Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Highlight of My Week?

It was a tiring week.  Caroline spent days at her Mimi & Pal's house while I stayed here and worked anywhere from 9 to 11 hour days. (And I'm accustomed to part-time!) So now I have come down with a massive cold.  But my sweet girl finally came home.  Do you want to know the highlight of my week? 

It was this: Today I took a nap surrounded by new Christmas toys under a "Dora" pop tent, lit by the glow of a musical light-up seahorse... and I was holding this sweet little Rudolf reindeer:

She is the most beautiful little girl in North America. Now if we can just get the most beautiful girl in Africa home for more naps under the pop-tent!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

The Word became flesh!
God became human!
the invisible became visible!
the untouchable became touchable!
eternal life experienced temporal death!
the transcendent one descended and drew near!
the unlimited became limited!
the infinite became finite!
the immutable became mutable!
the unbreakable became fragile!
spirit became matter!
eternity entered time!
the independent became dependent!
the almighty became weak!
the loved became the hated!
the exalted was humbled!
glory was subjected to shame!
fame turned into obscurity!
from inexpressible joy to tears of unimaginable grief!
from a throne to a cross!
from ruler to being ruled!
from power to weakness!
     - Sam Storms

Friday, December 24, 2010

Babe in the Straw Lyrics

And if we lose
sight of Your sweet face
at the BIRTH OF GRACE
at the birth of Grace,

Light of Truth,
shine like Bethlehem's star
lead us to where You are
show us who You are.

Save us tonight.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

He Holds the World in His Newborn Fist


A picture of Earth taken by Voyager 1 from 4 billion miles away.
Notice anything?
How about that Earth is so tiny in comparison to the known universethat it hardly shows up as more than a speck.
Lord, who are we that you love us?

I loved what Ann Voskamp wrote this morning to highlight HUGENESS of GOD in comparison to the tiny baby He chose to become through Jesus.  After a long blog post including scientific facts pointing towards the unimaginable magnitude of outer space and stars, I was left once again realizing what a grain of sand our Earth is in comparison to all of creation.  To think that God is big enough to have created ALL that IS, and yet became an infant on this speck-of-dust-planet for our salvation -- it is incomprehensible.  Here is a piece of Ann's writing:

Incomprehensible One who cradles unfathomable galaxies in the palm of His hand, whom highest heavens cannot contain, curls his newborn fist in a barn feed trough on orbiting earth and we’re saved from ourselves.

Beautiful. Sometimes I think that if everyone REALLY studied the Bible, they would see that it is far too majestic and mysterious of a story for any human mind to have crafted. God is such a sweet and loving artist.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Revelation 1:5b-6

To
him
who
loves us
and has
freed us
from our sins
by his blood,
and has
made us to be
a kingdom and
priests
to serve his God and Father—

to him be

glory

and

power

for

ever

and

ever!

Amen.



Monday, December 20, 2010

Jesus Was Adopted

Caroline has a new picture book that tells the lineage of Christ in a sing-songy, Dr. Seuss-ish way.


I love it that Jesus was adopted. I love it that the book of Matthew proves that Jesus was of the right lineage to be Messiah not by showing his maternal, biological, fleshly ancestry, (which was also “Messiah worthy,”) but by showing his paternal and adoptive ancestry. I love it that our adoption to the heavenly Father hinges on Jesus’ adoption to an earthly dad.

If it isn’t humbling enough that God entered mortal flesh as an infant, He also allowed Himself to be adopted and parented by a mere man. God turns human reason on its head. What a humble yet majestic and mysterious God we serve.

Friday, December 17, 2010

God Gave Me Patience

On Tuesday night, Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert tour came to our church. My mind is still reeling as I try to soak up all of the ways the Spirit spoke to me during that time. There is no way I could neatly package that special night into words, but there is one specific lesson that I wanted to share.


As much as I love Andrew Peterson’s lyrics, I hadn’t wanted to go to this concert. We were supposed to be in Uganda during this concert. I had declared early to Brad that if we were not in Uganda, I would be angry to be available to attend this event. I would not sit in a concert where I’d likely hear one of the songs that touches me most in regards to adoption, at a time that I should instead be in Uganda with our daughter whom we so badly ache to adopt.

But...

God in His infinite wisdom had more to teach me about waiting. And about being satisfied in Him alone. And so I was not in Uganda on Tuesday night. I was at the concert.


As I sat in that auditorium, listening to music that artfully portrayed the ache that all of creation felt as it awaited Messiah’s birth, I felt the ache, too. At first, I thought it was an ache for Amelia. I was sympathizing with the Jews who ached for a Savior by projecting my ache for Amelia onto them. But then I realized something…

I am satisfied.

I may not have Amelia. I may not have all we yearn for yet. But I have Christ. I have Emmanuel, literally meaning “God with us.” The Spirit of the same God who created the fiery stars and swirling universe humbled Himself in such a way that He now lives WITH me. IN me. I cannot even wrap my mind around it. But I know that it fulfills.

And all of the sudden, I felt this patience.

Really.

It’s like God reached inside of my anxious heart, scooped out every drop of “Amelia worry,” and replaced it with Himself. With the knowledge that His timing is loving and perfect. With the fact that His promises are true.

I know it sounds crazy, maybe even like I love Amelia less because I am less frantic to get to her. But that is not the case. I love her more than ever. The change is that I rest in God. And I feel the power to wait. And wait.

I do not have to wait for a Savior, like the Jews hundreds of years ago had to wait. I do not wonder how God will redeem us and transform us from being His enemies into being His beloved children – I already am His. And because I have the Spirit of the Most High inside of me, I feel confident that I can endure whatever I must in our quest towards sweet Amelia. In me lives All that Matters.

Baby girl, Jesus has come through for me already. He is coming through for you, too. Soon enough, our “faith shall be sight.” You will be home in His perfect time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Chord of Three Strands

It has been an incredible week. God has blessed me. Each blessing has been so astounding that I really feel like I can only write about one at a time.

Our late November and early December days were anxious… waiting by the phone, constant uncertainty, constant prayer and fasting, wondering how “packed” our bags should be for Uganda. The news about our latest travel delay broke my heart. But since this heartbreak, God has sent blessing after blessing.

On Saturday, my friend Amanda asked me and Jessica to come to lunch with her. Amanda read to us many beautiful verses about the ways that God works in “threes”. And then Amanda gave us each a pewter cross to keep and hold as the three of us daily pray Amelia home. Amanda's idea is that someday, after Amelia is home, we can frame the three crosses together as a reminder of the faithfulness of God. 

There is power in three, (as evidenced through the Trinity). And this precious friendship between three friends serves a powerful beacon of hope in our wait for Amelia. My eyes fill with tears even now as I type this. I have prayed to have these kind of friends for years. Thank God for them!

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  
  -  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Travel Buddies!?!?!

My friend Jessica might be one of the world’s sweetest people. Really.

Jessica with her hubby.
Nevermind that she keeps up with our adoption process as if she’s family. Nevermind that she is the queen of random gifts, both new and hand-me-down! Nevermind that she wears herself thin selflessly making time for friends and for church ministries. Nevermind that she is young, stylish, and newlywed and is yet willing to be friends with this tired working mama of two, (yes, I'm already claiming two,) loving on our kids all the while. Nevermind the amazing shower she co hosted for Amelia at her house recently. Nevermind her endlessly sweet heart, and her beautiful spirit that somehow surpasses even her outward beauty.

If she were none of these things, I’d STILL be saying that she’s one of the sweetest friends in the world today.

Why?

Because she is considering joining me in Uganda after Brad has to leave. Her own idea. Her own desire. Her own servant’s heart revealing itself.

There are obstacles. She has a job, a life, a husband… who knows whether this will work out. BUT she has melted my heart by being willing to go! I’m praying that it works out! AGH! So excited!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's a Girl Thing

Would you believe that there was a time in my life when I didn’t like girls?

I mean it. For the most part, I disliked females. The reason, I believe, was because I did not like myself. When you live as a nominal Christian in rebellion to God, there’s a good chance that your life will be clouded by immense shame. So without realizing it, my own shame darkened my view of all females.

Isn’t it beautiful how God redeems?

One of my best girl friends with Caroline.

As God began to redeem my own life, He also redeemed my view of women. First, he formed a precious baby girl in my womb, and Caroline has forever captured my heart. Then He surrounded me with the best girl friends I could ask for. Many of the girl friends He recently showered into my life also share my love for Jesus – but without an ounce of pretense or self-righteousness. I adore them.

God is getting ready to double the joy of my first baby girl by granting me with SISTERS. Two girls in my care. Even when my life was filled with shame, I knew about the blessing of a sister. To think that my girls will have the same gift that I had through my own sister Rebecca is thrilling.

My life increasingly centers around pink and hairbows by the day, and it is truly a charmed life. I cannot believe I once wished anything upon myself BUT a house filled with high pitched giggles and rooms overflowed by baby dolls. Bring it on!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Revised Travel Hopes

Our new prayer is to leave for Uganda around January 24. Don’t ask me why I picked that date. It’s based on several confusing contingencies that might confuse or bore you! To simplify these contingencies, I have picked a random date from the weeks that our agency believes we could travel at the earliest. So. January 24. Praying. I hope that the holidays fly by in a delightful blur!

Remember that this is at the least a five week trip. If we do travel in late January, I will be away from sweet Caroline on her 3rd birthday, which is also Valentine’s Day. Ugh… break my heart! We will probably soften this blow by having a very early or very late birthday, when our whole family is together. Caroline will never know the difference!

Traveling in late January would also mean being in Uganda during their 5 year presidential & parliamental elections, which begin February 18.

Please pray that our latest travel hopes (late January) happens without delay. We are in love with Amelia, and in love with the country that is giving her to our care.  We cannot wait to go see both.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cries

Yesterday, I saw a picture of Amelia sitting on some stairs with a group of toddlers from her babies’ home. She was crying mad, fingers in her mouth, perfect eyebrows hooding her usually gigantic round eyes. I loved it.

We have a nearly identical picture of Caroline crying in her preschool class picture. I may frame them together.

Amelia’s cry was not the pitiful cry of an orphan. In fact, we were educated thoroughly at the start of this process about how children in large orphanages are more likely to give you a blank stare than a cry. Institutionalized babies learn quickly that their cries are not met with a response. No one hears them, so they give up on crying early.

Our girl, praise God, is not in an institution. She is not being raised as an orphan. She is in a home. Her cry is not pitiful. It is the cry of an entitled little princess who knows how to draw a loving reaction from her caretakers nearly instantly. She knows how to connect with others. She’s learned that her smiles are received with smiles, and her tears are met with warm arms and kisses. As one sweet visitor wrote in a recent letter that we will forever treasure, “I think she is already conscious of her own charm.” She has certainly charmed us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Arrows from God

In a culture that sees children as an inconvenience, (God forbid we have more than three!), I love the following verses.  God, fill our family's quiver!


Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
     - Psalm 127:3-5

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Not Fair!

I think I am back on my feet.

I spent a couple of days in denial before I finally faced my crushed emotions about having to wait even longer for our daughter. I felt victimized by our circumstances. In some ways, it is still tough for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I have NEVER heard of another Ugandan adoption taking 19 months – and we’ve only waited 19 months SO FAR. It looks like we’ll have been in process around 2 years before we bring Amelia home.

A couple of friends who were not pregnant at the start of our process are now pregnant for the SECOND time. Fellow adoptive parents who started their journey towards Uganda AFTER us are either home with their babies, or in Uganda now with their children.

I cried all Sunday long, thinking that I JUST want our daughter, and that this never-ending wait imposed most heavily upon our family simply isn’t fair.


But then I thought about what else is "NOT FAIR."

It’s not fair that we are blessed to be able to adopt, while others will never know this blessing.

It’s not fair that we were matched with such an amazing baby girl, even when we’re so undeserving.

It’s not fair that our sweet girl still hasn’t reached her first birthday, while others have missed out on multiple birthdays of their children.

It’s not fair that God is using this adoption to teach us beautiful lessons that show us how majestic He is, even though we act like insolent toddlers pitching fits – at best.

It’s not fair that our version of a “tight budget” due to adoption expenses is the equivalent of flagrant wealth elsewhere in the world.

It’s not fair that our daughter is thriving in the most incredibly loving babies’ home I’ve ever heard of, while the children of other waiting parents around the world are stuck in cold, unloving orphanages.

It’s not fair that our daughter is held and loved and made to laugh every single day, while untold numbers of children around the world aren’t given as much as one smile or warm touch.

It’s not fair that we have received dozens of pictures of our daughter, while so many others ache to know who their child is.

It’s not fair that we’ve never lost a child, or had a child face serious illness, or faced any tragedy within our family, when there is so much pain in this world.

I could go on and on. My point is this… thank God that life isn’t fair. Without God’s grace, we are unloving, selfish, poor, evil people. Without God’s grace, “fair” takes on a very frightening meaning… and leads us to the depths of Hell. Our helplessly evil hearts deserve no good thing. Fair, truly, is that we face the wrath of God. Instead, Jesus came to face the wrath that He did not deserve. The cross was unfair. The cross put our punishment onto perfect Jesus, and put Jesus’ incredible rewards onto us. What could be more unfair than that?

I will take unfair any day. I will thank God for unfair every day.

It was unfairness that led Jesus to the cross for our sins, and it will be unfairness that brings sweet Amelia home.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Choosing Praise

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
   - Psalm 42:11


Friday, December 3, 2010

Bad News

Just got news that we definately won't be traveling to Amelia until the last half of January at the earliest.

Amelia

Just when I cannot take anymore, God sends me a flood of CURRENT Amelia pictures and sweet emails from three precious fellow adoptive parents who I've gotten to know through email and phone during this process. They are with Amelia (& their own sweet babies) now, and I'm telling you, God is using them as sweet warriors to sustain me during these trials.

I wish I could show you Amelia's pictures. OH she is gorgoeus. What I CAN share are some descriptions of her that were sent to me by these precious, thoughtful women who looked past their own monumental moments of meeting their long-waited-for-babies and remembered me in my agony in the States. Here are some excerpts:
I saw her today. She is beautiful. Petite. Smiley.
She has eyelashes that touch her eyebrows and the sweetest smile.
I know you are anxiously awaiting news [...], so I hope that these pictures of your precious girl will help pass the time.  Amelia is such a beautiful girl.  Pictures don't do her justice.  She is so pleasant and loves to be carried.  She was sitting playing quietly but when I reached to pick her up she gave me the happiest smile!  I sat and held her, loved on her, prayed for her, and told her about her Mom and Dad and sister that are waiting to come for her.  She is such a delightful little girl, Rachel!
My [*travel companion*] is enamored with your baby. She has said she would like to write you emails while we are here and tell you everything. She is a detailed writer. I hope you enjoy that! Merry Christmas!
Oh, she is more than precious!! She has a sweet, precious personality. She responds very quickly to other people with a smile. So many of the children here take a long time to smile at first but she smiles the minute you smile at here. The mamas and volunteers love her!! She is absolutely beautiful!!!!
And about the kind of care Amelia is getting:
I am enjoying these babies so much. You'll have a blast at this orphanage. They are so well cared for here.
Praise God! Praise, praise, praise. Other than Amelia herself, in my arms, these letters and pictures are the BEST gift I could recieve right now!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 1

Yesterday was December 1. It was the “deadline” for when we should’ve heard news if we were going to get to Amelia before late January. We haven’t heard a thing, which "probably" means that all will be silent on the adoption front for at least 6 more weeks.

I really wanted to fall apart, but God in His graciousness sent me more hope.  Our agency now thinks that there is still a chance for us to travel before Christmas.  They're not sure if it's a very likely scenario, but God loves to do the unlikely, so we're okay with that.

Even before we heard this hopeful news, my Tuesday morning was filled with some reality checks from God. Each one made me realize that I am blessed, and that I have no right to be stuck in a pity party while we wait for Amelia.


Fall Festival

I usually leave for work long before Brad and Caroline wake up… early to get to work, early to leave. But Brad had a meeting to make, so I got to spend a rare, sweet morning with Caroline. We were both so proud. I treasure our one-on-one time. It doesn’t replace having BOTH of my daughters at home, but there is still something to be cherished about time alone with my oldest. Reality check #1.

A pacifier. Sue me. :)
On the ride to work, I heard a Charles Stanley sermon. He said, “Some of God’s choicest blessings come through hardship. It’s the difficult times that prune us, and knock off our rough edges, and refine us, and make us more like our Creator. If we really want to be like our Father, then we should be thankful for the hard times.” Wow. I do want to be more like God. Even if that means pain. Reality check #2.

Then I checked my voice mail. A friend’s baby girl died. WOW. There aren’t even words I can add to that. Reality check #3.

So if you’re wondering how I’m doing today – even though December 1 has passed, the “deadline” for when we should’ve heard something if we are to get our Amelia without delay, – I will tell you this: I am blessed. Smothered in blessings. I am thankful. And hopeful. Please keep praying.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rosa Parks

Our city has come a long way.

I just read an amazing blog post about Rosa Parks. Her arrest happened exactly 55 years ago in our own little city... the bus boycott that followed, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s rise to Civil Rights Movement leadership... it all happened in the same little city where we live today.  It brought tears to my eyes to read this post about their amazing fight for fairness, (which still isn't won, by the way.) 

The same city that sparked the Civil Rights Movement is also the place where we will now be able to raise our beautiful African daughter.  And we've received all of the support in the world. Thank God for progress.

World AIDS Day


Today is World AIDS day.  For an interesting article about adopting HIV+ children, go here.