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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The "Salty" Ones

The family living next door to us
 A friend recovering from a major surgery
 A fellow homeschool mom
An adoptive Mama with whom I've shared many heart to heart conversations about the trials and joys of older child adoption
A woman I've never met who lives in California
A couple of blog readers who don't know my last name
An adoption agency professional who is probably busier than I have ever been
A man who quit a lucrative job to serve the poor in a country in which he was not born
A pretty young, single woman who has dedicated her life to serving young men with difficult pasts
Some members of my own extended family

These are people I call "The Salty Ones" . . .

And for good reason.

On Friday morning as I sat in the waiting room of the oral surgeon's office waiting for my son, Lem, to have his wisdom teeth removed, a troubling message popped up on my ipad:
                              "Hi,need an urgent prayer request:Ariel is in a
                               hospital right now for a possible operation immediately
                               for a bone fracture . . . bone pierced the skin . . . lot of blood"

You get the idea.  If you've been a friend in real life or a bloggy friend, you might remember who
Ariel is to us.  He is the biological brother of our son Lem.  He was not adopted as a child and remains in the capable, loving hands of Believers who run an after care program for street boys.
But since he was fifteen years old and I first learned about him, he has been a "child of my heart".
I have spent much time and energy devising a way to bring him into our home when no legal path seemed to exist.  I have blogged about him often,  in posts like this: http://bringinghomezeke.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-have-wanted-so-badly-to-share-all.html
and many others.

As days went by and Ariel's injury showed itself to be more complicated than a simple "set and cast" break, the expenses for his care began to mount.
Some of you may not know that, in The Philippines, if you don't have the cash money to pay for your medical care, you don't get medical care.  I am not willing to cast aspersions on the way things work over there. It is clearly a necessity that every person needing care not be treated for free or hospitals would go broke. As in every country, the poor suffer greatly when illness and injury show their ugly faces.

And here is where "The Salty Ones" came in . . .

I posted a plea on Facebook for anyone willing to help pay for this surgery and hospital stay.
And THOSE people . . . the ones in the list I wrote to open this post, they gave and gave and gave.
They gave despite their own bills and commitments.
They gave to a young man they have never met.
They gave generously and quickly (within an hour of my facebook post)
and some even checked back to see if more help was needed.
They gave because of all that Jesus gave to them.

They gave because they are salt and light . . .

And don't think for one moment that the kind of radical, selfless, trusting giving that happened last night happened JUST for Ariel's care.
It happened for that, yes, and for a bigger purpose as well.
It happened because many who have not yet come to Jesus are watching and listening.
They are seeing this unusual behavior . . . they are taking note that in a skeptical world where each person has to guard his pennies and check out every "worthy cause" to make sure it isn't a scam, sons and daughters of The Savior of the World just gave open handedly to a handsome stranger who had a need.

And that, my friends, speaks VOLUMES to the lost.  In this tough economy. In this cynical time.

That is how "salty ones" are set apart and make HIS name great.

"YOU are the salt of Earth . . . . YOU are the light of the world. A city on a hill that can
not be hidden . . .in the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in Heaven."  Matthew 5:13-16

And THIS is how the body of Christ is to love :
" . . . not just with words or speech but with ACTIONS and in truth."

So there, you have it.
Faithful God using a difficult situation to call his children "out of the saltshaker" and make his presence known. 

And that is why being "salty"  is a great honor.  And a humbling privilege.

Thank You.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Beauty of Three

It is a day for celebration in our busy household!

Today marks three years since our amazing, beautiful wonder-baby, Ezekiel, joined our family and brought us the kind of light and joy that came unexpected and welcome . . .
"Gotcha Day" . . . March 8th, 2010

But his story started long before he made his way down the jetway and into my arms.

Long before . . .

Ezekiel's birth mother had no idea the baby she carried was a child with Down Syndrome. After his birth, she was still unaware. It was not until Ezekiel was two months old and birthmom took him to a clinic for a check up that a doctor shared the news that devastated her and thrust my precious baby into orphanhood.   She was told he had not only Down Syndrome but a heart defect.  For a single mother with another child,  and an ill-paying job, she  knew that a diagnosis like this would be expensive and she could not provide.  So she did an extraordinarily unselfish deed.
She took him to an orphanage nearby in hopes that the people there could afford to fix his heart and find him a family.
But they said "no".
They, too, realized that a child with Down Syndrome is expensive to care for.
And hard to place.
So she journeyed on to try another orphanage and came to Gentle Hands.
She met a woman named Charity, the director. A woman who knows the value of EVERY LIFE . . .
And she said "yes".

This is one of the last photos of birthmom holding Ezekiel on Surrender Day.This was taken at the orphanage. 

Ezekiel was lovingly cared for and given medications and check-ups at GH. He was mothered by
a woman named Thelma who gave him her heart, knowing it was just a loan . . .
Ezekiel and Thelma 
 Ezekiel grew and thrived at Gentle Hands for more than two years!
He was their first child with Down Syndrome, but would not be their last.  I have a feeling they
learned from Ezekiel the same thing we learned.  Children with Down Syndrome are set apart. They bring unspeakable joy and an adjusting of perspective to all who are lucky enough to know them.

Ezekiel and Charity . . . the one who said "yes" . . .

And this is the very picture we saw  that made our hearts leap for joy because we knew THIS was one of OUR children!  So with the help of many, especially the group started by a precious lady called "Friends of Ezekiel", the concerted effort to bring him home to us met with success!

This is the family that God chose to bless with Ezekiel. 
The brothers who protect him. . .

The people who cherish him . . .

The mother who would do anything for him . . .

The Kuya who adores him . . .

The Ate who takes such good care of him . . .

And the father who let faith triumph over fear to bring home a son who would always be with us . . . 

I can say with complete confidence that in the three years since Ezekiel has been ours, there has not been one regret!  He fits into this family like he has always been here. I have often wondered if God miraculously changed his DNA to mine and his father's.  But I would never want that.
I wouldn't  change one thing about this boy's journey to our family.
Every life he touched needed touching.
Every heart he held needed holding.
Every sacrifice made for him needed making.

It is my heartfelt prayer at this three-years-home celebration that even one mother who has received a Down Syndrome diagnosis for her baby might stumble upon my blog.  She might consider the cost and know the JOY and choose LIFE . . .

Maybe she is afraid that this life will be burdensome.  Possibly someone in a white coat has talked of the heart defects, low intellect and lifetime dependence and she feels trapped.  I won't lie to her and tell her it is exactly the same as parenting a typically-developing child.  There are differences.
But they are not burdens.
They are privileges.

Happy three-years home to my little grace gift . . .

Made in the image of a Holy God . . .

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I am haunted by a child.
He was mine and now he is not.
I need to find him.

And here is the story . . .

Back in 2002, my husband and I had two precious children, ages 6 and 8.  We felt very stable in our lives and ready to explore adding to our family.

I found out that a place called Falcon Children's Home had a "visiting resource" program and I called them to investigate.  As a visiting resource, my husband and I submitted to background checks, filled out an application and then were given the privilege of meeting the children at Falcon to decide who we would like to host for weekends and holidays.

We went to the home on a warm summer day in 2002.  I asked the house mother which children were still in need of a visiting resource.
The girls were all claimed.
The white kids were mostly claimed.
The boys were chosen last.
The African American boys were chosen absolutely, positively last.

And then I saw Jaquan.  He was a tiny, thin boy with a beautiful smile and in desperate need of some lotion.  I asked if he had a resource family, already knowing the answer.

He sat next to us on a wooden bench and shyly answered our questions.  I asked if he would like to visit our house sometime and play with our children.  He nodded almost imperceptibly.

But that's all it took. . .

The following weekend we picked him up and within moments of arriving home, he was on the trampoline with my two children wrestling and yelling.
He was obedient and precious and charming.
By the second weekend, I was clipping his toenails and learning how to do something with his hair and kissing him as much as he would let me. 

And then it happened.  When we took him back to Falcon after his second visit, he called us on the phone within an hour.  He was crying . . .
                         "I want to stay with y'all"

My heart physically hurt.   Because I wanted that, too.  So much.

We brought him to our home for every holiday and weekend we could for the next seven months. We took him on a trip to Virginia Beach with us. We took him camping and let him chop things up with a hatchet.

And then his social worker called.   The state was willing to split this child up from his twelve-year-old brother if we wanted to adopt him. His brother had been in trouble. I saw no problem with splitting up these final two siblings who were part of an even larger group of siblings.

But my husband did.   So we had to say "no".

Within two weeks, the social worker called to let us know a family in Charlotte NC was interested in both boys.  They were an African-American family.  They had older children. They were better for these brothers.  The boys could stay together. What right did this white lady have to split up siblings and take a child from his "culture"?  

So I called Falcon to bring Jaquan to us one more time.
I asked him if he knew about anything exciting that was going to happen to him and he replied,
                      "I have to get adopted"  with a sad face. 
 I made him a life book of all the fun things we had done together as a family.  I wrote "I love you" on every page.  I put our phone number and address inside just in case . . . 

And now, he is 18 years old.  I have waited all these years to reach out to somebody else's son.
                                            Because he changed our lives.

My hope and prayer is that he has had a wonderful life.
I have found his birthmother's obituary online.
Mugshots of two of his siblings.
But no obituary and no mug shots for this precious boy.

I just want him to know that he taught me that being a mother has nothing much to do with bloodlines or race or geographic location.

I'd like to tell him that he showed me that foster care was not the place for us.  We are not good
"giver backers".

I hope he knows he has been prayed for regularly for ten years and that I have wondered a million times if we should have kept him and let big brother (one of the mug shots) go.

Finally, I pray he was not hurt in any way by the short-term, non-permanent, time in our home. It must have been confusing for such a young boy.

He was a brother, a son, a beloved treasure . . . for not nearly long enough.

I pray this blog post finds it's way to someone who knows someone who knows someone . . .
who will tell him.