Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Lifer

This was a unique Thanksgiving for our family.   We are spending our first Thanksgiving EVER outside of the familiar comforts of the United States.   

But as always, Yaweh provides. And even in the little things, His care for our family has humbled me yet again.
We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with a family of "lifers" . No, they haven't committed  any felonies that I know of.  Lifers are  missionaries who have served here for much of their lives and probably will until the Lord brings them home.  This family happens to be comprised of members who knew and cared for our sons, Lem and Ariel, before we knew them.
And one of the ladies I have grown to love and respect immensely, Jeri,  has been to our home in the states on Furlough more than once.  We sipped coffee  together and "what iffed"  about getting together on HER side of the world at my dinner table in North Carolina.

And yesterday, we did.

As I looked around her home, with nearly 20 years of memories, I asked the Lord if  we could be "lifers", too.

We are still so new, 5 months in country.  We are still learning the ropes, building relationships, getting our feet wet, making mistakes and finding out just where we fit. 
Picking up our COMPLETED registration certificate from the Securities and Exchange Commission, STEP ONE in being recognized as a legitimate helping - hands organization by the Philippine government, felt like a major victory!   But we have so far to go and so much to learn.

We were just able to be an integral part of a little two-year-old boy receiving life changing surgery.
That huge tumorous mass is no longer a part of that beautiful face!   The fact that God allowed us to be a part of this kind of service only shored up my heart's desire to stay here and do MORE. 

I want  to be a LIFER.  But only if He wants me to.   And how will we know if He wants us to?

He will continue to provide.  He will give us work and funding and a peace about staying.

But if I know Him, and I think I do - although not as well as I would like, it won't be easy.    NOTHING He has called us to do has been easy.

It has all been worth it.

And just when we have started to wonder if "worth it" is truly worth it, He sends fellow Believers to us. . .
with Thanksgiving invitations
with boxes of shoes for the BP kids
with emails asking for our address to mail gifts for our beautiful project kids
with friends holding fund raisers just because they want to
with invitations directed at our children for visits and get togethers
with reminders that He always provides, guides and equips.

Lifer or short-termer.  That is not my call to make.
He knows the desire of our hearts.  He knows the plans He has for us.

And I know Him.

And that, my friends, is more than  enough. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Somebody's Baby

She sat on my lap through almost an entire church service just last week.  She wiggled and talked too loudly.
She drew little pictures on scraps of paper and explained to me matter-of-factly that one of the smiling "heads with feet" was her and one was me.

She's a striking child with a sunshiny spirit and anyone would love to be her mother.
But not me.
She's somebody else's baby.

She is going home to an adoptive family very soon.  And as I held her on my lap, I felt so lucky.   I had flashbacks to my own adoptions and recalled just how I ached to hold my kids - even the "big ones".   I scoured the internet for any church or individual who might have visited my boys' orphanages and posted a group picture somewhere online for me to pine over.   I found youtube videos of my guys and even made cyber friends with a college girl who had been with one of my boys just the week before. Paydirt!

I hugged her a little tighter and thought "this one is from your Mama . . . to tide you over.  Just until she gets here. I know she'd want me to give it. I have been in her shoes too many times to even wonder." 

I worried before our move to this country that has given us such amazing children.  I worried I would want to adopt every child I met who did not have a family.

But I'm finding a strange phenomenon to be taking hold of my heart.  One I did not know existed for me.

I do love the children we work with.  But they are not mine.  I feel that in the most direct and no-nonsense parts of me.

They are somebody else's babies.   Even those who are not yet matched to adoptive parents.

I remember asking someone, when I was still young and single
"how do you KNOW when a man you meet is the one you're going to marry?".   And that person answered me
"you just KNOW".
That was an altogether unsatisfactory answer.  I wanted some sign. Some marker. Some concrete, tangible "thing" to hang my hat on so I would know I wasn't making a huge, life-altering mistake before saying 'I do".

But my friend was right. . . .you JUST KNOW.

I find that same advice applies to adoption for us.  Maybe it isn't like this for everyone.  Maybe many of you out there have an algorithm that tells you if a child will or will not succeed in your home.

I'm just a goofy old romantic, I guess.

I saw my boys on the Special Homefinding List and my heart kind of skipped a beat.   I felt surprised, like almost colliding with a stranger on the street when you are lost in thought.
Sometimes I looked up toward Heaven and said audibly   "again, Lord?  Really?"

But I knew it was a futile question.   Because those were NOT somebody else's babies.  They were MINE.  
And when reading through a list of 30 or 40 beautiful orphans, waiting for Mommies and Daddies, having ONE jump from the page and shout "HERE I AM"  is no small thing.

I now live in a world of orphans.  I see them all the time.  I know children in my everyday life who wait on that same Special Homefinding List that  brought me my treasures.  Wonderful kids.  Sweet, deserving, beautiful kids.

But not MY kids.

Could it be that God brought us all the way to this country with so many orphans only to tell us that none of them are ours for more than a short time?

It could be.  If it is so, I have peace there.
If not, and that lightening bolt of "oh my goodness . .. there's another one of MINE" happens,  you bloggy friends will be the
first ones I tell after I give my husband CPR.

Until then,  I relish the chance to love somebody else's babies.   Investing in a child who needs to know how precious he is  is never a waste of time, even for a moment.

And who knows? Maybe one day, I'll be on THIS side of the water and YOU will be stalking ME.
I promise not to call you crazy.
I won't laugh at your frenetic, disjointed questions or your 3am emails asking me if it is EVER going to happen.

It will.  But until it does, pray  and ask the Lord to send hugs to your  babies from the arms of another Mama.
If she's like me, she won't mind.
She'll find it an honor and she'll know. . . it's just for a little while.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Still Do

I remember it as if it were just happening:

I was a young mother with two small children.  Three and one.   I went to a mother's morning out at a local church and met a host
of new women.  It was the first time I had ever been to a gathering designed just for moms, with a Bible study and child care completely geared toward US.

As the ladies in the group got to know each other and as we talked ad nauseam about our children, I came to the decision, in my own mind, that as children got older, their parents loved them less.

I know that's silly.   NOW.    But back then, when the moms in our group discussed the achievements of their eleven year olds or the going-off-to-colleges of their older teens, it was NOT with the unrestrained, choking-back-tears love that I had for my two babies when I even thought about them back in the child care area.    I surmised, that a mother's love for her children MUST fade
as her children grow.

The Mother Who Knew It All, and her patient, although inferior, sidekick

And then I got to know a few "mothers of many" and I became SURE that these women did not love their children as strongly as I loved mine.  I could tell by the way the children came to Mother's Morning Out . . . WITHOUT matching gymboree outfits and
individual lunch boxes with their names artistically written on them.  These women brought ONE bag with 14 pb&j sandwiches inside, ONE bag with a bunch of cut up oranges and ONE bag of popcorn for all their children to descend upon at lunch.  And much to my horror and dismay,  their children often SHARED DRINKS!!!!! 

 Yes, I  felt quite sure that I was correct in my assumption that with many children, love had to be divided and therefore, less was dumped on each child.

In my narrow, 20-something year old way of thinking, love for my children was something that others could SEE. In their clothing, in their lunches, in their toy boxes.

I had SO MUCH TO LEARN . . .

And God, in His sovereignty that I often find tinged with a sense of humor, would teach me over the next decade, just how wrong I was to judge these families by my ridiculous standards.

It began to happen slowly, almost imperceptibly at first.  I became close to some Godly Mothers of Many.

I stopped laying out my kids' clothes the night before, even when we were just staying home.    And we adopted a third child.

We began sneaking into Goodwill to shop, under cloak of darkness.   And along came child number four.

I let them go to church once in awhile WITHOUT gelling their hair.   And a fifth child found his way into our home.

I ceased carrying "extra clothing" for children long potty trained and did not stop to make them switch their shoes to the right feet before walking into the store. If they were comfortable, who was I...?    And God blessed us with child number SIX.

I forgot to put snacks in my purse (do "Halls" count as a snack?), rarely made sure they were "entertained" when we
traveled (look out the WINDOW!) and sometimes shorts and sweaters DO go together.   So God blessed us, yet again, with a seventh child.

So, to my babies, big and small, then and now,
I can type with the utmost assurance that I was wildly crazy about you when you were little.
I would have gladly given my life and/or vital organs to you without hesitation if the need arose.
You were my sun and moon and stars.
You were the "idols" I always had to confess and pray about when sermons about putting ANYTHING before God were preached.
You and You and You  . . . TIMES SEVEN.

I felt that way all those years ago.         AND I STILL DO!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Peace, Be Still

I am sitting alone in a dark house at 4:25am Philippine time.

The remnants of Typhoon Yolanda are blowing outside and that wind is something to hear!
Our windows are all closed and latched and yet the curtains are fluttering.  If I did not know we were in a typhoon, I would just assume we lived by the train tracks.

This storm is not just "fresh in my mind".  It's still here.

 And I certainly don't want to use a national tragedy like this and make it all about "me".  There has been loss of life. There are going to be more homeless people as the sun rises than our developing country can serve.  Those things tear at the seams of my heart because I love this place and the people here.

But I was given a glimpse at a peace I have scarcely known, as this storm howled.

Like most of you, my faith has never truly had to carry me through threat of physical harm.
Sure, I don't like flying so I FEEL like I'm in harm's way every time I board an aircraft. I have to pray and rest in the sovereignty of God, but that has more to do with my own deep-seated fears than any probability of harm, real or imagined.

This storm has been real.  There is possibility of harm coming to me or, worse, my precious family.

But there is peace . . .

As I sat on my bed with two of my children and listened to the ruckus outside my window, my conscious mind thought "this is scary stuff" but the deep heart in me felt cradled and altogether peaceful.

I pondered that paradox while it was taking place and thought . . .

And it was. It is.
It is a familiar sense that I can only recall having a few times in my life.

It came when I began to go into labor with my children.  Each time.
 Engulfing fear swallowed by "I feel wrapped in a warm blanket".

It came while I sat by my precious son's hospital bed, watching him struggle to breathe and seeing the treatments fail to open his airways.
 Sheer terror with an underlying "God has got this."

It is more than just ignorance of the threat. It goes beyond feeling bulletproof.

There really IS a peace that defies understanding.  It is an illogical peace that, given the circumstances, should not be there.

It is where my humanity gives way to His sovereignty and it is a blissful place.

And although He does not "owe" me anything and need not "perform" to reassure me, this kind of peace removes any doubt that He is the real deal.

The genuine article.

The ONLY wise God.  The one in whom I can always put my trust.

The lyrics of an old k-love song say it best:
"Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child" . . .
I don't even remember the rest of the song.


Sunday, November 3, 2013


Have you ever done something that seemed so small and simple at the outset but,  as it was happening, your heart told you it was
actually something monumental?

That just happened to me with one of our BP boys . . . we had a birthday party for him.
He sat, wide-eyed while we all sang "Happy Birthday".  He did not realize he was supposed to blow out the candles but when we told him to, he blew with such strength I thought he gave the child across from him a free eyebrow waxing!

  I have never seen this little boy smile so much.
And he got to go first on the fishing game!   He got to hand out treat bags to the other kids at the end of the day.  He was the "star" of the show.

My heart knew that this was something unbelievably special for him.  Not to be taken for granted.

Had he had other birthday parties? I don't really know.
Was this the first cake that was just for his honor? No idea.

But this little boy lives a life that carries with it the burdens of never having enough, of needing to keep his eyes open for good items
to recycle or opportunities to eat a little extra.

His life is different from that of the children of you, who read this blog.

He doesn't lose things.  If I give him six crayons and two worksheets for practice, he brings them all back A WEEK LATER and proudly presents them to me for a star stamp on his papers and on his hand. 

The things he treasures make HIM a treasure to us.   
How blessed we are to get the chance to sow into this child's life!  

Like standing on holy ground . . . and singing "Happy Birthday". . .