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Monday, January 30, 2012

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Facebook.
I'm on it. Three of my teens are on it.
Hubby's there, too. My parents, siblings, extended family members and over 900 other "friends" share words of wisdom, funny animal clips, political rhetoric, prayer requests and sometimes off-color humor with me via a little wonder called "my news feed".

I am considering deleting my account.
I don't type this as some do, expecting throngs of people to beg me stay, stating how deeply they will miss me. I am really toying with the idea of saying "goodbye" to facebook forever.

And it's not because it's so time consuming.
It used to be but back when it was so time consuming, I was not willing to let it go.
I don't use it as often as I used to. It's getting kind of boring, actually, but that's not why I'm thinking of leaving.

I'm thinking of leaving because, as the presidential election draws near, I find myself getting truly angry at many of the hateful, ill-informed posts my "friends" are sharing about the candidates I support. I'm conservative. That draws fire.
I'm 100% pro-life (yes, in cases of rape and incest. . .YES! Two wrongs don't make a right, people!). I do not think homosexual Americans should be granted the right to legally marry each other. I don't think they should be bullied, harassed, mistreated, fired from jobs or scorned either. It is a slippery slope we should avoid.
But holding conservative beliefs and reading these statuses, updates and arguments is so very frustrating. I'm not interested in getting into a public political debate on facebook. And it's NOT because I can't hold my own. Ask anyone who knows me in real life. I'm not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I'm NOT willing to go back and forth on Facebook to the tune of 200 comments in a thread.
It is the very definition of "fruitless".
But sometimes, I love my facebook. We have been prayed for and been able to pray for others. I have literally watched families formed through adoption via the window of facebook.
I get to see my California relatives and my siblings' kids anytime I want thanks to facebook.
I get to see if my high school friends look older than I do (ha ha) and if their kids are cuter than mine (not a chance!).
But I've also been remiss in "friending" people that are not really friends. I have had to get out my high school yearbook or troll through the "mutual friends" of other people to see if I even know them before accepting their friend requests.
It's not my high level of popularity. I think it's my memory!

Of course, I'm being a little facetious here but I am probably going to delete the account and not just say "I'm leaving" and then leave the account open to see who really cares (you know, kind of like that dream of attending your own funeral to see who cries . . . oh . . .that's not something everyone dreams? Never mind).I

I wonder, bloggy buddies, have any of you deleted facebook after being a long-time user? Did you get that edgy, itchy-under-the-skin feeling that accompanies giving up caffeine (or crack)?

Did you make your children delete, too? Since you aren't there to watch their interactions?

That's definitely a sticking point for me.
Maybe I'll stay . . .nah, I'll go . . oh, heck . . .I think I'll sleep on it.

G'night!

Gotta go see if the cheerleading captain has gained weight lately!!!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
James 2:14-18 ESV

This morning, this scripture has simply laid me low.

I am not doing enough. WE, as the body of Christ, are not doing enough.
It is true that Jesus told His disciples, "the poor will always be with you" (John 12:8) and the needs will always be present this side of Heaven but I am just hurting for them this morning.

My best friend's hubby and oldest son are currently in Ethiopia having court to bring home two precious, beautiful older boys (and they could use some help, so head over to www.fromgodstummy.blogspot.com and take a look).
She posted pics of the home in which her boys currently live. I am undone.

I'm also chagrined about our agency's 2012 Share Your Summer hosting program that is scheduled to take place in June. 14 orphans from The Philippines will be arriving in Charlotte, NC to be hosted and, prayerfully, find forever families. Although there is some genuine interest and some children being pursued, I truly believed that there would be too many families for the number of children scheduled to participate. That doesn't seem to be the case.
(contact Jim at www.christianadopt.org for more info or to donate so another family can host)

I know I have a narrow scope. Only orphan care. Philippine adoption is "my thing" and it may not be everyone else's calling. I get that. It's been such a miraculous blessing for our family that I WISH everyone would jump on board but I know that God has created Believers with different callings and functions as members of the same body.

It's just hard for me to fathom the vast numbers of Believers who are probably getting up each day, going to their jobs, coming home, eating their delicious dinners, heading to church on Sunday and starting the cycle again on Monday. Can people really go for seven days and not be moved by the plight of children who would love to call them "family"? Kids who would be happy to share a bedroom, a bicycle, the last piece of pie . . . they'd just be grateful to be claimed as a "son" or "daughter".

I am plagued by this knowledge.

On mornings like this, it is too much for me.

As I type, my beautiful Ezekiel sits next to me looking through the book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?". I feel his warmth on my left arm. He is making the sounds of the animals on each page.

The mere thought that my fear or complacency could have caused me to miss all of this brings tears to my eyes. Literally.

And there are so many out there. So many hopeful children - older children who are completely aware of their plights, their need, and can do nothing about it but worry.

I have the photos of 14 of those children. They wait. And they know.
They are all in orphanages. They have all seen families come to claim others.
I know this, too.

Hosting an orphan this summer won't change the whole world. It will change THEIR world. It will change YOUR world.

But once you've seen, you can never "unsee". When your heart is pricked for orphans, that hole does not heal. I don't think I want mine to although some days, I do. It's relentless.

It hurts and it's frustrating but there's something so freeing about living for a "bigger picture". I wouldn't go back if I could.

Pray for those 14 Philippine orphans, I BEG YOU.
Pray for them by name . . . by Ohmar,Aaron, Christian, Edmund, Sarah, Alma, Maria Fe, Kevin, Michael, Alex, John, Andrew, Verzal and Angela. Three girls and eleven boys who have no parents.

14 out of millions.

Precious in His sight.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The "New" and "Improved" Gospel

Just like our culture at large, churches have trends. I've been around long enough to have witnessed some sweeping trends in my own Christian culture.
Among them are:

1. The switch from traditional hymns to praise music (from organ and piano to a praise band)
2. The change from church buildings to multi purpose centers complete with a gym floor and folding chairs rather than pews and carpet
3. The trend away from "Sunday clothes" and toward casual wear - even jeans and flip flops - for services
4. The shying away from Sunday school in exchange for cell groups or community groups
5. The acceptance of coffee cups, bagels and doughnuts during a service (a personal favorite of mine - ha ha).


I'm not stating that these trends are bad, non-Biblical or that they are a better, more desirable environment in which to learn how to live out our faith. We Believers bring to our churches our own life experiences that shape the way we learn and worship best.
There is a trend that I see in the church today that has me both excited AND a bit worried: the focus of so many churches today is turning OUTWARD. Believers are seeing beyond their own back yards and beginning to notice and address the needs of the poor around the world. I know this was always done, to some extent, through missions work but it seems today that most churches are expending extra effort, money and time reaching the poor and working to meet their felt needs (food, clothing, shelter, clean water, medical care).
Sometimes we do this through short-term mission trips (which can be both a blessing and a curse to those we serve - more on THAT in a later post), through supporting another church in a foreign land, through adopting children, through medical missions . . . the opportunities seem endless and the number of Believers jumping on board ever increasing.
I am PROUD to call myself a Christ follower when I see my brothers and sisters extending their hands in this way. But I often question, in my heart of hearts, if we are "finishing the job" or not.
I worry that we have been duped by The Enemy into believing that meeting felt needs IS the gospel. Feeding people does NOT introduce them to Christ. It feeds them.
Adopting children does NOT create disciples, it simply makes them non-orphans.
Going to Outer Mongolia to dig wells does not draw humans into a walk with their Creator - unless we give them the gospel along WITH the need meeting.
When we meet needs without sharing the gospel, we are selfish. We are making ourselves feel good by helping those in need. We can lay down to sleep with a smile feeling happy and maybe a little smug that a family has a full belly because of US but we have gypped those we intended to help. We have robbed ourselves of the joy of TELLING others of the love of Christ while SHOWING them at the same time.
Satan would love for us to feel we have done all that is required of us when we meet felt needs and yet to keep silent about forgiveness of SIN, salvation through CHRIST, a new life in HIM and eternity in either HEAVEN or HELL.
I worry that good deeds have become the "new" and "improved" gospel and not a segue to sharing the REAL, HARD CORE, NO NONSENSE, NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH CHRIST, truth that saves.
Yes, I am of reformed theology and I firmly believe that those who Christ has pre-ordained and called WILL come to him but, don't we, as Christ followers, want to be in on that? Don't we long to SEE people submit their lives to the one who made them for relationship with Him? Don't we hope to take their hands and lead them in that beautiful prayer that someone probably prayed with us in years gone by? You are witness to a miracle when that happens. It is beauty beyond description.
Many do want that. Many individuals who serve, go on mission, adopt children and reach out to the poor do so with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel. The only gospel. The "good news" that rich or poor, fatherless or family-rich, born in the good old USA or somewhere far and remote, Jesus longs for them to come to Him.

Let us not confuse good works with the good news.

And let us press on toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Phil. 3:14)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Getting To Know You . . .Getting To Know All About You . . .

Transition.
It is not a word that stirs up positive feelings and warm fuzzies.
In labor, "transition" is that excruciating time period when most women begin to say "I just can't do this anymore".

In adoption, "transition" refers to that period of time beginning the day your child comes home and ending at the point when you feel he is comfortable in his new family.

Transition in adoption can last anywhere from just a few months to upwards of a year depending on whether or not there are bonding "issues" on either side of the equation and depending on how much effort each side expends.

We have adopted children who were 3 1/2, 8, 2 and 15 years old upon arrival to our home. The two youngest were much like babies when they came home. Both were diapered. Neither could speak. They were utterly dependent on Mom and Dad for the meeting of their needs. Bonding is easy, in my opinion, when someone needs you THAT much. I got to hold and bottle feed Ezekiel for many months, looking into his eyes. Kyle was using a sippy cup but I often chose to tilt him back in my arms and rock him while he drank his pedia sure. I hoped, in both cases, I was emulating nursing - lots of eye contact, singing softly, cuddling them to sleep. It was blissful and the bonding happened spontaneously. Of course there were hard moments and bumpy times - sleepless nights, inexplicable crying (me AND them - ha ha) but those early days with my tiny ones were mostly happy and characterized by joy.

Here are a few VERY early pics of Kyle . . .


And Ezekiel . . .


When the child joining your family is much older, transition takes a bit of a different turn. For us, it was marked by some awkwardness, a few misunderstandings, a lot of time feeling like we have a house guest and plenty of "on your best behavior" for everyone involved. Time and familiarity helped bring the walls down but some strategies that I found EXTREMELY helpful in getting to know our newest family member (15 years old upon arrival home) may prove useful to someone out there in "cyberland" who is preparing to bring an older child home.

1. spend plenty of time doing intentional FUN activities. Francis and I play a game of scrabble or uno almost every night after the three youngest are in bed. We love to go to mini-golf as a family, out to movies or just sit outside in lawn chairs on nice nights while the kids toss the football or jump on the trampoline.

2. Involve your new child in HELPING right away. People feel more like family and less like company when they are contributing. We didn't want out new son to get the impression that we brought him here to "work" (ha ha) but we also wanted him to take ownership in the family and home. We started by asking him to help with cooking (he likes to cook) or taking out trash. He and I had a lot of fun the day he learned to sort laundry and use the washing machine! Many steps involved but I only had to show him ONCE and he mastered it!!

3. Because we homeschool, we have the added benefit of LOTS of extra time together. Part of our new son's daily work includes keeping a journal. He writes on topics like "My Most Amazing Day" or "My Biggest Regret". He chooses from a long list of prompts. I have gotten to know him so much better through his journal and I always take the time to write a little comment after his entry.

4. GIVE THEM SPACE. I found out (the hard way) that older adoptees sometimes need a little extra time to be alone with their thoughts. In the earliest days of our new son's arrival, I was so very worried about him grieving his "old life" that I know I badgered him with questions that he was not ready to answer yet. He is such a positive, happy person on a regular basis so recognizing those times of sadness and introspection was easy. During those times, I offer to listen or take a walk with him if needed but am careful not to be offended if the answer is "no, thanks". Sometimes it is.

5. Riding in the car alone (this works with all my teens, adopted or not) brings out a LOT of unexpected information. While we both concentrate on the road, it seems to take the pressure off the "where do I look?" "what do I do with my hands/eyes", "is she going to try and get all mushy and hug me" issues. My kids open up often while we are en route.

6. Indirect conversation has helped us to get to know our new teen. We will often talk about other people/children/situations and it seems a safe way to share how WE really feel about a given topic. While discussing a story we watched together on the nightly news, we are actually getting a good feel for how the other person perceives a situation.

7. Gage their comfort level with physical affection.
This was a HARD one for me. I am a very "huggy" person with my kids. I kiss them as much as I can. I love to rub their backs, hold their hands and snuggle with them - big and small. Some children are not used to physical affection. Others truly crave it but won't initiate. Still others will hang on you like an octopus if you are within arms' reach. As much as I wanted to wrap my new 15 year old in a blanket and rock him like a baby when he first came home (ha ha), I resisted.
I found that he was fine with being hugged and would often sit practically on my lap on the couch even though other seating was available. He would ask for help with his hair or some other task that involved closeness and so I interpreted that as a "green light". It was.
Just use your best judgement and observe the cues. Don't be pushy with the hugs but don't be stingy either. You may have to step outside of your comfort zone and take the RISK of having your efforts rebuffed. You never know until you try.

8. SEIZE THE MOMENT. If your new child gets sick, gets hurt during play or seeks you out while upset, make every effort to nurture. Go that extra mile in "babying" them so there is no question in their minds that you are the one they can always turn to. Open arms and open hearts are rarely empty.

I hope the list above doesn't feel overwhelming to any of you, dear readers. These are simple strategies that have helped us assimilate our newest blessing into the crew. The temperament of your child, the tenure of the home, the amount of English your new kiddo can understand and many other factors will effect how YOU integrate someone into your own family.

The most important strategy of all is also the simplest: pray daily for wisdom.
The Bible is clear that God longs to give wisdom to all who ask. Just ask.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Flowers on the Trail


So much of this blog is dedicated to adoption issues.

This is a venue that allows our family to share the ups and downs of the calling with those who have experienced it or are hoping to.

But our adopted children are not the only "stars" of this show.

God has done marvelous works by bringing children from half a world away and making them ours HOWEVER . . .
He paved the way for these children coming to our home by first blessing us with two biological children who are wonders in their own rites.

To my "first-born babies" . . . you made us love parenting. You showed us the rewards are always worth the hard work.
You revealed to us that loving someone MORE than yourself is an unstoppable reaction.
You are beautiful people. Show stoppers.

When Dad and I talk about the adults you are growing into, we are giddy with pride. Watching Jesus shape your character and use your natural gifts and talents has been a great privilege.

Thank you for loving Jesus, sharing your family so willingly and making Daddy and I feel like far more successful parents than we really are.

We are blessed to call you "son" and "daughter".

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Healing Place

Finding an alternate placement for our struggling son has been put on hold.

Are we still tired? Yes
Are we still weary and battle worn? Absolutely!
Is this spiritual warfare? Sure. Of the most difficult type.

My post about "Hating Holland" was written after a particularly rough stretch with this child. A cluster of lying and sneaking coupled with some other issues and topped off with the "cherry" of my own need to depend more fully on God for my "daily bread".

I'm just human and
The Enemy is sneaky and cruel.
1 Peter 5:8
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

His aim is destruction and his target is any Believer that might make an impact for the kingdom of God.

I want our home to scare him.
I want our family to be a "healing place" for wounded children.

In order for that to happen, I must be on guard or BE ALERT as 1 Peter says.
Being alert, for me involves:
Starting each day with prayer and asking the Lord to let me see the schemes of the enemy for what they are
Keeping my thoughts in check and not allowing them to get into a negative cycle toward this particular child, or anyone in my home
Having our calling and vision in the forefront of my mind as I tackle each day

Our calling. Our vision.
To minister to the fatherless in the most direct way possible. To take the steps needed for them to NOT be fatherless. To make a lasting commitment to children who have not known permanency.

It's so difficult sometimes.
It's so joyous at other times.
Just when the "difficult" seems too much to handle, the "joyous" often peeks in and reminds us why we love this calling. Why we have run headlong to embrace it four times over. Why I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Yes, I would.

I would gladly receive another child into this family if that is what God has planned for us.

I have to trust that my Sovereign Father, who does all things for our good and His own glory will never lead our family into harm's way.
But sometimes I wander there on my own. And He lovingly draws me back, sometimes through painful correction and other times through gentle nudges.
I prefer the nudges.
This month I have endured some painful correction.

Lord,
Make this home a healing place.
Let light and life fill it.
May every child who enters here know he is loved and wanted.
May each person feel accepted and adored.
Let us be YOUR hands and feet to guide, correct, shape and comfort those
entrusted to us.
And let us not grow weary in doing good.
For YOUR Great Fame,
Nikki

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Touring Holland - A Reader's Response

P.S.(IN AN AWKWARD PLACE) I JUST CHECKED MY STATS AND NOTICED READERS FROM THE NETHERLANDS. PLEASE NOTE THAT I DON'T TRULY "HATE" HOLLAND, IT'S PEOPLE OR THE NETHERLANDS. I HAVE NEVER BEEN THERE. "HOLLAND" IS JUST THE COUNTRY CHOSEN BY THE AUTHOR OF A POEM TO REPRESENT AN UNEXPECTED DESTINATION. THE NAME OF ANY COUNTRY COULD BE INSERTED.


My recent post regarding our son who has RAD and our family's exile to "Holland" sparked much response. From private emails to facebook messages, many of you expressed that you, yourselves, are fellow residents of "Holland". I want to thank you, as I so often do, for just reminding me that our family is in good company, the best, really.


One particularly poignant response is reprinted below (with permission by the author, Jeff McSwain). Jeff's wife and I were recently able to spend some very "real" time together discussing our shared struggles and the grace that God has shown us in these struggles. I hope you will find her husband's Christ-focused response to "these current trials" as uplifting and concise as I do.


Touring Holland - by Jeff McSwain, father of a large family. Some adopted. Some not.

God is my travel agent, my tour guide, and my true husband. Holland is
not where I wanted to travel, and not where I expected to be, but it
is the spot God booked for me. If I focus on where everyone else seems
to be able to go and enjoy, and ignore my Tour Guide, then my life
will be a walking death, full of a growing darkness, bitterness, and
depression. I know because I have done this, at times.

One thing that helps me is to remember what I deserve. The fact is, we
all deserve an all-expense paid trip to Hell. Holland is heaven, in
comparison!

Through suffering, I have learned how to be thankful that I am in
Holland. I have developed a desperate dependence on my Tour Guide, Who
comforts me in ways that my closest family and friends, even my own
spouse, cannot. I know my God in ways that those who seemingly get to
spend their lives in Italy may never know.

If I had been sent to Italy, where I was continuously thrilled by my
surroundings, enthralled with exotic sights and smells and tastes, and
inspired by culture filled with the music of Rossini, the paintings of
da Vinci, and the statues of Michelangelo, it might be completely
beyond me to remember the name of my Tour Guide even a few weeks
later. “Yeah, He was there, but He really was just part of the
background for me.”

But in Holland, my tour guide carries the trip, and He leads me
through the sweaty underbelly of the city sometimes, and the sights
fill me with fear and pain. He booked my trip with others who think
and act appallingly, who offend my senses and betray and wound me. My
Tour Guide, though, is kind, gentle, patient, loving, joyful,
peaceful, and truly good.

When I look back on my time in Holland, I confess that it thrills me.
The dykes under the starry, wide-open night sky where I took walks
with Him. The backstreet where I held His hand while a hoodlum opened
fire on us just for the fun of it. The hospital where He stayed by my
side while I recovered from my gunshot wound. The good advice He gave
me about how to love the others on the trip when really I was just
secretly hoping that they'd go on a bathroom break and get left behind.

Holland was the best place for me. The purpose of my trip to Holland
was not for me to enjoy and remember the good things about Holland.
The purpose of my trip was for me to fall in love with my Tour Guide.
Holland made it easy for me to love my Tour Guide. "Yeah, Holland was
there, but it really was just the background for me."

Now, it hardly matters where I am, because I know and love the Great I AM.