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Archive for the ‘Living Life a Christian’ Category

Today is the Reason I Never Visit My Parents’ Graves

Yesterday my cousin went to our grandmother’s grave. As many people do, she cleaned it up, and placed flowers in the vase. It made me realize that in all the seven years since my parents died I have only been back out to the grave once, and only at the request of my grandparents.  Today is Easter Sunday, and it also made me think of the women who went to visit Jesus’ grave. They went there to pray, and grieve. On that first Easter Day they chose to go there, because that is where they thought He was. Of course, we know He wasn’t there. HE Is Risen!

It is because of this truth that I don’t go to my parents’ graves. My parents are not in their graves, because Jesus  is not in His. Sure, there is some decaying shell of the human bodies they once occupied while they were here, but they are not there anymore. Just as there was nothing for those women visiting Jesus’ tomb, there is nothing for me at those graves. Now, I don’t know exactly where they are, or what they are doing. But, I do know that where ever it is they are waiting expectantly, just as I am waiting expectantly for Jesus to return. We are waiting for His return to cast  out evil, settle up with non believers, and conquer death once and for all. Basically, this is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again so that we can have hope in our grief, and not fear death. 

Jesus offers this hope to everyone, and just because some don’t believe it, doesn’t make it any less true. On that first Easter Day the tomb was either empty, or it wasn’t.  It is either true, or it isn’t. If you aren’t sure how to answer that, or if you think it’s a lie, I want to encourage you to really look into this question. All of us need to be absolutely sure about the answer we give. Like it or not, you are betting your hope,  your future, and your eternal life on it.  If you are thinking about giving the Bible a look, for what it’s worth, Romans is my favorite. 

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God’s Plan is NOT MY PLAN! How God is Pulling Me Kicking and Screaming Toward Foster Care Adoption.

There is a little girl in one of my preschool classes. She can be tender hearted towards kids that need help, and is very bright. She also has a will made of iron. The other day a teacher asked her to do something she did not want to do. She ended up under the desk, shaking it while crying out “God’s plans are NOT MY plans!”. We go to the same church as this little girl so I am sure she has been in many Sunday school classes where she has heard that we need to be obedient, and bend our will to HIS will.

I know exactly how she feels. Now, I haven’t screamed at anyone or shaken any desks over it, but I have been struggling with obedience, and trusting in His plan.  We never expected to go to China for our first adoption, and we sure didn’t expect to adopt a second time from China. Over the last few years China has become our normal, our comfort zone. We have done it twice, and know what to expect. We have the paper chase down to a science being able to anticipate what needs to come next. We know a little bit of Mandarin, and even know where our favorite restaurants and shops are in Guangzhou.  We have grown to love China and its people, and wanted to go back “one more time”. We were so looking forward to going back again. That’s been the “plan” for the last three and a half years. I can’t count the times I’ve said “Well when we go back to China I’ll…..”.

As it turns out, we won’t go back to China. I was shocked, and broken hearted to learn that the Chinese officials rejected our pre application for a third adoption due to our visual impairments. Of course we appealed. We made videos of us doing regular mom and dad things. We wrote an appeal letter, our 13-year-old adopted daughter wrote an appeal letter, and our agency fought hard for us.  We did everything we knew to do to change their minds, but eventually we had to accept that China was closed for us. We knew in our hearts that yes, the Chinese officials had said “no” to us, but so had God. After all we had two Chinese children that proved that their decision had made zero logical since.

I was so mad that I really wanted to give up. I wanted to settle for the five amazing and beautiful children we have. I wanted to be done, and move on. I mean life is good right now. Our adopted children are adjusting well, our kids are relatively healthy, and are all doing well. My youngest will go to Kindergarten next year, and we will be moving to a new stage in life as parents of older kids. Did I really want to have another preschooler or toddler? Did I really want to risk a child with a difficult adjustment to living in a family, or might have attachment issues? There were a million reasons why it was ok for us not to adopt again, but through every excuse I made God quietly whispered “You still have room in your home and heart for another child who needs a family.”

I then began looking at other international countries. Many internet searches, and phone calls later I was disheartened that none of those programs were going to work for our family. Eastern Europe countries wanted loooong incountry stays. Several other programs such as India have a four child already living in the home maximum, and we have five. After crossing off each country I knew I was moving closer and closer to domestic foster care adoption. THAT WAS NOT MY PLAN!!!

There are good reasons why we chose international adoption to begin with.

1)     I don’t want to deal with biological families.

2)     I don’t want to deal with seeing kids that I love on, sent back to the same terrible conditions they came from.

3)     I don’t want the State THAT involved in my business.

4)     I don’t want the State telling me what I can and cannot do with my child.

5)     I don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a broken-hearted child whose parent didn’t show up to a visit, or showed up high, and couldn’t see the child.

6)     I don’t want to deal with a child who has BIG feels and BIG problems because of the abuse they have suffered by those who are meant to love them the most.

7)     I don’t want to deal with how losing a child we loved for so long to an extended family member would possibly affect the children we already have.

8)     I don’t want to deal with a broken system full of misinformation, turnover, and protecting the rights of biological parents when it isn’t the best interest of the child.

Basically, I told God domestic foster adoption was too hard, too risky, and required too much of my heart. This is pretty much what He had to say about all that.

Dear Elisabeth,

I know you do not want to deal with all of that stuff. No body does, but do you honestly think the kids that are dealing with it every day want to deal with it any more than you? Could you look one of these little ones, and tell them “This is too hard. You’re not worth it?”.  These are real children, with real needs that you can meet. Remember when I brought you Quinn? She was an older child adoption with a scary special need that you had zero experience with.  Yet, now you cannot imagine your life without her, and more importantly, you can’t imagine her life without you.  Y’all are experienced parents of five, experienced adoptive parents well acquainted with connected parenting. You both have counseling field degrees. I have prepared you for this. I don’t ask for what I am not going to provide for. Get out of your comfort zone, and TRUST ME.

Soooooo yeah, my husband and I attended our first orientation meeting with CPS yesterday. We have no idea what this will look like. If we will love one child, or many. If we will love them for a day, or lifetime, or somewhere in between. We do know that the Lord Himself goes before us, and will be with us: He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We will not be afraid or discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8) We will get out of our comfort zone, take a running leap, and say “Yes Lord, send me!”.

 

 

 

 

For At Leat One Child,No, Five Isn’t Enough

My husband and I have recently started telling our friends that we are ready to adopt again, and are actively searching for a little girl to round out our family. To be sure many of our friends and family have been excited and supportive. However, the most common response is a look of half confusion, half shock accompanied by the words ” What? Five kids isn’t enough for you?”.  They say it as if somehow we are being unreasonable or even irresponsible with our choice to add another child to our family.  It’s almost as if adding another child is like adding a luxurious accessory such as a sports car, or vacation home. I mean seriously, just how many of those do you need? Mostly I respond with a polite grin, and chuckle, but this is what I am screaming on the inside. 

For us, five is enough. It’s enough laundry, and meal prep, and homework, and after school activities, and, and, and……. 

But, for at least one little girl sitting in an orphanage half way around the world tonigh, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who waits for a mamma to love her through the good times, and shepherd her through the bad ones, five isn’t enough.

 For the little girl who doesn’t get enough to eat, or have access to quality healthcare, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who even if she is lucky enough to get medical care doesn’t have a mom to advocate for pain management or even make sure her lunch is served in the hospital, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who even if she is in a “good”orphanage still sleeps in a room full of cribs or cots, five isn’t enough. 

For the little girl who will be on her own after she ages out, and likely will have trouble getting a job due to her “orphan” status, five isn’t enough.

For the little girl who isn’t allowed to go to school because of her special need, five isn’t enough.

There is a little girl half way around the world who needs a FORVER family. A family to love her, protect her, and provide for her as much as they can for as long as they can. We have room in our hearts and our home for another little girl, so how could we not add another child to our family?  The saddest part is that six isn’t enough either. Neither is seven, or eight, or even 100. For that reason, my prayer is that every person who feels the tug of adoption on their heart would be able to overcome the fear and doubt to open their heart to “one less” little girl or boy who needs them. 

We Aren’t Awesome People, We Serve An Awesome God

I’ll be the first to admit my husband and I aren’t like all the other families on the block. For starters, we are visually impaired. This means we live our life using public transportation as neither of us can drive. Second, we have five children, and two of them are adopted from China.Two of the three of our biological children are also visually impaired. Our oldest adopted daughter has Spina Bifida, and uses a wheel chair. She is very independent, and a great kid, but there are lots of doctor visits to schedule, and medical bills to pay. Not to mention that with five kids there is more food to buy, more laundry that needs washing, several schedules to iron out, and some one is almost always in need of correction. But, that  also means there are more birthday celebrations, more laughter, its never boring, and there is almost always someone to play with.  We live crazy, super fun, super loud, and sometimes stressful lives.
We have great friends and family who love us, and support our decision to build a large-ish family through both birth and adoption. In an effort to be encouraging I often hear “Y’all are AMAZING! I don’t know how you do it. I COULD NEVER DO SOMETHING LIKE WHAT Y’All HAVE DONE.” While I know people say this with nothing but love and respect, it makes me cringe.

I cringe because it vastly diminishes the role of God in our lives. There is nothing extraordinary about us except when God called we said “yes”. We were just as scared about an unknown future with adopted children as anyone would be. Like everyone else we wondered where the finances were going to come from, and if we had enough emotional reserves to parent kids from hard places. We worried about the impact on our three biological kids, and what if we had a child with big hurts that led to big family problems.  BUT, we were more confident in God’s abilities than we were  not confident in our own.

You see, we are confident that God doesn’t ask for what He isn’t willing to provide for. We are confident in His Word, and His promises. We are confident that aligning our life with His priorities will always be more fulfilling, than living with worldly comforts. We are confident that He sees each of our children, and will provide them with hope and a future. We are confident that God is our redeemer, our healer, and our source of  strength in times of weakness. There are those hard, messy days that make me feel like a failure, and doubt my ability to shepherd this crew. I remember that I am not enough, nor will I ever be enough, but I am confident that He is. I am confident that  His grace fills in, and restores all of the cracks.

At the end of the day we are just as frail and human as anyone else. By thinking we are somehow better than average it kind of lets people off the hook. It says others don’t have to do what we have done, because somehow they have the mistaken belief that we are more equipped. Don’t get me wrong, I get that adoption is a calling that not everyone has. But, I’ve heard  1,000 times  “I’ve thought about/wanted to adopt/foster, but….”  My prayer is that all of those who have even the smallest seed of orphan care planted in their hearts will bravely say “yes” to that calling. Does it require sacrifice? Yes. Is it hard and uncomfortable sometimes? Yes. Do we sometimes mess up in even big ways? Yes. But, there is no sacrifice or mess up too big for God to heal, and redeem. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to be a active participant in a small piece of God’s redemption story in the life of a living breathing human being who needs you. 

“We adopt not because we are  redeemers, but because we are the redeemed.” Sermon by David Platt 

What if We Weren’t Brave Enough to Say “Yes”? 

The first time I saw Quinn’s advocacy video I couldn’t stop thinking about her. We decided to adopt again from China, and honestly thought we were looking for a young girl with vision issues. Low vision is something we have lots of experience with, and are comfortable living with. Quinn didn’t have thick glasses, or a blind cane: Quinn had a wheelchair.  I saw a remarkable child with such resiliency, intelligence and kindness, but that wheel chair scared me. I prayed for her mother to find her. I knew in my heart that she needed a family if she was ever to have a real chance at life. But, that wheel chair scared me.  Over the next month or so I looked over hundreds of kids’ advocacy files, but Quinn was always on my heart. I just kept going back to that website, and back to her video. I must have watched it a dozen times.

Over time I started to wonder if she could be our daughter. We even contacted her adoption agency and asked to review her file. But, she was an older child? Could we deal with the emotional needs that sometimes come with that? But she had spina bifida, and used a wheel chair. But, we live in a two story house, and have no ramps or bathroom bars? But we don’t drive, and use public transportation?  But how would we pay for the medical bills? But…..but…..but?  We weren’t brave enough, and sent her file back.

A week or so later we still couldn’t stop thinking about Quinn or watching her advocacy video. The fact is, she was a real human being who needed a family. We are both firm believers that God doesn’t ask for what He will not provide for. Although we weren’t sure how it would all work out we took a running leap off the cliff of faith trusting that God would be there to catch us. We called the adoption agency back, and signed the first documents on the long road to make Quinn our daughter.

We brought Quinn home on August 1, 2015. Turns out we haven’t made any adjustments to our home. She can pop her wheel chair up to get through the threshold of our house. She doesn’t need any bathroom bars or bath stools in the tub. She scoots up and down the stairs on her bottom. She went to school in China so we started her in school here with our other kids. She is doing great. Our school has bent over backwards for her, and she is a very self motivated English language learner. She is a nice likable child, and has had no trouble making friends. Especially now that her conversational English is good. Have we had our issues? Yes. Have we had our fair share of meltdowns, and rages? Yes. But, all in all she has melted into our family. It’s almost as if she was always here. She has taught us so much about choosing joy, and determination.

About three weeks ago she needed a major spinal cord surgery. She had a tethered cord and lipoma meaning her spinal cord was attached somewhere it shouldn’t be near the base and it was covered in a type of fat. It was causing a whole host of problems with her body including scoliosis and really tight leg muscles. Her bladder was also affected.  Turns our her case was more difficult than the doctor thought, and a 3-4 hour surgery double into an almost 8 hour surgery. The next three days were very painful, and she had lost all of the functioning in her legs ( her right leg she could temporarily stand on, and used it a lot to get round).  She was afraid that her body would never work the same again, and that physical activities would be even harder for her than before. She was over the extreme pain and having to stay perfectly still in bed. I could see the light that fueled her determination and resilience starting to flicker and burn out. I was over it too. I was doing my best to stay strong and be encouraging for her, but I started to doubt my decision to have the surgery. I went in the bathroom and cried.

I looked up into the mirror with my mascara streamed face, my lipstick and hair a big old mess. I hadn’t slept more than an hour or so at a time in days.  At that moment a Bible verse flooded my heart. It was almost as if the Holy Spirit spoke it too me. It was 2 Timothy 1:7 “God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love…” It reminded me that fear always boils down to a lack of faith. I cleaned my self up, brushed my hair, and decided then that no matter what I was going to trust God. I was going to trust that He placed this child in our family (Psalm 68:6). I was going to trust that He knows ever last hair on her head, and sees what she goes through (Matthew 10:29/31). I was going to trust the plan even if I couldn’t see it. Even if it didn’t look like what we expected, or seemed harder. I was going to trust that it was good. (Jeremiah 29:1)  I was determined to cast out the doubt and fear in my heart, and replace it with trust.

Fast forward three weeks, and she is doing great! She gets more strength and movement in her legs every day. She can now use her legs in ways she couldn’tdo before the surgery. We celebrate with joy and thanksgiving every sign of progress. The hard parts were very hard, but they are over for now. Her body is healthier, and will continue to get stronger. She faces one more surgery later this summer to fix her knee. The tethered cord caused her left leg to bend and get stuck in a bent position. This will be a long 2-6 month recovery, but by Christmas she should be good to go. 

The one thing that haunts me is what if we had said no? What if we hadn’t been brave enough to say yes, because we almost weren’t. We knew nothing about wheelchairs or spinal cord surgeries. All we had to go on was a love in our hearts for this child, and an unshakable belief that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He absolutely equips the called. It haunts me knowing she would have never received these surgeries in China, and would have likely lost functioning as she aged eventually going from an orphanage to a nursing home. The beautiful, determined, intelligent, kind, helpful, joy filled light that shines so brightly within her would never been given the chance to fully develop. Today, because we said “yes”, that won’t happen. Plus, turns out, wheelchairs and tethered cords aren’t nearly as scary and unmanageable as it once seemed.

If God is speaking to your heart about something do it, say “yes”. Even if it is scary. Even if you have no idea what you are doing. You will, and although there will be had spots, it will be an amazing journey. I am happy to talk with anyone considering adoption, or about parenting a child with special needs. It really isn’t that scary, and you really can do it! 

 

When God Tells You Who You Are BELIEVE Him!

The other day one of my kids came in the back door crying because someone called him a “big fat jerk”. I asked him if he was in fact a big fat jerk, and looking at the floor he slowly shook his head no. Hugging him I said that when people say bad or untrue things about him he should stand up tall, and confidently say “Those words are not true, and I don’t care what you say about me.”. I encouraged him to practice saying that sentence. The first time tears were still streaming down his cheeks and I could barely hear his voice. We said it again and again together until his head and shoulders were high and there was conviction and strength behind his words. We practiced because he could say that sentence 100 times, but until he really took it into his heart and BELIEVED it to be true, the words would have no power.

A short time later I found myself in a funk. I was anxious about all the never ending house hold chores I hadn’t completed. I felt insecure about looking older, and worried that I wasn’t spending enough time with my husband. I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids, teaching them enough, making them eat enough good foods. In short I felt unworthy of my house, my marriage, my children……basically my life. I allowed these thoughts to seep in through the cracks of insecurity and unworthiness in my heart, and pool together at the bottom of my soul leading to feelings of failure and despair.

Mercifully I was doing a women’s Bible study by Pricilla Shirer called “The Armor of God’, and the idea of using the “Helmet of Salvation” to “take every thought captive” was fresh in my mind. (An amazing Bible study that I highly recommend) I began to break down and evaluate these thoughts, and compare them with His truth as found in the Bible. I realized that most of these thoughts were rooted in lies of deception, guilt, and unworthiness. None of witch comes form God, and in fact are used by the Devil to deceive us and shield our minds from the truth.

Every time I identified a thought or someone else’s words as untrue I stopped what I was doing. Bound that untruth in my mind, and purposefully rejected it. I then asked the Holy Spirit to replace that lie by speaking truth to my soul. Over time I began to identify these lies more quickly, and I made room in my heart for God’s truth. We tell our children they should be confident in who God made them to be. We tell them to ignore and stand courageously against lies they hear from others. Unfortunately, we don’t always apply that wisdom to our own lives, because deep down although many of us already know God’s truths we don’t really BELIEVE it in our soul. So……

When He tells you he loves you, and will provide what you need BELIEVE HIM!

When He tells you you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He knit you together in your mother’s womb BELIEVE HIM!

When He tells you not to be anxious about bad seasons in life, but to see it as an opportunity to grow in wisdom and strength knowing that He will see you through it BELIVE HIM!

When He tells you eternal salvation is as easy as accepting Jesus as your savior and putting Him first in your life BELIEVE HIM!

Anything contradictory to His truths are lies conceived to destroy you peace, your faith, your hope, and your calling according to  His purposes. Once you know these truths and you BELIVE God is who he says he is, and you BELIEVE you are who God says you are in Him, you can easily identify and reject the lies seeping into your life. In doing so you leave room in your mind and heart for the Holy Spirit to speak TRUTH into your life. You start to BELIVE in your heart that you are a child of God, as in the CREATER OF THE UNIVERSE GOD, and any outside approval you may or may not receive becomes insignificant in comparison.

A favorite mantra of mine is “If it is good enough for God, I don’t care if its good enough for anyone else”. I’ve been saying this to people as an encouragement for the last few years, but I didn’t  really BELIEVE it in my soul. I would say it, but just like my son, the words had no power behind them. I still had feelings of doubt, insecurity, unworthiness, anxiety , and fear. Once I started rejecting the lies behind those feelings, and BELIEVING that what God says about me is true I found a inner peace and joy that I have honestly not had since I was a child. Now I can hear the lies whispered into my ears intended to settle in my heart, and say with confidence ” I am a child of God. Those words are not true, and I don’t care what you say about me.”

 

 

I’m a Tax Collector

A few Sundays ago I was in church discussing the fact that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were thought to be particularly  terrible people as they got rich from taking more taxes than they were due, and by collecting taxes for the Roman Empire they were assisting in the oppression of their own people.  Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheaus were all used as examples of  tax collectors who Jesus spent time with. In Mark 2:16 the Pharisees called Jesus our for eating with “sinners and tax collectors”. The implication of this study being that as Christians we should climb down off our high crosses, and  reach out to the lowly sinners and tax collectors to show them the error of their ways. Are you kidding me?!?!  I find this sentiment especially  repulsive, because guess what ? We are all tax collectors.

In case you missed it I’m gonna say it again.

WE ARE ALL TAX COLLECTORS!

I can clearly remember being 15, sitting on my bed with my BFF discussing everyone else’ sins. We were patting ourselves on the back because we didn’t smoke, or drink, or sleep around, and we were absolutely judging those we knew who did. I had a list of do’s and do not’s, and I felt my list of do not’s was pretty clean (at least on the outside). It wasn’t, but I felt it was especially when I compared myself with the other kids I knew. In reality, on the inside, I was judgmental, manipulative, gossipy, prideful and self-righteous. I was every bit as big of a “tax collector” in need of redemption as the kids we were trash talking. The only difference was my sins are not as easily detected by others from the outside. And by the way over the years I have participated in more than my fair share of those easily detectable sins as well.

The point is all of us have stuff that puts us at odds with God’s standards. Even those who we would consider to be really “good people” are not. Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Furthermore, Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We are ALL sinners and tax collectors in need of reconciliation with God. Even our very best attempts at living a Holy life falls so incredibly short of God’s standards that it is compared to “filthy rags“. Our hope of redemption does not depend on how clean our list of do’s and do not’s is, but from accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the resulting infusion of the Holy Spirit within us.

I see people all the time standing on street corners throwing people’s sins up in their faces. They are ranting about sins like alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality, and promiscuity. They call these sins abominations, and tell people that if they stop doing them they can come to know Jesus. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not a 10 step program. John 3:16-17 does not say “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and  only Son, and whoever  shall not drink, smoke, engage in homosexuality, fornicate, engage in adultery……. will not perish, but have ever lasting life….” Instead it says ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is impossible for people to overcome sin and then come to Jesus, as it is only through Jesus that sin can be overcome.

So instead of thinking of ourselves as Christians reaching out to the “lowly” sinners and tax collectors how much more amazing would it be if we said “I am a sinner and tax collector too. This is my stuff, and this is how Jesus has brought me through it, and continues to bring me through it every  moment of every day of my life. AND this is how you can lay your stuff at his feet too.” Instead of putting on a face of perfection so people will see how Holy and self-righteous I am, I need to be showing people my brokenness so they can see how Holy and righteous my God is.  When confronted by the Pharisees for eating with sinners and tax collectors Jesus simply replied ” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I don’t know about you, but I’m just another sick tax collector patient in the hospital of life in need of a cure named Jesus.