Friday, June 29, 2012

What Are You Doing?

J*dd M*defind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, is quoted in R*levant (my favorite mag) saying ,"As we (the Church) rise to meet the need of the orphan, God meets our profound need to escape flabby, self-centered Christianity and slowly see our character changed to reflect Jesus.  The truth is, if you go into this work (orphan care) motivated solely by duty, guilt or even idealism, you'll eventually run dry.  The vastness of the problems will always outstrip your enthusiasm to solve them.  We must be nourished by a profound sense of grace - God's great love for us, as well as for each orphan - if we hope to continue to esrve even when the need is so big and dark and tangled."

Wow - so much in that one paragraph!  Can I shout an "Amen!"


I think I can so enthusiastically shout AMEN because I have been in this orphan care world for 4 years now.  And I even laugh as I write that...only 4 years!  But, in reality, I think God has been breaking my heart for orphans since the day I was born.  I wasn't looking for a cause to jump on the bandwagon with.  I wasn't looking for a ministry work that was trendy or getting a lot of attention. 

All I did was listen to the Lord.  And His word is clear.  HE CARES FOR THE FATHERLESS.  HE CARES FOR THE POOR.  HE CARES FOR THE WIDOW.



And I heard God clearly ask me, "What are you doing about the people I care about ?"

But my "flabby, self-centered Christianity" replied, "But you are asking me to do something that is not easy."

And God replied, "Yea...so?"



And so I jumped into this world like jumping into a pool with a giant splash-producing cannon-ball.  If God is asking me to go...then I am totally going!  I realize people get tired of my orphan statistics, my Safe Families stories, my pictures of my hand-picked children...but...I just can't help it.  I am so motivated to see children in loving homes!

When Joe and I made the decision to adopt, we made it because the Bible is crystal clear.  It is not optional to care for the fatherless.  Please don't say, "I am not called....."  Really?  Have you read your Bible?

Everyone who says they follow Jesus is called to do something for the fatherless and the widows and the poor.  Adoption, child sponsorship, mentoring, foster care, Safe Families, mission trips, financially supporting those who want to adopt, supporting those who have adopted and are having a hard time...the list goes on and on.  Conventional wisdom makes it too easy to say, "I am not called...", but does the Kingdom of God and the way of Jesus have much to do with conventional wisdom?



And the cool thing is that we are in an amazing time in history where God is blowing open doors for this work!  R*bin J*nes, director of OK Office of Faith Based and Community Iniatives, says, "Regardless of your worldview, it cannot be denied that something greater than all of us is creating the environment for incredible movment and preparing the way for change.  Even with the major systems and political reform around foster care taking place, I am convinced it is the Church who is going to change the face of foster care."



Here in South Carolina...oh my....I get excited just thinking about it!  I just got a call this week by the "darling of all things foster care reform" (as I lovingly call her), and the state is wanting a small group to come together and work on how the Church can solve the foster care problem in SC.  Did you see that?  The state has realized they need the Church.  And so, Church...time to rise up!  Obviously, I will be working on the Safe Families aspects..preventing kids from entering the system...but the state is welcoming us, asking us for help, encouraging us to take over.  Don't miss that!  Now is the time to rise up!  A door that has been shut tight for decades has just been opened!



Don't you think it is time to put the needs of children above the conveninces of adults? 

Where did we get so far off the track of what a life following after Jesus looks like?  When did we decide that being a good Christian meant a nice suburban house, 2.3 kids, two cars in the garage, a savings account, a pantry full of food, and church attendance on the weekends?  That is how so many of us are living!

And yet...we are called to so much more! 

I have a new phrase I am using when people say, "Wow!  I don't know how you do it all....blah, blah, blah." 

I answer simply, "I want to leave this earth exhausted."

There are children....in your own city, in your state, in your country, and in your world...who don't know the love of a forever family, who have been broken, hurt, left alone.....and there is God who says in His word that He will not forsake them or leave them.  And He calls...yes calls us all...to go to them. 

What are you doing?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How He's Doing

I know some wonder how George is doing.  I seem to write daily when things are really bad..and then not much in other times.  I think that is because we simply go from really bad to...well...just frustrating. 

I wish I had so many wonderful things to report.  This morning I sat here and thought of what I could share that was positive.  I guess the biggest positive is that I have taken him off his ADHD meds for the summer and he is doing....OK.  I never wanted George to become dependent, or worse, addicted to the meds that keep him settled.  I just wanted to see if they made a difference at school.  They did.  Now that school is over for the summer, I want him to continue to practice and work toward being able to settle himself down. 

Because of that, we have multiple instances a day where George has gone over the top with his behavior.  Nothing horrible - although he did scream "Call 911" yesterday while he was being pummled by his big brother, but that was pretty funny and it was simply brotherly confrontation.  Joe reminded me on our prayer walk on Sunday, "At least he is no longer dropping his pants to his ankles and standing in the front yard screaming at the top of his lungs."

Oh yes...he used to do that. 

And thankfully, he no longer does THAT!

Sometimes I just don't know what I am going to do.  I fight discouragement every day.  I fear for this boy.  The character of SELF is rooted so deeply he doesn't seem to even know how to come up for air.  Everything in his life is about SELF.  I will never forget his 1st grade teacher saying "He assumes everything is a personal slight against him."  It is still true.  I will be disciplining all three younger ones for hanging on the banister.  The other two will say, "Yes Ma'am," and George will go screaming into his bedroom, "You hate me and want to get rid of me!"  Uh....what? 

He still eats all the food he can get his hands on.  He still gets the biggest plate of food (even more food than Joe) for every meal and he STILL finishes first and wants more.  He has to be the first one to get seconds to ensure that he gets seconds and even thirds.  If we tell him he has had more than enough food, he pouts and then sneaks into the kitchen later to eat what he thinks he should have eaten at dinner. 

He cuts in front of every sibling as they go out the door to get into the car...still.
He interrupts and talks over someone when they are talking to me...still.
He tells me how horrible I am and refuses to say goodnight...still.

And I feel myself ready to give up again.

But God....

God gives me the words I need at just the right time.  And in my daily reading plan, I pick up my Bible and turn to Luke 7 and the subtitle is Love for Enemies.  "But I tell you who hear me:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." 

It is one thing to read these words and think of your "enemy" who lives across town...or even across the street.  It is another to read these words and know that the one who hates you, who curses you and who mistreats you is in your own house.  And it is a boy that God has called you to love as a son. 

But God's words are clear...crystal clear...this is not an option for me. 

Jesus goes on to say, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?"

It is so easy for me to love all other 5 children...because they love me.  And when I write this, oh, I know it sounds so selfish.  Obviously, I stil have WORK.  I think Jesus is telling me, "Who cares that you love your children who love you back?  THAT is not what MY love looks like!  THAT is not the LOVE I have called my followers to practice!  Quit complaining and get moving!"

The final words in this section of scripture are Jesus saying, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

According to Unger's Bible Dictionary, "mercy" is defined as: "a form of love determined by the state or condition of its objects. Their state is one of suffering and need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is, at once the disposition of love respecting such, and the kindly ministry of love for their relief."

So I have to think about the state of George.  He IS suffering and he is in need.  And sometimes, he sure is unworthy of a momma who loves and forgives and gives gifts and feeds and cleans...but is he?  Isn't he really just a child who was not nurtured much and then hurt in a poor villiage and then abandoned?  Isn't he a child who has known hunger so deeply that permanent scars have left their mark?  Isn't he a child who doesn't understand the love of a mother?  Or at least an American mother.

Mercy is loving George for his relief.

Mercy is loving George to bring healing to the places that are so broken.  And loving George is what God is asking me to do.  Becuase....God has loved me and continues to love all my broken places.





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Loving Anna



I was reminded again last night about the spiritual battle that is waged over each and every soul.  I know how the enemy takes delight in orphans.  I know he has them in a place of desperation, hopelessness and self-centeredness.  I have seen far too often a major fight take place when it comes to Christians rescuing a child. 

Because often, rescue is exactly what is happening.

And that is what God called us to do for Anna.  Rescue her.

And the battle is not over.

Again, I am held back from telling the details of this little girl's story because we are being stopped in the adoption process.  Why?

Good question.  No one can give us an answer.

ICPC in CO has refused to allow for the adoption.  We have asked why and have received two different answers. We ask for clarification and then hear nothing for weeks.  It is beyond frustrating. 

I said to my friend last night, "I can not lose Anna."

And she quickly replied, "Well, she is not yours to lose.  You have surrendered her to God and He can do what He wants with her."

But, would God want her to go through more trauma by being ripped out of our home while CO "figures things out"?  Would God cause our family to be separated in order for me to go with Anna to CO? 

And so I pray with authority. 

I keep hearing a phrase from a song that says, "The same power that conquered the grave lives in me!  Lives in me!"

And I pray in faith.

I keep going back to words in the Matthew 19:26, "With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  In fact, these words are repeated in all the synoptic gospels. And I believe what is totally impossible for me, convincing ICPC that Anna is doing great in our family, God can
 easily do!

If you ever doubt God's love for you or His devotion to you...just look at the battle being waged over  a very simple girl from Ghana.  God desires to be in a relationship with each of you and is willing to fight for you!  Sometimes I sit and think, "God must have great plans for Anna if there is such a battle over her life."  But then...maybe those great plans simply mean that she will follow and love the Lord.  Isn't that the greatest plan of all? 

I know that Anna has been introduced to Jesus while living in our home.  I know she is just beginning to learn about the kind of love that changes lives.  I know that she is beginning to heal, to trust, and to have peace in her heart.  And I know Jesus loves her with an everlasting love.

Now, I trust that God will continue what He started when He brought us together as a family.  Please pray with me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What is Poverty?

When I was in Ethiopia, I saw poverty.

I was stunned...almost breathless at the living conditions I saw right before my eyes.  Shacks, no more like huts, qualified as homes.  And these huts looked like something our children would build in the backyard.  A good stiff wind could easily blow these over.

They were stacked right against each other...thousands of them.



The ground was dirt and running streams of waste meandered through the make-shift village.



I saw men cutting acres and acres of grass with a hand scythe.  The just sat there, cutting the grass by hand...literally.

I saw children covered in filth.  Little clothing and covered in days of grime and dirt.  They played in and around this make-shift village.

I saw people LIVING off a trash heap.


Mothers digging through trash to feed their children.  And children playing on the trash.




Now..I serve women and children in poverty in the United States.

I am surprised by the difference...

My moms all have insurance.  Each mom has said yes to Medicaid.


I walk into their houses and see groceries everywhere.  True, there are usually half-eaten granola bars strewn about the house and umpteen goldfish crackers spread out across the kitchen table, but there IS food.


And...each and every mom I am working with has a cell phone.
Which brings me to my point...something I am wrestling with daily, maybe even hourly right now.  What IS poverty?  Is it a lack of material goods?  Is it lacking resources? 

What I have found in the last week or so that poverty is sometimes a state of mind.  Some of these moms are in bad relationships...and their state of mind KEEPS them there.  Some of these moms are jobless...and their state of mind KEEPS them at home day after day, not looking for work.  Some of these moms are addicted to drugs...and their state of mind KEEPS them going after the quick fix. 

So simply giving these moms clothing or groceries is NOT an effective way to serve them...to love them.

I am slowly working my way through When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I say slowly because there is so much depth of thought here that I need...I must...slowly ingest their ideas one by one and cover them with prayer.  They say that "poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation:  moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation."

Moving people to change their state of mind....a mind set that will want to glorify God. 

Do you realize how difficult and challenging this is? 

If I could solve all these moms' problems by simply handing out diapers and formula, or gift cards to a grocery store....I would be thrilled!  But the reality is...that NEVER happens.  I can give a mom six cans of formula, telling her this will tide her over until the next paycheck....and two weeks later, she is back in the line waiting for more formula, hasn't looked for a job, spent her money on cigarettes and now asking for some more stuff, "I could really use some diapers and wipes."

I often think of what ministry would look like in a Third World Country...I would feed moms and children and through that ministry, lives would be changed because they truly are starving!  Are the poor in America truly starving?  Or have they chosen to purchase other things before food?  Paying their cell phone bill...buying cigarettes because they just can't break the habit...purchasing a cool new t-shirt.  So, I "feed" them and there really is no change.  My hand-outs do not result in someone glorifying the Lord.

I think what I am getting to is that this life of ministry work with the poor in America is NOT easy, NOT glamorous, and NOT quick.  This is going to be a SLOW process...and at the end of the year, I may have ONE or TWO moms who have truly begun the work of reconciliation. 

And that should be my focus.  Not that SC numbers show that Safe Families has kicked butt their first year...but instead that a few lives have truly been changed. 

I am overwhelmed with the charge that God has given me.  I often wish for this life to go-away.  I want to adopt again and go back to not seeing or hearing or knowing the poor.  But...I have seen and heard and known...and so I can't go back. 

I know God's heart breaks over their brokenness.  And so, I continue to serve and love with the prayer that these women will come to know the Lord and want to live lives that bring Him glory.




Monday, June 11, 2012

UnForgiveness

I realize that I have been pretty unfair about dumping all the problems I have with George and then not sharing the positives at all.  And I have also noticed that I haven't written at all about the children in a long time.  So...here is a little update:

George finished 3rd grade and was promoted (barely) to 4th grade.  I battle constantly about school and whether or not I should home school him again.  He did improve academically last year during our time at home...but our relationship deteriorated in a big way.  At this point in our relationship, I just can't see spending all day with George.  Yes..that sounds awful.  And no, I don't want to say it...I just have to be honest with myself.  We have enrolled our four younger kiddos into a new magnet school that I am praying will be great for George.  He can stand if he wants to (the desks raise up) and the chairs are the kind that you can rock and move in without distrubing anyone else.  The school is partnered with the local hospital system and will have many lessons taught by doctors, nurses, techs, and others from the medical field.  George has set a goal to be a paramedic...and so...I am praying this will be a good head start down the road to see if this is really what he wants to do.

Right now, the lure of the world is just overwhelming to George!  He wants stuff, money, more stuff, food, more food, shoes, more shoes....his appetite for the material world is insatiable.  I don't know how to "cure" that.  It was a little easier in Watertown because we had NOTHING.  George also wants to take the easiest path to any finish line.  Takes the short cuts through home-work.  Runs over people to get to the bus first.  Lies through his teeth constantly to avoid getting in trouble.

Yes..this is the life with George.  He is not throwing temper tantrums now.  He is not yelling at me about how much he hates me.  He has not called the police in a few months and he has not threatened to run away in about six weeks.  So, life over all is better.

But...the deeply rooted sin in his life still affects our daily life.

Joe and I were on the beach this weekend and through talking discovered that neither one of us have FORGIVEN George for what he has done to our family. 

I mean, he has come in and destroyed everything that used to be.

And I can't seem to let that go.

Sometimes I pine away at what my life would look like if we had never obeyed God.

And I know....that THIS was and is God's plan.  And I am GRATEFUL for how this experienced has forever changed me.  I love the Lord so much more than I even knew was possible because of this.  I have thrown my life into serving others because of this experience.  So absolutely...God used this child becoming my son to teach me...to change me...to mold me into looking a LITTLE bit more like the woman HE intended me to be.

But....

I still have not forgiven George for all the heartache and tears and fights and betrayal I have experienced as a Momma over the last three years.  And every time he tries to needle one of the other kids, or laughs at them when they fall down or make a mistake...I feel the anger roll in me like a tidal wave. 

More than once in the last three years I have screamed, "Enough!"

I just can't do this anymore!

And then I hear God gently whisper in my ear..."Forgive him."

Forgiveness.

Forgiveness has always come easily for me - which I believe has been a blessing from God.  But this time, I am being asked to do something that is NOT coming easy for me.

I wonder if anyone else out there is going through this?  I can say I love George...I do...that emotion and feeling has come.  He is my son and will always be my son.  But, until I learn to forgive him, I am afraid of how I treat my son.

"Lord, I come to you with a repentant heart.  I have failed to do something You so clearly have commanded we all do.  You taught us to always forgive and to even forgive those who don't ask for forgiveness.  And right now, at this time, George does not even know how to ask for forgiveness for what he has done.  Honestly, he hasn't done anything out of the ordinary for a boy who has gone through the amount of trauma and betrayal and lies that he has gone through.  Forgive me for not recognizing that.  Forgive me for not trusting YOU and Your plan in this.  OK...maybe that is the heart of this....I am failing to completely trust You.  You chose me to be George's Momma.  I have to stop asking "Why?" and instead say, "Thank you.  Now, I trust you."  And Lord, sometimes I DO trust You.  And I believe there is a HOPE and a FUTURE for George that is beautiful!  Forgive me for often getting in the way of your plan because of my anger and my unforgiving heart. 

Teach me to be more forgiving toward George.  Teach me how to model that for my family, who also struggles with unforgiveness toward George.  Use me to bring YOUR forgiveness and love back into this family.  I love you."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Feel So Alone

"I feel so alone."

"No one cares if I am alive or dead."

"I should have given my son up for adoption."

"I have no hope."

I heard these four sentences from three different women in ONE week. 

Is this acceptable? 

Love...love...love!

I want to scream at all my "Christian" neighbors.  I want to scream at all the pew-sitters.  I want to scream at family. 

It's all about LOVE.

OK - so if I scream at them...they probably would not then listen to my message.  I will concede that.  But, let me tell you about a few of the women I am working with.

Jane is a pregnant young adult.  She is no longer a minor.  Her well-to-do parents told her to get an abortion.  She refused and so they kicked her out of the house calling her worthless.  She is now homeless, pregnant with no one to support her.

Betty is a mom of two and pregnant with number three.  Living in the country with no job, no car and no one to support her, she is depressed and cries all day long.  The "men" in her life call her  a worthless, scum-bag, no-good whore.

Stacy is a mom of two.  She struggles with post-partum depression and is convinced she is a worthless mother because her own mother tells her that every day.

WORTHLESS.

All three are beautiful women - soft spoken, pretty, petite and educated.  And all three feel worthless.

And yet...the God of the universe sent His son to DIE for them.  They have WORTH!   Great value!  For  God...THE GOD...to sacrifice His child, a beloved son...they have VALUE.

Who is going to tell them they are loved?  Who is telling them they are valuable?

When did our society get so cold...so pessimistic that we allow women...MOMS...who are doing a good job parenting their children....to feel WORTH NOTHING?

It is time to start loving them.

I post a picture of Joe and I on the beach...and 27 people "like" the photo. 

I post a request for some people to pour love into these women....and I get 2 "likes" - both from women up in WI! 

I keep wondering what God is doing in my life....that could probably be a series of posts.  I know this now...God is asking me to step up in the love game.  Start loving everyone...my family, my neighbors and even those who are very hard to love.  Why?  Because I keep being brought back to how God loved us even when we were yet sinners, awful, mistake-making creatures.  His LOVE is what draws me near and then keeps me close. 

When did following Christ become about church rituals?  Repetitious prayers?  Pressed skirts and new hymnals?  When did it become more about following a set of rules than loving the way Jesus did?

I am so convicted and burdened with this place God has me in...what if that mom needs to hear just once how much God loves her and I don't say it?  What if those children need to be prayed for and over and loved sacrificially and we don't do it?  God DIED for them and are we too busy "doing church" that we miss the opportunity to pour out love on those who need it the most?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Moms



Two moms

11 kids

1 on the way from China

Awesome!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Broken Finger Blues

I know I haven't been blogging often lately....it's because I have the broken finger blues.  I never realized how much I relied on my pinky finger until I was unable to capitalize any letter on the right side of the keyboard...or hit that "a" for the many words that have an "a" in them.

My splint just came off, so this is actually my first attempt at typing without it in 4 weeks.  I have to admit, each time I am using it, it is tingly and a bit sore.

But...the point is it is off!  And I will start blogging regularly again. 

I have so much to say...

...sharing a beach day with a dear friend who is a fellow adoptive mom (we thought when we got together we would figure out how to save all the orphans in the world..instead, we played with hermit crabs, marvelled at the life in a tide pool, and wondered why in the world was that alligator puking up tennis balls!  See I have a ton to share!)

....having a dear new friend - more like a little sister- come visit me and how we had long talks about the Bible and God and living our lives the way God intended them to be lived.  And then hearing that some of my family thinks I am crazy for the way I live.  I have to admit, the hurt runs deep.

....how George is coming along.  I realize I have left many of you hanging - not keeping you updated on how he is improving and working so hard at being "kind" and "normal" (our two key words with him).

....how God has used our family devotionals to teach us all lessons about valuing life.

...how Safe Families continues to challenge me, mold me, grow me.

.....how I have just purchased 5 tickets to Medellin, Colombia for a mission trip to love on street kids for a week..and how my daughter who said she would NEVER leave the US on a mission trip told me, "I know God wants me to go".

.....how Eleanor and Harry are getting prepared to go on their own mission trip with their youth group.  And so, yet again, our family has decided against vacations and chosen to SERVE.  I guess that is another reason my family thinks we are crazy.

...how we continue to wait for Anna to truly be ours.  She is ours in our hearts and no one could ever take her away.  A little thing called ICPC in Colorado is holding things up.  The state governments don't like children being moved from state to state without their approval.  Her first adoptive mom has given up her parental rights and has named us Anna's parents.  We have social workers, lawyers and guardian ad litems working with us and for us....but we sure could use your prayers that this would finalize SOON!

See...I could probably write 5 or 6 blog posts just on these things that are popping into my head with only one cup of coffee.  I am thankful my finger healed - and amazed at how God created these bodies that would and could heal a broken bone! 

Hang in there - I have been quiet for a long time, so the posts are ready to come pouring out now.