately following my first visit, nearly two or two-and-a-half years ago, with the birth-mom of my youngest three girls when they were still in foster care. I will call her Brittany.

*****

When Shawn and I first began our journey towards adoption, our thoughts were only about the children. We wanted to help them, care for them, give them a family to love them. We never thought for a minute about the birth-parents connected to those children.

On that happy, and somewhat chaotic, day when Nikki, Alyssa, and Maya danced through our doorway, our hearts soared. Our prayers and efforts were coming to fruition. We felt Heaven’s smile. Never did we think that somewhere a birth-mother was broken.

The bonds of love began to grow, knitting heart to heart. These were not our children by flesh and blood, but they were ours nonetheless. We helped them where they were behind. We rejoiced with them when they triumphed. We loved them. Tighter and tighter those bonds grew and our joy knew no bounds. Never did we dream that somewhere a birth-mother was weeping.

Once each week our happy schedule was interrupted when we drove to the social services department so the girls could visit that mother. For me it was merely a building where I dropped off the kids and then picked them up an hour-and-a-half later. It was a chore that had to be done. Little did I know that for their birth-mother it was the one bright spot in her week.

Nikki asks a lot of questions. “What’s going to happen to my birth-mom?” was one she asked at bedtime one night after I had once again explained why she could no longer live with her birth-mom. Nikki’s eyes searched my face in the deepening shadows. I was silent. I didn’t know how to answer that question. I breathed a prayer Heavenward. But suddenly Nikki brightened. “I know,” she grinned. “I’ll get to live with her in Heaven!” With that she kissed me good-night and flopped her head down on her pillow. She had her answer and she was content.

Troubled, I rose to leave her bedroom, quietly closing the door behind me. My mind was filled with my own questions. From the little I knew about Brittany, the girls’ birth-mom, she did not sound like one who even wanted to go to Heaven! Her behaviors, her choices and subsequent consequences, reflected that, I thought rather judgmentally. She and I have lived our lives a hundred lifetimes apart. Our lifestyles differ wildly. Our social groups would never mix. We are polar opposites. And yet, I began to feel a tug at my heart, there are similarities too.

In the middle of our two vastly different worlds stand three beautiful girls who were beginning to pull us together. We are, in fact, two mothers who deeply love these girls; two hearts fearing the unfathomable pain of losing our children; two daughters of the same Heavenly Father; two sinners in need of a Savior's love, forgiveness, and mercy.

After a little while, I knew what God was asking me to do. I so wanted to be their only mother, to forget they ever had a birth-mom. But God needed me to push my selfishness aside and offer the gift of salvation to the birth-mother of my little girls. For their sakes, I needed to make sure she knew about Jesus. I emailed the social worker and requested to meet Brittany.

It is not required for potential adoptive parents to meet the birth-parents. Most adoptive parents never do. (This was the first time our social worker had ever scheduled a meeting like this.) But I live on both sides of the adoptive world. My own mother was raised by a foster family. I maintain relationships with my biological family and my foster family and believe myself to be richer for it. Could I deny that privilege to my daughters? Could I be so selfish as to keep them to myself and simply “forget” about the woman who gave birth to them? Is this whole process just about Shawn and me getting kids or is this the way God is reaching down to touch the life of one of His lost lambs?

I didn’t sleep well the night before my meeting with Brittany. In the morning I tried to concentrate on getting odd tasks accomplished. I didn’t do very well. My mind was whirling. My stomach was in knots. Why was I so nervous?

Dropping off the girls was a familiar enough routine. That eased some of my anxiety. But the butterflies continued to multiply in my stomach. “Please, God,” I pleaded, “tell me what I should say.”

The social worker led me down a long hallway to the conference room. I chose a chair facing the door and waited for Brittany to come. Waiting is torture and during that time more questions filled my mind. Would she hate me? Why was I doing this? Why didn't I just take the easier road? What would I say to her? I couldn't very well say, "I love your kids and don't want you to get them back," (Even though it was really how I felt.) The clock on the wall tick-tocked the long minutes away. I rapidly fired off more anxious prayers Heavenward. "God, I need You here!" I breathed.

And then, she was there and she looked just as nervous as I felt. I stood to greet her not knowing whether I should hug her or shake her hand. I gingerly offered my hand. “Can I hug you?” she asked. I embraced her and the tears of pent up emotions spilled out. Heart to heart, mother to mother, each understanding what the other was feeling and enduring, each offering comfort, we stood there for a long while.

“Thank you so much for taking care of my girls,” Brittany began when we finally sat down. She wiped away tears as she continued, “I know they are happy with you. You are giving them what I never could. I can barely take care of myself! I can’t offer them anything. But the thought of never seeing them again…” Her voice trailed off as the tears once more began to flow.

“Brittany,” My voice trembled a little as I spoke, but God gave me the words. “I want you to know that we love your girls very much. But you are a part of them and that makes you very special to us also. We really want you to do well. We want to continue contact with you because we feel it would be best for the girls. And we really want what’s best for them.”

After some more discussion and story swapping about the girls’ personalities and traits of character, the social worker asked if it would be okay for the girls to come in. We agreed and soon the sound of little feet and children’s laughter was heard approaching the door. In burst three bright-eyed girls. The two older girls, Nikki and Alyssa, looked a little confused at seeing their two mommies in the same room, like they weren’t sure who to go to. Maya immediately made her way straight to me, well, as soon as she could get around the long conference table and all the chairs. Alyssa, focused her eyes on me, then slowly sidled up to Brittany and sat in her lap. Nikki kind of stood awkwardly between us for a little bit. Her loyalty to both mothers was evident. Finally, she snuggled into my lap next to Maya. We all chatted happily together for a little bit, the social worker got us all together for a group picture, and then it was time to leave.

It was a long and emotionally draining day, but I am thankful. Brittany kept saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I believe that to be true. When I think back to the way it worked out that we got this particular set of kids, I know that God had this day in mind. His ways are higher than my ways and He knows what is best – always.

Someday soon, when we get to Heaven, I think Nikki will find her mansion right between Brittany’s and mine. And she will be perfectly happy with the arrangement. I will too.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Giddyup! Here We Go-o-o-o.......

Today we leave California for the wild unknown

of a faraway state

named Georgia.
(Mind you, this is not the country of Georgia, but one of our very own fifty.)

But, having been a California girl all my life,

Georgia seems so remote - so far away.

Even though I know it's still inside the U.S. of A. and quite civilized.


Still, I have never been so mixed up in my emotions in all my life.

Joy!

Excitement!!!

Sorrow.

Curiosity...

Bewilderment (How on earth did I agree to this?)

Relief!


With high hopes and brave hearts,

we boldly leave our native land

to learn a new culture,
(yes, the south has a very different way of life than California)

adapt to a new climate
(hellooo, humidity!)

and, perhaps, even a new language.
(hey, y'all!)

Thankfully, the same God who has cared for us so well here is also able to care for us there.

Georgia is not an unknown land to Him.
(No sir, it's not!)

He knows it well and is preparing a place for us there --

while we are still here

scratching our heads

and trying to figure out

how to get a family of six

with luggage

and activities

into one SUV -

happily peacefully.

(Yes, I still believe in miracles.)

Sigh.


Giddyup, peoples!

Let's go!

Georgia, here we come!!!




Monday, October 3, 2011

Today's Story

In a matter of days we will wrap up our life story written here in California, tie it up with a pretty bow, and put it on our shelf of memories. A new book will be opened. A fresh page written upon. A new chapter begun. The same basic storyline will continue, but in a different setting and with additional characters. What will it say? How will it read? I cannot yet say, for I am not the Author.



I can only look at the page I have in front of me, this page entitled, "Today." On this one page, God, the Author, allows me to write some things down. Of course He edits and sometimes erases or rewrites what I have scratched out. But that is a right I have surrendered to Him. He alone knows how my story will end and how this page called "Today" will best tie in with the next page, entitled "Tomorrow."



I try not to worry about any of the blank pages that follow Today's page. I know the Author has an outline already written, but I am not privileged to read too far ahead. "Focus on Today," He whispers when He catches my fingers playing at the edges of future pages. "Today is all you can handle."



So, for today only, I plan and work and build my story. Today I live my life, knowing that God, the author and finisher of my story, is lovingly writing my future. Today I do my best to care for the things He has given me to do right now.

(And right now, He is telling me to get off this computer and fix breakfast for my kids.)

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34

Friday, September 30, 2011

When God Pulls the Rug Out from Under You...

It's a good thing.

It's not necessarily a comfortable thing.

But,

if God is doing the pulling,

it's a good thing.

If you had asked me at the beginning of this year what our biggest faith challenge would be for 2011,

without hesitating,

without blinking an eye,

without skipping a beat --

I would tell you

it was deciding to adopt internationally.

The paperwork,

the adoption expenses,

the waiting,

the red tape --

all of that would be part of our 2011 challenge.

But that's not what happened.

In June our house sold and our journey began.

We had a rental house lined up. We would be next-door-neighbors to my parents. I would help my mom care for my ailing dad. I was perfectly at peace with that.

But there was one problem.

The owner of the rental home wasn't quite ready for us to move in yet.

Could we wait a month?

No problem. We put our stuff in storage, kept only what we really needed on a day-to-day basis, and prepared to "rough it" for a little while.

"This will be kinda fun!" we told ourselves.

July came and went. My dad got weaker. I drove an hour each way to visit with him and care for him. Why can't we be next door already? I often wondered.

At the end of July, we were again asked if we could we wait another month.

Ummm. Okay.

By now, "roughing it" was getting kind of old. But, in order to live next door to my parents, we were willing to do it a little longer.

Then August arrived. My dad passed away. This was not part of my plan for 2011! It was not a challenge I wanted to face. I felt the rug begin to pull out from under me as I finalized funeral preparations and dug through suitcases looking for appropriate funeral clothes for my girls and myself.

Immediately after the funeral, I was approached about a teaching need at a new Christian school in Georgia. I laughed. The whole idea seemed just ridiculous. I had just buried my dad. I was NOT about to leave my widowed mom now too. And, on top of it all, after much prayer, we had started our homestudy here in California (to be completed when we actually had a home again). Surely, God wasn't asking us to leave! Not now!

Photobucket

But, God was gently prodding. He kept pulling on that rug of self-dependence, trying to get me to fall into His arms and trust Him. Each night as I lay in bed, I couldn't shake the growing realization that God's plan for us included packing up all of our things, saying good-bye to dear friends and family, ending our homestudy (for now at least) and moving across an entire continent to a little town in Georgia.

But then, Mom came down with pneumonia. I cared for her and just knew that plans had changed and God needed me to stay here with her, not go to Georgia. As if reading my thoughts, mom said to me one day, "If I am the reason you don't want to go to Georgia, go. I'll be fine."

Oh, the blessings of a saintly mother!!!

Finally, almost one hundred percent surrendered to God's will for us (but still secretly hoping for another plan) I prayed, "Lord, if you want me to stay here with mom, open up the house next to her so we can finally move there."

One hour later the phone rang. That house would not be ready for several more months.

Click.

*****

On October 5, we leave for Georgia...

and an unknown future.

This is our story thus far.

I am leaning hard on God...

because I don't understand a lot of what is happening right now.

The rug --

that rug of my own wisdom, my own plans, my own scheduling, my own will --

has been pulled out from under me.

I have lost my balance

and fallen...

...into the arms of a loving God.

I am just trusting...

that God is working all things out...

for good.

"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." Romans 8:28



P.S. If you're wondering why my husband is not mentioned as being a part of this struggle to know and follow God's will, it's because he said "yes" immediately. He was just waiting, and praying, for me to answer the call too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Time to Remember

A wise man once said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace..."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Today was the time to remember.

And while you or I may not have lost a loved one on this dark day ten years ago, it is appropriate to mourn with those who did. It is appropriate to remember the tragedy and the heroism, the sacrifice and the victory, the destruction and the miracles of that day. For, if there ever was a day in our lifetimes when evil and righteousness clashed in a tangible way, it surely was
September 11, 2001.

Let us always make the time to remember.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sometimes ... I Just Gotta Share

Sometimes I read something so incredible it simply must be shared.

Sometimes I must share things I do not write, but come straight from my heart anyway.

Sometimes I feel like someone else really understands what adoption is all about.

This link is all of the above.

If you have adopted...

If you know someone who has adopted...

If you are even just thinking about adoption...

Read this

You'll thank me.

Of that I am sure.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Baby No More

Something magical happens between the ages of four and five.

At four, kids are still little. They need plenty of help, guidance, and reassurance.

At five, they somehow become more independent and don't seem to need Mommy as much.

I kind of feel like that's what happened to Maya over the summer.

She turned five in May.

She started Kindergarten this week.


And she loves it!


She's so excited about learning!


And proudly shows everyone her schoolwork.

Yup!This is a portrait of us - her family.
(We're a little upside down, but some days are just like that!)


Oh, my sweet Maya! This week you started Kindergarten. What will next week bring?
Please don't grow up too fast!
Love,
Your Mama
(who still needs to feel needed!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God's Precious Princess

I want you to look at these pictures.

Spend some time with them.



Absorb them.



Look into her eyes.




There's a story written there.

Can you read it?



A story of loss, abandonment, neglect ...

and redemption.


Meet Liliana.


She has lived her life as a neglected Down's Syndrome child, locked away behind orphanage walls in Eastern Europe for the last eleven years. Yes, this precious little princess is eleven years old. But she is only ten pounds. Ten pounds!!! That's the size of a large newborn! Instead of growing, Liliana's body has tried to use what little nourishment she has received to simply survive.

But worse than the physical neglect she has experienced is the stark fact that Liliana has no Mommy and Daddy to nourish her spirit. She is unwanted. Alone.

But not totally.

You see, we have a loving Heavenly Father who is a Father to the fatherless and who hears the heart-cry of every orphan. He knows Liliana. He loves Liliana. He has a plan for Liliana. And He has put the right people in the right place at the right time to accomplish His purpose for Liliana.

Just recently, a couple traveled to Liliana's orphanage to adopt their forever child. And then they met Liliana. They could have turned away. They could have scooped up their child and whisked off to their happy forever. They could have - like the Pharisee and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan - pretended they didn't see.

But they didn't.

God touched their hearts with Liliana's need and they began advocating for her adoption. They have literally pulled her out of the shadows of that orphanage and propelled her into the spotlight. Many people are now blogging about her and pulling for her and praying for her. A Chip-In account was set up to fund her adoption in the event adoptive parents could be found. Within 24 hours, donations poured in and a total of $22,000 was raised! And the news just keeps getting better. Four sets of adoptive parents have stepped forward to request information about adopting her.

I believe in my heart that Liliana will soon be able to go home! After eleven long years of waiting, she will finally know the tender love of a family.

Isn't God good?!




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Handprints on My Heart - Midweek Meditation

The title of my blog is "Handprints on My Heart." It refers to all the children who have passed through my life. Whether students or foster kids, nephews or nieces, friends or others, they have all left an imprint in my life - a handprint on my heart.

On Monday, we buried my dad. On that day I realized something. While others have left handprints, Mom and Dad have been holding my heart in their hands. They have always tried to protect my heart, guard it, strengthen it, and point it in the right direction. Now one pair of those supporting hands is gone. They lie folded in a dusty grave awaiting the life-giving call of the resurrection morning. My heart is left wounded and out of balance.

But it is still beating. Jesus' hands have slipped in to take Dad's place. Since Jesus has promised to be a "father to the fatherless," Psalm 68:5, His hands now hold my heart, protect it, strengthen it, and point it in the right direction. How thankful I am that I am not left alone. Even when I lose Mom, which I hope and pray won't be for a very long time, I know that my heart will still be safe. It is beating in the hands of God.

Here is the slide show shown at Dad's funeral. Eighty-two years in a little less than five minutes. Wow! The music is Dad's favorite song, "How Great Thou Art," by Chris Rice.



"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fatherless

For the first time in all my forty years of life, I am fatherless. Dad died the way he lived ... quietly. Mom had prayed over him. He had summoned the last of his strength to tell her, "I love you," one last time and a few hours later he was gone. He slipped away in his sleep. At 6:44 Friday morning, I got the news.

For as old as I am and for as sick as he was, this shouldn't be a shock. But my mind still has difficulty grasping a reality I do not want to accept. Death has such a finality about it. There are things I still want to tell him. I just want to tell him the simple things, like how my day went. I want to share my joys and sorrows, my triumphs and disasters. I still want to hear him say, "I love you, sweetheart!" or "You did a good job!" There are events I still want to share with him. I want to introduce him to the newest additions to our family that will be coming, give him a tour of our new house once we're all moved in, and hear his words of approval. There is advice I still want to glean from him as I grow my business, especially since he had such a keen business mind. But that window of opportunity, called life, is now over. He is gone. And I am ... fatherless.

"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing ... Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun." Ecclesiastes 9:5,6.


Thankfully, the Bible is clear that he is not gone forever. It'll just be a little while. Dad has no more discomfort. He has no knowledge of our sorrow. He is simply asleep.

"[Jesus] went on to tell them, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.' His disciples replied, 'Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead.'" John 11:11-14.


Someday, when Jesus returns to this world in all His heavenly glory, He will shout. His majestic voice will pierce through the tomb and my dad will rise from the dead. He will come out of his dusty grave healthy and vibrant with life. His congestive heart failure will be replaced with a heart that will beat throughout eternity. His stiff, weak legs that used to merely shuffle, will leap and bound with new energy. His cancer will be erased. And I will be fatherless no more.

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever."
I Thessalonians 4:16-17.


Today, I mourn. I weep at the memory of the father I loved and lost. But soon, I will dry my tears and pick myself up and work again. I am not the only fatherless child on this earth and there are younger ones who need my help. Only now I can understand a little more of what it truly means to be ... fatherless.

Photobucket

I miss you, Dad.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Prayers for the Orphans of Pakistan

Periodically, I receive the newsletter from Hand in Hand International Adoption Agency. Along with the usual welcomes to newly adopted kids and updates on what's happening in the countries this agency serves was a brief announcement that made my heart. just. stop.

This is what it said...

As many of you know, Hand In Hand began a program for abandoned and orphaned children in Pakistan a couple of years ago. Many families were involved in the program, stepping forward to open their hearts and homes to the little ones. Through the blessing of donors, Hand In Hand was about ready to open the doors of the first Christian Children’s Orphanage in Faisalabad, Pakistan, when our coordinator, Pastor Rashid and his brother Sajid were gunned down. The younger brother of these two saints has taken over their ministry. Even though the time is not right for opening an orphanage in Pakistan due to the unrest, the population of Christians has grown...

Would you stop for a moment and pray with me for the families of these brave men who were killed. Pray for the younger brother who is now picking up the pieces and continuing their ministry. Pray for the Christians of Pakistan that they will not lose courage. Pray for the orphans and those who are seeking to defend them.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Gift of Family - Midweek Meditation

Dad is in Mexico. He's not on vacation, he's at a cancer treatment center. And it's quite a story on how we found it, but one that will have to wait for another telling.

On Thursday, July 14, Dad received the news that he had no hope of recovery. He walked into the doctor's office and walked out again with only the help of a cane. That day he fed himself. He used the bathroom by himself. He brushed his own teeth. By Tuesday, July 19, Dad was needing help with his hourly bathroom visits. By Friday, July 22, Dad's health had plummeted to the point of not even being able to feed himself. My younger sister, who lives in another state, arrived that day to help care for him.

For the next four days, Linda and I were on call 24-hours a day. She had left her children home with her husband and mine were home with Shawn. Showers, meals, and sleep schedules revolved around Dad's needs as he continued to weaken. My older sister, Anne, joined us for part of that time. By Tuesday evening, my youngest brother Richard arrived to relieve us. Anne returned as well. Linda flew home. I reunited with my family and melted into Shawn's arms, sobbing from exhaustion and sorrow.

Those four days were difficult and amazing all at the same time. On one of the mornings, my mom (a former foster child) stepped out of her room and said, "Isn't it wonderful that we have a family?" My four siblings and I have scrapped and squabbled all through our growing up years, but we have always known that family is precious. We just never knew exactly how blessed we have been.

Dad arrived at the clinic in Mexico on Wednesday, July 27, just thirteen days after his fatal news. Getting him down was a tag-team relay for our entire family. Linda booked plane tickets. Richard and Anne shaved and bathed Dad. I packed a month's worth of Dad's clothing, then drove Mom and Dad to the airport. John flew down with Mom and Dad to the clinic and returned home again that evening. During that entire day cell phones rang, emails flew, messages were texted - our family was abuzz with planning, scheduling, and communication.

Wednesday evening, after hearing Dad was comfortably settled at the clinic, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. We had done it. We had worked together towards one common goal - to get Dad the help he needs - and accomplished it. The rest was in God's hands.

That night I lay in bed thinking for a long time. We don't know exactly how long we'll have our dad with us. For that matter, we don't know exactly how long we'll have each other. But to have a family, no matter how big or small, to have a team that pulls together when needed the most, is an amazing gift. Chills ran up and down my spine as I blinked away tears. "Lord," I prayed, before drifting off to sleep, "Let me give this precious gift of family to as many others as I can."

"God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:6.


My entire family (2009) minus one brother-in-law and my son.

Fresh Air Fund Hosting Program

A while back I wrote a post about a worthwhile program called Fresh Air Fund. This program matches inner-city kids with families in rural areas. These kids get to experience the sights and sounds of nature instead of the concrete and metal they are used to.

This summer, Fresh Air Fund has been able to match 650 of the 850 children in need of a summer experience. They have one week left in which to match those last 200 children. Are you available?.

Go here to learn more about this amazing organization and the dedicated people who run it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kisses from Katie

If you have never heard of Katie, you're in for a real treat. She is only 21, has already adopted 14 girls, and runs a ministry in Uganda. She is a powerful example of someone who has dedicated the days of her youth to God and been abundantly blessed. You too will be blessed and challenged when you read her book, "Kisses from Katie."

Here's a preview...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

He Never Wanted Me to Adopt

I was fresh out of college, still single, and had just opened Small Cloud Christian School when I announced my plans to adopt. Dad was none to thrilled with my decision. He wanted me to get a bit more financially stable, marry, and settle down before starting a family. I was insistent. So was Dad. We went round and round. Finally, in frustration, I told Dad that he didn't have to accept my children, but would he please just let them call him, "Grandpa." He nodded. "I just don't want to see you get hurt." Suddenly, I realized the truth. He wasn't trying to crush my dreams. He was trying to protect me, his daughter.

My children came and not only did Dad allow them to call him Grandpa, he was Grandpa to all of them. He made no distinction between his biological grandchildren and his adopted ones. As each child entered the family, either by birth or adoption, he loved them all the same.

Now, day by day, cancer is stealing this precious man away from us. Today, for the first time, I shared with the kids how serious Grandpa's condition is. We knelt in prayer and the tears flowed for Grandpa. Alyssa crawled into my lap and sobbed. Maya shook her head sadly, and said, "Today's just not Grandpa's day." Quinn is keeping up by email, texts, and phone calls. He hopes to fly in this weekend. There's a heaviness in all our hearts.

Dad never wanted me to adopt, but he understood the calling God put on my heart. He laid aside his own fears for me and embraced my rather unorthodox family. Oh, how I love that man!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grocery List Prayers - Midweek Meditation

Prayer is vital. It is the breath of the soul, the secret of spiritual power, the life-giving communion between an almighty God and mortal man. But for what do we spend the bulk of our time praying?

Often I have found my prayers sound a bit more like a grocery list than a conversation between a loving Father and His daughter. I'm sad to say, but they have sounded something like the following...

Dear Father,

Please grant me ...

1 ideal parking spot

6 good deals on plane tickets

2 hours of peace this afternoon

1 missing set of keys to be found

1 husband to pick me up on time

3 lone half-pairs of shoes to find their mates

enough money to complete our adoption

and so on...

And there's nothing wrong with praying for any of those things. But sometimes when we pray, we run through our list of wants/needs and stop there. We don't go deeper.

In Matthew 6, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches His followers how to pray. He mentions physical needs oh so briefly. In fact all our bodily needs are summed up in one little sentence. "Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11. He requests enough provision for one day only. This day. Today. In fact, later on in the sermon (chapter) He encourages us to not make our physical needs our main focus at all. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33.

In the early part of the 1900s an American missionary named Gladys Aylward was scouting out new territory to evangelize in China. A Chinese doctor, a recent convert, accompanied her as her guide. As they traveled from village to village, Gladys taught the doctor more about Jesus. His devotion to Jesus grew. Together, Gladys and the doctor, shared the love of Jesus with those they met in the villages.

One day their travels took them into a wilderness area. Gladys and the doctor walked the whole
day without seeing anyone. Where were they? Towards evening Gladys feared they were lost. She began to worry. What would they eat? Where would they sleep? Finally, overwhelmed, she announced that they should drop to their knees and pray right that moment. Gladys began. "Dear God, have mercy on us. You can see what a plight we are in. Give us food and shelter for the night." She continued praying, filling her entire prayer with a list of their immediate needs. When she had finished, the doctor began. Very calmly he prayed, "O God, send us the one You want us to tell about Jesus. We have witnessed to no one today, but You have sent us here for some special purpose. Show us where to find the man You intend to bless." Gladys Aylward, missionary to China, was humbled and ashamed. She later wrote, "While I had been so concerned with my own comfort, this man was concerned only with His Father's business."

It wasn't long before a lone man was spotted on a nearby hillside. The doctor, sure that the answer to his prayer had just arrived, dashed off to share the good news of the gospel. That lone man turned out to be a Tibetan lama priest who invited the two of them to come to his lamasery and share the message of Jesus Christ with over 500 other lamas. Gladys and the doctor spent an entire week with them teaching them about God. Incidentally, their physical needs were provided for during that time as well.

Since reading this story, my prayer life has changed drastically. The bulk of my daily prayers are now, "Lord, give me someone to share Your love with." It's been amazing to see how God has answered.

Today, I challenge you to ask God to give you someone with whom to share the gospel. You won't ever be the same again.

By the way ...

If you're interested in learning more about the amazing life of Gladys Aylward, check out these resources. The middle one is a DVD for kids. My girls love it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

But He Still Wants to Live

I went with my dad to the oncologist today. Oncology is such an ugly word. I've never liked it. It gave me the shivers just to walk into the waiting room, almost like I was walking into a morgue. Maybe because that's how I feel.

My dad's cancer situation has gone from bad to worst. At 82 many people would say he's had a good life and no one lives forever, but many people don't know my dad.

Only six years ago my dad quit jogging when he moved to a location where it wasn't so easy to do. But up until last year, he continued to walk daily, do 50 sit-ups, push-ups, painting, car tune-ups, etc. He only wears glasses when he reads, has only one or two fillings, and his mind is as sharp as a tack.

But his body is failing him.

His mind is active and inquisitive. He loves to learn and interact with people and challenge himself. He notices everything!

But his body is giving out.

Today, when the oncologist gave his recommendations, I saw that fire in my dad's eyes once again and I thought, "But, he still wants to live!"

And then I carried Dad's belongings, just as he used to carry mine, and watched as he shuffled out the office door.

Fresh Air Fund - What Two Weeks Can Do

I received a request to share the following information. If you live in a country or suburban area of the northeastern United States, you have the privilege of being a Fresh Air Family. Please read the following information taken from their website. Or visit their website here.

*****


If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now. In 2010, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

More than 65% of all children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Fresh Air Fund Host Families

"It is rewarding to see the smile on our Fresh Air child's face as she enjoys the simple things we take for granted..."

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host families range in size, ethnicity and background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will
never forget. Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There are no financial requirements for hosting a child. Volunteers may request the age-group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster
they would like to host. Stories about real Fresh Air host families and their New York City visitors are just a click away!


Fresh Air Children

"We made s'mores and hot dogs over the fire. I've never cooked outside before!"

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open, outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program.


What do Fresh Air children enjoy?

Playing in the backyard

Laughing in the sunshine
Catching fireflies
Riding bicycles
Learning to swim
Running barefoot through the grass
Gazing at the stars on moonlit nights
Building sandcastles
Making new friends
Simple pleasures of life away from the inner-city

The Fresh Air Fund at the Five Boro Bike Tour

Join The Fresh Air Fund at the Five Boro Bike Tour on May 1st! The largest recreational cycling event in America, the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour, leads bikers on a 42-mile fun course through the city and you can be a part of it! The Fund provides guaranteed entry into the event in exchange for a fundraising minimum. What better way to bike through an amazing route while knowing that the money you raise will help children from low-income communities who live throughout the city. Along the way, bikers will enjoy entertainment, rider photos, bike repair, medical support and the company of thousands of well-wishers! Click here for more information about the race! If you have questions or are interested in participating, please call Kate Brinkerhoff at (212) 897-8890 or email kbrinkerhoff@freshair.org.


Donate

You can give a child the experience of a lifetime with your gift to The Fresh Air Fund!

Every year, The Fresh Air Fund gives thousands of inner-city children the priceless gift of fun – and opens the door to a lifetime of opportunities.

Whether it's a two-week trip to visit a volunteer host family, or a fun-filled and educational stay at one of our camps, our programs make for unforgettable memories – and open a world of new friendships and fresh possibilities. We are a not-for-profit agency and depend on tax-deductible donations from people like you to keep our vital programs flourishing.


About The Fresh Air Fund

THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2010, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Midweek Meditation Revisited - Be Inspired!!!

I used to have a regular feature. Each Wednesday or Thursday I would take a moment to post something, aside from adoption, designed to boost our walk with Christ. Sometimes write-ups, sometimes videos from YouTube, sometimes personal experiences. But as life moved from regular to incredibly random as our school year ended and our house sold, Midweek Meditation faded, then dropped off completely.

I miss it.

So, today, I am bringing it back. (Drum-roll, please!)

Each year our denomination hosts a conference - a spiritual get-together where people/families from around the country, and sometimes the world, unite for several days of spiritual instruction, prayer, and fellowship. We always look forward to these. This year it will be held at the Cohutta Springs Conference Center in Crandall, Georgia. The theme is, "Here Am I, Send Me."

I have been asked to cohost one of the afternoon meetings focusing on missions work. I have been compiling quotes from missionaries for the powerpoint portion of our presentation and have been incredibly blessed by what I've read. I just have to share!

Read these and be blessed!



"If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" - David Livingstone

“In the vast plain of the north, I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” Robert Moffat

“We talk of the Second Coming; half of the world has never heard of the First.” Oswald J. Smith

“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.” C. T. Studd

“I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” John Falconer

“The command has been to “Go” but we have stayed … in body, gifts, prayer and influence.”

“You can give without loving. You cannot love without giving.” Amy Carmichael

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” Mike Stachura

“Would that God would make hell so real to us that we cannot rest, and heaven so real that we must have men there.” J. Hudson Taylor

"The Great Commission1 is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed" — Hudson Taylor

"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge." — Robert C. Shannon

"Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist." — Oswald J. Smith

"If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king" — Jordan Grooms (variations of this also credited to G. K. Chesterson, Thomas Carlyle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

"If you found a cure for cancer, wouldn't it be inconceivable to hide it from the rest of mankind? How much more inconceivable to keep silent the cure from the eternal wages of death." — Dave Davidson

"The vineyard includes the whole world, and every part of it is to be worked. There are places which are now a moral wilderness, and these are to become as the garden of the Lord. The waste places of the earth are to be cultivated, that they may bud and blossom as the rose." Ellen White

"Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work." — A.B. Simpson

"The will of God — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else." — F. E. Marsh (also attributed to Bobby Richardson)

"If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small." — Pat Morley

"The history of missions is the history of answered prayer." — Samuel Zwemer

"The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time" — Carl F. H. Henry

"The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet." — Unknown

“Every great work of God, first is impossible, then it is difficult, and then it is done.” Hudson Taylor

"All the money needed to send and support an army of self-sacrificing, joy-spreading ambassadors is already in the church." — John Piper

"I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!" — Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand

"Go, send, or disobey." — John Piper

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose" — Jim Elliot, missionary martyr who lost his life in the late 1950's trying to reach the Auca Indians of Ecuador

"Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." — C.T. Studd

"No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once." — Oswald J. Smith

"God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him." — Hudson Taylor, missionary to China

"One soul is of more value to heaven than a whole world of property, houses, lands, money. For the conversion of one soul we should tax our resources to the utmost." Ellen White

“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come.” Jesus

“Here am I. Send me.” You :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

What I Missed

Sometimes time passes much too quickly. Sometimes time doesn't seem to go fast enough. And sometimes I just wish time would stand still and let me linger in the moment.

Yesterday, Quinn turned 23.

As I sit here writing this, my mind reels at the amount of time that has passed and how much he has grown up, and, somehow, I can't help feeling a little cheated.

I missed sitting next to his bassinet in the NICU unit due to the respiratory failure he suffered as a newborn.

I missed his first smile, his first steps, his first word.

I missed kissing away his first boo-boo, praying away his first nightmare, and calming his first fear.

I missed his first day of school, his first swim lesson, his first best friend.

I met him when he was only five. Having been placed in over ten foster homes already, he was a new placement in the group home where my sister volunteered. But she was not content with just visiting Quinn at the group home, she brought him home with her. And I promptly fell in love.

For the next four years, Quinn visited us regularly. During that time, my sister married and moved away, so I kept up the visits. When I couldn't go, my mom went. We adored him.

Finally, when he was nine, after jumping through many hoops, they allowed me to officially bring him home as a foster child. It would be two more years before I could finally adopt him.

But those years of foster care and group home care had left terrible scars upon his heart.

How do you learn to trust when the most important people in your life have not kept their promises?

How do you form attachments when the people in your life keep changing?

How do you fit into a family when you've never had one?

And so the battles began...

For the next seven years we stumbled along the path of healing, experiencing every emotion possible in the process - white hot rage, sorrow, joy, failure, success, peace, frustration, hope, love.

Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and, as the tears spilled down my cheeks, count the years left until he turned 18. Would we make it? Would we survive? I didn't know. I could only hope and pray. And pray. And pray. And pray...

Raising Quinn was hard.

It was frustrating.

It was good.

It was beautiful.

It

was

worth

it!


Today, I look back and am amazed at how fast it all went. Those frustrations? Those moments of discouragement? Those hard spots? Gone.

Quinn's all grown up now and lives far away. I miss him. Oh, how I miss him. I miss that little boy who used to cuddle with me when no one was looking. I miss his little hand in mine. I miss our good-night hugs. I miss reading stories to him. I miss the time I missed with him. And I simply hate it that I only got him for half of his childhood. But in my heart I know, that given the chance, I would do it all over again.

Sometimes time passes much too quickly. Sometimes time doesn't seem to go fast enough. Sometimes I wish time would stand still and let me linger in the moment for just a

little.

while.

longer.

Happy Birthday, Quinn!
Love, Your Mom

Monday, July 4, 2011

Orphans in a Land of No Freedom


Today is Independence Day.

The Fourth of July.

A memorial of our freedom as a country and as individuals.

A special day indeed.

Today we will eat our fill of potato salad and corn on the cob and watermelon.


We will enjoy the company of friends and family.

We will laugh.

We will sing.

We will celebrate.


And in all of our joy we might forget those who are not as free.

Those who suffer under unfriendly governments that severely limit

every word,

every thought,

every action,

even if that action is one of kindness.

Like caring for the orphans of North Korea

Who are routinely cleared off the streets like garbage.

Locked away in prisons like criminals.

Used in forced labor camps as slaves.

And forgotten.

Please take a moment today,

in the midst of your joyous festivities,

to bow your heads and remember

God's forgotten children.

Those who do not yet know the blessings of the freedom we celebrate today, but, with God's help, someday will.

Please take a moment to watch this video message from a former North Korean orphan who is now fighting for the lives of other North Korean orphans.




Have a blessed and safe Fourth of July.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Favorite Four-Letter Word of the Day


We moved everything out of our house and into storage while we wait for our new place to become ready. For the time being, we are "camping out" with friends. The girls find this all ridiculously exciting. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to being settled again -
soon.

But for now, I'm just excited that the house is officially
SOLD!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Boxfuls of Memories

We're moving!!! After much waiting, nail biting, praying, and more waiting, we are actually moving. We have boxes piling up around the house and bags of stuff heading out the door to Goodwill. We're walking down memory lane. "Remember this?!" is heard often around our house as treasured relics are drug out of dark closets and once again shown the light of day.

It's those memories that come back one by one and whisper in my ear as I pack up random objects.

While folding Maya's pink and lavender crib blanket, I remember bringing our three girls home. I can still remember tucking them into bed that first night. My heart was completely overwhelmed yet bursting with happiness all at the same time.

Maya learned to talk here.

Alyssa broke through her shell here.

And Nikki learned to trust here.

The house that had once seemed almost too big and too quiet, was quickly filled with the squeals, laughter, screams, and happy chatter of three little girls settling in.

A greeting card with Korean writing flutters to the floor. I pick it up and remember the call we received requesting that we host two Korean high school, non-English speaking students whom we had never met. Somehow we squeezed them in. Eight people in a four-bedroom, two bathroom house for three months! We taught them English. They taught us about Korea and its beautiful culture. We laughed and loved some more. When the time came to send them back home, I could hardly believe how attached we had all become in such a short time. Tears flowed freely at the airport.

Glancing out the window, I notice a fresh crop of weeds. Last year Billy stayed part of a summer with us and removed all of them on one hot, sweaty afternoon. We'd hoped he would stay longer. But, he enjoys his quiet and that is something we are in short supply of at our house.

Removing the photos stuck to my refrigerator door, I smile at the picture of chubby, little Edward. Kirrisa had her baby-shower for him here. We all patted her belly and loved on her little one, even though we hadn't met him yet. Now she is expecting baby number two.

Packing away birthday supplies reminds me of my dad's 80th birthday party that was held here. Friends and family gathered around to celebrate his life and their friendship with him. Now, he battles cancer and we are uncertain of how much longer we will be able to have him with us. I shake my head, pushing that dark thought quickly away.

We've outgrown this house. It's time to move on. But as the house empties the echoes that remain are those memories of happy days spent here. I know we will make many new ones at the next house, but just to be on the safe side, I'm boxing up all the memories we made here and bringing them with us.

Good-bye old house! Thanks for the memories!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fashionably Challenged

Before leaving the privacy of our home and entering the public domain,

I always

inspect/correct/modify

my children's attire.


Is their hair neat?

Are their clothes clean?

Are they dressed appropriately for

the present weather conditions

or

function

we will be attending?


DO THEIR CLOTHES MATCH?!


This last one is a biggie since,

and I won't name names,

some of my children are a bit

"fashionably challenged."

Anyone else encounter this in your home?


Monday, May 30, 2011

It Could Have Been Awkward...

The food was spread on the green table cloth. Pink and yellow flowers adorned the center of the table. Hanging from the spreading branches of a nearby oak tree a pony pinata awaited its inevitable fate. Maya beamed! This was her birthday party and she was excited!!!


Soon, family and friends began to arrive and the introductions began. "Maya, this is your cousin," her birthmother smiled. Maya hung back a little. She has always been shy around new people, even if they are related to her. I nudged her gently and whispered, "Say, 'hello.'"

The emotional struggle over whether or not we should continue contact with the girls' birth mother had originally been a difficult one for me. And, while planning Maya's party, I found there were still some internal battles yet to be fought. Do we allow Maya's birth mother to invite members of her family to attend? If so, how many? Will it be awkward having members of her family and our family together?

We decided to invite Maya's birth mother to ask various members of her family to attend and also to help provide financially for the party. She did both. At the party four cousins and her mother (the girls' grandmother) attended. After the initial, rather formal introductions, we ate, played games, broke open the pinata, unwrapped gifts, smiled, and laughed together. It was almost as if we were all part of one big family.

Photobucket


When it was over and the goodbyes were said, I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was okay. My sister caught my eye and smiled, "It went very well." Her words echoed my thoughts. Maya had bounced between adoptive and birth family with ease, smiling all the while. Although we all arrived with our own set of adult-sized apprehensions, they were all put aside for the love of a child. Maya had her special day and we were all happy to be a part of it.


Open adoption does not work in every case. But there are times when all adults involved can, with God's help, put away their own fears and focus on the child's needs and make it work. That is when the child really benefits. I never understood that before, but I am learning it day by day. Maya's smile is helping me.

Photobucket

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Foster Care Heritage

Growing up, the term "foster child" was common in our home. After all, it described the childhoods of our mother, uncle, and aunt. We had three grandmothers, when all our friends had only two, and a host of relatives. We never really distinguished who was a biological relative and who wasn't. It didn't really matter to us. We just knew we were loved by a lot of people.

It wasn't until I was grown and a foster mother myself that I began to fully grasp the trauma involved in all of it. At the age of twelve, my mother and her sister, age 10 at the time, were taken away from their biological parents, separated from their brother, and placed in a stranger's home. They had not come from a violent family or a family with substance abuse problems, as is commonly the case today. Rather, their family was quite poor and, according to my biological great grandmother, not fully capable of raising their children to adulthood. Great-grandma, who was already caring for another grandchild, stepped in, contacted authorities, and the move was made. My mother, aunt, and uncle became wards of the state.

It was in foster care that my mom and her sister met Jesus. They each made the decision to give their lives to Him and trust Him with the things they could not understand. Eventually, my aunt married a missionary and had three children. (They now have three grandchildren.) My uncle and his wife of 50+ years have one son and one granddaughter. And, of course, my mom married my dad. In December, 2007, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, surrounded by their five children, thirteen grandchildren, and a host of friends and relatives -- including members of Mom's foster family.

As an adult, Mom reunited with her biological family, but she never lost contact with the family that helped raise her. She called two women, "Mom," who were gracious enough to acknowledge each other's role in her life. (Both dads were deceased by this time.) She is called "Aunt Evelyn" by both biological and foster nieces and nephews. We have aunts, uncles, and cousins who share no blood ties with us, yet are just as close as those who do. We laugh together at weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and bridal/baby showers. We cry with each other at funerals and memorial services. We email and Facebook and visit and share. It's what families are supposed to do.

On one of my visits with Grandma I asked her why she had become a foster parent. She told me she had once seen a little girl with a torn and dirty dress, disheveled hair, and empty eyes. Her heart broke for that little girl. Then and there, she promised God that one day, if she were able, she would open her heart and home to children in need. Over the years she made good on her promise.

By the time Andie (who is now 16!) made me a mom, Grandma's health was fading. She had become legally blind and had to be moved to a care facility. Not knowing how much longer we'd have her with us, my mom and I decided another trip to Denver was necessary. I had one burning desire -- to introduce Andie to Grandma as soon as possible.

At their meeting, Grandma's face lit up. Andie hung back a little, but Grandma knew just how to melt the ice. She rummaged through her cupboard and found a cookie! In no time, Andie was feeling right at home. After enjoying Andie for a bit, Grandma turned her face towards mine, "You will never regret this," she smiled.

About seven months later, Grandma was gone. Her great, big, loving heart stopped. Her hands, which had blessed so many lives with her care, comfort, and good cooking, were still. Her smile faded and her quick laugh was silent. A stone slab now marks the place where she awaits the resurrection.

But her legacy lives on.

Photobucket

Four generations! Two sets of foster moms and daughters.


Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.
Revelation 14:13.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sitting On Pins and Needles

Every once in awhile something comes into your life that seems entirely too good to be true. We are sitting on the threshold of a moment like that right now.

Waiting.

Checking our emails.

Jumping whenever the phone rings.

Sitting on pins and needles.

Giddy.

Distracted.

Hopelessly distracted!

Jittery and a little unsure.


Oh, please, please, God, let it be true!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

This year I have been truly blessed to discover the blogging community. To meet other mothers and hear their stories and learn from them has been priceless. I wish all of you a most wonderful Mother's Day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bad Dream


The other morning Maya stumbled out of bed and padded towards me with a very serious face.

"I had a bad dream last night," she said sadly.

"I'm sorry," I responded, "What was it about?"

"You already know," she replied as she snuggled onto the couch next to me, "cuz you were in it."

Every Night, I Pray for You...

Those words are encouraging to anyone at any time, but today they caught me off guard and humbled me completely.

I had called my three youngest girls' birthmom. We are jointly planning Maya's upcoming birthday party and I wanted to fill her in on some of my plans. As it turned out, she wasn't home, but her dad was.

I've met him twice. A kind and pleasant man, he carries his sorrows quietly, close to his heart.

After telling me how I could get a hold of her, he paused a moment and said, "Thank you for what you are doing for the girls. It's wonderful. Every night, I pray for you..."

Every night, I pray for you...

Those words stopped me in my tracks and have been echoing in my mind ever since I hung up the phone.

Every night, I pray for you...

I am raising his granddaughters--granddaughters he didn't get to see for four years while they were in foster care and probably never would have had we not agreed to an open adoption. Oh, what a struggle that decision was!

I fought. I fumed. I argued with God and gave Him all the good reasons why we shouldn't. I threw pity parties for myself. I stomped my feet. "I WANT TO BE THEIR MOMMY!!!!" I cried.

Finally, after much patient convincing from God, I relented, opened my heart, and allowed Him to work miracles. It wasn't long before I began to realize that adoption doesn't have to mean the ending of one family so another can begin. Under God's guidance, it can be the blending of families so that hearts can heal and God's love can be known. Open adoption can be a beautiful thing.


Every night, I pray for you...

Tonight, I sit here and wonder...

How long has he been praying for me? Was it his prayers for a chance to get to know his granddaughters that God was trying to answer, when I was thinking only of my needs? Was it his prayers for healing for his family, that eventually softened my selfish heart? Was he praying for me when all I was thinking about was ME?

Every night, I pray for you...

Tonight, I started something new. I knelt down and prayed for this dear grandpa. With God's help, from now on...

every night I will pray for him.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Really Happening!!!

Two weeks ago I mailed in our home study application.

First, I looked both ways (to make sure no one else was around).

Then I hugged the envelope tight,

Did a little happy dance,

And whispered a quick prayer

Before sliding it into the mail slot.

One week later we got a call from the agency.
When could they meet with us for our initial interview?

I almost have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

It's really happening!!!

We have officially stepped onto the road towards our first international adoption!!!


On this journey

I know there will be plenty of ups and downs...


Twists and turns...


Hurdles and roadblocks.


But I also know that God already knows the end from the beginning.

He knows the path.

He will guide and we will follow...

Until...

Finally...

We will reach the end and meet the child He has chosen for us.



“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are You Willing...?

Would you be willing to sacrifice six weeks of your summer to share the love of a family and the love of God with an orphan from Latvia or Ukraine? No strings attached (well, maybe your heartstrings). No commitment to adopt. No homestudy required (just some necessary background/safety checks). Are you willing???? Are you at least curious????

Please read the following...

ORPHAN HOSTING INFO:
(From Cheryl Ramirez): New Horizons for Children is an organization that brings orphans from Latvia and Ukraine to the US for six weeks twice a year (winter and summer) to live with a host family here. This is an incredible opportunity for these children to learn what it means to be part of a family and more importantly being taught what it means to be part of God's family. Many of them also find their forever families while here. Would you please pray for this organization and especially for these children and youth? There are about 200 children who are still are waiting for host homes. There is a link to the New Horizons for Children website where you can read all about what they are about and also a link where you can see pics of some of the children who have not yet been chosen by host families for this summer's hosting program. And if you know of any Christian families who might be interested in hosting, please pass this along.

Dear Friends and Families of New Horizons for Children:

It’s that time again…we seek and rely on your commitment to pray for these children. Please read our email and pass it on, so that others can commit to pray for these orphaned children as well. PRAYER WORKS. We have seen it each program! Photos are attached to this email for you to visually see some of our kids and pray for each and every one! They need host families, and this is how we find them.

Remember, our mission is simple. We send a mission team abroad twice a year to personally meet and interview orphans who live in orphanages and foster families in Latvia and Ukraine. Now, we have nearly 200 children who we need to urgently pray for their hosting family to come forward. This will be our 17th program and our hope is to FIRST, seek God’s will in ALL that we do and to glorify Him in everything. Specific details about hosting can be found on our website: www.NewHorizonsForChildren.org.

BUT FIRST, please read some exciting news!
1. Hosted Children learn about FAMILY and how it’s supposed to work. (maybe for the first
time in their lives)
2. Hosted Children learn about God and His love for them. They are valued!
3. Hosted Children learn English; many times well enough to help translate for our team on
future visits to their orphanage! This also gives them a tool to build upon and
have a unique job skill later!
4. Hosted Children gain SELF-ESTEEM: they are CHOSEN! They are SPECIAL! They have
IMPORTANCE too!

Step 1: Complete a pre-hosting application.
Step 2: Choose a child… But, first, I want to share a very honest and true story with you.
Please, make sure you also SEEK HIS WILL in this mission; His will, just might be different than your own.

Confessions of a “Girly-Girl”
by Michelle Vernon

“I admit to being a girly girl. As a little girl, I loved dolls and dresses that twirled. Pink rollers were a staple on Saturday nights, so my hair would be pretty for Sunday morning. To this day, the sight of a smocked dress makes me smile, I look for excuses to buy Hello Kitty and I would gladly embroider everything I own with a monogram. When we first considered hosting in summer 2007, I explored the host child list and had my eye on a particular girl. Since we had no children at the time, choosing a child was a big decision that rested solely on my husband and me. Without expressing my opinion, I showed the same host list to my husband. I wanted to make sure we were both equally invested in the host decision. I secretly hoped his eyes would fall to the same girl, yet he pointed to a BOY! I think I responded something like, “a boy… what am I supposed to do with a boy?” Admittedly, I knew nothing about being a boy, but knew enough that they would care nothing about dolls, the color pink, Hello Kitty or smocked dresses. I retreated to think on my husband’s choice. While I still had no idea how I could relate to a boy, I wanted above all else for my husband to feel invested in that first hosting experience. So, we made a decision and, yes, my first experience as a mom would be with a teenage boy!

That was 3 years ago…

I don’t think I even fully understand or can explain how love can grow so fast and so deep for someone who is so different from yourself. But, he had me from the moment he said, “watch this mom.” Boys love attention, they love to show off, make you laugh and try new stunts. Yet, when they fall, there’s only one place they go… straight to mom. Even teenage boys readily accept the tenderness a mom has to offer and the quiet moments of shared conversation. That hosting started the journey that God ordained for us; a journey to our sons. Not only did we host and adopt a teenage boy, we later hosted and adopted another boy! I still remember the moment I laid eyes on my second son and, for a brief moment, it crossed my mind that he didn’t have long pig tails as I thought might be next in line after my first son. Alas, I am now the very proud momma of two sons. I cannot imagine my life without them. Recently, one of my son’s teachers remarked to my husband that my son must be a “momma’s boy” because he talked about me all the time. I don’t think my heart could have swelled any larger in that moment. As an adoptive mother who started out not knowing a thing about boys, it was a moment of validation that my bond with my son was very real and deep. The greatest thing about being a mom to boys is raising my sons to become men like my husband and my dad.

Perhaps somewhere in my future is a season of ruffles and lace, but for now, I wouldn’t trade fixing bike chains, playing basketball, bb guns, super heroes or flexed muscles for anything in the world. In hosting, as with adoption, the hardest children to place are our older boys. I’m so grateful that I stopped and listened to the Lord, working through my husband, with that decision to host a teenage boy. My journey to motherhood began that day. For any others out there longing for hair bows and painted nails, I would simply ask you to do the same thing He led me to do... pray and allow God the opportunity to lead you to the child He wants you to host.”

We don’t only bring boys on our hosting program, however, God led us to MANY awesome boys that each of us would love to host and adopt! But, He has made a way for us to share them with you now. To see some of our many “boys”, click here.

May God bless you on this journey,
Le Ann Dakake (mom to an adopted (former) teen boy, who led me to start this hosting program…)
Director of Hosting Programs
New Horizons for Children
www.NewHorizonsForChildren.org