Thursday, November 28, 2013

The First Thanksgiving and being loved

Today I am thinking about the first Thanksgiving ... no, not THAT first thanksgiving, but the first Thanksgiving I ever spent with my husband.

It was nine years ago on Thanksgiving day, and my family had left me home sick for Thanksgiving (in their defense I told them to go on without me).   I was getting ready for my big surgery in a couple weeks and so when I began having some weird symptoms I called my dr. who told me to go to the ER because they thought I was reacting to some antibiotics I was taking.  I didn't have a car and my family was over 3 hours away - so I called my neighbor (Joshua's parents) and asked if anyone could just drive me and drop me off at the ER.  My now Father in law and my Farmer Boy showed up and Joshua drove me to the ER - and he STAYED.

I was embarrassed that he stayed, and so so thankful.

I kept telling him that he was missing Thanksgiving, and should be at home with his family, and he kept saying that he was having fun just being with me and that he didn't want me to be alone.  He stayed with me for 8 hours.  His sweet family waited until 8 pm when he got home to eat Thanksgiving dinner.  I felt bad for making them all wait, I felt sad that he had missed the day playing games with his brothers, and I also felt loved beyond words.

It was on that Thanksgiving that I realized that He loved me, as more than a friend, as more than a neighbor - he loved me!  I wouldn't have admitted it then, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that this guy was being more than a good neighbor that day.

And I am so thankful!

We didn't start dating for almost another year, but ever since that day I have thought about him above all others on this earth.  I didn't realize it at that time, but I loved him too, and I've loved him every day since.

So, today, as we are away from family living in a new place, I am still thankful .... so so thankful that I get to spend this my favorite holiday with the man who loved me on that Thanksgiving so long ago.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A story of two mothers, a wise king, and a love that lets go

Check out this story in the Bible:

1 Kings 3:16-27

16 "Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

I never felt this story applied to my own life before.  I remember as a kid we had an arch book of the story and since I loved babies ever since I can remember, I felt bad for both the women.  Well, last week in church this passage was read and it hit me like it never had before.

We have been seriously looking into adoption and we are at the point where we can begin in earnest the process to being our family through adoption.  We live in a state where adopting through foster care ( which we had planned on pursuing when we moved here this summer) at this point is not possible for us, and the international world of adoption is a very confusing and challenging world.  There is a lot of information out there about child trafficking and my heart keep returning to the thought that maybe we as the church should be helping families stay together (in cases where the family loves and cares for a child the best they can) rather than encouraging desperate parents to put their children in orphanages because they don't have food to feed them.  There are so many countries involved, so many ministries, so many needs - and each of us needs to decide what God would have us to do make a difference.  For my Farmer Boy and I we have felt since day one that if we adopt we would need a clear direction and that likely we wouldn't have real peace about an international adoption unless we were on the ground working in the country where we adopt.  This is not (nor should it be) what every family decides about adoption.  I have many friends who had or are adopting internationally, and they made that decision with God, and I trust that. It is not my job to question or judge what God tells someone else to do about adopting.  But, for us and for this time (it may be that God changes this at some point for us) we have not felt peace about pursuing any international adoption that we have looked into so far.  What if for us helping the orphan crisis internationally looks different?  What if God wants to use the passion for justice in the adoption world that we have, to help us help families stay together in situations of poverty?  We don't know the answers.  We don't know if God will open up a situation internationally for us and give us the green light on adding a child from another country into our family.  But right now, we don't feel we have that green light.

I have been pleading with him for over 8 years that He would give me a baby.  And, every time I run into corruption and questionable practices in adoption agencies or countries I feel like hiding my face and pretending that I don't feel this lack of peace.  I want to just send an application and get a baby.  I want a family!  Why would God let us get to this point and then close door after door for us?

And then I think of the true mother in 1 Kings 3.  She was given the choice of insisting that he was hers and having him suffer and die, or in allowing another woman to have him to save his life.  She was willing to give up her newborn baby because it would protect his life.  The passage tells us she was moved out of love for her son.  It was a quick choice for her give up her parental rights to do what was best for her baby.  I can't imagine how she felt in that moment when she offered her baby to the other woman because she knew it was the only way of saving him.  All of her dreams for him may have flashed before her eyes as she begged the King to give him to the other woman.  What great love she had for her baby.  What a beautiful picture this is!  What a good reminder of love for a child and what that can lead us to do.  What a beautiful picture of what some birth mothers do when they give up a child for adoption.  What a beautiful picture of what I feel God is asking me to do every time I turn away from another agency because of corruption, or when a country closes down to adoption, or when God just flat out tells me no.  I could stomp my feet and scream that it's not fair.  I could ignore God's voice and push through applying to adopt a child even if I am seeing God's red light clearly.  I could close my eyes and rush forward to make it happen just because I am longing with every fiber of my being to be a mama.  But, what would happen?  In some cases a child could end up suffering because of my selfishness.  If I ever hope to be a real mama, I need to learn to give up what I want the most if that is what is best for a baby I love.

I guess the bottom line is that each of us is responsible for how God directs us, and that adoption should never happen because of selfish motives.  It needs to be approached with great care and love of the children.  We each need to seek God to give us wisdom to know when He has a door He wants us to walk though or when we might be pushing our own will.

So - I'll keep knocking and researching and asking questions and most of all praying for God to give what He desires for us - to lead us to the children we believe he has for us (and we DO believe that He has children for us - but maybe more about that in a different post).  But, may I never hold onto my desire to be a mama so tightly that it hurts the babies I want to know and love.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A tribute to my sweet Grammie

She took my little hand in hers and before I knew what was happening we were skipping ... right down the center of a busy mall!  She was so happy and free and didn't care that everyone was looking at us.  When I think of my sweet Grammie, Suzanne Marie Hagen, memories like this one flood my heart and mind.  How can my words give tribute to a true lady and the Grammie that I called: "My Kindred Spirit"?

She used to play for hours with us, and everything was fun of childhood wonder and magic when she was there!  The old green shaggy carpet-covered stairs became a railroad car as we went of journeys far into the countryside.  The bathtub became a beauty parlor where we were transformed into princesses and Grammie would style the billowy bubbles into gorgeous gowns with puffed sleeves.  Because of course every princess needs puffed sleeves when going to a formal ball!

She would read to us on the cozy white couch and the stories of Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and the Three Little Kittens came to life with her perfect story-telling voice.  On slumber party nights we would snuggle under the sweetest smelling sheets (which she had hung to dry) as she would sing to us songs that will stay in my memory forever: "Sweetest Little Fella", "I've Been Working on the Railroad", "Would you Like to Swing on a Star", and "Sleep Kentucky Babe".  I can still see her graceful silhouette in the nursery doorway as she sang "just one more song" until we drifted off to dreamland.

All of us Grandkids used to play for hours in the summer in the little creek that still runs along the back of Grampy and Grammie's house.  We would fish for crawdads and pan for gold.  More than once I have to admit that I "accidentally" slipped into the water so that I would get an extra bath and Grammie would let me wear one of Grampy's soft white T-shirts.  I loved those shirts so much that one Christmas Eve Grammie took one and decorated it with coral lace and little flowers.  I wore it as a night shirt and still have it in my hope chest.

Grammie and Grampy's house was the embodiment of Christmas Eve to me.  Every year Grammie would be there to open the door in her long shirt and delicate lace top.  She always looked like the perfect lady and hostess.  Every corner of the house would be decorated: the glowing Christmas tree (that was always perfect to lay under and see the lights), the white angel choir peeking over the brick wall, the many nativity scenes and even the mischievous looking elves behind the tree.  We would enjoy a meal of Swedish meatball and shrimp curry with white rice and soft dinner rolls.  I can still hear my Grampy saying the blessing in Norwegian.  After dinner us kids would scurry around finding sheets and towels to use as costumes for our Christmas skit.  Grammie always wanted to sing carols and I can almost see her face with tears glistening on her cheeks as we ended with "Silent Night" every year...

Grammie used to take me on birthday shopping trips (which began because I disliked shoes!) we would shop and Grammie would make me feel so grown up.  Over lunch we would talk about anything and everything.  She gave me dating advise, and told me stories of when Grampy and her fell in love.  We talked about books and the Bible and faith.  I'll never forget how she made a grumpy lady at Payless shoes smile and laugh one day.  When we went to the car she told me that she tries to never judge people who may be cross or gumpy because you never know what they might be going through.  She said that she always tries to make the sad people smile.  Every time she heard a siren she would stop and pray for the people involved.  She has such intense compassion and kindness.

I was so blessed that my Farmer Boy and I had the privilege of living in her lovely home with her over the past three years.  She told me over and over how happy she was that we had each other and she adored my Joshua so much.  We spent hours singing hymns and watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune with her.  Grammie and I sang in the Senior Singers choir, and went everywhere together.  I will never regret those three years spent with Grammie.  I learned such valuable lessons, and was challenged and inspired by walking by her side while she made this last journey through life on earth.

No matter how "ready" someone is to go to heaven, it just doesn't seem right to say good-bye.  No matter how much you want them to be free, you don't stop wanting to hold them for one more moment.  Grammie passed into the everlasting arms of her Savior on July 13, 2013.  She was 87 years old.  Those last 23 hours will be in my mind forever. They were sacred moments.

Even now over a month later I find myself wanting to write her a letter or call her up, I can't get used to her not being with me after spending those three years almost inseparable.  I miss laughing with her until we both cried, I miss singing with her "You'll never walk alone" while we got ready for bed,  I miss making strong strong coffee for her and watching her take that first sip, I miss baking lemon squares and hearing her joke about eating them all herself, I miss her stories and quotes, I miss watching the birds with her ...

But I know I'll see her again.  And maybe, just maybe she'll take my hand in hers and we'll skip together down the streets of Heaven.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Miracle Baby and God's Redemption

Christmas through the end of February I felt like my heart was being broken beyond repair.  For a couple months I had imagined a baby being ours, a baby I tried not to love but couldn't help it.  And he wasn't even born yet. 

It all started when my dear friend called me one day in the fall and she said: "Sis, don't get too excited about this, but there might be a baby who needs a family."  Honestly, my first thought was pain for the birth mother and my heart went out to her knowing she was in a hard situation, and what true sacrificial love she was showing her unborn baby.  I didn't even tell my sweet Farmer Boy because it was all quite unreal at that point.  But I could not keep my heart from falling in love with this baby boy, imagining him being our son.  (oddly I knew he was a boy before anyone had seen an ultrasound) All I could do was pray.  I prayed for the birth family, for the baby, for the situation to work out to God's glory, for beauty to come from a hard situation.  I prayed for redemption.

Then one day in late December my friend called me back and I was rushing to get out of the house for a trip to a family funeral and she said: "Ok sis, you need to sit down".  Then she told me that the birth parents wanted to meet us.  I felt like I was going to pass out and I told her that I would get back to her.  Then I told my sweet Husband all about the situation as we drove to the funeral, and all weekend I kept thinking how exciting it would be to bring a baby into our lives and introduce him to our families.

We decided that we would make a choice the week of Christmas.  I don't know how to explain the decision we came to except that God made it very clear that this wasn't our baby.  Then I called my friend and told her that God gave us a clear NO, and she asked if I could help the birth mother find the right family for her baby.  My heart screamed: "NO - I can't do this", but my voice said: "ok". 

Totally overwhelmed I sat in church that evening and knew I needed help in finding this family, there had been a couple ideas of people I knew who wanted to adopt, but God didn't give me peace.  So when the prayer cards were turned in I wrote that there was a baby who needed a family.  Later, I found out that the exact same Sunday another prayer card was filled out by an amazing woman and it read: "Baby # 2 Where are you?" 

Well, the rest of the story is that I ended up making a phone call to the woman who I felt like I was giving "my" baby to, and got her and the birth mother in touch.  This was in January.  A couple weeks later the due date (which we thought was in the early summer) ended up being discovered and it was in March.  This due date meant that for us we wouldn't have gotten a brand new home study completed in time for the baby's birth.  When I think back to this detail, I cannot help but thank God that He protected us - while we might have thought we could adopt in the summer, in March or February it would have been devastating and would have created a lot of stress for the birth mother and the baby.  But my new friend has already adopted and was able to complete her home study renewal with about a week to spare before the baby came.

The night he was born I felt numb.  But at the same time I was hungry for pictures of the new baby and seeing his new mama's face glowing with pure bliss made me feel like he was in the right arms.  Yes, I felt empty, but I also felt such peace.

I met little Alexander (his adoptive parents named him not knowing that our middle name was going to be a form of Alexander), and he was beautiful.  The first time I held him I was in the hospital and his mama brought me a blizzard.  And as I held him in that hospital bed, I didn't cry - I actually felt extreme joy and peace.  It shocked me.  I looked at his little face and I knew that God allowed him into my life not to be my baby but to introduce him to his real mama.  It was a moment that will stand still in my mind forever.  He was a picture of redemption.  God took my broken heart and filled it with joy.  He took my longing for a baby to call my own, and replaced it with peace.  He took women who had no idea each other existed and brought us all together around this little boy all loving him and wanting the best for his life. 

Does this mean that my heart doesn't still hurt sometimes when I see this little guy?  That when I hold him sometimes I have to stop myself from imagining what it would have been like if he was mine?  No, I'm still human.   But I am overjoyed that God did what was best and God used me to be part of his miraculous story.   God used this baby to bring me some new and wonderful friends - I am overwhelmed at God's mercy and kindness in all of this, and my heart is truly filled with joy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why I Love Good Friday

In our culture talking about sin is not politically correct.  Everyone has their own truth, and there are very few if any absolutes.  Everyone is told they have choice over everything, and whatever they choose for themselves is cool.  Advertisers use sex and money to entice us to buy whatever will make us "happy" at the moment.  Long term thinking about actions is often lost in the thrill of "love" or desire for more money, more things, "beauty", and power.  I know this may offend some of you, but sin is real and the Bible is not a book up for any interpretation that fits our desires.  There is right and there is wrong.  And this is offensive.  And not one of us lives up to the perfection of doing, thinking and saying what is right 100% of our lives.  We ALL sin.

This is why I love Good Friday.  Because I know I need a Savior

I cringe when I think of the sinful thoughts I have at times, when I think of dumb things I did (knowing full well I was sinning) in college, when I know my true motives are not pure, when I am hateful or snap at my husband, when I talk disrespectfully about my fellow man, when I am a glutton, when I don't take care of the body God gave me, when I am jealous ... the list goes on and on.  Every single one of us could write a list a mile or twenty long of the ways we have sinned against the Perfect God.  And that's where Good Friday comes in.

Jesus, God with flesh on (as Pastor Jonathan would say), willingly died the most horrifically painful death - and He did that to take the punishment for MY sins, or YOUR sins, for the sins of the whole world.  Good Friday is a day to remember and be grateful for His sacrifice.  When He hung on that cross He not only felt the physical torture, He also felt the weight of all the sins of every person who will ever live.  I feel such horrible weight when I have one sin on my shoulders.  I cannot imagine what that felt like for the perfect Son of God.  And I am so incredibly grateful. 

But you know what the best part about Good Friday is?  That it doesn't stay Good Friday.  Sunday always comes, and with it the celebration of the Risen Savior.  Jesus didn't stay in that Good Friday tomb, Easter Sunday came and with it all the hope and joy the world needs.  We are freed from our sin!  We don't have to carry the weight and punishment with us any longer.

What Jesus did on Good Friday doesn't mean that we should just go and do whatever we feel like.  We still live in an imperfect world and sin is still real.  In fact, Good Friday should make us want to do what is right, it should make us hate sin all the more.  Good Friday should inspire us to live for the One who took our sin on His shoulders to give us the opportunity to have a real and lasting relationship with God. 

So, wherever you are on this Friday, take some time to sit in the awe and wonder of the Savior.  He died so that we might live. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


(writen over a two week period)

Sometimes I wonder if God has me confused for someone else.  Sometimes I look at my life and I get scarred.  I get scarred that there is no use in dreaming anymore.

Tonight a baby boy is being born.  A baby that I fell in love with and dreamed was MY baby.  But, I'm not the mama who is rushing to the hospital to meet her adoptive son.  And my heart is broken all over again.  (even as my heart rejoices with extreme joy for this mama ... more on that maybe later)


Proverbs 13:12 says: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick.  But desire realized brings healing to the bones."  And tonight my heart is sick.

Exactly one week ago it became evident to me that the doors we had been knocking on relentlessly for going to Zambia in the late summer were shut.  Something I had wanted so bad and something I had allowed myself to dream about isn't happening (at least not at this time).  The door we had turned down for a specific teaching job in the states seems to be the door we are now being asked to knock on, and my stubborn heart doesn't want this.  I want what WE had planned.  I wanted to go to Zambia and find a child God had put in my heart there.  But again, the door slammed shut.  And my heart is numb.


Only one day after I started this blog, I ended up admitted to the hospital where I spent nine days, had a NG tube put in my nose (not a fun experience for those of you wondering), tests, throwing up, laying for hours in a hospital alone (when my husband was student teaching and couldn't be there).  I failed at responsibilities and had to stand by and watch others scramble to cover what I usually do day to day.   And my heart felt like it couldn't stand another moment of being me.


If you are thinking that I have some amazingly profound answer to my "why" questions, you can stop reading now.  Because the truth is I don't know why.  I don't know why God would allow my heart to love a child and then take that child from me.  I don't know why God would let me dream of living in Africa (finally!) only to shut that door.  I don't know why when my health has been so stable I would suddenly have to deal with a whole new set of issues and decisions about future treatments.  I don't know why in the midst of health struggles I would question who I can trust with what is going on with my health, why I would struggle with being who I am and allowing God's strength to show through my weakness. 

But I do know one thing.

God makes beautiful things from the dust.  And that's what I cling to in moments like these.  Because, right now, my life feels like dust.  I am grieving the loss of dreams ... again.  I am wondering what the future holds for my health ... again.  And through it all with white knuckles I am clinging to the truth that God DOES make beautiful things from the dust ... from US.  In all our ugliness, all our sin and selfishness, in all our brokenness and in all our pain ... beauty out of ashes.  Take a moment and listen to THIS.  Is your life in a place of dust?  Trust that He can and will make beautiful things - even from what you are going through right now.

Give Him the control and let Him make what He wants from the broken dust of your life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Of hearts and chocolate

Roses, hearts, chocolate ... I can just see some of you rolling your eyes as Valentine's Day comes around again.  I'm already bracing myself for the pity party of dateless people tomorrow.  But, it doesn't have to be that way!  When we were growing up my Mama was the absolute best at making each holiday special.  We would have corn beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread on St. Patty's Day, we would make beautiful fall decorations for Thanksgiving, we would have Easter Eggs filled with pieces of the real Easter story one to open each day leading up to Easter (such a a thorn, a piece of bread, and on Easter Sunday a stone to remember that Jesus rose from the dead) - and for Valentine's Day we would go all out with paper hearts, cookies and a very fun dinner.  I remember making folders to hang on our doors and then making personal cards for each of my six siblings and parents .. at dinner we would sit down to a decorated table and open our cards.  I don't ever remember a boyfriend or girlfriend being at this dinner.  Mom and Dad were always there with us not out on a date alone ... and we enjoyed every moment.  I know that Valentine's Day has romantic roots - but it can be so much more.  No, we shouldn't need a day to say I love you in creative ways .. but it's a good idea!  And most of all Valentine's Day should not be about me and what I wish I had - but about showing love to anyone around you - your parents, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, your spouse, your friends.  I was 30 when I got married - so I know something about being "alone" on the most romantic day of the year.  I still believe that it doesn't have to be a major bummer for those who have no significant other.  Make it about others, not yourself.

My sweet Husband is working tomorrow night, just like he did last year.  I honestly don't think we've ever been on a Valentine's Date since we got married.  And the first ever year we dated we actually went on a double date with his parents... which was a lot of fun, but not totally romantic!  And it's totally ok.  Would I like to spend tomorrow alone with him all to myself going to a fun restaurant?  Definitely!  But I'm gonna make the most of what IS rather than complaining and wishing for what isn't.  I'm spending the evening with my sweet Grammie - and I am going to make her an amazing dinner and dessert and we are just going to do girly things - maybe I'll give her a pedicure and manicure.  I love my Grammie and it's a blessing to have this time to spend together. 

So I guess my point is - life is what it is, and even if this Valentine's Day isn't what you hoped it would be make it wonderful and take the opportunity to love on the people in your life in creative and self-less ways.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Two Babies, and adoption ethics

I want to tell you the story of two babies I met when I spent six weeks in Cameroon in West Africa.  And I want you to read to the end of this post - even if it's hard.  Because the heart of God longs for justice and mercy and so should ours.

As labor pains grew stronger the young mother found comfort in knowing her mother was near.  Grandma Victorine called on Brenda the missionary who had given her a wonderful job working at the missions center.  Brenda came but soon after baby David was born his Mama began hemorrhaging terribly.  Knowing they needed immediate medical care Grandma and Brenda got a taxi and put the bleeding Mama and her newborn baby in and told the driver to head to the nearest hospital.  But when they got there the hospital refused to allow them to come in because the Mama was poor -even though Brenda said she would pay the whole bill and begged them to take her in.  So they started off to another hospital but by then Mama had lost too much blood and she died in Grandma's arms in the back of a dirty taxi.  Baby David was an orphan.  His Mama had died and his father was not in the picture.  If Grandma Victorine hadn't been employed at the mission she probably would have put him up for adoption.  But she wanted him very much and with the help of Brenda and her family she was able to keep and raise her precious grandson.  I watched Grandma carry him everywhere she went and I saw her sing to him and talk to him and the look of love in her eyes was beautiful.  But without the help of the missionaries giving encouragement and employment it could have been a different story.
Victorine and Baby David

We had just entered the orphanage and were sitting on a long wooden bench when I felt the softest touch on my leg.  I looked down and there was a tiny child with big sad eyes looking up at me and just leaning on my leg.  At first I thought she was a boy (she was wearing boys clothes), and I thought she was just wanting attention.  But suddenly I realized she was so weak she was leaning on me to keep from falling down.  So I picked her up.  As I felt her frail little body and looked closely at her hollow eyes I knew something was very wrong.  The baby was very lethargic, her skin was covered in painful looking bumps and she had a high fever.  As she laid her head on my chest I also noticed that her breathing was very shallow and labored.  I honestly thought she was going to die in my arms.  There was no sign of hope in her brown eyes.  As we talked to the orphanage workers we found out that just three days before they had found her alone in an abandoned building eating dirt.  They thought she was about two years old.  They named her Brenda after the missionary.  Two weeks later we were able to visit the orphanage again and I was terrified that I would find she had died.  But as my eyes scanned the group of children I saw her - she didn't even look like the same child.  Her skin was glowing and she had gained weight.  She sat at a big table with other kids eating a doughnut.  But the emptiness was still in her eyes and it broke my heart.  She needed a Mama, not just physical care.  That was in 2001 and still 12 years later I am haunted by her eyes.  I wonder if anyone welcomed her into their home.  I wonder if she was able to have the love she deserved.  My heart still aches when I remember her and it is often.

Baby Brenda
There is a needed discussion happening in the world of international adoption.  It is a painful discussion, a controversial discussion but a very essential discussion.  It reminds me of changes that have (and are) happened with international missions. 

Back in the olden days missionaries from Brittan or America or wherever would sail away to live a life of service to God in a foreign mission field.  But often what would happen would be the white missionary pushing the western traditions down the throats of nationals right along with the Gospel.  There of course were exceptions - but many people were turned off on the idea of missions because respect for the country and the people and traditions was trampled all over in the desire to share the Good News of Jesus.  The Western missionary actually turned people off on the Gospel because of their pride thinking that everyone would be better off if they lived the way we do.  Nationals who loved to dance and drum and wear colorful clothes were told to stand quietly and sing and wear suits and ties.  The choice became choose the One True God or choose your homeland.  Not a very attractive choice.

Long before we began our own adoption journey, I wondered about international adopting.  I saw something similar to what happened with missions going on and it troubled me.  As I have been educating myself more and more I have been even more saddened at what happens in some international adoptions.  I also want to state that I am talking specifically about international adoption.  Domestic adoption is full off needs too and we likely will adopt locally at some point.  An orphan is an orphan wherever they live and we are followers of Christ are called to help orphans.  But helping orphans doesn't always look the same. 

The truth is that not all children in orphanages need to be adopted  by someone from America, or Sweden or wherever.  The truth is that there ARE thousands of orphans all over the world who desperately need families to open themselves to adoption - children who are abused, sick and dying who need to be rescued and adoption is the only way out for them.  But the truth also is that our sometimes prideful attitude can have devastating results on families who are vulnerable in two thirds world countries.  The truth is that a baby like David - who is an orphan but has loving and capable family who want to raise him in his own country does not need to be adopted by me.  Loving Grandma Victorine needed help to be able to raise him and the missionaries were available to give that to her in a perfect job that enabled her to wear her grand baby on her back while cooking etc.  But, sadly often times in African (or other poverty stricken areas) orphanages can be very corrupt and they can do everything they can to talk a vulnerable family out of keeping a baby just because the demand from us is great for new babies who are healthy.  So, rather than adopting the thousands of abandoned and abused children who desperately need homes, in our ignorance and sometimes pride we actually create more orphans by demanding a healthy infant.  It is often ignorance that leads to this.  But it is also often pride.  Yes, we have a lot more money and safety and opportunities than so much of the world.  But, that doesn't mean that we should bring all the children who are in need back to the US with us.  Should we be bringing orphans into our families and churches and country?  YES!  But we need to be aware that not all children are indeed orphans who might be offered to us.  We need to be aware that there is corruption in adopting and we need to pray and research and do all we can to not make the problem worse.  God calls us as His followers to "visit widows and orphans in their distress" (James 1:27)  and many times that means that we need to bring a child or baby into our homes as our own.  But many times I believe that means that we need to reach out to families who want to stay together but just need help.  What if rather than adopting that healthy newborn whose mother has died of AIDS, we find out that her Grandma or Aunt is healthy and able and wants to raise that baby in the family she was born into?  What if we sponsor that child or family?  What if we put some of the thousands we are spending on adopting into giving small business loans and training for a family so that they can afford to purchase formula to feed that baby?  Just because a desperate father brings his newborn to an orphanage doesn't mean he understands or wants that child adopted.  When faced with the choice of letting their baby starve to death or giving up parental rights to keep them alive - wouldn't any loving parent choose life?  That isn't really a choice. But what if there was another choice?  What if the orphanage did all they could to support the family in crisis?  What if there was a milk and medicine program?  What if there was job training?  What is there was another option?  One reason we have been pursuing moving to Zambia is because of the example of the House of Moses.  We want to help where we can and we were attracted to this baby home because they don't seek to adopt out many babies.  Their primary focus is in supporting vulnerable children and families.  Please take some time to look at the website and ask yourself ... what if?

Now, some of you might be fuming right now.  Because you KNOW that there are children who really need to get out of a bad situation, who have no other options and who should be adopted.  So please hear me that I believe in adopting 100%.  I am giving up childhood dreams in order to adopt and be a Mama to children who really need one.  And Africa is where I believe some of our Someday Babies are.  And there are so so many.  There is a definite orphan crisis - and adoption is very close to the heart of God.  When I think of children who need adoption I think of Baby Brenda.  Left to die in an abandoned house.  So hungry she was eating dirt.  Covered with sores and near death.  If her parents were alive and came looking for her - I would fight tooth and nail to never allow her to be with people who would abuse her so.  A loving parent would never intentionally leave a child to die when there are many many orphanages where they could safely drop off a child if they didn't want to or didn't feel they could provide.  There are children who greatly need to be adopted.  And often children who need to be adopted actually have biological parents living.  Parents who abuse them, starve them, or leave them alone to die. Please hear me on this: I am NOT saying that the only children who should be adopted are children who are orphaned by death.

The worldwide orphan crisis feels daunting.  It's a huge huge problem.  As followers of Christ we need to examine our hearts and be part of the solution.  If our part is in supporting vulnerable families and poor communities or opening our heart and home to children who have no options.  It could be done by welcoming orphaned kids into your Sunday school classroom, by supporting families who are adopting, but starting an orphan care ministry at church, by donating coats and pajamas to foster kids, by sponsoring a child, by praying.  It's not an optional thing for followers of Christ - we are all told to visit widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27).  It's true Christianity. 

So what practically can we do:
1. PRAY, pray and pray some more.  If you are in the process of adopting PRAY.  If you know someone in the process, PRAY.  The truth is that we can't know all of the background on every child that might be offered to us - but God can.  Ask for clear direction and truth when He gives it to you!
2.  Use agencies who have good track records.
3.  Look for orphanages who strive to support the communities they are located in - not just orphanages who adopt all children out to "wealthy" Westerners.  Look into the community if you can and find out what the orphanage is doing.  Find out how the orphanage owners are doing?  Are they living in comfort while children in the orphanage are wearing rags?  Ask God to show you what you need to see. 
4.  If possible, adopt where you live!  Many missionaries in Africa end up coming home with a child or two.  They are on the ground, in relationships with rescue home and they have the deep advantage of knowing what is going on, and being able to see what children need them.  I know it's not always possible to move to Africa or Asia or wherever --- but if you are living there look around and be open to what God has for you!
5.  Be willing to accept children who might not appear "perfect".  Many of the children available for adoption are not newborns.  Many have health problems.  Pray for God to give you His heart for children who need you - and then be willing to act even if it isn't what you first envisioned.
6.  Don't give in to corruption.  Have the correct paperwork.  Make sure the orphanage has the correct paperwork.  Don't rush things or pay bribes.  Unfortunately, the more corrupt adoptions that take place the higher the risk of that country closing its doors to adoption completely.  Don't be part of that!  Take the higher road working with reputable agencies and orphanages so that children who need homes won't be trapped in a country that is closed because of child trafficking!!
7.  Pray some more.

I hope that you read this will grace and saw my heart.  There are some fuming arguments going on in the adoption world, and rather than add in an argumentative note my desire is to help push towards better adoption options, to help open people's eyes to the vast need for adoptive families, but also the deep need for support for families who should be allowed to stay together.  I want to challenge followers of Jesus everywhere to open our eyes and to not be part of the problem.  This is only possible through the wisdom and guidance of God - and He is a good God who loves every child.  Let's be part of His justice and mercy to the fatherless.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stretch Marks

I've always been amazed at how a pregnant woman's belly grows over the nine months before the baby is born.  I remember looking at my sister's adorable belly when she was about ready to pop - and just thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I could see my niece's little bum poking out and it was just incredible.  I often hear women complain about stretch marks from pregnancy (and I am sure I would too if my life had included the natural way of having children), but I always feel a little twinge of jelousy.  Because even stretch marks are part of the amazing thing that happens to a womans body!  They are signs and reminders that the woman's belly was pushed and stretched farther than that mommy thought was possible - and the outcome was a beautiful baby. 

Stretch marks are gorgeous to me.

I was reading a blog called Kissies From Katie and one post stood out to me because Katie (a single woman who has adopted 13 little girls while living in Uganda) shared (August 15, 2011) about one of her daughters having lived through suffering that no child should have to face.  She shared about how she longed to be there to wipe away her little girl's tears during the years before she was her mommy.  She said that adoptive mamas have "different kind of stretch marks" and even though I am on the beginning of this journey, I can already feel the stretch marks where my heart didn't think it could stretch another inch.

In our decision not to adopt a healthy newborn here in the states this year a big part of me that had held onto the dream of a newborn baby got stretched.  (and even with how painful that choice was I feel more peace every day and am excited to see how God works this situation out for His glory!) That part of me that I am ashamed to say has felt entitled because I can't carry a baby to say that I should definitely be one to get a newborn has been stretched.  In the back of my mind I have thought that someone who already has had babies should adopt the ones who aren't newborns.  Shame on me!  I am NOT entitled to anything!  Every breath is a gift, and I am so glad that God used this stretching situation to knock me down a few notches.  I needed it, and I will probably need it again (yah, I'm on the stubborn side).  It is stretching for me to know that while some are given adoptions of newborns (and that is a beautiful gift and those babies need forever families too!), but I need to be willing to do what God has put on our hearts at this time, and that likely doesn't mean a newborn. It stretches me to accept that some of our Babies are probably on this earth already.  It stretches me to know that they will go through someone very sad and painful before they call us Mama and Papa.  It stretches me to see siblings and friends with growing families, preparing to give birth to newborns. (yes it does stretch me even though I rejoice and LOVE seeing all these new babies and feel total joy for each birth) It stretches me when I see pictures of babies on facebook with documentation of every first - steps, tooth, haircut, Christmas ... and knowing that somewhere out there our Babies are having firsts too, firsts that we will never know.  It stretches me to know that people may hurt our Babies and we won't be there to defend them.  It stretches me to know that our Babies will be sick and we won't be there to cuddle them.  It stretches me to think that our Babies are going to sleep and we won't be there to tuck them in at night. 

It would be easier to not have to think about all this, but because I have loved our Someday Babies for years now, and because I have covered them and their birth parents with prayer for 8 years - my heart is united to them even before we meet.  And I can't love them and remain unstretched.

I praise God that He is with them and that He is working on me and my sweet Farmer Boy, preparing all of us for the day we will be a family.  Until then, I'll continue being stretched and being grateful for the stretch marks.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


"The more possessions you own, the more your possessions own you".  I heard this quote years ago on an Adventures in Odyssey" episode (I listened to Adventures in Odyssey til I was older than I would like to admit!) and it stuck with me all these years.

As my sweet Farmer Boy is busy sending letters of interest to schools in Africa, starting his student teaching, and gearing up for his LAST SEMESTER of college, I am starting to look around at all the stuff we have accumulated.  I must admit, the thought of packing up all this stuff makes me dizzy.  Bleh - I dislike packing!  As we think about a big move to Africa (Lord willing), I can't imagine how much stuff we will have to leave in storage as we will just be taking a couple of suitcases when we go.  So my New Year's job is to begin downsizing.  It's refreshing to get rid of stuff and feel more free! 

The problem I keep facing is how sentimental I am!  I still have petals from the first wild rose my Farmer Boy picked for me about a year before we started dating .. thankfully I pressed them in the book of Ruth so they aren't taking up any room. ;)  More difficult are the many stuffed animals I have from childhood, the baby stuff I have been saving for our Someday Babies (which feel like more our Maybe Babies now), and the cards written by people I love.  That isn't even touching the dishes and kitchen stuff!  So, I think what helps me is thinking that we can give away some of our stuff to someone who can use it!  I've always been the kind of person who believes that the good china, that special dress, the quilt great grandma made should be used because every day is a special occasion.  I hate to think of waiting all my life to use something special and then never get to enjoy the beauty or fun ... Because of this I hate to think of dishes and useful things of ours sitting in boxes while we live in a different continent.  I'm not really sure what we will do, but I hope that we can give a lot of our stuff to others to use!  I wish we had a little house to set up cute with all our darling wedding gifts and things we have collected and use it as a guest house for missionaries visiting the states, or someone who needs a place to live ... wouldn't that be so fun!?

Well, this is a rather rambled post - just something that has been on my mind a lot over this past week and probably will be on my mind for some time to come as we prepare to move.  I don't want to be owned by things that are not even close to the importance of the people we come into contact with on this earth.