Friday, July 30, 2010

In Christ Alone

Probably the most empowering and beautiful Christian hymn of all time... at least in my book. I get chills EVERY time I hear this one...

In Christ alone
my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone,
this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love,
what depths of peace
When fears are stilled,
when strivings cease

My Comforter,
my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone,
who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe

This gift of love
and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

til on that cross
as Jesus died
The wrath of God
was satisfied

For every sin
on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground
His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth
in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands
in victory
Sin's curse has lost
its grip on me

For I am His
and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life,
no fear of death
This is the power of Christ in me

From life's first cry
to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell,
no scheme of man
Can ever pluck
me from His hand

til He returns
or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Planting Trees

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Adoption leaves me crying at the most bizarre times! Hang with me as I explain what happened...

My dad gave me a copy of the new Andrew Peterson CD, so I was happily driving home from work enjoying it for the first time.  As the song Planting Trees began to play, I basked the imagery of newlyweds digging in the soil to plant the seeds of their family tree. The young couple knew that the "tree" would grow and be a blessing years after they were gone.

I wasn't feeling emotional until the second verse, when I was caught off guard by the newlyweds adopting a son from Africa.  Once again, adoption left me randomly sobbing.

To make matters worse, I have already put much thought into the way this adoption will forever change the makeup of our own family tree... and the song went on to proclaim this thought again and again, sending me laughter and wails all at once.  No, I am not proud of this.  I am a nut!  (Click here to see my January post discussing the beauty of adoption changing our family tree for generations to come.)  I suppose I was unprepared for the sweetness of hearing my realization in song.

My soul welled up in agreement as the song begged others, "Lean into something lasting/Planting trees." Oh, how I have loved working on our own family tree. I ache for it to grow. It is a lasting and God-annointed journey to grow a family for His glory!

He took a plane to Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light
Let go of all that's passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Out of the Wood Works

Wow!

People who know OUR baby, OUR baby whom WE have not yet met, are coming out of the wood works to tell us all about Amelia. How amazing is that!? Of course, they don’t know her by “Amelia.” They know her by her name at the orphanage, which we will also keep as a part of her name.

I have heard from a good handful of sweet short-term missionaries and volunteers who have spent days with our sweet girl. They have sent me pictures and emailed me about her personality and history. I even spoke for an hour on the phone to a girl who particularly loved Amelia. It was a miracle! Another new friend is trying to contact a photographer who apparently did a photo shoot with our daughter. Won’t it be amazing if we get to have copies of those pictures!?

God’s mercy’s are never ending. I never imagined I could have so many pictures or know so much about Amelia BEFORE meeting her. God promised to never give us more than we could bear, and for now, these sweet new friends are making the wait a little more bearable!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Picture for Amelia

Here it is... the picture I'm sending to Amelia today.  It will hang by her crib, where she can look at her new family until we finally get her!  I don't love it of me, but I love that Amelia will have it. Isn't it sweet to think she will be looking at us while we look at her!?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beautiful Amelia

I wish I could post our referral pictures. Oh, our baby girl is beautiful. Her big almond-shaped eyes are framed with long eyelashes and perfectly arched eyebrows. Her skin is smooth, soft, and creamy brown. She has a button nose, full gorgeous lips (which are smiling in a couple pictures!), and a mini afro that I’m dying to sink my fingers into. Other than her sweet baby-chub cheeks, she looks long and lean and is the picture of health. Maybe this is just the Mama in me, but I also suspect that she’s smart… those eyes are far too bright to be anything but intelligent!

This is far from the referral we were warned about in adoption classes. They warn you that your child may look gaunt, or that their face may be void of expression due to lack of affection. Our baby’s face does not look like the face of an orphan. She looks confident that she is loved. It’s as if her amazing nannies have held her close and rocked her while whispering how beautiful she is, and that her parents are coming.

I keep thinking, “Could this really be how Jesus feels about me?” Is He longing for us to physically be together like I long for a November (or whenever it will be) in Uganda? It’s hard to imagine our Savior loving sin-stained me like I LOVE our sweet Amelia. What a humbling thought.

Sweet nannies, keep cuddling my baby, and tell her we’re coming!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stop This Engine

On Friday night, a beautiful teenage orphan from Moldova stood on stage in front of the David Crowder concert audience to tell how she had been rescued from a certain future in sex slavery.  She and other friends shared how they had been recently saved from their bleak lives and taught about fullness in Christ. They said they had spent their lives running, only to discover that the only thing you cannot escape is the unstoppable love of Jesus.

A group of these rescued teenage girls later sat in front of us during David Crowder's concert.  Oh, how beautiful to see them raise their hands, beaming, and passionately SHOUT (instead of sing), "He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how He loves!!!"

http://www.stallthisengine.org/

Sex slavery still exists. What will you do to stop it?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Can Only Smile

Sure, this newest delay is a downer. But give any mother a picture of her BEAUTIFUL baby girl for the first time, and then try to make her cry.  It's not possible. At the moment, I cannot be anything but overwhelmed with joy!!!!

Don't hold me to this as time goes on, though... eventually, a picture won't be enough and the wait might cause my heart to explode! I expect MANY tears as the weeks and months press on...
but I sure am happy now!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Delay

It looks like we've hit yet another 2 to 4 week delay.  At this point, our best case scenario would be to leave for Uganda sometime between MID November or early December. Agh!!! I want to hold our little girl!

Remember the good ole days when we would easily travel by June of 2010?  In fact, we were rocking along so quickly that we slowed down our process!! Then we found out that we would travel by the end of the summer, then September, then early November. I never thought our prayer would be to meet our little girl before the end of 2010! I figured we'd be LONG home by then!

I am thankful that our agency keeps us informed instead of letting these delays blind-side us. I am also thankful for a sympathetic case worker who knows our pain as she is waiting to adopt her own child.

As much as I want to complain, one major upside comes to mind... if I am apart from Caroline over Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, she at least will be surrounded by many family members who will have time off work and help keep her smiling. Not to mention that I'll have a few paid days of holiday that will help with my leave. (Let's just not even talk about how I'll feel to be separated from Brad and Caroline during Christmas!)

We love you, sweet Amelia!!! Once we hold you, you'll soon forget we were ever apart!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pray

You may remember James and Cheremi from Canada. They have been fighting -- and I mean FIGHTING, tooth and nail spiritual warfare -- to get their two children home from Uganda. In fact, their family was split for months on end... James in Uganda with their children there, Cheremi in Canada with the other children. Finally, James had to go home to Canada empty handed, but full of faith that God would move mountains.

The Uganda situation may be looking up for Amercians, but Canadians are still battling for their families. James recently posted some hopeful news. Will you join me in praying for them?

Nap

I grab Caroline excitedly and pick her up.


Me: “You’re gonna be a big sister!!!!”

Brad: “No Caroline, you ARE a big sister. You already have a little sister! She is already born!

Caroline: (turns her precious palms up, confused, shaking her head)
                 “But I don’t have her!”

Me: “That’s right, she’s not here at our house yet. Where is she?”

Caroline: “In Africa. We gonna pick her up?”

Me: “Yes, we need to pick her up!”

Caroline: “I gotta take a nap first.”


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pink Ribbons and Afro Puffs!

How do I even begin to express the wave of emotions that has rushed through our family since receiving the referral for our beautiful baby girl!? GIRL!!!! We were fairly certain that we would be referred a boy. We’d left the option open to either sex while many families from our agency requested girls, so it seemed natural that we’d end up with a little boy.

Obviously, a boy would’ve melted my heart… but there is something so precious about sisters having each other. While waiting for our referral, I dreamed endlessly of little girls. I’m not claiming to be psychic – my dreams were of pink babies, and I assure you that our darling is mocha! But my dreams revealed a deep desire for sisters. Thank you Jesus that we will have a house full of giggles and pink!

Now... how do I fix African hair!?!?!

PS – You’ll have to forgive me if I drone on and on about this referral as time goes on. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself!!! We are just so excited!

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm in Heaven

I try to only post once a day... but I mean, come on. I am in HEAVEN right now. There aren't enough places or people whom I can shout the JOYS of sweet sweet parenthood right now. What a perfect night... we're sitting in a random hotel room in the dark so that Caroline can sleep, staring endlessly at this laptop, where we have 6 precious photographs of our beautiful Ugandan baby DOLL.

REFERRAL!!!!!!!!!!!

WE

GOT

A

REFERRAL

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Talk about timing... Our sweet social worker called me with the news right as we drove into rural Kentucky for Brad's grandmother's funeral... and there was no cell service!!!! What torture!




Many LONG hours later, we finaly made it back to our hotel and held a picture of our precious THREE month old!!! Do you want to know if it's a boy or girl!?!?! Well.... let me tell you.... think PINK! Oh, how AMAZINGLY perfect! Sweet sisters!

This was an INCREDIBLE day! I'll talk more and more and more about it in the next few days, I'm sure. For now, let's just say THANK YOU SWEET JESUS FOR THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THREE MONTH OLD CURRENTLY IN EXISTANCE! She is OURS!!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wanna See What My Heart Looks Like?

There she is. My heart.

I am a shamelessly proud Mama. I am in love with my little girl, thus in love with the sweet new pictures we have of her. It's been a very long time since we've had good ones taken of her, so I am so thankful Jacob did these. This particular picture is my new blog header, also!

We had a great night with "Jay" yesterday. We're trying to teach him to BLEND with the family. He often expects that we'll have lavish outings centered on his enjoyment... probably because that's how we bonded with him some in our earliest visits. But he is LEARNING to just chill with us, and go with the flow wherever we go.  Honestly, I can't tell whether he enjoys us, or if he simply tolerates us in order to get out of his group home. I genuinely had a great time with him last night and am beginning to love him very much. I hope does/will eventually return the feelings.

Still no referral... I will post the news as soon as we can after getting it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TIA: This is Africa

Tomorrow will be exactly “mid-July” … the hazy deadline when our babies’ home expected to have a referral ready for us. It’s hard for me to believe that ANY DAY now, we could receive a picture of Goode baby #2.

When I say that it’s hard for me to believe, I mean exactly that. I have a hard time knowing whether or not I should believe it. After all, this is international adoption. Nothing is set in stone. Furthermore, this is AFRICA. You can even purchase t-shirts with the phrase “This Is Africa” or “T.I.A” written on them… and the phrase means nothing more than that Africa is different – unpredictable – watches no calendar or no watch.

Unfortunately, I watch calendars. Our family has watched as the distance between us and our newest child has stretched further into the distance.

Still, our joy is not broken. Sure, we sometimes feel like toddlers ready to throw a tantrum and declare to God that “we want our way NOW!” Even so, our faith is strong that God’s timing will prove to be more beautiful and more perfect than we could’ve ever imagined.

Maybe we’ll hold a picture of our precious second child tomorrow. More likely, we’ll simply keep thanking God for His wisdom, and pray for patience. We may not be able to look at the face of baby #2 right now, but I can show you our beautiful Caroline!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sweet Caroline

Our friend Jacob took a boatload of gorgeous Caroline pictures for us. He is steadily editing his beautiful work, and the pictures are trickling into our inboxes. I have a feeling that many of my mindless, rambling posts will be replaced (or at least supplemented) with my 2 year old’s precious face over the next few weeks!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exercise

Brad and I have been exhausted lately. We were so thankful for a weekend to ourselves.

We’ve been learning lately to GIVE more. I’m not saying that we’re amazing givers… just that we’re growing. Growing brings growing pains.

The fact that we’re worn out by even slight attempts to be more obedient displays one fact: we are selfish beyond belief. We are fighting our nature, and often, our ugly nature wins. We SAY that we think Christ is better than any other gift. We SAY that it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive. We SAY that nothing – including silly comforts – compares to the glory of God. But our fists are so tightly clinched to our time, money, and resources that it takes every ounce of energy to pry even tiny bits of what we call “ours” away so we can toss them at the feet of Christ.

I love it that the Bible compares Christianity to a race. A long race, requiring much endurance. Brad and I are tired because we haven’t been training. The more we exercise our ability to give, the less exhausting it will be.

And as we learn to let go of our own feeble resources, we’ll find that we can instead be fueled with the strength of God.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Romans 9:8

"It is not the children of the
flesh
who are the children of God,
but the children of the
promise
are counted as offspring."

We aren't God's because of who we are in our own skin. We aren't God's because of what we do through our own bodies' power.  We are God's because of what God has promised to make us. Thank You Jesus, for Your beautiful PROMISE!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Get Dressed!

Brad told our 2 year old Caroline to go get dressed, and here's her end result: 2 necklaces, 1 pull-up, and shoes on the wrong feet!


Friday, July 9, 2010

Uganda, Jay, and Caroline

It’s time for a nice, round update on life.

We are set to get a referral any day now.
They SAY that we should hold a picture of our sweet baby by mid July! I feel a bit burned from having unrealized adoption timelines set in my heart, so this time, I’ll believe it when I see it!

The picture will both thrill and torture us, as we won’t travel to Uganda to meet our little one until November at the earliest.

In any case, I’m ready to even feel tortured over this little one. It’s driving me crazy how “not real” it feels when we continually talk about our never-ending adoption with friends and family. A coworker even asked the other day, “hey, did y’all ever end up adopting?” Knife to the heart. Yes, I know it was 14 months ago when we told you we started the process, and it will AT LEAST be another 6 months before it’s complete, but we’re REALLY going to adopt.

I don’t mean to sound like I mind that she asked. I’m actually so thankful for anyone who gives a rip, because our story sure has gotten long and boring to most. I get heart pains when I think that so few will be excited when this little one comes home, in contrast to how much love surrounded the birth of Caroline. Does orphan care lead to a lonely life? I sure hope not.

Onto a slightly different topic…

Our time with “Jay” has been going well.
I am constantly surprised both by how fast our love grows for him AND by how difficult he can be to spend time with. I guess God knows that we need Him to increase our love so that we can handle the stress of a hyper 12 year old who has had little guidance and many heartbreaks in his life.

Friends often ask if we’re going to adopt Jay. We don’t know. In Alabama, we’re not even legally able to pursue it while we’re still in the midst of our Uganda process. But in my heart, I hope that God gives us the mountains of strength and wisdom and courage and faith it would take to lovingly parent someone who was born before I was 15 and has seen more tragedy than I can imagine. I can’t see into the future to know God’s will, but I know that God loves orphans, and is able to empower us… so it is a possibility.

Caroline
is our never-ending joy in all of our torn thoughts about Uganda and Jay. Just when my heart is ready to bleed at the thought of how broken the world is, I see my sweet toddler’s face. She is anything BUT broken. In fact, multiple people have described her with the same phrase: “so well adjusted!” Thank God for our Little Miss Sunshine!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jay!

“Jay” turned 12.

I wonder what it would be like to celebrate your birthday without a single person who remembers the day you were born. No mother to express the love she felt when she first looked into your eyes. No father to say how happy they were on that day. No stories about rushing to the hospital, or what time you were born, or what you looked like.

Jay is a survivor. He is sometimes stoic. But as after we sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his candles, Jay stood in the middle of Chuck E Cheese to hug me as he cried.

By the time he let go, his eyes were bright red, and his smile was wide.

As we drove him back to his group home, he was strangely quiet and at peace. I will forever cherish the photos that show his sweet expressions during that party. I wish I could share them with you, but his face is not ours to share.

The God who brings joy to Jay’s face, however, is free to all who love Him. God gets all the praise and glory for being “Father to the fatherless” for our sweet Jay.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Russell Moore Quote

“The universe around us is creepily silent–like an orphanage in which the children no longer believe they will be heard. But if we listen with Galilean ears, we can hear the quiet desperation of thumbs being sucked, of cribs being rocked. As we welcome orphans into our homes, we can show the orphaned universe what it means to belong to a God who welcomes the fatherless.” - Russell Moore

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Big Picture

My brother recently encouraged me, in our quest to love orphans, to not lose sight of the LARGER picture. Orphan care is beautiful BECAUSE it is a simple symbol – an icon – of how God seeks out the Fatherless of this world. Even those of us who still have parents on this earth were once orphaned from a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Being without earthly parents is a temporal problem. But being without a Heavenly Father is an eternal problem unless God intercedes in grace and mercy.

As Brad and I learn to love orphans on earth, I pray that God use it to even further break our hearts for the billions who are orphaned from Him.

“A conscience that’s burdened for orphans,
rather than seared over in the quest for more stuff,
 will be burdened for
spiritual orphans.
A church that learns to
love beyond the
borders of biology
will learn to
do mission outside the
borders of geography.” 
 -Russell Moore

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yours

Thanks to Melissa for prompting me to check out the song "Yours" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  It spoke a truth to my heart that my brother David so sweetly preached to me recently... we need not feel burdened by the state of this world, but empowered to be the children of the God who is mighty to save.


I walk the streets of London
And notice in the faces passing by
Somthing that makes me stop and listen
My heart grows heavy with the cry

Where is the hope for London?
You whisper and my heart begins to soar
As I'm reminded
That every street in London in Yours
Oh, yes it is

I walk the dirt roads of Uganda
I see the scars that war has left behind
Hope like the sun is fading
They're waiting for a cure no one can find

And I hear children's voices singing
Of a God who heals and rescues and restores
And I'm reminded
That every child in Africa is Yours

And its all Yours, God, Yours, God
Everything is Yours
From the stars in the sky
To the depths of the ocean floor
And its all Yours, God, Yours, God
Everything is Yours
You're the Maker and Keeper, Father and Ruler of everything
It's all Yours

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Let freedom ring...
Jesus replied,
"I tell you the truth,
everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
Now a slave has no permanent place in the family,
but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free,
you will be free indeed.

John 8:34-36



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chuck E Cheese, Please

“Jay’s” birthday is coming up, and we’ve had such a hard time planning it! He doesn’t want the kids from his group home to celebrate with us, because he’d like to forget, for at least a moment, that he lives in a broken world where group homes are necessary.

So next week, Jay will celebrate his 12th birthday in exactly the fashion that he specified: at Chuck-E-Cheese with two adults and a 2 year old! Brad better brush up on his ski-ball skills, and Caroline and I should be ready to down some cake and pizza… the party package is meant to serve 12!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Delay - November

Frustrating news on the adoption front… our expected travel date has been moved back – yet again. We are now looking at traveling in early November. When we applied to adopt in May of 2009, we expected to take our time with the adoption process and travel in early June of this year. Ugh… waiting is so hard.


Of course, this delay causes my mind to wander. Will there be more delays? Will our adoption be finalized before 2011? Caroline has seen two birthdays since we sought adoption… will she see a third before our little one is home?

When I first read our November news, I cried as my heart fell to the floor. Our earliest hope is to travel in FOUR MONTHS!? That’s almost half of an entire pregnancy. We’ve ALREADY waited 14 months!

But God is sustaining us. He is comforting us.


“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28) … so God, work this delay for the good! Because of this EXTRA 4 month wait…
  • Let our faith in You be 4 times stronger.
  • Let our unification with this child be 4 times sweeter.
  • Let the relationship between Caroline and her sibling be 4 times closer.
  • Let our family bond to this baby 4 times more naturally.
  • Let the glory You get through this adoption be 4 times greater.
  • Let our path for the future be 4 times purer.
  • Let our relationships with friends and family be 4 times deeper, as we now get to spend a summer near my parents, and be in the U.S. when our nephew is born, and be in the wedding of some of our best friends.
Let ALL aspects of our walk with You, and ALL aspects of our daily lives be BETTER by FAR … not IN SPITE OF this delay, but BECAUSE of it. Work ALL THINGS for good!


(On a more hilarious note, this news got that old Guns N' Roses song in my head... "Nothing lasts forever/ Even cold November rain!" Ha ha!)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grateful for Crowns

You’ll have to forgive me for harping on the same subject, but…

I’m still thinking about how we can help instill gratitude into “Jay”. For that matter, how can we also instill it into our little Caroline? Ever since those endlessly grateful Kenyan children were here, I’ve realized how paralyzed Americans are by our own sense of entitlement. Why don’t we marvel at the comfort of our beds, and the opportunity in our schools and work, and the mercy of a God who showers us in compassion that we do not deserve?

As I wracked my brain for ways to make Jay more grateful, I realized how entitled I feel in my own life.

I’ve been reading the blog of a lady named Frances for a while now, and she has been going through a beautiful transformation. Like all of us, she used to ask, “What can I spare?” before determining her level of generosity. But Frances is no longer asking, “How much is enough?” She is asking, “How can I learn to joyfully sacrifice more and more and more for the sake of Jesus’ name?” And she means it. No area of life is untouched.

She is giving up store bought laundry detergent in favor of making her own, and teaching her family to enjoy dinners of rice and beans… all so they can give more away. They are washing their used Ziploc bags and giving up prepackaged foods. And when they feel tempted to complain, they remember the TRUE plight of millions around the world, and are filled with gratitude as they pray for those in need.

Guess what? They are having a blast doing it!

It’s no wonder. Think about this… those who live for God on earth will be storing up crowns for themselves in heaven. What will we do with all of our crowns? Will we walk around with a stack of golden crowns on our own heads? NO! The JOYFUL part is that we’ll get to throw them at Jesus’ feet! Laying our gifts back at our Father’s feet is HEAVENLY! And if we want God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven,” then let’s start obtaining good gifts for the sake of giving them away in Jesus’ name!!!