Tuesday, October 28, 2008

photograph of a typical Ethiopian house, from the Awassa and Wolaitta regions of Ethiopia

Righteous Anger

I am a huge fan of Sons of Korah. If you don't know who they are, I suggest you google them. They are an Australian band committed to putting the Psalms to music. When you listen to the Psalms, they will never be the same for you, as they will never be the same for my family. These words were written with and for music, so it is fitting that they are once again accompanied by song.

A few Sunday's ago, my husband picked up their latest CD, Rain. As I have sat in my kitchen, Bible on the table, I have again been transformed into a state of pure worship through the music. Once and a while there are those Psalms that you wonder if they will ever mean anything to you - Psalms that talk about being pursued by enemies, begging God to kill those who are after me. I understand the context; David was being chased by Saul who was intent on killing David. David had been anointed and thought God had chosen him to be king, yet the current king was dead-set on destroying him. Of course Davide called out in anguish asking God to rescue him! Honestly, I just struggle how that could possibly relate to a middle aged mom in suburbia Wisconsin!

That was true, until a run a few days ago. I had downloaded Focus on The Family where a woman was being interviewed about her new book, Home Invasion. In it, the author argues that our homes are being invaded by smut, porn, greed, lust, etc. We haven't gone out looking for it, but it is truly invading our homes through all the mediums we all know about. It dawned on me that as a mother, I have an enemy that is pursuing me and is bent on the destruction of my children! Suddenly, those Psalms had a totally appropriate meaning.

So, on this latest CD from Sons of Korah, one of those Psalms began to resonate with me. Please read these words and put up with my interpretations:

Psalm 3

LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
"God will not deliver him."

But, you are a shield around me,
You bestow glory on me and lift
up my head.
To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the LORD sustains me,
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessings be on your people.

I read these words and I see my own home invasion. We live in a world where our foes are all around us; television is corrupt and pushing the envelope with every new show. Even the commercials show things that make my children run away. There are very few movies that don't have over-the-top sex, vulgar language, violence, or chaos. Songs on the radio now talk about drugs, sex, lying, cheating very clearly and even lift those behavior high to be valued. I drive down the street and pass a cab that has an advertisement for a strip club. We drive down the highway on the way to the beach and see billboards for wet-t-shirt contests. We go to the library and see the latest book about gay marriage being read at story-time.

You tell me! How is a mother supposed to raise her children to be pure, innocent, loving, kind and respectful people!!!

When I cry out to the Lord, He hears me and is my shield! He DOES protect my children. He shields their eyes and ears; it is amazing how they can miss something that I see so blatantly.

But, I am still angry! I am angry at this world that for some reason seems to take delight in causing children to "grow up" earlier and earlier! I am furious at the internet that has no regulations - and that there are sick adults out there who enjoy thinking about ways to "trick" a child into seeing his pornographic images. I am furious at the adults who can't get enough sex, and they think kids should be the same way. I am furious at movies and TV that portray life as one big thrill ride, where we need to try to satisfy our lusts at every turn. I am furious at movies that TV that destroy human life so easily and thoughtlessly. I am furious that the top video games give kids the chance to kill others in the most disgusting, graphic ways.

Lord - I am begging you! Strike down those corrupt ones! Break the teeth of all the wicked people in this world who want to see children hurting, scared, sexualized, and not caring of anything but themselves.

The ONLY place where I can find refuge is in the LORD. The ONLY one that will deliver me and my children is the LORD. Lord, may your blessings fall on us, despite this world we live in. Continue to be my shield. I will continue to trust in you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Been Tagged


I've been tagged! OK - so here are the 7 random facts about myself :)

1. I have broken many bones in my life; arm, clavicle, multiple fingers, a toe, my nose - all from playing sports.

2. I have given birth 4 times naturally, and loved it!

3. I really, really like chocolate and I tend to hide a stash so I can snack on it anytime I want without my family knowing.

4. I have lived in Ohio, South Carolina, California and presently in Wisconsin.

5. When I fly to Ethiopia to get our son, it will be the first time I will ever leave the United States.

6. I love riding on the back of my husband's motorcycle and hope to ride on my own someday.

7. I never, ever, ever thought I would homeschool my kids and yet, here I sit with my four kids every day, teaching them!

Since I am totally new at this blogging thing, I only have a few people to tag:
1. Eleanor
2. Harry
3. Julie

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Daughter's Blog

I read my oldest daughter's blog this morning. She praises God for George and how her parents have a heart for adoption. It was a beautiful thing to read this morning. Who knows the plans God has for her life!!!

Where Is My Homestudy?

I am getting a little anxious. As a member of two different forums that focus on adoption from Ethiopia, I read daily the experiences and frustrations of so many families just like mine. The latest news? The Ethiopian government has added paperwork for children who are social orphans (meaning one or both parents are still alive). That would be the case for our son.

George's father passed away from Malaria in 2007. His mother has AIDS and lives below the poverty line. She simply can not care for her son, so she relinquished him to a Christian orphanage. She has not had any contact with him since she dropped him off in February 2008. George is an orphan; alone and with no parent to care for him.

But now, our process may be significantly delayed because of this new paperwork. The government already has a system in place for social orphans that requires a living relative to appear before the court in Addis Ababa and officially relinquish all rights. I know that my adoption agency is working with George's mother about getting her to Addis Abab - a 7 hour drive!

On top of this bit of not-so-good news, my home study is not done! My social worker said it would be done last Thursday, so I am looking at one week late. I shouldn't complain - but until we get the home study sent to the FBI, we don't get fingerprinted. Until we get fingerprinted, we don't get our crucial piece of paper from the USA government that says we can adopt. Until we get that piece of paper, we can't get Power of Attorney. Until we get power of attorney, we can't send the dossier to Ethiopia. Which means, George continues to sit in a rural orphanage in southern Ethiopia.

Kind parents who have adopted already are quick to respond about God's timing. We must trust that there are reasons for delays; some say the kids are not 'ready' yet, some say the governments are not 'ready' yet, some even say we are not 'ready' yet. None of those reasons sound good to me these days, but if I truly think and believe that God is in control, that he is God Jehova, I have to trust in this timing.

This morning, in my quiet time, I was looking at a certain Psalm for a study I am doing. I was reading in my study Bible, and right before that Psalm, there was a chart that said, "If you need......... look at Psalm.....". As I read down the list I found one that I thought would speak to me. "If you need to know God is in control, look at Psalm 146". As I read, I was nodding my head about how we can't put our trust in man, for they cannot save and all their plans end up coming to nothing in the end. But, it goes on to say happy is he who puts his hope in the Lord (am I getting a theme here, or what?), the maker of everything, the One who holds it all in his hands. Then, I read verse 9 and literally, my breath was taken away:
"The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow..."

As I mediate on this part of the verse, I can not help by KNOW that God is in control for He continues to speak to me. And He is watching over George (the fatherless) and his mother (the widow). He is with them, He sustains them, He gives them sight, He lifts them up, He loves them and He is watching them. They are His children.

Thus far, God has brought me into George and his mother's lives. What His finger points to , His hand will provide.

So, my home study is not quite done. I can't control that. But I am confident that God has pointed me toward adoption, specifically in Ethiopia. So, I know that He will provide the way and the perfect time for our family to add a son.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Running Exchange

I have developed a love of running. When I was in high school, busy playing every sport I could that included a ball, I would make fun of my friends who were involved in track or cross country. "Why do you want to just run and not try to score a basket or hit a home run?", I wondered.

But, as a middle aged mom of 4, finding ways to play my much-loved sports has been a challenge. What I have been able to do is run. And running has taken a new place in my heart.

That is my time during the day where I am alone. Alone with my thoughts or alone with some music or alone with some biblical teaching (thank you iPod and and iTunes!). Either way, it is a time where I am out in the beauty of the world, feet pounding on the pavement, feeling my muscles getting stronger and my lungs filling with clean air. I love it!

My course is pretty boring - but I don't mind. I have a neighbor who giggles at me each time I set out because she knows she will see me 12 times going around the same block. But, I have 4 children at home and I have to pass by my house every few minutes just to make sure they are all doing OK. In the beginning, they used to stare out the front window, waiting for mom's next loop. Now, they play, do school work or take some free time to do what they wish. Either way, I don't mind, I just want to run.

As I run, I now have visions of George running beside me some day. I know many parents who have adopted from Ethiopia who have had their hearts suddenly turned to distant running. I was inspired by the Olympics, seeing the amazing dark-skinned men and women race to the finish of multiple long distance races. These same athletes, when they walked into the opening ceremony looked stunned, thrilled, humble and truly blessed to be there. Immediately, I started rooting for them to "win it all"! I do think of George most of the time when I run. Will he enjoy running? Will he want to come out with me to just feel those legs getting stronger? Will this be a way we can bond?

My runs are filled with prayer. As I run, this is one hour in which I am not disrupted at all - except for the occasional dog barking at me. I am very aware of how God created me and am so thankful that He made me able to do this. A friend's son recently lost a leg, so I don't take one single day for granted that I can put on shoes and hit the road for a run. Lately, I have been awed at the beauty surrounding me (even on 62nd Street). The leaves changing color, the cool breezes, the warm sun, the blue sky - it's all breathtaking when we take some time to really focus on it. It's funny how running can cause me to slow down enough to really look at a tree.

I looked up verses in the Bible that had the word "run" today in my quiet time. I was drawn to Isaiah 40:28-31 - I am sure this is very familiar to a lot of you.
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tried or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. The will soar on the wings like eagles; the will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Do you see? God, the everlasting, the Creator, never - ever grows tired or weary! Never! As I struggle with the weariness that comes from day to day life, I serve a master who never grows weary. As I run to the point where my legs burn, and my lungs feel like they are going to explode, and in my head I scream how tired I am, I focus on the Lord who never grows tired. We simply can not understand that - because despite how strong and healthy we may be, our bodies are incredibly fragile and could "snap" at any moment. But God will never tire, and we just can't wrap our finite minds around that thought. You mean, he never needs to rest or sleep? Nope!

So, this same amazing God who never tires or grows weary can give us that strength! We can soar, run and walk without growing faint or weary! What do we have to do to get this strength? The Bible says "hope in the Lord". Trust in Him; hand over all my control, all my self-sufficiency, all my independence. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; renew here actually means "exchange". We who trust in Him, give him our lives, will exchange our weakness for His strength. It is no longer me who gets through the day. It is no longer me who accomplishes anything - it is the LORD!

I have been lamenting for several weeks asking God, "What does it really mean to trust you? I have been saying I trust you. I have been wondering, though, what does that practically look like in my day to day living! Show me!" What started out as a blog about running has turned into a lesson to me about trusting. It's funny how God speaks to me sometimes. I like the idea of exchanging my attempts, my efforts, my tries for His assurance, His promises, His faithfulness.

I may not win any earthly races, especially as I grow older, but I WILL run to win the race that truly counts. I will exchange my weaknesses for God's strength.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Learning Some Big Lessons

I hate waiting. I have always hated waiting. My parents often accused my of being impatient. Even worse, I tend to have the personality that says, "I will do it by myself!". Which makes the phase I am currently in with the adoption so incredibly difficult.

I have to wait. I have to wait on reference letters. I have to wait on my social worker to finish the home study. I have to wait on Wisoconsin's Secretary of State. I have to keep waiting for George.

I added a clock that shows the time in Addis Abab, Ethiopia. I see that as I write this, it is nearing 6:00pm. George is having dinner, maybe? When I let my imagination wanders to George and what he is doing, I tend to get even more impatient. I have been putting a hedge up around my heart that continues to remind me that all this could fall apart, so don't get too close. But, I still want my son home.

It is so hard for me to look at the pictures we have of George. Everything right now is about paperwork; dotting all the "i"s and crossing all the "t"s.

So, what am I learning through all this?

God's timing is perfect. Our process has not taken long compared to the many, many families who have to wait years for a referral. I look at how the doors have opened so easily thus far and know that God is in charge of this - especially the timing. I have to trust that He is still working on the perfect timing of this. What is so hard is watching our economy fall apart which causes us to feel a sense of urgency - we need to make that final payment before we have nothing left to pay with!

Please, Lord, cause this to all work out. Continue to hold me close to you so I keep my eyes on You! I pray for the practical things, Lord. May the money we need be there. May all the paperwork be completed soon. May the Ethiopian government approve us. May we bring George home in Your perfect timing.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Words of the Song Say It All

"If We Are The Body" by Casting Crowns

It's crowded in worship today

As she slips in trying to fade into the faces

The girl's teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know, Farther than they know

But if we are the body

Why aren't His arms reaching?

Why aren't His hands healing?

Why aren't His words teaching?

And if we are the body

Why aren't His feet going?

Why is His love not showing them there is a way?There is a way

A traveler is far away from home

He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row

The weight of their judgemental glances

Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

Jesus payed much too high a price

For us to pick and choose who should come

And we are the body of Christ

Jesus is the way

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Adopt-a-Child-Diet

Lately, the pounds seem to be falling off! Joe and I have worked hard over the last two years to get our bodies back to a very healthy state. That has meant a diet program that taught us how to control our portion size and teach us what we can and shouldn't eat. It worked really well, but we are not on that diet anymore and I am watching a pound a week still falling off.

I chalked it up to the extra running I have been doing. But, that extra running usually causes me to eat even more (which I have been doing!). I wasn't sure what the secret was.. until I read a fellow soon-to-adopt parent's blog. She said, "Wow! I have lost 10 pounds since we started this adoption process!" She talked about the stress, the many times a day she finds her stomach in knots, how she would stare at her dinner plate and wonder what her child in an African orphanage was eating - or not eating. It felt like I was reading a blog about myself.

I do find myself with knots in my stomach multiple times a day; did I fill out that form correctly, is there one more form I need to mail in right now, how are we going to pay for that adoption class coming up? I stress about getting all my paperwork in quickly, because we really want to get this phase over. I stress about doing everything perfectly, so we won't have to do anything twice. I stress about my biological children, making sure I talk to them about how they are feeling through all of this. And then, I do stare at my dinner plate, filled to the brim with fresh vegetables, good meats, and rich sauces. I think of George as he sits down to a woefully simple meal of what American's would call mush. He eats it all, but is not filled and probably goes to bed every night hungry. Yet, at the end or our dinner, I am pushing handfuls of food down the disposal because my kids won't eat leftovers.

It is funny to say this is a good way to diet. But, there is some truth in that. But, most importantly, through this entire experience so far, I am learning what it means to feast on God's Word to sustain me.

I want to change. I want to pray for the world more. I want to have a bigger heart for the children of the world who are lost and hurting. I want to be colorblind. It in ONLY through Christ in me that I can even begin to be the things He has called me to be. May we all continue to learn to lean on Him.

A Sad, Rainy Sunday

It was a cold, rainy Sunday in Wisconsin yesterday. It was also very sad. Our beloved Brewers were eliminated from the play-offs after 26 years of not playing any post-season baseball. Maybe that loss put a pall over the house. Maybe it was just a drab, dreary day. I'm not sure the cause, but by the end of the night I was questioning whether or not I could handle another child in our home.

The girls were up in their bedroom bickering, as usual. Harry was grumbling about something, anything. Lincoln was throwing a fit on the living room floor because I moved a cup. I looked at my husband, sighed, and said, "Maybe I am not fit to parent another child."

This was not a pity party, this was not self-deprecation. This truly was a tired, frustrated mother of four who wonders if I am doing anything right with the children God has given me. The hard part of parenting is that we just won't know if we did a "good job" until our children are grown and out of the house. Until that point, our job is to continue to mold, direct, correct, guide, teach, discipline....oh, and love!

I wonder how things are going to change when George is here. I wonder if his reaction to the waste of food in our house will affect the other four, who have never wanted for a meal in their entire lives. I wonder if when George can speak English and tells us about his life in rural Ethiopia, where his mother had to walk 15km to the nearest water source, how the others will respond. George, undoubtedly, will bring stories of heart ache, difficulties and mourning, of things the other children have never seen or experienced. I wonder what that perspective will bring to our family?

I love being a parent, don't get me wrong. It really was just the end of the day, we were all tired and it had been raining all day. And, the Brewers lost.