Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sharing Love

As Christians, we often scratch our heads wondering how we can share the gospel without souring friendships, or turning off coworkers, or alienating ourselves from neighbors.  If you offer up Jesus' great news of forgiveness to people who don't think they need to be forgiven, it only offends them.  Who are the easiest people to whom we can offer God's love? Those who KNOW that they have great needs.  Whether they feel a great need for forgiveness, or for food, or for love, or for a home -- they realize that they are not self-sufficient, and they may be ripe to the idea of their Savior.

My heart grows more every day for orphan ministry. I have no idea what direction I should take with it, but I know that there are endless ways I could serve. There are millions of children in this world who have GREAT needs, and are ready to be loved.  It is a direct route to being the hands and feet of Christ.  I can't wait to see where God takes us...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Numb

I’ll admit it… I’m tired of the wait.

Waiting feels so empty. There is nothing to mourn because we’re delayed – not stopped. There is nothing to work towards because it is out of our hands. I can no longer look at Ugandan pictures and travel tips in excitement because, truth be told, I need to protect my heart. I do not know what God is doing or where He is leading us, and I have to stop obsessing over this country that I have grown to love so deeply. I can’t even imagine what our family will look like after this adoption because I’m no longer sure what age God is calling us to, or what age Caroline will be when we finally work all of this out. I never thought I’d have an only child for two or three years. I have always wanted my children to have siblings close in age.

I am sad and numb. I am not without faith. God has a plan that is bigger than us. But while we wait, I don’t know where to direct this deep, overwhelming love that is in me for the child we so badly long to adopt.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ripping Off My Husband

I realize it is totally nerdy to like your own husband's blog enough to repost it. Oh well. Call me a nerd. This was too good.

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sabbath

This whole adoption process is about the Sabbath. You say, "What? How is resting on Sundays partially the point of adoption?"  Let me explain. God didn't command that we rest one day a week to promote laziness, or to frustrate us as we watch laundry piling up.  I'm beginning to think His point is RELIANCE.

Think about it... On a week when you have a million balls up in the air, don't you feel like they might all come crashing down if you stop for one second? Sure, a day of rest sounds nice, but seriously. You have work to do.  People are relying on you.  If YOU stop, deadlines won't be met, the week will be disorganized, and everything will fall apart.  It's all about YOU and YOUR ability to hold it all together.

And God reminds us, "No, I hold it together. Stop. Stop working and take a minute to REST in me.  When you stop, you'll see that nothing worthwhile falls apart. Priorities come in line. And you'll notice that I have always been the One in control."

And what do we do? (What have I personally done, almost EVERY Sunday?) I don't believe God. I speak words of belief with my mouth, but my actions say this: "Sure, You're in control, I know. But God, I just have to get this done. There's no other way."  (Implying what? That we don't trust God enough to take the break that He commands. That He grants. We don't RELY on Him.)

Taking a break from our earthly work, for just one day, is a physical reminder of what Christianity is.

Isn't TRUE Christianity all about giving up on the "work" of "religion"?  It's not a juggling act to keep our piety up in the air.  Christianity isn't working towards righteousness.  It is realizing that we stink.  And that God is gracious and loving anyway. And HE will get it right for us.  IF we rest in Him. HE is our Sabbath.


(So how does this relate to adoption?)

Many of you already heard that the US Department of State has issued a statement regarding the "legal guardianship" situation in Uganda. It's nothing new. Just a statment.  But as Michelle said, "It is troublesome for there to be a need for an adoption announcement on the official US adoption website. We wish that the issues were short-lived and miniscule enough to fly under the US Dept of State's radar."

(sigh)
 
And the uncertainty continues. 

But what can we do? There is no WORK for me to chase after.  Nothing I do will make the Embassies and High Courts in Uganda act.  I have one option: REST in God. My Sabbath. Who I rely on. Who is in control, whether I am feverishly running on a hampster wheel, thinking I'm getting somewhere, or laying in His arms, gazing at His beautiful face. I am totally weak in this situation. I am powerless.  And there is no better way to be.
 
"But [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."   2 Corinthians 12:9

Monday, February 22, 2010

All in a Year's Work

This time last year, Brad and I were about to start some major tasks.  I was starting my first tax season in my first "career" accounting job.  That in itself was an adjustment, as I learned to juggle work with being a wife and mother to a 1 year old.  But we decided, what's the big deal?  Why don't we add adoption to the list?  And our apartment won't hold another child, so we better build a house.  Oh yeah, and Rachel, you should sit for all four sections of the CPA exam BEFORE you're a mother of two! Brad, are you feeling ready to start the ordination process? Let's dive in. 

How is that for taking on the world finacially, mentally, and emotionally?

Today, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am not quite so new at work. We've done everything we can do for our adoption at the moment, other than WAIT. (and wait and wait.)  We are living in the house that Brad worked so hard on for us.  And today at noon, I am sitting for my fourth and final section of the CPA exam. Will you pray that I pass?
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  Prov. 16:9

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ready to Be a Big Sis

Caroline looks like a pro already, doesn't she?  Here she is on her birthday playing "big sis" with our friend's baby boy. (Her dress came from Its Poppy Dip, which funds Ethiopian adoptions.)





Thursday, February 18, 2010

Discussions in Uganda

Click here to read the latest update on Uganda from our agency.  Lifeline continues to feel hopeful. Nothing has actually been decided between the Ugandan courts and the US Embassy yet, but our agency seems to think that there is a likelihood that special needs adoptions may become available in Uganda.

All of this is conjecture. Like I said, nothing is firmly decided. I personally think it'd be amazing if we were told that we had to either choose between 1) a child with special needs from the country we cherished for so long, or 2) a healthy child from another country. Wouldn't it be like God to stir my heart for special needs just before this decision came along? I would feel so sure about our calling if doors opened to Uganda, which I love, under the conditions of facing those health issues which I just realized I needed to gladly surrender over to God.

Who knows what will happen. All I know is that God is strengthening my faith, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Told God "No"

The prayer I prayed at the start of our adoption process:


God, we will obey you in whatever you ask -- but only if you're asking us to parent a young baby.


God, we will give our care to whomever you place in our arms -- but we will not let You place in our arms any child with severe medical needs.


We will follow Your will whatever the cost -- unless the cost would make life hard on our Caroline. (Heaven forbid we show her that the difficult road walked in Your presence is far more amazing and rewarding than a comfortable and empty life on our own terms.)


We trust you endlessly -- until You ask us to do or believe You through anything frightening.

I was so wrong. Thank God that He allowed there to be such uncertainty in our adoption. Yes, I want to know the answers. But this time of irresolution has taught me one thing: I am not in control. Not over our our adoption's timing, not over our child's age, health, & nationality, not over anything.  And I am so glad.  I believe that God's will is best -- regardless of what it is.

It is like I am now letting go, only to realize that my hands were clinched tightly around nothing at all. I never called the shots in the first place. And now, I want obedience. My eyes are open to the beautiful possibilities in all of those things I said "no" to at first with this adoption... special needs, different ages, different countries.

We have no reason to change course with our adoption right now. We have no reason to stop waiting for something to change in Uganda at this moment. But I told God this: My heart is open. I am ready for You to do whatever You will. And I am willing to follow. There is beauty in YOUR plan, God. Not mine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Loving the Nations

My brother gave me the best advice last week regarding all that is happening (or not happening -- who knows!) with adoption in Uganda.  He is a missionary in Japan... only his first love was Indonesia. For years, he thought he would be a missionary to Indonesia. He wanted to go to Indonesia. Yet God sent him with his wife and baby boy to Shizuoka City, Japan.

David said that it was humbling to let everyone know that he'd been wrong in his assumptions about where God was leading his family.  But ultimately, he said, he wasn't sorry to have fallen in love with a country he may never live in.  He said he learned this crucial fact:  we may fall in love with a group... with a nation. That's okay. God originally had His own special nation, too, in Israel.  But God's ultimate love is for the nations. For the world.

By nature, we are all so self-centered. We love ourselves, and those like us.  Sometimes, God awakens our cold hearts to the love of those different from us by using one.  One person, one group, one nation, one ethnicity.  For me, that one was Uganda.  For my brother, one began in Indonesia.

But the point of God growing our hearts is not that we stop at loving that one. If our hearts are really becoming like His, then we will have a heart for the nations.  And above all else, we'll have a heart for whatever pleases God.

So with that in mind, I gain a little more peace about whatever may happen with Uganda.  Yes, I greatly favor things working out in Uganda. (And our agency feels confident that it will.) But I pray that my heart is opening to a love for all people. I pray that my heart is becoming open to children of all ages, all ethnicities, and all medical needs with regards to our adoption.  With regards to life... wow. How do you learn to serve the world in a way that they see beautiful, sweet Jesus? God help us. I know He will.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hope

I have been spending every bit of energy hoping for our child-to-be.  Then, the post of another blogger also awaiting news from Uganda reminded me of what hope really is.  HOPE, in everyday conversation, relates to things for which we do not know the outcome, i.e., "I hope it snows tomorrow."

But when we HOPE, in Christianity, we know the outcome.  In Christianity, HOPE is anything BUT uncertainty. Hope is being CERTAIN of those things for which we see no evidence.

Here is an excerpt from the blog that reminded me how to have faith.  Not faith that things will go how I planned or dictate, but faith that God is lovingly orchestrating a story that will allow those who love Him to see His beauty, glory, & might. Be sure to check the whole post out here.


Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2
The ancients were commended for a faith that was sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  My faith, in contrast, had ever so subtly shifted from certainty in what I do not see to dependence upon the visible evidence of His control, goodness, love and power in my immediate circumstances.  The uncertainty of my circumstances has rocked my world because my hope began to direct itself toward the visible, tangible experiences of His Kingdom rather than the "unalterably sure" promises of God's redemptive plan, as Geerhardus Vos puts it.  
The "ancients" believed in this Redeemer and God's plan to make all things new, even as they sat enslaved, imprisoned, discouraged, defeated and running after their own efforts of fulfilling God's promises for Him.  Think about how disoriented Jesus' own disciples were at the time of His death because their hope had been in the immediate rather than in the ultimate redemption of all things.  Looking back in Biblical history, the story isn't of each person's circumstances demonstrating success, victory and power, but of God's Kingdom moving from death to resurrection, consistently and progressively, even if not yet fully realized in any one of these believer's lifetime.  

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentines & A Special Birthday

Valentine's Day 2008:


Valentine's Day 2009:



Valentine's Day 2010... pictures to come!

A silly cartoon in honor of the husband who gave the perfect gift on Valentine's day two years ago... the birth of our precious baby girl, Caroline!!!  Happy 2nd Birthday, Caroline! (Well... I did the hard work in the delivery room, so I guess we both gave her to each other, haha!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

YOU Once Were Fatherless

There's a line we sometimes sing in church that starts "I once was fatherless."

How many Christians recognize that we were once orphans? I know I never did until I started our adoption process.  It's a hard concept to remember. I have trouble even now, until I hear a line like that one and think of my baby living in Africa with no family, and no knowledge of the massive love his soon-to-be parents have for him.  My heart then fills with emotion as a realize that I was once that vulnerable, and that unaware of God's immense love for me.

In years to come, our child may sometimes forget that he was once fatherless. It isn't an easy idea to dwell on, & I'm not sure whether our child even should... but I know that it can be beneficial for Christians to dwell on our once spiritual orphanhood.

It is so easy for us to get comfortable and forget that ours is a story of deliverance.  From sin, from shame, from being an orphan and an outcast.  It is easy to become complacent as we rest in God's grace.  But instead, we should do the critical task of remaining thankful for the rescue we recieved from absolute squalor... all so we could know God and His infinitely sweet goodness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Refuge

Seek refuge under the wings of God, even when they seem to cast only shadows, and at just the right time God will let you look out from his Eagle's nest onto some spectacular sunrise.

from A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ugandan Courts No Longer Scheduling Adoption Proceedings

Well, the latest news from Uganda reveals that the possible delays I once wrote about are now definite ones.  I guess our well-intentioned plans to control the timing of our adoption so that we travel in the summer are now laughable.  It's probably always laughable when we think we're in control. And I'm not saying all of this in a bitter way. I am fully at peace right now with the fact that God's timing is not for us to understand, and that it is far better and more loving than we realize.

Now I admit, when I first got news that the Uganda situation MIGHT be unraveling, it felt like punch to my gut. My hands literally shook for two days. I frantically wondered how I could FIX THIS. OUR baby is there. It has to go OUR way.

But now, I feel a sweet surrender. I feel like Caroline must feel after throwing a one hour tantrum in her highchair because she WILL NOT "eat one big bite" before getting down.  And here I am... after a long while of sobbing and struggling and finally taking that bite that is so hard to swallow, I can get down and rest in my Father's arms. I can trust that He'll take us on the path that might not be easy, but we will be carried by Him.

From what I understand of Lifeline Adoption Agency's latest update, which was posted last night, the Ugandan courts are simply keeping up with those decisions already made by the US Embassy.  They have stopped granting court dates for adoption hearings.  Since the US has put visas on hold, no Ugandan children are coming home to America right now anyway... so why schedule the court date and have families stuck in Uganda for months? 

What do we do if we can't go to Uganda? I don't know. I cannot express how much I love that country. And I do love some specific little baby there. I love that baby like I loved little Caroline when she was kicking and flipping in my belly.  If we don't adopt from there, it will forever leave an ache in my heart.   I know there are other children to adopt. Of the 145 million orphans in the world, 40 to 50 million are adoptable. It's not that there is a shortage of sweet children to fill our home... but I love this PARTICULAR baby with an ache that is indescribable.

Even more than I love our baby though -- and it is a lot -- I trust our God. He is faithful. So we will rest. We won't struggle. We will listen for His direction. We'll wait on Him, and know that He is Love.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Faces to Love

In honor of Valentine's Day being just around the corner, I thought I'd share some pictures that may cause your heart to melt. :)









Saturday, February 6, 2010

Keep the Faith

If you are adopting from Uganda and fighting to keep the faith in the midst of our wait to hear back from embassies and judges, Romans 8 is worth the read.  (In fact, Romans 8:17&23 are where I got the "Heirs with Christ" name for my blog). I was amazed last night by how much this chapter applied to the situation in Uganda. Here are some phrases from Romans 8:


  • 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Let's pray that we not be slaves to fear as we wait for this situation to play out! We are, after all, children of GOD. (see below):
  • 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. And the Bible promises that God wants to give good things to His children even more than we want good things for our earthly children! (Luke 11:11-13)
  • 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  We may suffer as we wait, and we may even suffer by hearing a final "no."  But ultimately, we suffer so we can share in God's glory. So we can KNOW God. So we can be united with Him. And we believe that this is trial is building in us a perseverance that will bring us to the ultimate reward of sweet sanctification.
  • 18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.   Any suffering we experience now will pale in comparison when we finally see God's full glory.
  • 23... we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved... As our children wait for their adoption, we await the finalization for our spiritual adoption.  They already have parents who love them, and we already have a Father who loves us. For our children, they only lack final paperwork. For us, we only lack the final redemption of our bodies... into a life lived in Heaven enjoying all time with our true Father.
  • ... But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  Speaking specifically to the Ugandan situation, we have HOPE for what we DO NOT already have... our children. Yet we still hope, and we wait PATIENTLY. (God, help us do this!) This is a reflection of our hope for God to finalize our own spiritual adoption as His children, and make all things right once & for all.
  • 26... We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27...the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Wow. Yes, we're encouraged by the prayers of fellow believers. But I am VERY encouraged that the HOLY SPIRIT is praying for our children, in ways that we don't know how, and with groans that words cannot express!
  • 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers We don't understand what God is doing, but we trust He is doing it for our good. These trials will change us more & more into the likeness of God's firstborn Son, our "older brother" Jesus.
  • 31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 
  • 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 
  • 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ... 
  • 37...we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. We are more than conquerors ALREADY! God already knows the outcome... Regardless of if we understand it, we know that it was for our good, and that He has already overcome.
  • 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And isn't this the kind of relentless love we hope to mirror to our Ugandan children in at least an imperfect, shadowy way? Don't give up. Don't let your love be separated from them. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep praying, and wait in faith for God to act.