Friday, September 30, 2011

Empowering, Encouraging, Educating, Equipping

There’s a challenging balance between educating pre-adoptive families and scaring the heck discouraging them.  I often times wonder how much to share myself.  There’s definitely an amazing adoption movement going on in the US right now, and I, for one, think it’s awesome.

There are lots of ministries popping up here and there, many aimed at helping adoptive families, which I think is awesome and so very needed.  What I don’t like is when someone (either an individual or a group of a ministry) discourages someone else from adopting when God has clearly called him/her to adopt.

Things like…

How will you take care of everyone?

Aren’t your hands full as it is?

What about your other kids?

How can you possibly give each child the love they need and deserve?

What about yourself?  How are you going to have “me” time?

Don’t you think you’re in over your head?

It looks like the kids you have already have enough “problems”?  Why do you want to add to that?

How do you plan to provide for so many kids?

When will you realize that you can't save them all?

Haven’t you ever heard of family planning?

The truth is that God is the One who plans our families.  His Word tell us that children are a gift of the Lord, a delight, a blessing from Him.  He says that blessed is the man whose quiver is full of children.  No where in God’s Word does He give advice or commands about limiting the number of children we have. 

God’s Word also clearly commands us to care for orphans.  Numerous times.  There’s no mistaking how God feels about orphans.

So, when you put those two concepts together, that children are a blessing and orphans are to be treasured, why then should anyone on this earth criticize large adoptive families?  (Or just large families in general?)

I personally believe that if God calls you to adopt, it shouldn’t be up for others to judge.  (God’s Word also clearly states how He feels about people judging others.)  God will equip those He calls, and our obedience to Him should matter more than our concern over what others might think/say.

I have to share from personal experience, that we were clueless with our first adoption.  God called us to adopt an older child (11 years old), who had been through more than we could fathom, who would have to leave older siblings behind in her birth country, who couldn’t speak English, and, yes, we were totally unprepared.  (We thought we were prepared, but nothing could have prepared us for our first adoption journey.)  But, guess Who did prepare us?  GOD!  The very One who called us to that journey to begin with!  Was it easy?  No.  Was it worth it?  Yes.

In fact, with all of our adoptions, God has actually used our naivety in order to accomplish His will.  If we had known what we were committing to, we probably would have disobeyed God’s call numerous times!  It would have seemed too much, too hard, too complex, too exhausting, but God knew that we would struggle with obedience had He shared ahead of time what we would go through with each child, so, instead, He allowed us to stay na├»ve enough to be obedient.  After He received our wholehearted obedience, He slowly unraveled what we would have to face with each child, but He never left us to do this job alone. 

He’s always been right by our sides, empowering us, encouraging us, educating us, and equipping us. 

Through all of this, He is shaping our hearts to look just a wee bit more like His, to have a better understanding of seeing His children through His eyes, to lessen our desire for easy, to gain strength as we embrace hard, for that is what our Father does in ALL circumstances.  And our greatest desire is to be more like Him.  Oh, there’s so much to learn through the blessings of adoption, most of it that I never knew I needed to know, nor could I have learned without walking this path alongside Him.  I could have read about it in books and on blogs (which I did and still do), but nothing would have actually circumcised my heart the way He has (and continues to do) as He leads me faithfully along this path. 

Which brings me to something I feel very strongly about:  If there’s an individual or ministry out there discouraging you from adopting, and God has clearly called you to adopt, I boldly ask you to disregard this so-called earthly “wisdom” and simply obey God’s calling.  Your heart will never be the same.  And that’s a good thing.

Now, if you’re adopting for any other reason than because God asked you to, then I think it is wise to seek the counsel of adoption-friendly pastors, experienced adoptive friends, as well as adoption ministries.  Make sure you seek the counsel of those who truly understand God’s heart for the orphan as well as those who value children and believe they are a blessing, as this is what aligns with God’s Word.

It is important for you to know that adoption is not for the faint of heart, there will be many challenges, trials, and tribulations, but there’s nothing too much for God.  Ever.  And when you seek His guidance, His wisdom, His training, His strength, He will empower you, encourage you, educate you, and equip you, for He is faithful.  He may choose to empower you through the earthly wisdom of a ministry, encourage you through another adoptive family or friend, educate you through a book, and equip you as you study His Word and seek His face, but no matter how He chooses to do His work in you, it's so important for you to know and firmly believe that He will NEVER forsake you.  Ever.

And I believe He will never forsake the orphan either.  Yes, there are a rising number of disrupted adoptions, but even so, I personally believe God is able to redeem that.  "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)   Even through disrupted adoptions, God can work in the hearts of the family who must disrupt, He can work in the heart of the child whose adoption is being disrupted, and He can work in the hearts of the child’s new family.  For when we are weak, He is strong, and when we are broken, we are totally reliant upon Him to fix us.

This might shock some of you, but I firmly believe that it is better for an orphan who lives in an abusive/neglectful situation to be adopted by an unprepared family who courageously answers His call, even if it ends in disruption, than to remain living in the pits of hell.  Yes, I do.  I firmly do.  I’ve visited those pits of hell, and, believe me, I’d want someone to rescue me.

Don't ever forget that we must depend upon God to empower us, encourage us, educate us, and equip us.  Often times, He offers support and wisdom through His people and ministries on earth, but, in the end, it is His Word that is plentiful, His grace that is sufficient, His strength that is mightiest, and His love that is never-failing.

“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”  John 14:18

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting Closer

iPhone Sept misc 017
Whew, we finally got every document in our Ukrainian adoption dossier apostilled (Texas seal of approval), and Matt shipped the 29 document dossier to our adoption facilitator in Ukraine Tuesday.  It should arrive today.  It will take about a week to get translated into Ukrainian (ugh, I would not like that job…29 documents to translate, and our home study alone is 20+ pages!).  After the dossier is translated, our facilitator will submit it to the SDA (the department in charge of adoptions in Ukraine).  Word has it that our court date will most likely be in November!!!  WOOHOO!  Go God!
iPhone pics June 2011 005
iPhone Dima 002
We would very much appreciate your prayers for this adoption.   We’ve never adopted from Ukraine, but we’ve learned that Ukrainian adoptions can be quite unpredictable.  There are often cases where the orphanage director doesn’t want to cooperate (and often times the orphanage director is the one with legal custody over the child(ren)), and there are cases where relatives try to block the adoption (even though they’re not wanting to adopt the kids themselves), and then there are cases where Ukrainian judges deny the adoption for a variety of reasons.  We’ve also been made aware of several cases where the kids themselves were told (by a variety of people) that Americans only want to adopt Ukrainian orphans so that they can harvest their organs to save the lives of other kids and/or that Americans really just want to abuse them.  Sad, I know, but this is the case in a variety of countries (like Haiti).  We also know that when an orphan is involved, Satan ALWAYS revs up his act to do anything to keep that orphan from being rescued.  Anything.  Including absurd lies.  Whatever Satan.
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We were recently informed that supposedly Vlad and Dima are saying that they’ve both changed their minds and no longer want to be adopted.  We find this very hard to believe, as we witnessed first-hand how much fun they had while they were here, how much they enjoyed our family, and how eager they were to return.  In hindsight, I believe Dima’s upset stomach/vomiting episode on the way to the airport August 4th was due to anxiety of not wanting to return to Ukraine.  Vlad assured us that everything would be OK because they would be counting the days until we come to Ukraine to get them.  I find it hard to believe that the boys changed their minds, unless someone coerced them into such a decision, which is possible.  As I said before, Satan would love nothing more than for Vlad and Dima to be left in an orphanage where God’s best for them would not be fulfilled.  God’s best is for children to have a family, a Jesus-loving family, a place where they will know Him and make Him known, a home where they will be loved and treasured and adored.  Satan would love to stop God’s plan, but this battle is His, and He promises not to leave us as orphans.  (John 14:18)
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We’re not sure how this adoption will go, but we are certain that God has asked us to adopt Vlad and Dima.  When we heard the news that supposedly Vlad and Dima have changed their minds about being adopted, we actually considered adopting different children since God had obviously done some miraculous work by bringing our dossier together so quickly.  However, every time we prayed about this, God has confirmed for us that He has asked us to adopt Vlad and Dima, and regardless of what we’re being told by earthly people, we are to obey God first and foremost.  What if Vlad and Dima didn’t really change their minds, and they really are counting down the days until we come and then we never show up?  We simply cannot do that.  We are committed. 
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We all love Vlad and Dima dearly, and we are all eager to have them back in our family again.  Things just haven’t been the same around here since our hosting them this summer.   I haven’t even moved their clothes from the shelves I arranged for their 5-week stay this summer.  The room they slept in looks just as it did on the day they left.  We’re all anxious to have them HOME.
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Dima and Dad
We’re eager to welcome their huge smiles, their mischievous ways, their huge appetites, their warm hugs and giggles at bedtime, their all-boy attitudes, and their protective, compassionate, tender spirits.  We can’t wait to continue sharing the love of Jesus with them, telling them silly bedtime stories that crack them up, riding the 4-wheeler with them, and seeing their faces light up by the things we often take for granted.  We feel like our boys have been gone too long, but we’re praising Jesus for allowing our dossier to be completed so quickly, and we’re trusting God for the outcome.  His will be done, and by His stripes, Satan better step away and run with his tail between his legs.
iPhone pics July 2011 005

iPhone Colorado 009

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EASY Dairy-Free Cake! (And Vegan, too!)

Selah is allergic to dairy, and her 1st birthday is this Saturday.  In the past, I've made homemade cakes for our son, Sawyer, who is allergic to dairy and egg, so I thought I would use that same recipe for Selah.  Out of curiosity, I did a google search for dairy-free cake recipes, just to see if something caught my eye as another option for Selah's birthday cake.

Well, lo and behold, I just stumbled upon a "tip" that just made life WAY easier for my two dairy-free kiddos!!!!!  I'm so excited to have this option because it's SO QUICK and SO EASY and SO YUMMY!!!

All you need to do is get a boxed cake mix that is dairy free.  (If you're vegan and/or need to avoid eggs, just read the ingredients for egg-free as well.)  Duncan Hines has a lot of options, and I noticed that there are LOTS of boxed cake mixes that don't have any dairy (or eggs) in the pre-packaged ingredients! 

All of the boxed cake mixes call for eggs and butter in the "directions", BUT here's the fabulous secret:

SODA/POP/SOFT DRINK...whatever you want to call it, it's the beautiful secret to turning a boxed cake mix into a dairy-free/egg-free delight!!!

So, all you have to do is get your boxed cake mix (make sure the pre-packaged ingredients are free from dairy (and egg, if you need to avoid that) and mix in 12 ounces of your soda/carbonated drink of choice (for dark colored cakes, like chocolate, use Coke or Pepsi or Dr. Pepper or Root Beer.  For light colored cakes, like vanilla, use Sprite or 7-Up.  Don't use any diet sodas.).  Then bake according to the package directions!!!

VOILA!  A fantastically easy and delightfully delicious dairy-free/egg-free cake!  WOOHOO!

I'm going to experiment for Selah's cake and try using a white boxed cake mix with Big Red to see if it turns out pink and yummy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

$33

 

Please click HERE to learn how just $33/month can be life-changing.

The Blocks, serving in Guatemala, are now "parents" to MANY kiddos who are living in Eagle's Nest orphanage.  They cannot financially provide what these precious children need monthly, but they can provide the tender loving care these little ones so desperately need. 
And they know God will provide what the Blocks cannot.

This is where WE come in, the body of Christ, commanded to care for orphans.

WE can sponsor a child at Eagle's Nest orphanage for $33/month and that investment will literally change the life of whomever we sponsor.
Many of you are financially supporting the Blocks so their family can serve as missionaries at this orphanage.  Without you, the Blocks couldn't serve as "mama" and "papa" to these kiddos.  They are so very grateful for your support, as none of the children in Guatemala are eligible for international adoption since the country closed that program and hasn't reopened it.  God has chosen the Block family to fill the role of FAMILY to these kiddos who may not ever have the chance of being adopted...ever.

Will you please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child for just $33/month so that these kiddos will be blessed in ways not possible without your support?  And I'm not talking about blessings like we would consider in America.  We're talking the blessings of nutritious food, season-appropriate clothing, shoes that fit...things we take for granted in America. 
And one of the really fun things about directly sponsoring a child at Eagle's Nest orphanage in Guatemala is that you can keep up with them through Amy's blog and/or directly through Amy!  How cool is that?!?! 

For many years, each of our children sponsored a child through World Vision.  They chose children who shared the same birthday, then they prayed for their sponsored child and financially supported them.  It was so much fun when they received a letter and/or photos from their sponsored child, and they were always eager to write them back.  The sponsorship turned into more of a relationship than simply tossing out support money.  It was truly a sweet blessing to see our children caring about other children in other countries whom they had never met in person, yet felt that they knew them personally simply by praying for them and communicating with them.  It's very moving to watch your child give up their allowance, birthday money, etc. in order to financially support a child in need.  Looking back, I can see how God was already working to open our children's eyes (and ours as well) to what a difference WE can make in the lives of others.

Thank you for kindly considering this request.  Click HERE if you'd like to sponsor an orphan and/or visit with Amy Block more about this opportunity.  I have a feeling you'll be blessed abundantly by this investment.

Who can resist such sweet faces?  Oh how I wish Guatemala would reopen their doors to international adoption, but, in the meantime, I'm so grateful for families like the Blocks who are willing to walk away from the convenient American life and serve orphans in need wholeheartedly.  Thank you, God, for giving these children the next best thing to a forever family...a Jesus-loving family who is willing to play the role of a real family by moving in with these children and loving them as their own.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Won't Believe This!

(If you don't see the video above, please click HERE to view it.)

Our little miracle girl, you know, the one who would be "just a vegetable" and "never in the top of her class", has mastered the milestone of pulling up and standing independently.

It's been said that the original Greek translation of the word "Selah" means "so every eye can see and every ear can hear".  It's also been said that "Selah" in the Psalms means to pause and reflect.

God gave us Selah's name.  Shortly after God delivered us this special needs baby who was born with only a sliver of a brain, who wasn't expected to live, He told us to name her Selah Karis.
 (Karis is the Greek form of the word "grace", originally spelled "charis".)

The doctors and specialists thought they knew Selah's future, but perhaps they need to know the One who holds each of our future in His hands.

Selah:  "So every eye can see, and every ear can hear"; "to pause and reflect"
(ahem, doctors and specialists...watch the above video...allow God to open your eyes and ears, pause and reflect upon the One who formed this child)

Karis:  "Grace"
(and, God, help me to respond with grace to those who thought they could predict Selah's future)

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
John 4:48

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Solution

Upon Selah’s discharge from her skull reconstructive surgery, we were told that Selah is not allowed to have any unsupervised play because we must protect her head from hitting anything AT ALL.  For 2 full months, Selah’s skull must be protected from any bumps, bonks, and bruises.  There are plates and screws to keep everything in place, but the same as one would treat a broken arm or leg without a cast, it must be protected. 

Since they don’t want Selah to wear a helmet, WE are the protectors of Selah’s head.  What a challenging responsibility, especially considering Selah is becoming a toddler.  She’s crawling everywhere, pulling up on things, trying to stand independently, and doing one of those funky “crawls” with her bootie in the air and her legs straight, kind of like a walk/crawl. 

The only completely “safe” we had for Selah was in the car (strapped into her car seat) or in her jumperoo/exersaucer contraption.  Ever since Selah’s been mobile, she’s not a big fan of being confined…anywhere. 

It’s challenging, to say the least, to do everyday things such as use the restroom, take a shower, cook, etc. because someone must always have eyes on Selah AND be within arm’s reach in order to protect her skull in the event that she falls backward or bangs it against something. 

Selah’s occupational therapist suggested we get an inflatable baby pool to use as a safe play yard, since Selah rebelled against the pack-n-play and revolted against the plastic baby gate play yard.  I thought this was a great idea, so after I searched for a while online, I decided to go with a large inflatable pool that also has an inflatable floor!  That way, Selah will be ultra safe when she’s in it (without water, of course), so even if she throws herself back, she will land on a cushy floor.

I also decided to order some of those plastic play balls to toss into the dry pool play yard, you know, so Selah could pretend she’s at the McDonald’s ball pit without getting all the germs.  (Do they still have ball pits?!?!)

The whole shebang arrived yesterday.  Yeehaw!  Lovin’ it!

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Selah has now mastered holding two objects (one in each hand) and banging them together!  Obtaining this skill earned Selah a discharge from her occupational therapy!

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Bang, bang, bang.
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I couldn’t decide which picture I liked better of these last two photos, so I decided to include them both. Smile

So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, effective, and fun way to contain your toddler, consider getting an inflatable pool and some balls!  So far, so good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Precious Angel

Blessings From Him

I was asked by a friend to pray for another adoptive family whose daughter suddenly died  yesterday after having successful open-heart surgery a few months ago.  Little Vivian is another precious angel, treasured by her family, who went to live with Jesus September 20.  I ask you to please pray for Vivian’s family.  As I’ve said before, losing a child is so, so, so hard.  I beg you to pray, pray, pray, and also leave a comment on the family’s blog.  Leave scripture, leave a prayer, just let this family know they’re being lifted up to our Savior.  Click HERE to visit the family’s blog.  Thank you, dear friends.

Eternal Investments

Click HERE to read about where this photo came from.  Remember our campaign to “Back the Blocks” last May, as part of our remembrance of Chrissie’s 31-day battle? Amy Block and her family now live in Guatemala, serving as missionaries to orphans at Eagle’s Nest orphanage.  Amazing stuff.  Thanks to those of you who are making it possible for their family to serve Him.  They’re running this race well, and I know you’ll be so proud of them.  Money well spent folks.  Eternal investments.


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Talk about eternal investments.  Click HERE for an excellent article on adoption fundraising.  Some of you are looking for ways to fundraise, some of you are looking to support families who are adopting, and some of you may not even realize that it’s considered “normal” for adoptive families to fundraise in order to cover the ginormous expense of adoption.  God commands ALL of us all to care for orphans.  I believe each and every one of us should sow into rescuing orphans.  Another great eternal investment.


Click HERE to learn about these Purpose Driven Dolls.  Holly and her daughter, over at Purpose Driven Family, are selling these dolls to help bring orphans home.  Another eternal investment.

There are COUNTLESS others who are raising funds to help orphans.  Countless families are desperately trying to gather the ransom to bring their child(ren) home.  Countless orphans are waiting for YOU to help them be united with their forever family.  Giving is so easy, it really is such a doable and effective way to help an orphan, while making an eternal investment. 

There are so many ways to invest our time, talent, and treasure.  There are so many scriptures to direct our paths, that tell us what is important to Him.  Invest your money wisely, for eternal purposes, for His glory.  If you're not sure where to invest, just read His Word.  You'll find that He thinks orphans are worthy of our investments.  Eternal investments.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.

Proverbs 21:26
…the righteous gives and does not hold back.

Proverbs 22:9
He who is generous will be blessed…

Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

James 2:15-16
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

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

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beyond the Rescue

You're invited to a FREE event aimed at helping adoptive parents navigate life after their child(ren) comes home.  Mark your calendars for October 1 from 4-8PM at Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, for this helpful session.  Matt and I will be on the panel as adoptive parents.  We hope to see you there!

Here's the official info/invitation from Becca Hill, executive director of Charis Orphan Care and Adoption Ministry:
  
Now that you are home with your adopted child, do you find yourself dealing
with issues that you never dreamed of? Are you an adoptive parent of a
special needs child and need help in the transition? Many of us have been
exactly where you are and it helps to walk alongside someone in the same
situation. This ministry was birthed because of our own struggles with
becoming newly adoptive parents.

Please join us for the inaugural "Beyond the Rescue: A Post-Adoptive
Ministry" meeting. We are so honored to have Dr. Jon Bergeron, psychologist
with Scott & White Clinic in College Station, Texas working with
adolescents, adults and couples. He has a heart for providing consultation
to couples considering adoption, foster care, or those already involved. Jon
also serves on the board of the local CASA organization.

Jon and his wife, Shelly, felt the call to become foster parents. The first
sibling pair they fostered, a 5-year -old girl and a 3-1/2 year old deaf
boy, eventually led to the adoption of the little boy Tanner who is now 10
years old. In May of 2010 they received a second calling to adopt, this time
internationally, and in record time adopted a soon-to-be 14 year-old deaf
boy, Jian, from China.

We will also have a panel of other professionals, as well as adoptive
parents to answer questions and provide you with vital tools to help you in
this journey.

Billy and Cindy Foote, a wonderful Christian music duo, will be providing
music for us during a brief Worship time.

A light dinner will be provided as well as childcare. We do need an RSVP no
later than September 25th.  Please send an email to beccahill00@gmail.com to
reserve your spot as well as to notify of childcare needs and number of
attendees in your family.

The event is FREE but we would like to suggest a $20 donation per family to
help take care of childcare as well as a love offering for Dr. Bergeron and
the Foote Family. If you are not able to make a donation, please don't feel
obligated and we encourage you to attend!

We hope that this will be the kick-off of many events, such as this and many
others, all across the United States. We also hope to have a monthly
post-adoptive support group in the New Braunfels, Austin and San Antonio
areas. If you are interested in starting one in your area, please contact me
for further information.

We look forward to seeing you on October 1st! And, please do me a favor and
pass this on to others!

Blessings,

Becca Hill

Executive Director
Charis Orphan Care 
www.charis4orphans.org
www.journeythruthehills.blogspot.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday's Meditation: A Boss Your Heart Message

Thank you, Kirsten Walkup, for today's devo:


Twice Mine

By Kirsten Walkup

Tom had a little toy boat and carried it to the edge of the river. He carefully placed it in the water and slowly let out the string. How smoothly the boat sailed! Tom sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat. Tom tried to pull it back to shore, but the string broke. The little boat raced downstream.

Tom ran along the sandy shore as fast as he could. But his little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when it was too dark to look any longer, Tom sadly went home.

A few days later, on the way home from school, Tom spotted a boat just like his in a store window. When he got closer, he could see -- sure enough -- it was his!

Tom hurried to the store manager: "Sir, that's my boat in your window! I made it!"

"Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in this morning. If you want it, you'll have to buy it for one dollar."

Tom ran home and counted all his money. Exactly one dollar! When he reached the store, he rushed to the counter. "Here's the money for my boat." As he left the store, Tom hugged his boat and said, "Now you're twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you." 

We often make life difficult by choosing to take on our problems by ourselves. Some people think that because they have failed God, they aren’t deserving of His grace and mercy. They allow anger, bitterness, and resentment a safe harbor in their souls, and it eventually consumes them.

We serve a God who first created us, and a Savior who purchased us with His blood. We are “twice His”. He doesn’t think we’re not worth the time or energy or effort to hold our lives together when all else is crumbling. He desperately desires to have a real and meaningful relationship with each of us, if only we’ll let Him in.

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Whether the problems in your life are the result of sin or circumstances beyond your control, you can be sure that Jesus can restore sanity to your life--if you turn to him.



Boss your heart!

J330

k

Friday, September 16, 2011

14!

Today is Meribeth's 14th birthday. We decided to take a girls' road trip to Plano for the Hope for Orphans Institute. We picked up my new friend, Jodi (the mom I met at the Hyatt a few weeks ago), along the way. It was a crazy road trip because Selah was not a happy camper in her car seat. She usually loves it and travels well, but it appears that her head bothers her in the car seat. We had several stops and interruptions along the way, but we're snuggled into our hotel now and looking forward to the conference in just a few hours. (We didn't arrive until 1:15AMish, and then I didn't get Selah to bed until 2:30AMish, so pray for us to all have energy to stay awake and be blessed by the conference.)

We celebrated Meribeth's birthday as a family with a pizza party before we left town, so the photo in this post was actually taken the night before Meribeth's birthday.

Happy 14th birthday, Meribeth! You've conquered many obstacles along your life path, and we are so very proud of the young woman you've become. Keep your eyes on Jesus, sweet girl, you're doing GREAT! We love you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Random Smiles

*While at the dentist's office, Kiefer ran outside and peed on the landscaping.  Country boy through and through.  He thought nothing of it, and he couldn't understand why we wanted to show him where the bathroom was located. :-)

*Ella weighed herself on the digital scale, then she asked me if she was fat or skinny.  I said she was perfect.  Then she told me that I am perfect, too.  She went on to explain that I'm a little bit fat and a little bit skinny.  But more fat than skinny.  Just perfect.  :-)

*I've been trying to teach Selah how to blow kisses.  For the life of her, she cannot understand why in the world I keep kissing my hand.  She's decided that perhaps she should kiss my hand, too, since I seem to enjoy it so much. :-)

*Kiefer is working on making the "f" sound at speech therapy.  They've been practicing words like "fish", "fun", "food", "phone".  During dinner, Kiefer exclaims with much excitement, "FART, FART, FART!!!  I can say FART now instead of "SHART"!"  Kiefer used to say a "sh" sound instead of the "f" sound on "f" words.  Unfortunately, "shart" has another meaning that Kiefer was unfamiliar with.  Fortunately, Kiefer can now say, "fart".  I think that's fortunate.  Couldn't he just say "toot" instead?!? :-)

*Our little kids (Asher, Ella, Kiefer) like to play hospital and funeral.  Quite sad, really, that our kids know/want to play such things, but this is their experience with life in our family.  They give each other IV's and breathing tubes and feeding tubes (usually made out of rope).  When/if they "die", they lie down in the wagon and the others pull them to the funeral.  Sometimes they bury baby dolls in little caskets.  I guess it's a version of play therapy.  What ever happened to tea parties?  :-)

*Kiefer parks his tractor at our front door and chocks the wheels (on a flat surface), making sure it doesn't roll away. :-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Can You Believe It?

We got our I-171H (AKA:  "The Golden Ticket") in the mail yesterday!!!  Keep in mind that we just had our fingerprints taken last Thursday, September 8!  The notice says that we were granted approval September 9...just ONE DAY after our prints were taken!!! 

For those of you who have walked this path, you know that's pretty much a miracle.  We didn't even contact our congressman or representative or senator.

For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, well, USCIS (immigration) approved our family to adopt from Ukraine in record time.  Seriously.

I hope to go to the Secretary of State on Thursday to get apostilles (state seals) on everything in our dossier.  However, last night I discovered a problem that I'm praying God will fix today.

Matt's local/state level criminal background report isn't notarized.  DRATS!  Both of ours came back in the mail in early August.  I opened both packages, made sure both reports were accurate, then placed them in the dossier pile.  As I was going through the dossier documents, gathering all of the documents that need an apostille, I noticed that Matt's state level criminal report doesn't have the notary, but mine does.  URGH!  This document is required to have a notary, and it's not something I can take to have it notarized.  It must come from the Texas Department of Transportation's criminal history department.  So, I'm in the process of trying to track down where/how I can get this fixed.  By Thursday. :-)

Our God is so amazing.  He lavishes us with good gifts and fun surprises.  I was SHOCKED to see the I-171H in the mail yesterday.  Thank you, Abba Father!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

God Has a Plan...

Here's an excerpt regarding reckless faith and God's plan from one of my new (old) favorite books, Reckless Faith:

Reckless faith isn't fake.  It doesn't pretend.  It feels deeply and lives fully.  It asks questions and cries out and tests boundaries.  It has dynamic conversations with God.  It molds its understanding as it encounters new situations and experiences new growth.  "God has a plan" is not a cliche or Band-aid you put on wounds that aren't healing.

"God has a plan" is a mantra for a way of life that says you don't have to have all the answers to proceed.  You can throw yourself toward the Red Sea and believe if its parts, praise God!  You knew it!

How does it open?  Why does it open now when it didn't earlier?  Why did it close on the Egyptians?  To those questions, you apply a faith that acts first and thinks second.  Not in mindless obedience, but with childlike faith.

God promises us that our disappointments will not last forever.  He turns things around, he brings us back, he takes us home.  He rebuilds, restores, repairs.

--Beth Guckenberger, Reckless Faith

Monday, September 12, 2011

A God Story I Think You'll Like

We're grateful God used (and still uses) our Chrissie to do many things in the hearts of His people.  One of those things was (is) to open the eyes of people around the world to the plight of the orphan. 

When Selah was in the hospital for her skull reconstruction, I received an email from a mom.  Her story blessed me greatly.  Oh how I wish I had a record of every person who was moved to adopt because of Chrissie.  I'm always so very grateful when someone takes the time to share with me that Chrissie's story encouraged them to adopt.  I cannot think of any better way for God to  carry out Chrissie's legacy and keep her memory alive.  Rescuing orphans.  That's the religion that pleases our Father.  Each time God uses our princess to turn someone's heart toward adoption, to break someone's heart for what breaks His, well, it's just a huge hug to our hurting hearts.  Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story with me.  The heart hug is just what we were in need of at this time.

Be blessed by reading this little Chrissie-inpsired God tale, written to me (Lorraine) from a new adoptive momma named Jennifer:
 

You probably don't remember me but I brought you dinner when Chrissie was in the hospital.  You left such an impression on me that afternoon that I immediately went home and read your blog from start to finish (regarding Chrissie).  Then I shared everything with my husband.  You see, though I had seen numerous friends adopt and bring babies home, you were the first person I had ever met that had adopted an older child internationally.  God used you, in the midst of the hardest thing you've ever had to walk through, to open my eyes.  And for that, I will never be able to thank you enough.  My heart continues to hurt when I think of what your heart has gone through, but as many people have told you, her beautiful life and your incredible story gave two orphans, 3000 miles away, a forever family -- us.  For only 3 short months later, we began the adoption proceedings on 2 children, who have now been home 5 amazing months!! 

And here's just a little bit more detail (from another email from this same mom):

Anyways, after I brought you dinner, I was curious to what your story was and what your daughter was going through.  So I came home and read every post until I had caught up.  This may truly sound crazy to you (as it does to me now) but you were the first person that I ever knew that didn't adopt ...

1. a baby,

2. because you couldn't have kids, and

3. older internationally.



At the time I brought you dinner, I was working (and still am) with a non profit that creates education and awareness for children that are trafficked.  I've gone through advocacy training in DC and other trainings with IJM (International Justice Mission).  My heart is too help kids at risk - older kids, that are either at risk for being trafficked or have been rescued out.



So after I read your blog, and clicked on other people's blog's that left comments, my eyes were opened to this HUGE adoption world.  Adoption was not just for the perfect, healthy Chinese baby, but it was for the HIV infected little girl in Ethiopia and the 12 year Ukraine girl that was headed into prostitution and the little boy from Libya who was burned purposefully by a witch doctor and the list goes on and on.



So I continued following your blog, along with a few others, all the while, knowing that God was watering a seed that He planted. 

We had not set out to adopt.  But God literally handpicked us and handpicked Isaiah and Ruth and brought us together.  Isaiah was 9 when we brought him home and he will be 10 in November.  Ruth is now 6.  They are from a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela called St. Vincent. 

I love the story God is writing!  I know I was called to the fight against sex trafficking so God would soften my heart to the plight of older children and I was called to bring you dinner so God would open my eyes to the availability of older orphans.  This story is far from over, but I'm excited to see how the next chapter is going to read. :) 
God sets the lonely in families.  Psalm 68:6

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gunner...another child in heaven



Please pray for the family and friends of Gunner Thames, as he went to live with Jesus yesterday following a rodeo accident. 

On August 19, 2011, Gunner had a bad accident while steer wrestling at a rodeo.  He suffered a severe head injury and was life-flighted to a nearby hospital where he was intubated and in a coma for more than a week.  Gunner was improving, so just last weekend, he was transferred to a local neuro rehab hospital.  He even winked at his grandma and blew her a kiss.

I still haven't heard the details, all I know is that yesterday Gunner went to live with Jesus.
Gunner (left) with Parker (right) at the Junior High rodeo awards banquet in March 2010.
(I remember Chrissie looking up at Gunner, admiring his height at this rodeo/banquet!)

Gunner was the same age as our 15-year-old son, Parker.  In fact, I think they were only a few days apart.  They were rodeo buddies, and Gunner was in the 6th grade Rite of Passage class that Matt and I taught at Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda in 2008.  This is the same class that our student and friend, Jackson Norris, was in, and now both of these boys are together in heaven.  Gunner joined Jackson in Paradise just 3 short months after Jackson went to live with Jesus.

Y'all, I know what it's like to lose a child, and I can securely say it's the absolute hardest thing to deal with, even when you know Jesus and are comforted by Him.  There's not a single day that will ever go by without your child entering your brain numerous times.  The pain doesn't ever go away.  It really doesn't.  Yes, you learn to live with the pain better, but you never stop missing your child.  Ever.

I know what Gunner's family is feeling, and I know what they're going to continue to feel.  I know what Jackson's family is feeling, even 3 months after he's been gone.  Jackson's mom stopped by the hospital the day of Selah's surgery, which happened to be the same hospital where Jesus ushered Jackson to heaven.  Jackson's mom was so brave and courageous to come by the hospital to hug our necks when Selah was there, but it didn't mean she was able to walk in there and hold it together.  She fell apart.  I know first-hand how this feels.

Every single day there are and will be things that pop up where we lose it.  Things we're not expecting to choke us up.  Things like seeing a cute dress that reminds me of Chrissie or a sweet little brown eyed girl hugging her daddy at the grocery store.  Things we can't predict.  Things we can't control.  Things that will bring us to tears when we're least expecting it.

I beg you to keep Gunner's family, as well as Jackson's family, in your prayers.  Grief in itself is so tough to battle through, but when it involved the grief of losing your child, it's just different.  Kids are supposed to outlive their parents.  We see other kids growing up and doing the things our child was supposed to do on earth, and it's just hard.  We KNOW our children are in a better place, we know they're not hurting, we know God is good, we know God is sovereign, we know this was His will, we feel His love, mercy, grace, peace, and comfort, but it's still hard.  So very hard.  And each time another child goes to live with Jesus, especially children we know and love, the pain grips us and chokes us.  So, we humbly ask you to pray, pray, pray.  The death of a child is a very hard thing.  So grateful for the hope of eternal life we have in Jesus.





Details...

Our God is a god of details. He never ceases to amaze me.

The weekend before Selah’s skull reconstructive surgery was my 40th birthday (August 27). We decided to spend a few days as a family at a nearby hotel/resort (Hyatt Lost Pines) so that we could have a mini-vacation in celebration of my b-day, and a last trip before we started back to school, as well as our last getaway before Selah’s surgery.

Anyway, while we were there, a sweet grandma came up to me and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

I said, “Sure.”

She kindly inquired, “How many are there?”

I smiled. She was referring to my children, wondering how many kids we have.

The grandma’s daughter came over and quickly joined in the conversation. It turned out that the entire family was pro-adoption, and the grandma was so excited to be getting 3 more grandkids via adoption.

The mom, Jodi {hi Jodi!}, and her husband are adopting a sibling set of 3 from the Dominican Republic of the Congo. They have 3 bio kids, so very soon they’ll have a total of 6 kids!

We enjoyed many conversations about adoption throughout our stay, then both of our families checked out of the hotel on the same day and went on with our lives.

A few days ago, I received an email from this mom, Jodi, telling me that she and her husband had been to the Texas Secretary of State’s office to have some adoption documents apostilled. Jodi noticed that the person stamping their documents was wearing a Boss Your Heart t-shirt!

Jodi, upon noticing the Boss Your Heart shirt, said to the woman, “Oh, wow, I just met that lady.”

Elizabeth (the “apostille lady” at the SOS…{hi Elizabeth!}) said, “Oh, you mean Lorraine?”

Then they went on to have a conversation that they wouldn’t have had if God had not introduced me to Jodi and her family at the Hyatt AND if Elizabeth had not been wearing her Boss Your Heart shirt on that very day.

Our God ordains details that we sometimes never even realize are of importance. For instance, I bet Elizabeth didn’t wake up on that morning and think to herself that she needed to wear her Boss Your Heart t-shirt on that day because a woman who had just met me would be coming in to get documents apostilled, and if she was wearing her BYH shirt, they’d have a God-ordained conversation that wouldn’t have occurred if she’d been wearing a different shirt. Nope, somehow I don’t think it was very important to Elizabeth which shirt she wore that morning, but it was important to God. Many times, He has a purpose in even the very smallest details.

Don’t ever think that something is too small or too unimportant for God to use. He just might ordain something special simply by using the clothes you choose to wear on a given day. :-)

“…whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

PS  Speaking of details...have you registered to attend the Hope for Orphans Institute next weekend?  Since Selah was released from the hospital and is doing so well, I AM going to attend!  Woohoo!  So excited!  I think Jodi's attending as well. :-)  Don't miss out on many helpful details that will be shared at this amazing event.  Use the BOSSYOURHEART code to get 50% off your registration.  Let me know if you're going.  I'd love to see you there!  (Sue, be sure to catch up with me...looking forward to meeting you!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Resemblance?

photo (21)Lorraine baby face1
photo (22)Lorraine baby face2
photo (23)Lorraine baby face3
Do you see any resemblance in these photos?

The photos in the left column are of Selah post-skull-reconstruction, September 2011.

The photos in the right column are of me, Lorraine, Selah’s adoptive mommy, taken in 1972.

That’s a 39 year gap.

And, not to mention, Selah is not a biological child.

And, she’s bi-racial.

Half black.

Half white.

Kind of crazy that there would be any resemblance whatsoever, huh?

Some people think our God is boring.

I think He’s wild, crazy, unpredictable, and totally fascinating.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above..." James 1:17

Do you recall how Chrissie resembled her adoptive Mommy, too?
Chrissie and mommy

Of course Chrissie wasn’t bi-racial, but she was born of another mother, in another country, half-way around the world, and God chose her adoptive mommy to have brown hair and brown eyes and similar features.

Because sometimes our God just chooses to do the unpredictable.

Who would have ever thought God would deliver us two miracle girlies who both resemble their chosen mommy?

I’m so glad my Daddy is the King of Kings.  He is the Giver of all good gifts.  He has blessed me beyond belief, beyond anything I could have ever imagined, beyond anything anyone would have ever predicted.

Of course, I know good and well from first-hand experience, that a child doesn't have to resemble you in any way in order for you to love that child with all your heart, with no barriers and no exceptions.  I was just a tad bit shocked to see Selah having some resemblance to me after her skull was reconstructed, as I didn't feel she looked a single bit like me prior to her surgery.

Maybe it's just the shaved head.  (I pulled all of my hair out when I was little, so I had that shaved look for quite some time!)

Or maybe it's just one of God's little surprises that make you pause and reflect.  Selah.

Psalm 67
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth. 

                                                      Selah.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
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