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


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.


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...