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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Missing It

This morning, I sit and type, thinking about the great day ahead for our Christmas Eve. We have a communion service at church. We come home, have a devotion and open gifts with our children. Historically, we travel to my parent's home on Christmas day so that is why we began the "presents on Christmas Eve" tradition. Practically speaking, it eliminates being woken up at 5am by eager children!
But if I hear one more comment about Christmas being "all about family" or "just about being together", I may just have to pierce my own eardrums with a knitting needle.

We are going to be with our families. It is pleasant to be with them (theoretically, anyway - ha ha) but Christmas is not about that cozy, fuzzy feeling obtained when familiar people get together, eat, and trade presents.

Christmas is about the God who created the universe willingly putting on a body of flesh, submitting to be born and agreeing that the painful death awaiting him at the end of his short 33 years was worth the outcome. Christmas signifies the first step in the redemption of a fallen world. Christmas is God, extending His hand to us, mending a broken relationship, curing our spiritual disease and claiming us as His own. Christmas is the falling of the first domino in mankind's victory over sin. Christmas changed the world FOREVER.
We no longer have to sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven.
We no longer have to communicate with God through a priest.
We no longer have to live under the law, that only condemns but can not save.
We can have PEACE WITH GOD.
We can have complete forgiveness of sins.
We can have assurance of our eternity spent with Him, enjoying His presence forever!

These things were not free. They are free to us but they cost the Holy, Perfect Creator His very life's blood.

Your forgiveness, my forgiveness. It cost a life. A perfect life. God came to pay a debt He did not owe, and it was no small bill.

Let's not trivialize these next few days by focusing on the holly-jolly-tinsel-wrapped-mistletoe-pie-in-the-oven kind of sentiments.

ENJOY CHRISTMAS!
But let each element serve to remind you of the high price paid for you and for me.
BE JOYFUL!
But let that joy come from knowing that God loves you enough to come walk this Earth and ultimately die to cover your sins. And mine.
EMBRACE YOUR FAMILY!
But do not miss the fact that Jesus loves them even more than you do and wants to have a personal relationship with each member!

Please don't miss it! Please don't have a counterfeit Christmas!

Emmanuel, GOD is WITH US!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas List

"What do you want for Christmas?".
My husband has asked me this question several times in the last 30 days.
I can't think of anything I need or want. Well, that's not true.
There are many things I "want" but none of them can be wrapped in a package and placed under a tree.
These are the things, if money was no object, that I would want this Christmas:
1. To host an orphan from The Philippines this summer
2. To go on to adopt that child - (I can not fathom hosting and NOT adopting0
3. To sell everything we own that will not fit in a suitcase and move to The
Philippines to do full-time ministry
4. To bring Lemuel's older brother to live with us. In our family. And teach him
to read.
5. To have my fear of flying, sickness and harm coming to my children ERASED.
6. For God to accomplish every item on the list above and bring fame to HIS great
name through my little, ordinary family.

My heart hurts every day. I keep thinking that we were created for MORE than the life we are living. That brings me to the next item on my ever-growing Christmas list.

7. To know the will of God for our family and walk in it. To be satisfied with what
He has called us to do whether it is a "list item" or not.

But if all those things are not to come to pass in the next two days, an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe stories and a box of good chocolates would be nice ...

Maybe by next Christmas?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ezekiel


Psalm 139
13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Happy 4th Birthday to a WONDERFUL WORK of God! You are everything that God intended. No more and no less. You are right where HE placed you. Nowhere else.
Your life is a reminder of how much God loves us. He gave us YOU . . . and we are humbled by so great a treasure placed in our undeserving hands.
May God grant extra peace and comfort to your birthmom tonight. I'm sure she knows what day it is. May he reassure her heart that you are no longer an orphan but somebody's crown jewel. Cherished. Wanted. Protected. Highly valued.
We can't wait to see who you become. How much you will achieve. How many lives you will touch with your sweet, shy, funny ways.
You are spectacular.
Happy birthday, Ezekiel.
Our amazing wonder baby!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Apples to Oranges

I'm not just a blogger, I'm a blog reader. I like having a voyeuristic little peek into the lives of other families. I like feeling like I'm eavesdropping on the victories and struggles that families like mine sometimes face. But I'm often chagrined as I read.
I get the sneaking suspicion that SOME blogging Mamas are painting too pretty a picture of their lives ON OCCASION. Maybe I'm being snarky here. But I just MIGHT have a point . . .

Early on in my life as a homeschooling parent, I would often read the posts from wiser, more "mature" mothers on our online support group and leave the computer in tears. THEIR children were studying Latin at four years old. THEIR children were willingly giving all their birthday gifts to starving children in Africa. THEIR children were cooking full meals for their families at six years old while Mama milked the goats, milled her own wheat, tilled her organic garden and sewed yet another beautiful garment - ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

I wondered WHY it seemed everyone else had brilliant, altruistic, near-perfect children when mine were just . . . regular kids. It was not until I was invited to the home of one of the most active "posters" on the loop that my fears were assuaged. Pardon the graphic nature of this little stroll down memory lane but, within five minutes of entering her home, two of her children had a SCREAMING fight and one ate a bugger while making eye contact with me. It hit me like a ton of bricks - I compared the "public image" she shared of her family with the intimate, deep, inner workings of my own family. It was apples to oranges! My pride was wounded by her paintbrush ... until the visit.

Those of us who are stay-at-home moms, and especially if we homeschool, have an awful lot of self-worth tied up in our prodigy. Singing their virtues to the world is another way of validating all the blood, sweat and tears invested in these tiny, flawed beings. When they shine, we shine.
It is important, though, to remember that those of us who read blogs are often looking for something: encouragement. We want to be reassured that, despite the failings and missteps our children sometimes take, they are normal and forgiveness is at hand. We want to know that although we are not perfect parents, our Heavenly father is and that HE is working, through the trials and joys, to craft our children into the image of HIS son.
Moms need to know that ALL moms . . . even "good" moms, make mistakes or get tired sometimes. We eat cereal for dinner, let the laundry pile up until we have to "go commando", and we take the day off school when we probably should have opened the books. We slip up and say a bad word every now and then and miss a quiet time in trade for half an hour on Facebook. We don't take pride in our shortcomings but we recognize they are there. We ask for forgiveness when it's called for and strive to do better the next day.
That's what grace is for.
That's why blogs and books by "perfect moms" lose their appeal so quickly. The discouragement of an unattainable standard weighs heavy on the heart. The desire to shrink our babies back to infancy and have a "do over" is not an option and we believe the "goat milking, organic food serving, husband nightly devotion leading" life is the only one that pleases God.
Hogwash!
The life that pleases God is laid out clearly in His word.
"A broken and a contrite heart the Lord your God will not despise". Psalm 51:17
and
"He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". James 4:6

There is no one perfect but Jesus Himself. Anyone who sets herself up as such is a fraud.
Yes, we moms have much to learn from each other. Many of us are weak in areas where others are strong. Many of us are practiced in disciplines where others are new.
Every word shared should be "seasoned with salt and full of GRACE" Col.4:6.

Read with caution, dear sisters. Stick with what challenges you and spurs you on to love and good deeds.

'Nuff said!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Pride vs. My Prejudice

I have found myself, OFTEN, bristling when a friend or acquaintance announces with glee her intention to adopt a child from an Eastern European country. I have pigeonholed this region of the world as the WORST possible place from which to adopt! Some of my prejudice (and yes, it is prejudice, plain and simple) revolves around my time spent in a large online adoption group. In that group, I followed the adoption processes of many families through EE. Some of those families had to pay bribes while in country. Some had to stay weeks -even months- longer in country than planned due to paperwork snags. A couple of families arrived in country only to find their intended child has living birth family refusing to consent to the adoption. I have read blogs of crushed parents, returning home empty-handed and thousands of dollars poorer. There are no guarantees in any adoption process but in EE, it seems you are almost guaranteed a bumpy ride!
I have asked myself WHY a parent would risk the money, time and heartache adopting from such a tenuous place.
And then I log on to Reece's Rainbow (www.reecesrainbow.org).
And I see the section called "In Loving Memory".
And I look at face after face with almond-shaped eyes, Down Syndrome features like those of my own son.
And I realize they are dead orphans. Never claimed.
They, most likely, died in miserable internats, on plastic mattresses in puddles of their own urine.
Many starved.
Many could have been saved with a simple operation or penicillin.
They would have loved a chance to sleep in a Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer comforter, tucked in with hugs and kisses and "I love yous" from parents who can honestly say "the pleasure is all mine". They would have loved that.
Any child would.
I hear stories of teenagers turned out onto the streets at sixteen years old with just a backpack and a "good luck" as they go, with no education and no job skills, to make lives for themselves. I read that the suicide rate is astronomical among these teens and that boys and girls alike, turn to prostitution for survival. I think of my own teens, able to definitively state that they are saving their purity for marriage. It never crosses their mind that they may have to trade it for food or a warm jacket.
And I soften. Not toward a corrupt system or greedy adults. Not toward a culture that views orphans as less-than. But I soften toward these parents, who know they will be walking a tightrope over an open volcano and decide to brave the trip anyway. They go. Hoping it will not be THEY who fall prey to greed or bait-and-switch tactics. But knowing they might. They go. Leaving behind biological children, jobs, commitments and a cushy life of hot running water and Starbucks on every corner.
So, to those friends and readers who are preparing a walk toward your child in Eastern Europe. You have my respect. My prayers. You are far braver than I. Your calling scares me to no end and I feel grateful that God has not (as of yet) called my family to that region. I am frightened of everything related to that part of the word - the mentality, the post-communism harshness,the lack of English speakers (ha ha). . . you name it!
And yet I know that our God is everywhere, all the time. I have no doubt HE has placed HIS angels in the most unlikely places there to reach out to and touch those HE desires. I have heard there is vibrant, active MINISTRY there. People are coming to Christ there. Hearts are being turned toward HIM and, through that, toward the neediest in the country.
So I have purposed in my heart for the next eight days to pray for eight of the countries of Eastern Europe. Some of those are non Hague countries involved in adoptions to the United States. I am weary about even this. Because God has called me out of my comfort zone so many times after this sort of conviction. If he calls us there, I know HE will be the safety net.
The countries I am praying for, starting today (Sunday, Dec. 11) are:
1. Ukraine
2. Russia
3. Latvia
4. Bulgaria
5. Kazakhstan
6. Belarus
7. Moldova
8. Serbia


Lord, forgive my prejudice heart.

Children Aging Out of Their EE Orphanage - Off to Start Their "Lives"


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Bigger is Better

Recently, it was brought to my attention that my family is considered a "large family". According to yahoo answers and wikipedia, "a family with more than four children constitutes a 'large family' in this century". A family with more than seven children can be considered a "mega family" and a family with more than twelve children . . . well, it was hard to find NICE adjectives online to describe a family with more than twelve children. When you do an internet search of families with more than twelve children, many of those "zero population growth" folks have snatched up domain names and jumped onto soap boxes that leave no room for celebrating a family of any size. For them, even one child is one child too many! Bah! Humbug!
This little research project got me thinking of all the reasons a big family is such a wonderful place to be! I don't mean to slight or show disrespect to families of few children. It's my intention share my heart in praise of large families and mention some of the things I have observed in my own family that have changed for the better as we've added members.

Large Families are Great Because:
1. There is always someone to snuggle/play/hang out with
2. There is generally at least ONE person who is on your side in an argument, no matter how wrong you are
3. Mom and Dad never have to worry about gaining too much weight because there is often a pair of eyes (or two) looking at them pleadingly while they try to enjoy that last piece of pie. Those same eyes are near to a pair of ears that can detect the pantry door or cellophane opening from a mile away!
4. Sharing is second nature
5. Nobody's a picky eater
6. You have many opportunities to serve others right in your own home
7. We can carry the groceries in in just ONE trip!
8. Pet care, chores, and yard work are shared among many sets of hands.
9. Our sitters love our children as much as we do - they are their siblings!
10. My definition of "loud" has changed dramatically and I can now concentrate almost anywhere
11. The bathroom is the only place anyone is ever alone so when someone is missing as we head out of the house, we always know where to look
12. You learn that "me time" is highly over rated
13. Finally . . .a big family is a place where you can be yourself, find a friend, get honest feedback, share ideas, be a counselor and a counselee, share inside jokes, and teach someone something new . . . ALL IN ONE DAY!

Anthony,Aaron, Elliana, Francis, Lemuel, Kyle and Ezekiel - you make life in a big family just one big adventure! I'm so thankful that we get to learn all this stuff together!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby For Sale

I recently had the incredible misfortune of reading an article online (sent to me by an appalled friend) that was penned by an adult adoptee. This adult adoptee is a bitter young woman who is angry about being "snatched from her culture, language and homeland" by her wealthy, white adoptive parents. She goes on to lament a lifetime of LOOKING Asian and not BEING Asian. She felt she never fit in anywhere. She was a perfect, chubby, beautiful baby the day her parents boarded the plane to Korea. She was not, however, an orphan. After much research and several trips back to her native country (and years learning the language), the author of this article discovered living parents, aunts, uncles, full-blooded siblings and an entire village built around her lineage. This is one of the saddest adoption stories I have ever read. It's sad on several levels. First, the author never felt fully embraced by her adoptive family, she was always left with an empty ache of needing to find where she truly belongs. Second, she turned out to be right. She was not a true orphan. She was the spawn of a young, unmarried girl who later went on to marry the baby's father and build a life with him. But who knew?
Adoption is laden with miry ethical issues that are often swept aside by parents longing for the warmth and responsibility of a baby. Adoptive parents sometimes don't know the full story. Under the Hague Convention, a "true orphan" is a child who is either:
1. one of parents who are deceased
2. a child who has been legally, voluntarily surrendered by biological parents
3. a child who has been declared neglected and abandoned by the court system

The young woman in the story was none of these. She was taken to a clinic by a distant relative and left there. Her anguished mother searched for her for months.
The relative felt he was doing the mother a favor and, in time, she would see the gift she was given in being unfettered.

Why am I, a four-time international adoptive parent, even discussing such a sensitive topic? Why would I want to put something into print that might make a family second guess the decision to adopt? Because it is VITAL to the future health of your family and your adopted child to be careful when adopting. A child who's parents are deceased should have solid evidence in his paperwork of such. A child who has been legally surrendered should have surrender paperwork (ours even includes the thumbprint from the surrendering parent. I look at these prints often and, for some reason, they are extra precious). A child declared abandoned by the courts will have a long paper trail of attempts to locate birth family, court appearances, and that child will likely be OLDER because it takes time to properly execute a search for a parent who, may not even know their child is on the fast-track out of the country.
Your best chance of being certain that you are adopting a true orphan is to adopt from a "Hague Convention Country". These countries have agreed to abide by rules that decrease the likelihood of child trafficking. They are agreed that beautiful babies "found in a park" might just have more to their stories.
The draw back? Many children from Hague Convention Countries are older children. They have had to wait for documents and signatures to complete their files. Those surrendered directly at birth by parents are not as plentiful and families who feel they need a small, healthy infant must wait a long time in a Hague Country, for a match.
Yes, The Philippines is a Hague County. They are transparent in all their paperwork, fees and timelines, in my experience. The children offered there for adoption are "true orphans". In fact, our agency just received a new batch of files of waiting children. No. There are no tiny babies there (several toddlers, though) but there ARE gorgeous sibling groups. There are children who have waited a long time to be claimed as sons and daughters. There are kids there who my family MET IN PERSON and fell in love with on the last trip to The Philippines. Uh oh . . . (ha ha) yes, there's one little five year old boy on that list who is a heart-stealer. He has some special needs but those only serve to make him CUTER, in my humble opinion.
Are you considering adding to your family through adoption? Please consider a true orphan. PLEASE consider a Hague Convention Country. Adoption is a slow and painful test of patience no matter which route you take but a true orphan from a Hague Country may help your family, in the long run, to avoid some of the doubts and heartache that come with a child who knows, deep in her heart, that she had another life where she was someone's treasure. Kids know. Even young children. Somehow, they know. I believe God placed a sense in us, of where we belong. Is there a true orphan out there who belongs with you?