Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Battle Lines are Drawn

I mentioned in my earlier post, I have been feeling like God is calling me to join Him on the battle line for Nora and all the other children out there who need adopted. Those beautiful children whose "wait" to be in the arms of a family has been far longer than God would ever want for them. I'd like to expound on that idea today. God is giving me this vivid vision of what that battle line looks like and it excites my heart and rallies me behind His goodness like I've never been rallied before. I know He has gifted me as an artist, but honestly, I wish I could hire Thomas Blackshear to do a painting of this vision I have in my head. His style of work would be perfect for what is in my mind and my own artistic abilities would not do it justice. I'd like to still try to describe this vision, but know ahead of time the scene in my mind is probably much more vivid and alive than what these words will lead you to's just hard to put art into words.

This past Wednesday was my last class on prayer for this series at our church. Eyob had us contemplating and discussing the subject of persistence in our prayer life when we feel like God hasn't answered our prayers yet. To illustrate this point, he had us look at the passage found in Daniel 10 (I will let you read it on your own and just summarize it here). To say this is an incredible passage is to put it mildly. I have never heard this passage preached on in church and I actually wonder is remarkable! We find Daniel in this passage three weeks into a fast because he had prayed to God for understanding and he had not yet received it. He was being persistent in his prayers, expectations, and desires to hear God's answer to his prayer. He did not give up praying the first day, week, or even 15 minutes (like many of us do). He had been faithfully fasting and praying for 3 weeks. Finally on the 24th day an angel appeared to him and told him that God had indeed answered his prayer for understanding the very day he had prayed for it, but that he (the angel) was delayed in bringing the message to him because he was fighting a battle against another enemy angel who had gotten in his way for the past 21 days. While still fighting this angel, he had to call on one of the chief princes, Michael, to come and continue the fight for him so that he could get this message on over to Daniel. Michael did continue to fight the other angel while God's answer to Daniel's prayer was delivered to him. The angel told Daniel he was then heading back to the fight because yet another angel was on his way to continue the battle and he only had Michael to help support him.

What!?!?!?! Can you even fathom what all is going on around us in the spiritual realms? I can't...or I guess I should say I haven't. Who would have known that with each prayer we pray to God there are (or could be) literal angel battles happening in order for our answer to arrive. Why, oh why do we so easily place the blame on God for not showing up or caring about us when our prayers aren't answered as quickly as we want them to be? We have such little faith. Perhaps it would be wise for us to realize we really don't have a clue what all is going on around us or what all needs to happen for our loving, good, and gracious God's answer to come. Perhaps we should be more persistent in our prayers in case there is a battle going on in the Heavenlies on behalf of us.

What if Daniel would have stopped praying, fasting, and expecting an answer from God? Would the angel war been won by the opposing angel? Would God's answer never have made it to Daniel? Who knows. We will never know, but when it comes to my own prayer life, this account certainly inspires me to keep on praying and not give up. Our minds are profoundly dumb and limited in light of God's. I feel completely humbled as a human to know there are angels willing to fight for me to receive a message from the Lord. It is also humbling to know God loves and cares for me so much that He literally answers my prayer as promptly as I've prayed it. It is, however, also very humbling to realize just how quickly I give up on trusting that amazing God to answer little ole' me when He may have given me the answer long before it actually arrived to me. It spurs me onward towards trusting my God even more intimately.

So, when applying this passage's example to my own current life situation, I can not help but think of this adoption. As I pray and continue praying for Nora's paperwork to be moved beyond the speed it "typically" should take in Haiti, I am inspired to not give up on that prayer. What if there is an angel trying desperately to move through a battlefield to deliver God's "YES" to me? If I knew that was happening wouldn't I become even more persistent in my prayers for God's will to be done and for His forces in the spiritual realms to be given full power to make His will happen? You bet I would! There is no doubt in my mind that Satan and all his evil angels want nothing more than to stop adoptions from happening. Adoptions are a mirror image of what God has done to us as His children so of course Satan wants to end each and every one of them from going through. I can only imagine the battle lines that are drawn every day for these children. This is where I feel God began to paint such a vivid vision in my head...

I see a war-torn, dark and stormy scene before me. In the distance are children. All kinds of children--all races, all ages, all sizes. They are trapped in a huge cage for both good and evil. Good because they are safe from the war going on around them and evil because they can not get to the families they want to be with. Their little arms are reaching out from behind those big black metal bars as if calling out for someone to rescue them. Nora is being held in there by another little girl. She too is one of those children needing rescued. In the forefront of the painting is a battle line. On one side there are no people on the's just an empty, darkened, abandoned space with a tumultuous terrain. On the other side of the line there are people. Ordinary people like you and me...actually I know I was in the line up. The people are dirty as if they have already done some fighting. Some are crying, some are lifting their arms in worship, some are on their knees, some are linked arm in arm. They are all shoulder to shoulder, so close to each other that nothing would be able to get past them. They are the parents who are adopting the children in that cage. They are weary but can see it on their faces. They know they are going to win. In the dark and stormy sky above this banded row of people are the most terrifying and awesome heavenly angels also in a row parallel to the people below them. They have swords drawn, arrows pointed, and fire ready. Their armor and weapons are clean, sharp, shiny, and beautiful. Their bodies are full of an indescribable white light and fire--so much they are almost glimmering. They are wispy, like stratus clouds, yet hold confident, fierce faces with a determination to win the battle. They are holy and awesome. On the other side of the battle line in the sky there is another row of angels. Dark, evil, and scary angels. They have dark red eyes and are equally as wispy as the heavenly angels, but not light in color. They also hold swords and arrows and fire in their hands. Their armor and weapons, however, are old, rusty, scarred, and un-kept. They don't care about anyone or anything. They are death, but on their faces they hold a look that says they are just as determined to win the battle. The battle lines are drawn. The enemy line is is not built with people on the ground, but simply with the angels of darkness in the sky. The good line is is built not just with the angels of God, but with an extra line of force--His grown children faithfully praying for His Will and His Victory to be won. The battle is about to begin.

That is the vision. The battle is about to begin. It hasn't begun, it hasn't been won, it hasn't is just about to begin. Right after I had this vision, I had an interesting second vision for a brief moment. It was the exact same scene as described above except one change. Instead of the line of people close to one another forming a wall of fighting power, there was just me. I was dirty and determined, yet there was a fear in my eyes that could not be mistaken. I was alone and you could see it in my eyes. I had the same full force of heavenly angels above me, but as far as my human line of defense, I was it. There was a question in my spirit if I could win the was what fed my fears.

It was this second vision that sparked a need to type this post. I have no idea what all God is speaking to me (or you) with this vision, but I have to wonder if He was pleading with me to gather the troops to join me on that battle line so we could claim the Victory. It was obvious I, as well as the other people in the first vision, had already done some battle--remember, we were dirty--but I could tell this war was going to be something different than anything we had experienced before. More fierce. More intense. More at stake. A larger, more grand, and amazing outcome for God's glory. BUT. In order for that to happen, it HAD to be the essence of the first vision. The battle HAD to have a solid line of brothers and sisters, moms and dads, who were willing to fight on the front line for their children's freedom or it just wasn't going to happen. Even though we have all prayed and fought our own battles trying to get our children home, I felt like God was asking us to stop battling alone and join together in one epic battle.

So, I guess, I'm leaving you with this question. If you are a parent who is in the process of adoption or if you are a parent still wondering if God is calling you to adopt, are you willing to join me on the battle line for our children? Are you willing to come alongside each other in a very solid, determined, victory-focused wall? Remember, we were not the ones fighting with weapons in that vision--we were fighting with prayer, worship, and solidarity to the One who we KNEW would lead us to Victory. The battle belongs to the Lord! Our children may not be in a dark and dirty cage, but they are being held in orphanages across the world. They need rescued--even if they are being held in wonderfully cared for, Christian-run places. They need to be set in, loved on, and cherished as part of a family--a forever family. They are the faces of what this fight is all about.

If you are not in the journey of adoption, this vision can still apply to you, too. We all have battles happening in our lives that need to be won. Battles against addictions like pornography, eating disorders, or alcohol. Battles against depression, anger, marital unfaithfulness. Battles against loss, fear, and broken hearts. Whatever your battle is, you were never meant to fight that battle alone. You were meant to have all the angels and children of God on your team. The battle line is drawn and the real war--the epic battle--is about to begin for you too. What do you need to do to make sure you have your army in place to ensure your victory?

I looked up a few passages after journaling about my vision and the thoughts and feelings that came out of that time with the Lord. I will type the references here with links for you. I encourage you to look them up and allow them to give you much hope and courage as you potentially prepare yourself to join me or others on the front line. I also listened to two worship songs that have become very meaningful in my journey. The first tells of the God who is on our side in the battle and the second tells of the outcome of the victory we are all fighting for no matter what the battle before you is about. I hope and pray that God is truly rising up an army of faithful and persistent praying people. I am ready for the fight.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"I Prayed to God"...and the Angels Rejoiced!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
-Luke 15:8-10

On March 17th, our beautiful daughter, Lily, made the most important decision she will ever make and because of that decision, she made the angels of God rejoice! Hallelujah! Yes, that is the date that will forever be solidified in her heart (and mine) as the day she chose Jesus. Just as the woman in the passage above wanted to tell all of her friends and neighbors about how she found her coin, I wanted to share with all of you about how my daughter found Jesus. It is my hope and prayer it can either draw others closer to the Lord or perhaps help others know how simple it is in showing others the love God has for them and leading them in that prayer for their salvation.

A bit of background here before I share the story of those precious moments I experienced with my daughter. Micah and I have had several friends' children being offered an invitation at church, a sporting event, or such to accept Jesus as their personal Savior or be their "Forever Friend"
(and many are accepting-praise God). Although we have no qualms with these events or the decisions they produced for our friend's families, it was not sitting well for us about our own children. Lily is not quite 6 years old and we have always wondered if she was a bit too young to truly make that decision for herself without being convinced by an adult it was the right move for her. We wanted that moment to be 100% genuinely approached out of her OWN desire, not directed by another person's desire FOR her. We just didn't want her precious little hand being raised because she thought she was "supposed to" or because her favorite teacher was leading the invitation, or because her best friend was raising her hand. Obviously, Micah and I want nothing more for our children than to have them all come to know Jesus in a personal and preciously intimate way, but we wanted them to choose that for themselves when the time was right for them. Out of those desires, we chose to not even talk much about this decision they would one day have to make if they truly wanted to follow Christ and get into Heaven. It didn't seem natural yet--we decided we would wait until they were a little older and better capable (in our eyes) of understanding it. We have, however, often talked about how God has created our children and lives in their hearts because He loves them and that our desire for our family is to follow His will for us, so the concepts of Christ as the top priority were not necessarily new for Lily on this day. Clear as mud??? Okay, on with the story...

Saturday, March 17th was a pretty typical day in our family life. I needed to do some shopping for summer clothes for the kids and even myself. I decided I would take Lily along to make sure her shorts were the proper length for school before buying them. Shopping days like these don't happen very often, so she was excited as she LOVES these longer "girl time" days when it's just me and her out shopping together. We began our typical shopping trip at Goodwill for their 50% off day (l.o.v.e. those) and then hit up Once Upon A Child. These two stops literally took us to lunch time. So, there we sat in our van in a parking lot eating our peanut butter and honey sandwiches when out of the blue comes the question that sparked it all. *I've changed the names of the other people in this story for their privacy.

Lily begins, "Mom, Max told me yesterday that he was born and then a long time later his Mom and Dad got married and then they had another baby, but that can't happen so I told him he was wrong." Hmmm....I swallowed my bite of sandwich with a smile on my face knowing that someday I'd knew I'd have to have this little talk with Lily--I just wasn't thinking it would be on our shopping day in the van during lunch. So, I answered, "Well, honey, that's actually not true. Babies can be born by people who aren't married." Lily, "Huh!?!?! You and Daddy told me people get married first and then have babies." I responded, "Yep, that's what we've told you because that is the way God wants it to happen, but sometimes people don't know God or don't know what God wants for them or maybe even they just forget what God wants for them and they do whatever they want to do. God wants men and women to love each other, get married, and then have babies, but sometimes people just don't do that." Lily continues, "How do they have babies when they aren't married?" Hmmm.....

I quickly tried to figure out what all to say so she would hear the truth about God's design of sex and yet be totally age appropriate at the same time (*Micah and I are not embarrassed, nervous, or frightened about talking to our kids about sex--or anything for that matter--so please don't think I was so taken back by this question that I was trying to avoid it, I was simply trying to figure out what all to say and not to say based on her age). I continued, "Well, Lily, when two people are in love and want to express that love for each other in a physical way they can have what's called called 'sex'. Sex is something that can make the woman pregnant and create a baby. God doesn't want us to have sex until we are married, but if people don't know God then sometimes they do it even when they aren't married. If that happens then they might get pregnant and can have a baby like Max's parents did. But the cool part, Lil, is that Max's parents learned who God was and how much He loved them and decided to get married after all. Now they love each other, are following God and having more babies." At that moment, I was completely expecting the conversation to turn towards more questions about sex and was gearing up to answer all of her questions. However, what I said in response to Lily's question spurred on an even deeper question in her tender heart that changed the direction of the conversation completely.

With all sincerity in the world, Lily looked over at me and questioned, "Mom, how does somebody not know God?" Startled at the change in subject, I answered, "Lily, that is a great question! Sometimes people don't go anywhere, like church, where they would be able to hear about who God is and how much He loves them. They might not have any friends or people around them who talk about God, so they just don't know who He is. Or, they might actually know who God is, but they just decide they don't want to believe He loves them so they do whatever they want to in life and pretend He doesn't exist." Lily continued, "But I thought God lives in our hearts?" I answered, "You're right. He does live in our hearts, but we have to believe for ourselves that He's in there and then chose to follow what He wants." Lily continued, "I thought having God in your heart just meant you get to go to Heaven?" I, in awe of what was transpiring, answered, "Well, yes, that's true, Lil. If you accept Jesus as your Savior in your heart you are given the gift of going to Heaven, but that's not the only thing having Jesus in your heart is about. If we want to go to Heaven, we have to ask Jesus to forgive us for our sins. Do you know what a sin is?" Lily answered, "Yep. It's when you are angry." Chuckling a little, I said, "Well, no, not exactly. You can be angry and that not be a sin, but if you act out in your anger in a way that God doesn't want you to, then that is sinning. Like, if you are mad at your brothers and you decide to hit them in your anger, that would be a sin because God doesn't want us to hit someone else. Does that make sense?" Lily, "Yep." I continued, "Well, all of the sins we do deserve a punishment. Kinda like if you do something wrong in our house, we give you a 'time out' as your punishment? (Lily nodded in agreement) Well, when we sin the punishment is that when we die we would actually go to a place called hell! (Lily's eyes about bugged out of her head at this point). Do you know what hell is?" Lily, "Nope."

"Well, hell is a place that is opposite of Heaven. You know how Heaven is a beautiful, fun, happy place where God is and you want to go? Lily excitedly, "...and has jewels that sparkle and gold streets!!!" Me, "Yep, all of those awesome things...well, hell is the opposite. It is a scarey, dark, and sad place where God can never be. It's a place you never want to go to. When you sin though, that is where we are supposed to go for our punishment." Lily, very concerned, says, "Mom, I don't EVER want to go there." So, I, in complete awe and disbelief almost that this is actually happening, said, "Well, Lil, there's a way to make sure you never go there. Do you remember how God sent Jesus to the earth and he died on the cross?" Lily, "Yep." I continued, "Well, Jesus died on that cross because he loved us and didn't want us to ever have to go to hell because of our sin. When He died He took all of the punishment we deserve from our sins and went to hell for us. While He was in hell, He took away the keys to the doors of hell so that everyone who loves Him would never be able to get in there ever again. Isn't that so cool! After He took the keys, He rose from hell or the grave and won against sin!" Lily, completely listening, exclaims, "That's Easter, Mom!" Me, "Yep! That's Easter! See, Lily, God loves me and He loves you and He loves everyone so much. He wants us all to be living our lives the way He desires and then in the end He wants to take us to Heaven with Him forever. Is that something you want?" Lily answered, "Yeah! But what do I do?" I answered, "Well, you just have to pray. You have to tell God you want to accept the gift He has for you--the gift of Heaven, freedom from the punishment for your sins, and that you want to live your life for Him. Is that something you want to pray?" Lily, "Yep! I want to pray that." Silently already thanking God for this moment, I said, "Well, we can do that right now if you want to. You have to do that yourself, though, Lily. It's not something Mommy can pray for you. If you want to make that decision for yourself, you have to pray the prayer to God yourself." Looking a bit concerned, Lily said, "But, Mommy, I don't know what to pray." I assured her by saying, "Well, do you want Mommy to say a line of the prayer and then IF you agree with it, you can repeat it?" Lily, looking relieved now, answered, "Yes, Mommy, you say it and I'll repeat it."

And so, we grabbed each others' hands and prayed to God...
"God, thank You for loving me. Jesus, thank You for going to hell for me and freeing me from the punishment of my sins. Thank You for the gift of Heaven. I want to follow You and do what You want me to do. Please live in my heart and help me too live for you. Help me to love You the way You want me to. Help me to love others the way You want me to. Help me to love myself the way you want me to. I accept You as my Savior and I love You. Amen."

When that prayer was done, with tears in my eyes, I looked over to see before my face a little girl with a HUGE smile. Before I knew it she was throwing her arms around me and hugging me tight. It was a moment I will never forget! The tears just would not stop. What a profound moment in her life I was honored and humbled to witness. We called Daddy at home to tell him the wonderful news and for Lily to tell him I just kept crying and crying as she rolled her eyes (*smile*). I kept reiterating to Lily how SPECIAL this moment was in her life. She was literally beaming when she next asked me, "Mom, what is the name of that prayer?" I answered, "Well, Lily, there isn't really a name for it, it's just a prayer." She insisted, "Mom, I think we should name it and then when we get home, we should write it out on a paper so I can share it with everyone!" Oh, my heart....not only is my girl giving her life to the Lord in one moment, the next moment she is becoming the evangelist God desires all of us to be! What a testimony of the child-like faith and heart of Christ He puts inside a new believer...even at almost 6 years old. So beautiful. I told Lily it seemed like an excellent idea to name that prayer and asked her what she wanted to call it. She answered, "I think I'd call it the 'I Prayed to God' prayer." *Smile* I assured her that was a cool name for that prayer.

After our phone call to Daddy, a few more hugs, and letting Lily know the angels in Heaven were literally rejoicing and singing and having a party because they were so joyful for Lily's decision, we decided to head off to Kohls for the next part of our shopping trip. Thankfully God put something on my heart as we were walking by the jewelry department that stopped me in my tracks. I thought it would be great for Lily to have something extra special to "mark" this moment in her mind for all days to come. I wanted her to have something to remember that this day was even more special than a birthday or other past special day. I thought a cross necklace would be perfect, but as we looked, she did not like any of them. I was trying to convince her she would learn to like it (ha!) when she focused her sights on a beautiful little locket engraved on the top with a beautiful cross. "I want that one, Mom, and I can put my picture in it!" exclaimed Lily. I looked at the price and inwardly gasped until I realized it was majorly on sale, I had an additional coupon and a $10 gift card that would all make it completely affordable (go God!). I teared up again as I thought of how incredibly perfect this day had become.

That night I uploaded a picture of my little girl I took when we got home, typed out an incredibly small "March 17, 2012", printed them from our computer, and placed them proudly into the locket. Now Lily will forever have a keepsake of that day--a locket with a cross on the front filled with a picture of her on the very day the angels rejoiced over her as well as the date in case she ever needs that simple reassurance that she was indeed loved by the Lord of Lords and secure in Him.

What a day! What an incredible day! It goes to show we never really know what all the Lord has in store for our every-day life and being prepared for anything is truly valuable.
I thought I was taking Lily shopping and God was instead preparing my daughter's heart for Him! Thank You, God, for Your unending and abounding love for all of Your children. It also goes to show that even in our sinfulness of life, God can use it for GOOD! Thank you, Max's parents, for allowing God's love to cover over your sins as well so that eventually down the road, He could use it to open up a discussion that ended up guiding my daughter to Him. What you might have thought to be something of your "negative" past has turned into something so beautiful--in your son, Max, in your marriage, in your additional children, and now also in my daughter's life.

If you are a person reading this post and learning about God's love for you for the first time, I highly encourage you to pray the "I Prayed to God" prayer from your own heart and accept all of the grace and blessings God has for you as His child. Maybe His will for you today was to hear the story of His saving grace in Lily in order to reach your own heart today. Do not let the moment slip away if this is what He is calling to you. He wants to be the Savior of not only Lily, but of you too.

(My proud little girl of her necklace and decision to follow Jesus)

(A photo of the two of us together--a day I was humbled and blessed to be a part of)

(A Mama's love for her precious daughter--only God was loving her more!)

(Daddy was blessed to hear of the news too!)

(The sunset the day the angels were rejoicing for Lily)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Call To Prayer for the Children of Haiti

I came across these two videos put out by Nightline on ABC. Part 1 is 10 minutes long and Part 2 is 8 minutes long. It is worth the 18 minutes for all of us to be aware of what is really happening in Haiti and why it is so important to be praying for its children. I found myself crying and praying a prayer of thanksgiving for Nora's birth parents. I was thanking God for giving Adrienne and Joseph hearts that would place their children in the care of Rivers of Hope and ultimately into our arms so we can give them the love, family, nurture, education, and life they deserve instead of the poverty, abuse, and horrific conditions of the restaveks (child slaves in Haiti). It also compelled me to be praying for all the other children out there--in Haiti and beyond--who need to be rescued.

The song "God of this City" came to my mind at the end as a reminder that God is bigger than this wrongful devastation and can do something greater yet in the way Haitian adoptions work in order to get more children into proper homes in secure and legal ways. To Him be the glory as we continue this adoption of Nora and save at least one little girl from what could have been her destiny.

6 Months Old

Happy 1/2 Year Birthday, Nora!!!

Nora turns 6 months old this Friday. I thought it would be fun to compare this little pumpkin's latest pictures we received with photos of our other children at this age. I think she fits right in...okay, maybe a little darker skin (especially than Toby) and definitely more hair, but as cute as cute can be! : )

Here they all are sitting up great...





Having tummy time...

Lily with tummy time

Toby with tummy time

Quinn with tummy time

Nora with tummy time

I even found some old videos of Lily and Toby at 6 months old doing some of the same things supposedly Nora is doing...babbling and being up on her belly. These videos prove we have come a long way with technology, but they are cute nonetheless! Can't wait till I get my next video of Nora--probably won't be till this summer, but it is still anxiously awaited! : )

Friday, March 23, 2012

How's the Adoption Going?

It's probably one of the most asked question to me these days..."How's the adoption going?" Some people ask it with a smile on their face while others ask it with a wince and hesitation in their voice just hoping I have good news for them, but fearing the worst. (Others never once bring it up--which is equally just as awkward) My short and typical response to this question no matter how it is asked is, "Well??? (long pause) It's going."

I fully admit, it is not a great answer. It does not give details. It does not give much hope. It does not give much disappointment. It certainly does not give you my emotions on an ordinary day in the life of an adoption process. It tells you something but not really anything. It's not a great answer. To be honest, I answer it this way because I question in my mind if people really want the full answer. This question is typically asked in passing where a long and intimate answer would not seem normal--like as we ran into each other at the grocery, being greeted at the door of church, or on a wall post of facebook. It's as if people want an answer just as short as the question they posed. It's honestly the best short answer I can give right now without allowing my heart to be too involved. Maybe people truly want to know the longer version of the answer--the real answer--and I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt. If that has been you and I've simply answered your heartfelt question with "Well, it's going." and you really wanted more, then I am truly sorry. The truth is my life continues on every day "normally" here, but my mind has this whole other sub-story, if you will, continually running at the same time--a sub-story of all the details and emotions and prayers and thoughts about Nora, the adoption process, and the people I've met along the way. It is never far from the front of my mind or the middle of my heart.

So, without further ado, I've decided I would take a post here--a looonnng post--to give everyone the real answer to the question "How's the adoption going?". To try to organize my completely random and never-ending thoughts about our adoption I'm going to put them into these categories for this post...Timeline of the Process, Nora Herself, A Family's Heart, My Prayer Life, Financial Goals, and The "Adoption Club". Each are quite lengthy so I would actually encourage you to take a section at a time to read through. (Lord help them if they try to tackle this one all in one setting and come out alive!) Maybe one a day for the rest of the next week even--I won't be offended--I told you this is why I typically answer the question with the short version! : )

Timeline of the Process

A "typical" Haitian adoption (if there even is such a thing) takes 1-2 years to complete from the time you enter your paperwork on the Haitian end of things. We were blessed to do that very thing in the middle of February. So, even though we have been at this from our end since last July, we are really only 1 month into our 1-2 year wait. I can almost hear the gasps and looks of pity from many of you right now. I know they are there because when that question is asked directly to me I would say that is the response about 99% of the time. I know...ugh. It seems eternal some days and then other days I realize we have been at this for almost 9 months and for the most part that time has flown by so maybe the wait will go quicker than I give it credit for....maybe....probably not, but I have to have hope.

Our paperwork is currently in IBESR (Haitian Social Services) and some families from our orphanage have been unfortunately been stuck there since last spring. It's crazy in my mind to think I could quite literally be in this exact same spot a year from now when our original time frame put us through this "stage" in 2-6 months. Things are slow going on the adoption front in Haiti right now and there are a lot of reasons for that. One of the main reasons is that the director of IBESR, the President and Prime Minister positions have all been changing a lot lately and the focus of those people are primarily on, well, let's just say...not on signing adoption papers. The President, himself, has to sign dispensation papers for anyone who does not meet the requirements of the Haitian adoption standards before they can officially be out of IBESR (we fall into that category). Because his focus has had to be on other issues since this last fall, the stack of those papers has become huge. Some of these people have literally been waiting over a year for that one signature. For us, once we are approved by IBESR and our papers are signed by the President, Nora's name has to be published in a newsletter before we are officially out of this first stage. Once her name appears in that publication, we can make our next trip down to go before the judge and move onward in the process.

The time frame of when her name is published in this newsletter is also something very unpredictable. It wasn't even on our original timeline because we didn't learn of it until we were somewhat into the process. This publication could be just a few short weeks after we receive dispensation or it could be half a year or more before Nora's name appears on that list. The only way to ever wrap your brain around why these things are so unpredictable is to accept the reality that Haiti's people do not live life like you and I in the US. You will truly never be able to understand that fully until you have personally been there to experience it, but if I can sum it up in a sentence for you...they are a simple people with simple systems that are so archaic compared to ours that we quite literally can not understand it unless we remove ourselves from our reality and enter theirs.

One of my fellow adopting mamas summed it up brilliantly, I think, the other week. Her thoughts were something like this: Haiti doesn't have a governmental "system" like we do here in the US...they have governmental "people". For example, in the US, when a law or requirement or expectation is made by the government, it would hold true no matter who the person was hired to carry it out. When US governmental employees come and go, the law doesn't necessarily change. In Haiti, however, even if there was a certain governmental law being carried out by a person in that position, if that person left their position and a new person would come into that spot, they could change everything if they wanted to and create a different law or rule or expectation--and that is the case many times. Therefore, nothing is predictable. Nothing is expected. Everything is changing all the time because the people of the government are changing all the time. It's not a "system" it's a "people". Does that help this make sense at all? I mean, I know it doesn't make rational sense in our world of thinking, but does it help you understand why the process takes that long? It's not something I like accepting, but I really have no choice. God has called us to a little girl in Haiti and we are being faithful to getting her home despite the process.

Nora Herself

Speaking of that little Haitian girl...have you wondered how she is? I wonder how she is...every day....some days, every moment of every day. (Sigh). Nora will turn 6 months old next Friday! Can you even believe it??? 6 months old. I would tell you what she weighs or what her favorite toy is, but I don't know those things. Here is what I do know (thanks to brief emails from the director, pictures, or from others who have visited her there and communicated with me about it later):
  • She loves to eat. She was started on baby food at 3 1/2 months old because she was downing formula like there was no tomorrow.
  • Her favorite food is bananas. She does not like salty baby foods. (Someone please tell me what on earth that means...I don't recollect baby food being salty at all so I'm curious what exactly they are feeding her!)
  • She is surrounded by so many toys in her crib that she can barely fit in there. The other kids have nothing in their cribs but their beautiful name tags made by some dear little ones who live in Haiti as a missionary family. She is spoiled, but I love that she is being stimulated by toys (see photo below).
  • The nannies dote on Nora like she is the "Queen Bee" of the orphanage. As the director emailed to me once, "Everything nice for Nora." : )
  • She has "her" highchair that no one else gets to sit in. (It's the highchair we sent down for her)
  • She smiles all the time and is a very happy and content baby...rarely fussy unless she is hungry.
  • She is cooing and babbling more and more and even discovered how to make spit bubbles and blow raspberries.
  • She has rolls on her legs and a very round belly. This is significant to us, first, because she lives in a third-world country, and secondly, because none of our other children have ever really had rolls on their legs or a big round belly so we are a bit beside ourselves on that one! : )
  • She can sit up on her own on someone's lap...I haven't heard if she can sit on her own on the floor yet. (see photo below)
  • Her hair is long enough to make tiny little twists...I've only seen this one picture of the twists as evidence, but I think they are adorable and can't wait to do this for her myself (although I'm also glad I have some time to try to figure out how to actually do that)
  • This is the latest photo we have of her. If this was a photo of one of our other children I might have even thrown it out, labeling it as "not very good", but because it is a photo of Nora, I treasure it. No, she is not looking at the camera, but this is what I notice when I look at it: she is sitting up on her own, her hair is either matted down flat in the back or she has a bald spot in the midst of that massive head of beautifully soft hair, she is alert, she is in clothes that actually match, she is outside in the fresh Haitian air instead of inside the damp walls of the orphanage, and she is being held and loved on. It is another photo sent from Haiti that I deem not disposable, but instead...priceless.
All in all, our baby girl is not the 1 month old who was brought to the orphanage by a birth mom and dad who were giving her up out of a love for her and desire to see her live a better life. Instead, she is a 6 month old who is well cared for (at least in Haiti orphanage standards), growing, healthy, and very much her caregivers in Haiti as well as her family here in Goshen, Indiana.

A Family's Heart

Which leads me to my next is our little family in Goshen, Indiana doing at this point in the process? Well, Micah remains Micah...a dad who is enjoying his kids very much and really looking forward to the day Nora is among them in our home. He is the more "steady Eddie" of our crew--he rests in the fact we knew from the beginning of this process it would take 1-2 years so the wait doesn't seem as difficult for him as it does for me. Don't get me wrong, he wants Nora home just as much as me, he just has a wonderful way of handling the waiting time that I am, well, jealous of! : ) Quinn knows who Nora is whenever a photo of her comes up on the computer screen. He often says, " Nora." He even kissed the screen one time, so I'm pretty sure he loves her the best a 2 year old brother can. Toby makes sure Nora is included in our nightly prayers (we would have anyways) and he often asks if she will be home from Haiti today...and is disappointed when I unfortunately say she won't be here today. Lily...oh, Lily, she needs a paragraph all of her own.

Just typing Lily's name and thinking of what I would say to you about her affections for her baby sister tears me up. This girl wants her sister home in a desperate way. She wants to hold her in her own arms as a baby very badly. Just this past Saturday I was having a "girls day" shopping with Lily. Out of the blue while walking through the parking lot hand-in-hand with each other Lily says, "Mom, the only thing that would make this day better would be to have Nora here with us so all of us girls would be together." Oh, my heart. The other night she was having a "scared" moment in her room when she mentioned to Micah she was really hoping Nora would be home soon so she didn't have to sleep in her room alone (although that might come back to bite her as a high schooler when she has an elementary aged sister in her room-ha!). Another example of the love this girl has for Nora is this--when the team from our church came back I was crying while looking at the pictures and she asked me why I was crying. I told her I just missed Nora and wished I could have been the one holding her. She looked at me with all sincerity in the world and said, "Well, at least you have held her, Mom. I haven't even gotten to do that." Ouch. She put me in my place so I just hugged her and reassured her I wished she could have held her by now too as the tears just kept streaming down my face. It's truly hard to help these kids understand this wait...even 1 day seems like "forever" in their minds. There has been much talk between Micah and me about getting Lily on one of these trips to Haiti, but we just aren't sure when or how. We both agree we would LOVE to see her go because it would be an amazing life experience for her, she would be able to love on Nora there, and Nora would be able to meet one of her siblings before coming home. The hard part of the decision really will be if can we afford to add her into the mix of the trip and if we can, which trip to take her along on. The expenses of an additional flight, passport, and accommodations while in Haiti was not in our original plan so we'll just have to see. Oh how I would love to see my girls together though.

And then there is me. This Mama's heart...where is that at almost 9 months into a process that still has 1-2 years more to go? Well, this process is becoming increasingly harder, that is for sure. When you are pregnant and carrying your baby in your womb for 9 months you begin the process by feeling excited you are pregnant. That wears off a bit while you go through a few months of feeling pretty darn sick. Then you begin feeling better physically and you regain excitement as you start to feel the baby move around and your belly actually shows you are indeed "with child". Then the last few months of carrying your child become a bit more burdensome--some because of the increasing amount of weight you have all in the front of you and some because you have now bonded with this child as much as you can without having them in your arms to hold and love. The burden is there because you have grown to love your unborn child so much already and you are SO ready to interact with them and care for them on the outside of your body. Then you go through the pains of labor and you birth your beautiful, perfect baby--there is a bond made that could never have been there completely when that child was just inside you. You can touch them, see them, smell them (unfortunately at moments), and take in the wonder of their unique little self. All of that happens in 9 months. In some ways, I feel these 9 months of adoption process have really been a mirror to that natural mothering process of biological children.

When we decide to go ahead with adopting there was a lot of excitement and happiness and joy--like finding out we were pregnant. Then came the tediousness of putting together a dossier...I would compare that to the sick feelings of the first trimester. It takes a lot out of you to gather all the different forms, send them off to three different places for verifications, getting them translated, and then sent to Haiti. Blah. Then the anticipation and excitement returns as you await your match to your child and you begin to feel a little more spirited as you lay eyes on your first picture of her and you just "know" this is the right little girl for you. Then as the process continues you start to feel more and more burdened like you do in your third trimester. Mainly because you make a trip to meet your precious little one, you bond with her, and you continue to get wonderful pictures of her for several months. You are watching her grow and develop through those pictures. You are getting a sense of who she is and who she may become by stories others tell are bonding because you are carrying her--not in your belly, but in your heart. But here lies the problem. The next stage in a typical birth is that you actually get to birth them and have them in your arms to continue the bonding and further the's the end to the 9 months of waiting. In our adoption, however, we get to stay stuck in this "third trimester" for 1-2 years more before holding her in our arms. It doesn't feel isn't natural. Ask any woman who has had biological children and they will tell you no one should have to stay in the last trimester woes for 1-2 years!

So, that is where this Mama's heart is at. Longing for my child to be out of my heart as a "thought" and into my arms as a "person". I know it will potentially be a long time from now that this will be reality and that just simply hurts. I can not explain the paradox of being so frustrated that someone else is holding and loving on your child when you want that to so desperately be you and yet also being so incredibly thankful somebody is doing that while you can not. I can not explain what it feels like to know your child is 6 months old and you have never known for a second what she has ever weighed. I can not explain how much my heart has warmed to my daughter with only spending 4 days with her out of her 6 months of life. I will not lie--it is hard, very hard to be away from her, but I will also say that when God calls you to something in life, He will equip you to deal with it. Let me highlight the word "deal" from the last sentence. I do not enjoy this--I do not find delight in the wait. I deal with it.

The most annoying line people say to me currently is this, "God will bring her home to you in His time". I do not think for a second that God will bring Nora home to me "in His time" because "His time" for Nora to be in my arms has already come and gone--now He is just making the best with what He has to work with. I do not believe He has "so much to teach me along the road" or that He wants to "use Nora in Haiti for something life-changing to someone else" and that is why this process is taking so long. I actually used to think thoughts like those, but that is changing as I pray more and seek more of God along this road. We live in a fallen world where systems and people are corrupt of His perfect and good will for our lives. We also have an enemy who would like nothing more than to delay every step of this process to keep God's will from coming to fruition. God's heart aches just as much, if not even more, than my own that Nora is not in my arms. I believe with all of my heart He is fighting for her to be here as soon as possible and I'm ready to join in that fight. It is not God's will for her to be living in an orphanage right now no matter how nice it is there--God is ALL about families (Ps. 68:6). He is faithful in loving us, teaching us, walking this journey alongside us, and making things good out of it all, but He is not the one behind a 1-2 year process.

So, as my heart continues along for the duration of this last "trimester" (for however long that takes), I know as miserable as I feel some days and as joyful as I feel on other days, my God is right there with me. This Mama's heart is comforted in that and is stirred to keep fighting at the battle lines of the Spiritual war going on over how long that last "trimester" has to be. I can tell you this, no matter how long it takes me to get to the birthing and holding Nora in my arms stage, I will be--as I was with my other 3 beautiful children when they were born--the happiest Mama on the whole earth and I will marvel at this beautiful creation God has blessed me with in Nora.

My Prayer Life

As I said above and in my last several posts actually, I have been changing dramatically in my prayer life and overall view of who God is. I have come to a passionate understanding on a level I have never known before that my God is a never-changing GOOD God and was, is, and always will be fighting for our lives on earth to be as they are in heaven--GOOD and full of ABUNDANT LIFE! It is no different with this adoption. I believe to the core of my being that God is fighting for Nora to be home in our arms even now (and for every orphan to be in a family and loving home even now!). There are so many things (earthly as well as spiritually) that are opposing that desire of His and it's high time I join Him on the battle line for my daughter--and for every orphan who needs someone willing to fight for them in the spiritual realms.

At the beginning of this process I easily accepted the 1-2 year time frame. It didn't bother me much actually. I'm not sure why, but it didn't. I figured there was nothing that could be done to change it, so why worry about it...just accept it and move on through the process just the same as every other mama going through this ordeal. However, I was basing all of my thoughts and feelings out of rational, earthly things such as...this is the time frame it always is for Haiti, this is the way Haiti adoptions work, God called us to adopt from Haiti so this must be what He wants us to go through, at least Nora is in an orphanage run by loving Christians who will care for her while she lives there, what would others think if my adoption went through faster than anyone else's--wouldn't they wonder what made mine so special? Just accept the process for what it is, don't try to rock the boat, and trust that God will bring her home when He's ready and feels we are all ready too. AHHHHHHH..... (I just screamed REALLY loud).....this couldn't be farther from the Truth. Such lies Satan was feeding me to keep me complacent and not fully trusting on my God to be able to be who He who dearly loves each of us and willing to do anything for us...even fight and fight and fight for our good when we sit unknowingly content with life that is not always good to us.

My prayers now are much less concerned about what others around me think and much more concerned with what God wants and needs. He wants abundant life for me. He wants abundant life for Nora. He wants abundant life for all of us. He is needing a faithful and passionate team of humans made in His image to join Him in the fight for His good and perfect will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven!!!! It's not in the Bible, but I'm pretty sure there are no orphanages in Heaven, friends, so why would His will be for anyone to be in them here on earth? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for orphanages for a temporary--very temporary--place for children to be cared for when they are taken out of God's "Plan A" (healthy, solid, loving family groups), but for a child to stay in that mid-way environment for longer than a temporary stop is not something I see my good God being excited about. His "Plan B" needs to happen in less than 1-2 years.

So, there are two specific things I feel God has been speaking to me about in my prayer life for this adoption. The first thing is about mountains and the second is about doors, but both of them have a running thread of "expectation". First of all...mountains. From moment one there has been something intriguing about mountains in this adoption. Rivers of Hope is located in Petionville, Haiti, which is located in the mountains southwest of Port Au Prince. On our trip there this past December, I found myself consistently drawn to the outside porch overlooking the mountainside as a place of sanctuary and reflection with the Lord. It was calming there. Purely beautiful. Here are two pictures of the view, which are nice but really doesn't do it justice at all.

Each time I took a step onto that porch to look at the mountain I thought of this line... "I look to the mountains. Where does my help come from?" I knew it was in the Bible, but had to look up the passage. It is Psalm 121 and I love The Message version:

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won't let you stumble,
your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel's
Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God's your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.

God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

I was reminded by this passage to not trust in the things of this world...the mountains...but instead on the One who not only created the mountains, but also met with humans up on the them many times throughout Scripture. The mountain represented, for me, a place where God intended to meet me...and He has BIG time on this journey. He is where I will find the help and protection and strength I need on this HIM...not in the mountain itself.

Another "mountain" blurb from the Lord had to do with our dossier entering IBESR. When I had first completed our dossier back in September and had all 5 copies of it sitting on my table, I vividly remember saying out loud to my boys in the dining room, "Geeze, what a mountain of paperwork, huh!" See for yourself...

Little did I know, God was going to use that one little line later on when I was stressing about our dossier not getting into IBESR fast enough. One day I was simply praying for God to move our paperwork soon because I just desperately wanted to know we had officially begun our 1-2 year wait. This line from a worship song kept coming to my head, "Savior, You can move the mountains"...even mountains of paperwork! So, again, I decided I should look that up and see what that was referring to. Sure enough, in Matthew 17:19-21, Jesus was answering His disciples' question on why they couldn't throw out the demon from a boy when Jesus came along and did. Here was His response...(again in The Message version)

When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, "Why couldn't we throw it out?"

"Because you're not yet taking God seriously," said Jesus. "The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle."

I felt tremendous peace and excitement as I bolstered up my faith and decided to pray that God would show His power and move that mountain of paperwork for me since I couldn't do it myself. Now, I have this Truth in my heart that if I can't physically be down in Haiti making these mountains of paperwork move through the system, I am certainly going to be praying faithfully to the One I know does have the ability to do just that.

One of the other significant mountain blurbs was spoken to me in my class on prayer recently at church. This Scripture was read aloud and it painted a beautiful picture in my head of my prayers for this adoption. It was Psalm 97: 1-6. It reads (once again in The Message),

God rules: there's something to shout over! On the double, mainlands and islands—celebrate!

Bright clouds and storm clouds circle 'round him;
Right and justice anchor his rule.

Fire blazes out before him,
Flaming high up the craggy mountains.

His lightnings light up the world;
Earth, wide-eyed, trembles in fear.

The mountains take one look at God
And melt, melt like wax before earth's Lord.

The heavens announce that he'll set everything right,
And everyone will see it happen—glorious!

In the midst of an adoption where I am on the mainland and Nora is on an island, let us celebrate what God is going to do! Just as the clouds over the mountain in Haiti were bright one second and stormy the next, so are the clouds around God. There is nothing "right" or "justified" in this Haitian adoption really--only God's rule remains right and justified. May His light shine for the whole world to see (do you remember "Nora" means "light"?!?). May anything earthly tremble at what He can do. The mountains in front of me in this adoption will melt away like wax before the Lord. He can make those craggy mountains smooth and even below our feet. God WILL set everything right--even crazy adoptions that seem to have everything "wrong" in it--and everyone will see it happen for His glory! Can you even imagine? I get goosebumps just thinking of it! After reading this passage, I sat in my chair at church with a big smile on my face and an expectant heart for what God wants to do not only in our adoption, but in Haiti for all adoptions. I am expecting Him to do something RIGHT for all of these children who need to be in their homes.

Besides the mountain thing, there is the door thing. It really continues to follow this line of thinking that God is wanting to do something huge in Haiti that will effect each and every adoption from this day forward...ours included. In that same class on prayer, Eyob, our teacher, was helping us break down the different kinds of prayers we pray (asking, seeking, knocking, intercession, proclamation, prophetic, and thanksgiving) and spent time talking through the dynamics of each of them. The findings proved to be very inspiring to me in my prayer life. The first four--asking, seeking, knocking, and intercession--are meant to be longer and private prayers with God. He took us through Matthew 7:7-8 to help explain the first three. Those verses read (in the NIV):

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

The first prayer we are told to pray is one of asking for something to be given to us. Asking is merely telling God what we want and asking for Him to give it to us. It's our most common type of prayer...presenting God with requests. We discussed how those can be anything from little things like asking God for energy to make it through the day to BIG things like asking God to give us a nation (Ps. 2:8). My heart was stirred...could God be prompting me to ask Him for something as big as faster, more efficient adoptions in Haiti? Wow. My faith would be stretched to ask something so big of God, but did you see what He promises us when we are faithful to asking things of Him? We would have it given to us...we would receive. Amazing!

Then we moved on to seeking prayers. Eyob explained the difference between asking and seeking as this: seeking prayers involve more than just our "head and heart" requests--they involve prayers being prayed that would meet the need of our soul or spirit. They are a deeper or stronger prayer because there is something of hunger and desperation with of these prayers. They wouldn't be prayers for a good test grade (that would be an "asking" prayer)...they would be prayers for a person to come to know the Lord as their Savior or prayers for a nation's adoption program to be miraculously changed to accomplish God's will and desire for these children and their waiting families. Again, just as the asking prayers were answered with reception, these seeking prayers are met with what??? We will find whatever it is we are seeking. We will find the Haitian adoption process miraculously changed, friends, I believe that can happen.

Lastly, in this passage, we move on to the knocking prayer. This prayer is a stubborn and persistent prayer just as if someone was knocking on a door repeatedly with an urgent message. Eyob explained that when both our asking and seeking prayers are embedded with persistence, they become knocking prayers. They are being prayed out of a heart that will not take "no" for an answer because of the faith that person has that God is big enough and good enough to open that door for them. Oh, how I want the doors to be opened for the Haiti adoption process! Am I willing to be in prayer not only asking for our own adoption process to be quicker than Haiti has ever seen before, or to be seeking God to move all Haitian adoption processes in an unheard of fashion of timeliness, but to be knocking on the door of Heaven over and over and over until it would happen? I want to have that kind of prayer life. I want to be that kind of faith-filled human being who loves God so much that I simply want to be in His presence in prayer for these things...and so much more...because I know He will give it to me, help me to find it, and open the door for His goodness to be seen by the whole earth.

I am expecting God to meet me in this adoption process through my prayer time with Him and through His Word. I am expecting Him to show up bigger than the mountains and to level them like wax before me. I am asking, seeking, and knocking for the Haitian adoption process to be radically changed--miraculously changed--for the glory of God and for the abundant life of His children. I believe He is doing something NEW in Haitian adoptions. This was confirmed through another Scripture a fellow mama adopting through Haiti wrote me in an email in the last couple weeks. Here is what she said her email...

"Recently, I've become a bit consumed with adoption timelines--trying to get a grasp on how long we may have to wait for our baby, and the Lord has brought to my attention --on several different occasions --Isaiah 43:18-19: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." I am so excited to see God's hand guide us through this."

I couldn't agree more with Shelley in this excitement....God is asking me to forget the former things of the way Haitian adoptions "work"--He's saying to me, do not dwell on the past of how these adoptions have been working. See, I am doing a NEW thing in these timelines and how these Haitian adoptions will happen. I am making a NEW way to spring up, a WAY in the desert and a FRESH stream of water in the wasteland of these processes. I am SO excited to see what God is doing! My faith and trust is increasing in what all my God can do.

Financial Goals

Financially, we have been so blessed by many of you in our support raising for this adoption. In a matter of a few short months we were able to raise just over $20,000 of our $25,000 goal amount. That is amazing to say the least! The truth is this adoption could topple over that goal amount by another good $5000 easily if all of our estimated expenses turn out to be on the high end of our estimations. We are certainly praying that won't be the case, but we have to think of them as our potential reality. Adoptions are not cheap...that's just the way it is. We have been blown away by the support we have been given financially as well as prayerfully so far on this journey and we humbly ask you to continue to support us as we go along. For those of you who initially gave when we sent out our support letters...thank you! For those of you who purchased an Etch-A-Sketch calendar...thank you! For those of you who have expressed your prayer support to us...thank you! Each and every one of you are a VALUABLE part of this journey not only for us, but for Nora. We are looking forward to and hoping to raise the last amount of our goal by hosting a fundraiser meal at our church on Sunday, May 6th. Come on over for a yummy haystack lunch if you are anywhere in the Goshen area--proceeds will benefit bringing Nora home. Even if you want to come from a further distance, you know you are always welcome--we would love to catch up with you! : ) The meal will be served after both of our services that Sunday with "to go" boxes available as well. The first service is over at 10:15 a.m. and our second service at 12 noon. Come and join us for food, fellowship, and fundraising! If you have interest in helping us serve the meal, contact either myself or Micah and we'd be happy to have your help. I will post more details as the time comes closer, but for now, you can mark it on your calendars for a delicious meal. Also, I think our church rocks so if you want to come for one of the services, we'd love to have you join us for the morning...1st service begins at 9 a.m. and 2nd service at 10:45 a.m. It is the exact same service for both times, so take your pick! : )

The "Adoption Club"

There is something very unique about this experience of adopting. When you get in the middle of it all, you realize how incredibly valuable it is to have relationships with others who have gone before you, are in the middle of it with you, or are coming up behind you. I have been blessed over and over with amazing friendships simply because we answered the call to adopt. From Denise and Amy befriending me through emails while all of our kids are at Rivers of Hope, to the Zanesville crew I got to meet up with a few weeks back who all have kids either recently home or still at Rivers of Hope (see photo below), to the four other couples in our church who are also adopting from various countries or have their children in their arms now, to the Haitian Adoptions facebook group of 307 members and counting, to one of the newest members of our Rivers of Hope family who was connected from a man on Micah's dad's mission team when they went to Rivers of Hope to meet Nora, to the fellow adopting mom through a different orphanage in Haiti of a little girl who is also named Nora who looks strikingly similar and entered IBESR the same week as our Nora, to Micah's best friend from college and his wife also adopting...all of these relationships and so many more are making this journey so unique and supportive. I would never want to do this alone. I am praying and praying for the next person who comes along in my life who feels the same "tug" from the Lord in their hearts to adopt. You will be welcomed with open arms into this crazy, roller coaster of an emotional road, blessed, and life-changing journey. You will be welcomed with open arms into the "adoption club".

So, now that you are at the end of this ridiculously long post--whether you read it all in one setting (Lord, help you) or you took each section as a day of reading like I suggested, I am hoping you now know why I give the short version of my answer to the original question of "How's the adoption going?" when I see people in passing. This true, long, and heart-felt answer is much too long to spew out at someone in an aisle at WalMart, but nonetheless, this answer is always in my mind and heart waiting and ready to come out. So, if you have the time to chat, I'd always love to sit down with you and give you the longer version of my journey as it continues on, but I also won't be offended if the short answer of "Well, it's going" really is all you have time for! : ) Thank you for listening to my heart here, friends, and for loving me along this journey. I am a better woman because of it and Nora will have a better Mama because of it. Until next time...many blessings to you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Beautiful Day with Maddie

For those of you who follow my niece's caring page (if you don't yet and want to, you can find it here) you will know the Montague/White Hall, Michigan area held a benefit for her and the family this past Sunday night from 6-7:30 p.m. As soon as Dan posted about the event, I looked at Micah and said, "We are going. We can not miss that." But to make attending the event a little more special and fun, we decided to make it a surprise to my sister (Amy), Maddie, and Sydney. I let Dan in on the fun (since we didn't want to come up for the day and potentially tire Maddie out too much if he thought it wouldn't be a good idea) and my folks who were already planning on heading up there. Our kids were so excited to play with Maddie again since they hadn't seen her since Christmas, and Micah and I were excited to be a part of a gathering of many supporters for them.

We arrived just before lunch time, honking away in their driveway. Maddie and Sydney were playing in the yard and looked very confused as to who on earth was making all the commotion. As soon as Micah stepped out of the van, however, confusion turned to a huge smile on Maddie's face followed by a quick run over for a big hug. It was purely delightful to see her excited to have us there. The next moment was my sister coming out of the house with tears streaming down her face and embracing me...again, pure delight to know we could physically come up there and wrap our arms around them. I love surprises!

Much of the afternoon revolved around the older cousins playing together with Easter egg hunts, iPad and Leap Pad games, as well as a restful movie time, while the younger cousins took naps so they wouldn't be grumpy at the benefit. The adults spent the time visiting or taking photos like these of the was a typical relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.

Then came time for the main event. We all drove over to the high school auditorium to find almost 700 people gathered to celebrate Maddie, worship our God, and pray for healing. It was an amazing turnout!

The evening opened with a slide show of various pictures of Maddie while a family friend sang a beautiful song she wrote specifically for Maddie...I honestly doubt there was a dry eye in the whole place. The evening continued on with a time of worship songs, reflections from two area pastors, heart-felt sharing from Dan, Amy, and Maddie, a free will offering that brought in an overwhelming amount of money for their needs, a tap dancer dancing for the Lord to a praise song, prayers from various pastors, a rep from the bone marrow registry giving directions and encouragement for everyone to sign up, a choir of people singing a last song together, and a cookie reception afterwards in the lobby. It really was so well put together and a blessing to be a part of.

My favorite moment of the evening really came down to my sweet niece's own sharing time at the microphone. This brave, 8 year old fighter took that stage like it was nothing--no nerves, no fears, just a young girl with a message of gratitude and hope for all who were listening. She spoke of the reality of life--the good, the bad, the "bummers", and the blessings. She talked of laughter despite the hard times and the importance of knowing there is a team of people supporting her along those hard times. It was a beautiful, simple, and refreshing way of looking at this ugly reality of going through cancer for the second time in her young life. Those little moments of seeing the silly little Maddie we have loved since the beginning of her life shining through were priceless. There is really no way I can do her speech justice without having you simply listen to it for yourself....

I am so blessed to be a part of a family who loves each other dearly. I am so blessed to have Maddie as an example for my children to look up to and love not only as a cousin, but as a friend. We continue to pray for Maddie's healing...specifically, for a donor to come on the bone marrow list in the next few weeks who would be a 100% match for Maddie's transplant. They have two 90% cord blood donations they can use, but we are praying for God to miraculously bring a 100% match through a donor yet. God is able and we put our trust in Him! Thank you, Maddie, for the example of faith and trust in the God who created you to be just who you are...He loves you, He hears your prayers, and He is good!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Have Come That They May Have...Sickness?

I am sorry, friends, it has been a bit since I have posted. We have been busy celebrating birthdays (mine and Micah's) this past week in the midst of also trying to battle sickness in our household. There is still so much I want to share with you on what God has been speaking to me. The problem is that He seems to bring new things every day as well as hammer in points from previous days and I never feel like I have enough time to soak it all in and then regurgitate it here. Oh, the pressure of wanting to share the good news!!! : ) Anyways, here goes with another one of my "enlightenment moments" with God:

God did not come for us to be sick.

Can I say that again? God does NOT want anyone to be living in sickness or with disease. Much like I stated in the previous post that God did not come so that we could have stress...He also did not come so that we could have sickness. He came for us to have an abundant life. God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus, to earth to die for our sins and conquer death, disease and sickness once and for all. His final victory conquered these things so why would we ever believe He currently condones it or allows it as if it was His will? I believe He is consistently fighting AGAINST it daily, hourly, minutely, and momently for us. However, it is still here--people still get sick. If Jesus has conquered it, why is it still here?

Because we live on earth--in a fallen world--not in the realm of the final victory, but where we are still on the battlefield. Satan still roams on the battlefield and has the ability to deceive us, kill us, discourage us, and pull us away from God. It's what he does best--it's his only desire--to get more and more of God's created children to not believe and not trust in Him--it's his only way to still attack God. Sickness and disease still exist because Satan is still using them for his purposes--still using them as tools to help him win on the battlefield against God. It's as if we are his pawns...having us physically sick is like Satan laughing with glee. Doesn't that just churn your stomach? There is a spiritual battle going on all around us, friends, whether we choose to believe it or not. God has certainly won the entire war--He is the Victor, but there are many battles to fight between now and then and those battles, unfortunately, are not always won because we live in a sinful and fallen world. No matter what type of sickness you are going through (or your friend or family member is going through) you can be certain God is fighting for health in that battle--He would never fight any other way. There is no possible way His good and perfect will can bring sickness, death, or disease--it's literally impossible because they are not good. They are not of God. They are of this world and a tool of Satan to literally and physically hurt us, kill us, or somehow distract us from living life with complete trust in the Lord.

In the "Lord's Prayer" (found in Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus gives us specific instructions on how to pray. It reads, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." The current two keys line for me are: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" and "deliver us from the evil one." This has been revolutionary for me these last few weeks in a LOT of different areas. If we are to be praying for God's will on earth right now just like His will is carried out in heaven, then we must always be praying for health, wholeness, abundant life and joy. Scripture says in heaven there will be no more sickness, pain, crying, or death (Rev. 21:4, Is. 33:24) so why on earth would we ever pray for anything different here on earth? It is God's desire to see us healthy--on earth as we will be in heaven. It is also God's desire to see us delivered from Satan's schemes, trickery, and lies. We need to be praying for Satan's tools of this world (like sickness) to be thwarted and for us to be delivered from them by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I have concluded for myself I am done praying this typical prayer for people who are sick or in need of physical healing: "God, I ask for You to miraculously heal ________ from his/her sickness, but not my will but Your will be done." or "God, _________ is having surgery for _________ tomorrow. Please be with him/her and I ask for You fix the physical problem so he/she can live a healthy and whole life, but if that isn't Your will, then help me to be okay with and understanding of Your will." Do you find yourself also praying prayers such as these? The kind of prayers that tell God your true heart's desire but then leave "wiggle room" just in case it doesn't happen and your faith is shaken? Why do we do that? Why do we pray prayers like this? Here is my honest take of why I have prayed this way--I've doubted God would actually heal the person and I've been scared that if I pray for healing and God doesn't do it, I would then have a shattered faith in God. You see, my trust and faith in seeing God as good has always been dependent on whether my prayers for healing were answered. Somehow, I equated someone not getting better or even dying with God not being good. If He was good, wouldn't He have saved them? Wouldn't He have fought for them to have life?

I truly believe our sinful and limited minds have gotten it all wrong here. We have wrongly accused God for not coming through for us or others when sickness or disease is experienced. Like I said above, God is not the One condoning the sickness--He is the one fighting against it. It is what He gave His life for. Why would He die to win that final victory of war and then not fight for the same thing in the smaller battles happening from now until that final victory? He is always good whether the battle is won by Him or unfortunately by Satan. We, as His children, need to come alongside Him and fight for His Will to be victorious in EVERY battle--big or small. His Will is for health, life, and joy. I am choosing to turn my doubtful and questioning prayers to ones of solid Truth. God has commanded me to pray for His will on earth as it is in heaven, therefore, I will ONLY be praying for healing, life, joy, and victory over death--not because it's my heart's desire and not because it's my will, but because it is HIS WILL.

My new prayers for people who are sick (even with a common cold) will be this, "God, You desire me to pray for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and I know the Truth of heaven is that there is no sickness, no pain, no death, no crying. God, I pray for sickness to be gone from ___________ because THAT is Your will. Nothing less. I will stand by Your side as You fight against the darkness of this world and be an aid to You in this battle. I will believe You to be True and Victorious and Good. I bind Satan and all his lies and schemes from effecting the life of ______________ because he/she is Your child and has been covered in Your protection. I will pray for complete healing and joy and wholeness for him/her because that is what they would experience in heaven and that is also what You have always wanted us to experience on earth as well. Amen."

And, friends, if that person does not get healed--if that prayer doesn't get answered with health--I will not lose my faith in God. I will not blame Him, believe He stopped fighting for them, or be angry at Him. I will be angry, here me on that, friends. I WILL be angry, but it will not be at God, it will be at Satan for his ugly role in these battles between now and the final victory. That is an anger and a hatred I will be proud to have because it will fuel my solidarity with the God who has overcome him in the end. It is only through Christ we can have victory over that stupid, selfish, terror of our lives, and I personally can't wait to one day see him completely defeated by the God I serve. I will gladly increase my hatred towards him if it means I pray for God's will even harder for myself, those I dearly love, and even a stranger on this earth. Satan will not win that battle in my life. I am God's, and I will chose to fight on His side of the battle line.

So, will you join me on the battle line, friends, fighting against Satan and all his schemes with the One and Only Victor leading us in the fight? It is an epic battle. It is His battle daily. It is our battle daily. Only with Him will we be victorious over the sickness, disease, and death of this world. He has not come that we may have sickness...he has come that we may have LIFE!