Immeasurably more...


Today was THE day!!!  One I have waited for much longer than expected.  Maybe that made it even sweeter, but it could not possibly have been any sweeter than it was!!!!  I felt that familiar rumbling in my tummy as the van pulled into the entrance of the orphanage...  You'd think I'd never done this before- but with each adoption God's call is a leap of faith into the unknown- and this one was no different!  Most exciting was the unexpected ability to share the whole experience with Doug and the kids at home via FaceTime!!!  They virtually lived through the whole experience in real time as I carried my phone right in front of me from moments before we even pulled up to the orphanage until we signed the papers saying "YES" to our precious new daughter!!!

It was my understanding that after Rebekah was abandoned at the age of two and a half, she had been placed in a foster home on the campus of the orphanage.  I asked our guide as we made our way to Gotcha Day if she would request our meeting the Mama and Baba that had filled in for us until we could finally arrive to make her forever ours!  A quick call ahead to the orphanage and they said it wouldn't be a problem!  I was thrilled, but our plans were dashed only moments later when the foster parents said that they did not feel they could be there when "their little girl" met her new family.  

While I understand... (Well- I guess I really can't, can I?) I was sorely disappointed.  I wanted desperately for Rebekah's foster family to know how much she would be loved and to have the chance to hug them and say thankyou personally!  I also think that it is helpful to our children when the people they love and trust hand them off and, in essence, give their approval to the unwanted changes brought to the child through adoption.  I will never ever forget the precious goodbye Abby's foster mother gave Abby as we were leaving her province.  It was not only a beautiful gift and send off for Abby, but for me as well!  The guide explained about the special circumstances that made their parting with Rebekah so painful (which I will post about separately), but still I prayed that God would somehow make a way for us to meet.



We pulled into the front of the orphanage and I was struck by the way it nestled itself at the foot of a beautiful mountainside.  It seemed to be too beautiful a setting to house hopeless little ones with no future or family.  We were early so were instructed to wait outside until all of the children arrived for school with their foster parents.  We, of course, snapped a ton of photos, since each and every arriving child was precious beyond description. Then, suddenly, walking toward me was a little girl I recognized as Ping Ping.  The photos and videos had finally come to life and there she was, walking hand in hand with her older foster father, who she affectionately called YeYe!  I wanted to scoop her up immediately and smother her in long awaited kisses- but for her sake, I refrained!!!  They invited us to follow them inside where we could formally meet!








1 am at a loss for words to describe the next few moments, and I am anxious to write them down before the beautiful blur of emotions is forgotten!  I approached Rebekah slowly, as she stared at me with suspicion and reluctance.  It was a life altering moment for us both.  She didn't know it then and still doesn't, but as I finally looked into the eyes of my precious girl, all of my unfounded fears melted away and were replaced with the overwhelming affection I had begged the Lord to gift to me through Him.  











Maybe this seems a strange thing to remark on and I feel as I need to explain so as not to mislead adoptive friends that come behind me in their journeys.  Gotcha moments are so longed for, often taking months or years to arrive, with more than a million opportunities to romanticize what your child will be like and how their personality will bounce off of yours... Dreamers like myself can almost sabotage this emotional journey when the reality turns out to be far from our fantasies.  I have experienced this personally and was resolved that this was founded in selfishness- not Christ' love expressed through me, so I did more than my fair share of praying about this as Gotcha Day drew near!  You might notice that my blog is named for one of my favorite Bible verses (Ephesians 3:20) where it says that God is able to do "immeasurably more that all we could ask or think"...  Unfortunately- I misunderstood the true meaning of that verse for many years, because I stopped there!  Of course God could do immeasurably more than I could ask or think!  I knew that from personal experience!  But this verse instead claims that He can do immeasurably more THROUGH ME than I can ask or imagine- "according to the power that is at work within me"!  That power is Christ Himself.  His greatest desire for my life, and now mine, is that He would be glorified in and through my life in ways I never imagined and am incapable of in my flesh.  So, in approaching my newest daughter and in the months that are to come as we get to know one another, I have asked the Lord for only one thing... That He replace me (and my selfish desires) and instead display His love through me.  I believe that this request honors Him and as I sat next to my newest daughter for the very first time, I sensed that He had answered!  Yes.... even beyond my imagination!





His answer to my prayers of many months has been surging through my heart since that moment!  So if you see a glow about me or sense something from me that you don't recognize, you can know that it is HIM!!!  I have much more to tell about our day, but I will share these special photos of our first moments together and then fill you in on the rest later...

Excuse me while I get back to the business of loving my little one in His name!  There is one less orphan in the world today and because I was chosen to be that orphan's Mommy, I've got work to do... Pray with me that God would continue to do "immeasurably more" than I could ask or think, according to the power that is at work within me.

To Him be the glory!"


Live Your Life

long for her to know she is alive... I'm certain she wouldn't believe it.  When Rachel's Mama left her at the bus station right in front of the orphanage gates, her little girl was dying.  They had obviously done all they thought they could do to save her life and were out of options, and so, out of desperation, were leaving her for the help they could not give.  Open heart surgery shortly after her birth would have been a temporary fix and there is no doubt they knew so.  I don't pretend to know what a Mama is thinking when she abandons her baby beside the road...  I also have no intention of romanticizing a story where she is a hero and her actions are driven only by overwhelming love and selflessness. The truth is that her actions, no matter the reasons, flow from a terrible brokenness- both personally and culturally.  While leaving your dying baby as an orphan might ultimately save her life, the long term effects of that decision will never be erased.  



see it in the way Rachel silently hurts.  The way she runs away from memories and tries to convince herself that all is well that ends well.  There is a brokenness deep inside Rachel's physically broken heart that is almost palpable if you choose to get close enough.  We spent the first few years of Rachel's time in our family so focused on the physical healing of her heart that we completely missed the emotional void that was a gaping hole in her heart.  

I saw it in the faces of the children there this week.  The ones who are still waiting.  The ones who wonder if their time will ever come. I can hardly breathe when I think about their futures without hope, without love and someone that cares if they live or die.  I saw Rachel in their eyes and I understood her in a way I don't think I have before.  I was there to find answers for Rachel about her past.  Instead, the Lord reminded me the devastating effects of that past and the very present heart-breaking reality for so many others that still wait.


Q



I stood and looked through nursery windows where the only thing between me and a newborn crying baby was a piece of glass.  This infant had obviously just come into the orphanage because she did not yet know that crying would not help or bring the Mama's love she desperately needed.  I cried with her.  I was staring the sin of the world directly in the face and realizing the devastating effects that sin has on the weakest among us.  I was reminded, as I counted the number of babies filling the cribs in this one nursery, why God's Word says that true religion (an expression of who He is) is seen best when we care about these broken souls and are willing to lay our lives aside to do something about it!  



We went from room to room snapping photos and videos, in hopes of finding someone- anyone- who might be moved to make a difference in their lives through the redemption of adoption...  Then suddenly I saw through my camera lens a precious child with a sweatshirt on with words that took my breath away.  Three little words....  

Live.
Your.
Life.  


In that instant I knew why I was there-  I have spent the majority of my life living it for myself.  I suspect that's what the people that surround me every day are doing too!  How else do I explain the 147 million children just like the one wearing this sweatshirt, that waste away without hope, while the world, and God's people, do nothing about it!  That's it.... Just Live. Your. Life. - Make it as comfortable and profitable as possible and forget that the very least of these are wasting away behind the four walls of orphanages around the world.  And all the while we are missing God and don't even know it!  

I wanted one thing when I arrived.  I wanted Rachel's birth mother to know that she is alive.  I wanted her to know that she lives with an overwhelming joy and a hope in the promises of Jesus Christ that even a new heart can not give her.  I wanted her to know that her attempts to save her daughter's life were successful.  But I walked away from the orphanage on Thursday conflicted.  I felt angry.  I am struggling to embrace a woman who would walk away from her baby girl and allow her to experience the horrors and hopelessness behind the very walls that might extend her life.  Rachel entered that orphanage bearing the scars from a lifesaving surgery and she left there,  seven years later, with an unseen emotional scar- this one so much deeper than a physical one could ever leave.

We taped posters to the bus station posts so that every bus rider could see the face of our little girl- both the day she was left there and now a glowing photo of her today!  I do pray her Mama sees it and might know.  I pray even more that her Mama might come to know Jesus and the relationship that was broken by her choices on March 19, 2005 might be fully restored and enjoyed for all eternity.  But today, as I write from the train as we leave the Shanghai station bound for my newest daughter, I want desperately to NOT forget!  

I refuse to leave Rachel's orphanage and the desperate lives behind those walls and move on as if I have not seen.  I am haunted by the longing eyes I looked into and the hands I held for a few short moments.  They are a picture of my own daughters and I want to remember them when I tuck mine into bed at night and hold them when they are sick or hurting.  I refuse to just Live My Life as if I have not seen... As if I do not know.  

CS Lewis said "God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain."
If we have ears to hear, I believe that God often chooses to shout to us through the pain of others too. He is honored when we linger long enough to listen and hear His words echo through our selfish souls.

The sweatshirt got it partly right...  "Live Your Life", it says.

And God's words shout louder... "Live Your Life... For ME!"  I am moved to do more in His name!

Our train is pulling into the station.  We are just outside the city of Jinan where my newest daughter is waiting.  I am nervous and I can feel my flesh struggling to let the parts of my life that still cling to comfort and ease tell me that this is a crazy idea.  Then I remember the lessons from just days ago, and I am grateful for another opportunity to Live For HIM even more!  I am too experienced to think this journey will be easy, but experienced enough to know that it will ultimately lead to greater JOY.  May He be glorified and honored as I step out for one more in His name. 



A Redeeming Substitute


The day I have longed for has finally arrived, along with the "yes" from God I thought would never come.  It was as if He awakened me early... "Wake up, Lori! It's time to go!"   I climbed out of bed with butterflies fluttering around in my stomach!  As I gathered my things and zipped my last suitcase shut- the butterflies felt as if they might explode from my stomach and beat me to an airplane that would take me to my daughter.

Am I really that nervous, I wondered?  This makes our fifth daughter from China- so I figure I should be an old hat at this by now!  Maybe I'm more excited than nervous... Life has seemed as if it were on hold for so long- I'm afraid that maybe I've forgotten how to jump out of the gate for the race.  I remember the three times I gave birth and the emotions that surged through my body when I realized that the time had finally arrived... The moment I had dreamed about and planned for and had come to believe would never come, had actually come after all!  I felt as if I were zipping my hospital bag shut and heading into labor and delivery!  Actually- this "pregnancy" has lasted for over a year and I have been acutely aware of  the typical trimesters that turned into "quad-mesters", (or whatever you would call a woman 4 months overdue for her baby)!

I am reminded of the day, after a month of praying, when God finally revealed what His plans were for our family- and more specifically for a little girl on the other side of the world and our family! I had asked, (OK- I begged!) for the Lord to share His will with me.  I was honestly frustrated that He seemed slow in doing so....  "Do you not trust me with Your answers, Lord?" I asked him plainly.  Would I not accept a yes or a no with the same obedient heart?  An answer would allow me to finally move one, either way.  I cried and then sat silent and expectant before Him for what seemed a long time.  Nothing.  I finally picked up my Bible to get back to my reading.

I will not claim to have heard an audible voice.  In fact, I never have!  But as I read His Word- what I can only describe as a "quiet moving" of His Spirit washed over me.  "Yes...."

What was that, Lord?

Then again- "Yes..."  I sensed there was a "but" attached to this stirring and I waited.
"But not until..."  But not until WHAT?  My mind started to race through the months that were ahead for us as a family.  I could re-use my dossier from Abby's adoption and fly through the process if I wanted to!  But we were still waiting for a new heart for Rachel.  Doug was set to go to India- once in the Spring, and then again in the Fall.  Then came the special trip to the Holy Lands we had been planning for so many years.

"Yes, but wait..."

God had graciously answered.  Everything in me wanted to hurl head long into the adoption process and get it done in mock speed, but in doing so, I would be in disobedience to my Lord only moments after His directions were revealed. 

Now- what to do about my husband?  He is the leader of our family - I am not!  He knew this little girl had been on my heart for weeks and he had even committed to praying, but he hadn't felt a clear sense of direction before now.  What would I do now that I thought I had?

I shut my Bible and made one final request of God.  IF I had indeed heard from Him- then I would trust that He would tell Doug too!  I asked God to do that and until He did so- I would not move!

I went to Doug honestly.  I told him that I had been praying for so long and had finally sensed God's answer regarding the 6 year old girl whose photo our whole family had become accustomed to, taped on our refrigerator-  front and center.  I had his attention!

"Well... what did He say???" he asked.  He seemed almost afraid to hear my answer!

"I won't tell you this time!" I smiled.  "Instead,  I have asked the Lord to tell you!  Would you ask Him please to reveal His plan to you, if what I heard this morning was, indeed, that plan???

He agreed.  This seemed safe, since he thought he already knew the answer...

Doug boarded a plane that afternoon to speak at a men's conference in Colorado.  He promised when he kissed me goodbye that he would not forget... He called as soon as he landed.

"OK!" he said through the phone...  "What exactly did God say to you?  He has spoken to me today and I need to know if we are both hearing the same thing.  You go first!"

He sat quietly on the other end of the line while I explained what I believed to be a "Yes... but wait!" answer from God during my time alone.

You obviously know by now what he'd heard that day, since I'm writing from 38,000 feet in the sky somewhere between the United States and China, bound for my waiting daughter!  What I didn't know then, and have just discovered in these past few weeks and months was that God's "Yes... but wait" meant much more waiting than I had anticipated and really hoped to avoid!  That time with the Lord seems like a lifetime ago, and I've come to wonder if maybe this is precisely why He was delaying in response to my constant questioning.  I thought I had this waiting thing down pat...  maybe not!

I like to rush ahead of God.  But God continually calls me back to His side.  And while I don't understand what good there could possibly be found in Rebekah's extended time as an orphan and my unmet desire to have her in my arms long before now, I know that God has promised that He will never withhold any good thing from His children.  I believe as I type today, that His goodness was somehow expressed in the waiting, and I can start this journey knowing that, while it was more than three months after I had hoped to be on my way, it is in His perfect timing and providence that Rebekah finally comes home.

Still- I am nervous.  Sometimes God's plans include "hard".  Adoption is not exempt from hard.  I have learned this lesson well!  In fact, I'm convinced that adoption almost always has a guarantee of "hard" attached!  Redeeming a child from abandonment and hopelessness and stepping into their indescribable losses is not the romantic picture some might like to paint it to be. 

Our flight is filled with beautiful Chinese travelers and a little girl (about Rebekah's age and size) is with her Mama just seats away.  Ellie commented that it appeared we were the only "American's" on the plane.  It struck me that she has forgotten that she is more like them than she is like me, but being surrounded by people much like herself still feels foreign to her.  This reminds me of the loss adoption brings to our children.  As I listen to a Mama and daughter speak to one another in Chinese and relate in such a culturally different way than my own, I remember that this should be "normal" for MY girls, but it could not be.  Sin and brokenness means that sometimes little girls lose their Mama's and a redeeming substitution is the only solution this side of heaven.  In the case of my five girls, that substitution is me... a mommy that looks different, smells different, talks different, and IS different than the one they were born to!

But I can love through Christ where there is none.  And I can be a part of a hope and a future that would not exist without the beautiful gift of adoption.  I need to look no further than God's Word to discover that this has been His plan for redeeming sin and brokenness since the beginning of time.

A redeeming substitute.  That's what Jesus was for me.... and for you!  Born into a sinful world with sin attached to our flesh, we needed someone to love us- to choose us- to lay aside self for our good- to be a perfect substitute so that we could be adopted as God's children.  Jesus shows us the way!

In a perfect world we wouldn't need strange Mama's to fly across the world to take us home.  We wouldn't need Jesus either.  But the world isn't perfect, and neither am I!  Today, as I find myself participating in this life-changing process once again, I am overwhelmed by the privilege that is mine.  The very thought that God could use the likes of me to be a part of His redemption plan seems inconceivable.

So in the coming days as I meet a stranger, now chosen to be my daughter, and the way seems hard...  I will remind myself of this truth, and thank the Lord for the unfolding plan that He will use to not only change the life of a little girl, but to make some needed changes in mine too!

Redemption is hard.  No one knows better than Christ Himself.  But it holds beauties we would never know otherwise, and for this I will give thanks!  May He be glorified as I seek to become more like Him in the redemption process and may the little girl that is about to become my own, grow to understand that her adoption by this very flawed family only seeks to point her to a heavenly Father who would go to even greater lengths to make her His own!                                              


I LOVE HER... I LOVE HER NOT

...I LOVE HER!


   
Our first adoption was dreamy… literally!  It was a dream come true for me that had been tucked deep in my heart for more years than I could remember!  She was just an adorable baby and she wanted one thing…. LOVE.  I was happy to oblige.  It was easy!   She smiled and cooed and slept through the night from our first night together.  We didn’t even hear the sound of her crying until we had been together over 48 hours.   I was just convinced that she was perfect, since she exceeded every hope and expectation I had from my adoption dreams.  My emotions exploded with all the affections I thought only birth mommy's knew!!!  I simply couldn’t understand any adoptive mother who said they struggled to actually “love” their new child… Not me! 

A year and a half later we returned for #2.  Why wouldn’t we?  I had this adoptive “love” thing down pat!  As soon as they handed over my 22 month old daughter, the bubble I had been living in burst- splashing through my emotions like a tidal wave. 


  
She didn’t like me.  She actually couldn’t stand my presence.  When I entered the room, she cried.  If Daddy left the room, she cried.  She cried, then she cried, then she cried some more.  By the end of one day together I felt physically ill.  I wanted more than anything to go into the hotel bathroom and barf my brains out….  Where was that instant “love” button, and who forgot to turn it on? 



The first day multiplied by 7 and each and every single night I went into the bathroom, grabbed the thickest towel or bathmat I could find and I sobbed into it!  This wasn’t a continuation of the dream I had hoped it would be!  What if she never loved me as her Mommy?  What if my emotions wouldn't cooperate either?  This felt more like a nightmare than a dream!  I wondered, as I buried my head into that bathmat for the 7th night in a row, if these very emotions were what drove adoptive parents to walk away…  I finally understood, or at least I thought I did.  Instead of extending compassion for the trauma she was experiencing, I was repelled by her misery, and completely entangled in my own selfish desires for that “loving” feeling. 



Then it happened!  It was Day 8…. She smiled at me… then reached for me from Daddy’s arms… then allowed me to rock her to sleep.  Ahhhhhh…. That was more like it!  Maybe affection could grow here after all, and it did!  No, attachment with #2 wasn’t instant- but it came with time and before long my emotional affections grew to what I could safely call “love”.  The overwhelming guilt for the lack of emotions I earnestly desired slowly subsided, but I will not soon forget the way that guilt paralyzed me for so long...



That was 9 years ago.  If you had told me shortly after that difficult adoption journey and the days that followed, that I would return not only one, or two, but three more times for another child to love, I wouldn’t have believed you!  I had been awakened to my brokenness just enough to know that the fairy tale version of adoption is a rare gift and probably not God’s idea, which is actually intended to break me of my selfish notions and motives.  He had much to teach me about love, and it appears He is not yet done with this life-changing lesson.

So far, I’ve learned a few things that I think might help my fellow adopting Mama’s.  I’m writing to share those with you.  I’m certain there is plenty more for me to learn and I leave in a few short weeks for #5 and another time of intensive training in China.  I imagine I might have a new list of tips to add to this one in the coming months, but for now I think I have plenty to write for a single post!

#1 is most important and until I figured this one out- I was bailing water from a sinking ship.  Here it is!  Write it down.  Repeat it over and over.  Then repeat it again… 

LOVE IS NOT AN EMOTION! 

I know that goes against everything you’ve ever thought or allowed yourself to believe.  But what you’ve bought into is the English version of “love” and it has led us all down a trail of emotional destruction.   You don’t have to look far to know it’s true.  Start counting the failing marriages around you and you’ll see the effects of our version of “love”.  You won’t be hard pressed to find those walking out of divorce court saying things like “We just don’t love each other anymore!"...  What had happened since they professed their undying love to one another?  

But the destruction doesn’t end there!  When applied to an adoptive Mama’s heart- it literally has the power to destroy us.  Even biological mothers fight this battle- but you will rarely hear them admit it, because… well… her children are her flesh and blood and she’s supposed to love them, right? 

I just wish we could start over with a clean slate and call it what it is!  The thing we are longing to feel as spouses, and as mothers (whether biological or adoptive) is AFFECTION.  We want to feel a deep affection FOR our children and FROM them!  Developing a mutual affection with your newborn baby isn’t too difficult.  You smile- they smile back- you tickle them- they giggle.  It is not until they fail to meet your expectations that your affections are challenged.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about- go find the mom of a child ravaging their way through the terrible twos and they will tell you that their affections are challenged on a daily basis.  And how many mother’s of teenagers wouldn’t admit that there are plenty of days that they “love” their child, but they certainly don’t “like” them.   

But affectionate feelings surrounding the adoption of a child you do not know and who does not know you can be a difficult process at best!  Adopting an older child who already has attitudes and habits very much unlike your own can start your journey on an emotional tank below empty that can take months or even years to fill!  The sooner we decide that this is OK (and even to be expected), the better!


Instant affection is more appropriately known as infatuation and is only a product of adoption when your new child is able to push all of your feel good, expectation buttons!  True affection with a photo or an idea is impossible.  It is, instead, something that grows with time as each individual involved gives and takes and their emotions bounce off of one another. 

The truth is that the emotion we call “love” ebbs and flows in each and every relationship.  My marriage and friendships saw difficult days before I finally figured this out!  Now I run the other way when I see the ever popular sign that instructs me to “Follow my heart”!  If I did so- I’d be in trouble more times than I am not! 

This talk of our emotions leads directly to everything I have to say on Tip #2 and this one is almost as revolutionary as #1- at least it was for me!  Here it is!...  Drum roll, please!...  Nowhere in Scripture will you find the command to control your emotions!  Did you hear that???

GOD DOES NOT TELL US TO CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS!

That means that all of the guilt we adoptive moms wrap around ourselves and tie in knots because of our negative emotions or lack of positive ones (like “love”) is of our own making…. Certainly not God’s!  In days past I accused myself of being a terrible person and one that The Lord could never accept because I lacked the emotion of love I was certain He demanded of me!  What I couldn’t wrap my heart around (and I guess no one ever told me!) is that His demands to love in Scripture have absolutely nothing to do with my emotions!!!!!!

God’s Word, instead, calls us to CONTROL OUR THOUGHTS!

Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.   (2 Cor 10:5)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Why is God so interested in the controlling of our thoughts?  Because no matter how you slice it or dice it- our emotions will always follow our thoughts!  Tell me what you’re thinking and I can tell you how you “feel” instantly!  Emotions are like the caboose on the back of a train.  The engine of your thoughts will direct them down whichever track you choose and they have absolutely no choice but to follow!  Apply this wherever you like and see if it is not true!

If you rehearse in your mind for the rest of today all of the things you do not like about your husband, and the ways he has disappointed you in the past, I promise that your affectionate emotions for him will be pretty low when he walks through the door tonight.  Conversely, you can remind yourself exactly what made you want to marry him and the parts of him that you are crazy about throughout your day and you’d better find a babysitter to watch the kids when he gets home….  (I think you get the idea!)

This exact principle applies to our children, but I’ve decided this might be the hardest place to apply it!  We have been dealing with many orphan issues lately and deep pain disguised in irritating behaviors with one of our girls.  My affection meter has been falling as a result.  If I’m not careful, these irritating behaviors can take over my thoughts throughout the day and my emotions  toward that particular child are in the tank.  My emotions have a way of leaking out in my actions, spilling negativity over the very child that needs my affection the most!  Cap it off with overwhelming guilt and I’m sunk! 

When I find myself in that all too familiar pit, it’s time to return to God’s Word where His words give me clear instruction in how to climb out!  “Take every thought captive for the obedience of Christ.”  Take your thoughts captive- stop them at the front door- and confront them with the Truth!  When I do this, I find that my emotions of affection for even my most difficult child CAN grow!  Compassionate thoughts in remembering their trauma can change the way I see their behavior and possibly even change mine!  Sweet thoughts of their strengths (because we all have at least some of those!) enable me to greet them with a smile and encouragement, instead of rejection.  The best thing I can do with those positive thoughts are to actually say them out loud to my child and watch them transform not only my emotions but theirs too!!!! 

The Bible says that self control is a virtue and a fruit of God’s Spirit in us.  In light of my daily struggles in this area, I have come to believe that our greatest need for self-control begins in our THOUGHTS!  I am convinced that if we fill our thoughts with what the Bible says is true and apply these truth-filled thoughts to the people we have been called to “love”, everything about our emotions can change!  My bet is that God is highly interested in helping us do this, and will if we allow Him to!

Because I am a lover of Jesus and look to the Bible as my ultimate source of truth, my opinion is meaningless if it does not agree with His Word!  So recently, when I was to speak to a group of women on the subject of love, I did in depth research on the matter.  Thankfully, I walked away with the absolute confidence that my recent, rather new understanding on the subject of love is spot-on when lined up with God’s Word. 

In Greek, the English word “LOVE” is expressed in three different ways to include a love between friends, between lovers, and between God and man.  But in Hebrew the word “LOVE” is actually CHARITY.  This discovery changed everything for me!  I can remember reading the King James Version of the Bible growing up and finding confusion when the word CHARITY was used in place of LOVE in 1 Corinthians 13~  “Charity is patient, Charity is kind.  It is not proud.  It is not rude. It is not self seeking…  Now these three remain- Faith, Hope and Charity and the greatest of these is Charity."   What in the world did that mean?  I wish that I had taken the time to find out.  I could have saved myself a lot of self condemnation and overwhelming guilt if I had!

Let your mind come up with every definition it can find for the word charity and you will likely not find anything that resembles the emotional affection we call “love”!  Why?  Because charity is about helping the helpless.  It is about sacrificially giving yourself away for the good of others. It is about meeting needs and about acting in kindness.  And if you haven’t noticed by now- none of those words are nouns!  Each and every one- giving/meeting needs/acting – are verbs!  Charity is an ACTION.  Love is an action or it is nothing at all!  To profess an emotion of love devoid of action is meaningless!  Feel love all you want, but unless it overflows into an action, it profits no one.  Which leads to my final thought on the matter:

LOVE IS AN ACTION!

If this is true- and I think we can all probably agree that it is- then it’s time for us to stop beating ourselves up and making ourselves miserable with defeat for any lack of “love” we have for our children that we accuse ourselves of!  Let’s face the facts and throw the weight off our backs!  Affectionate feelings are easier with some than others.  Most of those feelings of affection have more to do with our own needs and expectations being met than the good of another.  If our affection is met with their affection than it is the warm, mushy feeling we call “love”.  Enjoy that feeling!  Mutual affection is a sweet gift that is to be enjoyed!  But stop expecting that you must be in gross sin if that affectionate feeling does not flow as freely with some of your more difficult children than with others.  We would probably all do ourselves a favor to lower our expectations a little bit (OK…. A LOT!) and create moments where affection can be fostered and grow.  But it’s time to stop filling our thoughts and mouths with the words… “I don’t love her/him!”  Excuse me…. I would beg to differ with you!  Did you not sacrifice much to make that child your own?  (Charity)  Did you push selfish ambition aside in countless ways so that child could know a mother’s love?  (Charity) Do you feed them, bathe them, clothe them, and tuck them into a warm bed at night?  (Charity)  Do you seek therapy and counsel to help them navigate through their trauma and stay up late into the night while they rage from the pain inflicted upon them by someone else?  (Charity) 

I am not afraid to go so far as to say that when you love (charity) a child devoid of the affectionate feelings you wish you had, God is even more pleased with your offering, then when you do it out of a response to your “loving” feelings!  It is easy to pour ourselves out when positive emotions flow.  But to do so in spite of the lack of them is a greater act of LOVE no matter how you look at it!  Does God want you to have a sweet affection for the child who now shares your name?  Of course He does!  And our prayers should be filled with petitions that He would mold our affections to be more like His.  But if you have loved your child with biblical love today (charity), then you can lay your head on your pillow tonight and sleep, guilt free, under His care regardless of what your fickle emotions tell you about yourself!  His mercies will be new when you wake up tomorrow and you can begin again to offer yourself in love (charity) to your child. 

I have been in the adoption community long enough to know that adoptions can fail and will.  Sometimes disruption is the best option for everyone involved.  But if you are among the many mom’s I know that feel that your adoption is a failure based solely upon your lack of warm affection for your child, it’s time to do what Elsa suggests and “Let it go!”  Your adoption might not look like you had hoped and many days of difficult emotions might still lie ahead.  But resist the urge to measure your success as a mom with an emotional barometer that simply can’t be trusted! Forgive yourself for the emotional feelings that come and go with the circumstances of life and decide, instead, to respond to God’s call to take your negative thoughts captive- replace them with His truth- and then let them overflow in your ACTIONS of LOVE!

I love her… I love her not… I LOVE HER!






PS~ While precious adoptive daughter #2 agreed to all the sad pictures we selected for this particular post, she wanted everyone to know that she now, in fact, "loves" us as much as we LOVE her!  Here's the perfect photos she picked to prove it! Affection overflows!




The Gift of Waiting...

She may be waiting- but she's not waiting to live!
I haven't written here in many months.  I've often wondered if I'd ever think of anything else to say, because life seems so "regular" I'm not sure anyone would want to read about it!  It would be fair to say that I have been too busy to write.  I have been!  But the truth is that I have been at a loss to find anything valuable to say about waiting and that is exactly where I have been.... WAITING!

Today, as I brought my waiting to God, I had a brief moment of absolute clarity.  It was as if I could practically hear him whisper to my weary, waiting soul... "Waiting is a gift, Lori!"  Call me slow, but in the midst of the three longest years I have ever spent waiting, this thought has never occurred to me!   I like it when God answers with a "Yes".  And while I admit that I don't like to hear a "No" from Him, at least I can shut the door on my denied requests and move on.  But it seems these days that God's answers are stuck on repeat...  "WAIT!  WAIT!  WAIT!"  and to be quite honest- that waiting feels far from any gift I've ever desired before!  But if I heard correctly today and waiting is indeed a gift, then my proverbial Christmas tree is stacked high with gifts all chosen specifically for me!  

Turning 50 years old!  31 spent with the love of my life!
This year was the year we had waited for as a married couple.  Doug and I would finally celebrate 30 years of marital bliss (or something like it! ;-) with a trip to Israel.  We've been dreaming about it since before our 20th, but for one reason or another, we were forced to wait.  This time our tickets had been purchased well in advance and the tour booked for the two of us.  Surely our lives would calm down enough by November to allow us to go.  We planned the timing of Rebekah's adoption around the trip perfectly, and were certain Rachel's new heart would come long before and her recovery would be well behind us before it was time to go.  But as the dates for our trip drew nearer and nearer, the wait for Rachel's heart grew longer and longer.  There was simply no way I could leave the country for a long awaited get away with hubby and risk something... anything... happening while I was away!  Because Doug will actually be leading next year's trip to Israel, I felt it was important that he go, even if it meant he would go without me.  He did.  To say that I cried buckets of tears the day he left for "our" anniversary trip without me would be the understatement of the century!  But even amidst my deep disappointment I could hear God's voice whispering the word I had become very acquainted with in recent years...  "WAIT!"  Would I trust that His deep love determined something better for me than a trip to Israel?

On March 8th, Rachel's wait for a new heart will reach 3 very long years!  The days have turned into months, and now those months into years.  I honestly can't believe that we are still right where we began.  People constantly ask how she is, and I've run out of ways to tell them that she is as OK as a little girl can be while still tottering between life and death with heart failure.  She is "living"- because she refuses to do anything but live!  But the truth is that she is dying too.  She desperately needs a new heart, and everyday without one is another miracle.  Last spring she was upgraded on the transplant list to a 1A- a spot reserved for the kids most desperate for a transplant.  She had been waiting for so long that a 1A status put her at the very top of the list in our area and in many parts of the country.  Still- nothing.  Hearts were offered, but didn't "work" for Rachel and were passed on to children far below her on the waiting list.  Only my deep trust in the sovereignty of God quieted my anxious heart.  His perfect will called me to more waiting...  She was downgraded on the list in October and our faith was tested again.  Is God able despite Rachel's status?  Now she has been upgraded again and hopes that our wait will finally come to an end are high!  I'm ready to tear into this so called "gift of waiting" and find the prize inside, because if there is a gift beneath all this packaging... it must be a pretty special one!  Can I trust that if that gift does not come in the form I hope it does- He is still good?
   
I found that Rebekah's adoption served as a sweet distraction from all the waiting... and I was most happy about that!  Happy, that is, until the wait for our approval from China passed it's expected due date in late October or early November!  In a few days February will arrive and STILL the approval we have been waiting for has NOT!  This same approval came on day 28 for Abby's adoption.  As I write, we have been waiting for 170 days and the approval is nowhere in sight with no earthly explanation beyond an "uploading error"; a "misspelled name"; or a "maybe you should just concentrate on the children you have.." from the people in charge of getting it done on the other side of the world!  On a spiritual level, this wait seems harder to explain than all the others...  I am struggling to understand what could possibly be "good" about a little girl turning six years old, waiting in an orphanage on the other side of the world for her family to come.  I am forced to cling to God's promises when I don't understand.  Today He tenderly reminded me as my daily Bible reading led me to Psalm 84- "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  Oh Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!"  
Rebekah turned SIX on January 24!


This angel was definately worth the wait!
I don't have to dig too deep in God's Word to find what He has to say to me about "waiting".  There I find that waiting is always intended as a time to grow!  And as with everything, the seeds of life are planted... and then we must wait for them to grow.  Harvest time will come, but the waiting forces us to trust God for the fruit. In a culture over-saturated with instant gratification, this is hard!  But the saying that "the best things in life are worth waiting for" was certainly penned by a seasoned "waiter" who discovered some precious gifts disguised in patience.

I have found, too, that often waiting can be a time for healing.  Life is put on "hold" in many ways and I must push aside things that once seemed important to make room for God's perfect timing.  I'm not used to thinking this way at all and I honestly don't like it!  The lessons of waiting have been forced upon me or I might not have ever chosen them at all.  Plans?  Who has plans?  You can't make plans when you're waiting!  I might be in China... or in Gainesville for Rachel's new heart... or at home while she recovers... or maybe recovering myself from inconceivable loss.  I have no plans, because everything depends on the outcome of my waiting!  I am forced to forego many things in order to be ready when God moves.  This time gives me an opportunity to grow deeper and stronger for what lies ahead.  I would rarely do so if not forced upon me!

Saying "Goodnight" and "Goodbye" as only Abby can!
Most difficult for me is that God doesn't often give any explanation for our waiting.  My Daddy died on January 4th- right when I expected to be in China adopting Rebekah.  I was glad that my unexpected waiting allowed me to be here to say goodbye and to celebrate his life when my entire family gathered.  The wait suddenly had purpose and I liked that.  But I am discovering that unexplained waiting is the soil in which trust grows...

To the degree that waiting causes me to turn to the Lord and deepens my dependance on Him- that wait becomes a beautiful gift!

In the past I believed that waiting equalled inactivity. "Wait upon the Lord" meant to stay in one place until He said otherwise. Certainly it didn't call me to "do" anything!  But God's purposes for my waiting are far greater!  There is actually much to do in my waiting!  I've decided that the greatest tragedy of all would be to waste this opportunity and then never find delight in the long awaited gifts He has prepared for me when this season is finally through!

Still, there are days when I think I just can't do this waiting thing anymore.  I want to cry and often do!  I want the ability to control my world somehow.  I want to pick waiting up by the shoulders and shake it!  Enough already!!!!  My tendency is to rush in and seize the prize... "Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!"... Push my way to the front of the line!  But when I do that, I stunt the growth that can happen in the waiting that will likely not happen anywhere else!  If I take matters into my own hands and force God to move in my time, I will miss it!!!!

Instead, God invites me to come away; to spend my time with Him; to discover His heart and the treasure of knowing Him above everything else!  When I do- I DISCOVER THAT THE GIFT IS IN THE WAITING~ NOT IN WHAT I AM WAITING FOR!!!!!     


(Now that we have that settled... excuse me while I go have myself a really good cry!  I don't think I can wait another second to get this precious baby in my arms!)



"What doesn't kill you...

…will make you stronger!”

At least that’s what they say!  And while this summer held days that felt as if they might just kill me, they didn’t!  Which leads me to the conclusion my grandmother came to decades before I did!  “A little HARD work never killed anyone!”  For the sake of this long, overdue blog, I will combine the two into something like this~  “Circumstances that seem so HARD you think you won’t survive, will not kill you… but they will make you stronger!”


Trouble is, I think I’m actually writing on this subject too early, as the “stronger” part has yet to come!  Truth be known, I’m exhausted.  Weary might even be a better description of my present state.  So weary that my husband put me in a car this afternoon and sent me away to have a few days ALONE!  “Rest”, he said… “Enjoy yourself!”  Believe it or not- I resisted at his first offer to get away.  There’s just too much to be done!  (Which is exactly why I’m weary!)  I don’t have a spare minute to slip away from home by myself!  But after some arm twisting- I did it!!!  I am typing now from an undisclosed location.  But my location doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that I am here ALONE! 

Unlike my precious husband of 30 years, who loves a crowd and likes to be the last person to leave the church’s parking lot on Sunday morning, I prefer time alone!  That’s when I can think clearly, spend time with the Lord in my thoughts and hear from Him.  I am recharged by those moments spent alone, and this particular summer such moments were very few and far between.  But those long, long days of summer that left me so tired and weary, DIDN’T kill me!!!!  And now that they are finally drawing to a close and I have slipped away to take a breath, I can begin to see the strength God intends to build in me through them.

Hudson Taylor's book entitled “It Is Not Death to Die” is a sweet reminder that a season that calls me to a deeper and deeper death to self, will actually lead to a more abundant life, filled with joy, than an expected shortcut to the grave.  If the aim of this particular season was to strip me of self and teach me a bit of sacrifice in service to others, it hit the target dead on!  And while I questioned it a time or two- it did NOT kill me!  Not even close!

Sadly, I’ll have to admit that I didn’t learn this soon enough in my parenting, and my Phase 2 children are bearing the brunt of my late start!  At the ripe old age of 50- I think I might have finally caught on to something and I want to waste no time in showing my kids the real pathway to joy!  The one they will never find in front of a computer screen or with an ITouch in their hands!  In fact, I’ve decided that bringing home a child with a special need that requires much attention from everyone in the home (in this case Abby’s Down Syndrome) has not ruined the lives of my other children the way well-meaning observers warned it could.  Instead, it is teaching each of us that a life of service to others is the best life of all!  Most amazing is that I have never heard a single complaint from any of them when called to serve Abby in some way or the other.  How is this even possible, I wonder…  I suppose it’s because the instant rewards through simply being with Abby are enough to remind us all that a life of service is a shortcut to a life of joy.

I can’t imagine what my life looks like from the outside looking in these days.  I’m convinced that I should have lost my mind long ago- so it’s no wonder everyone else thinks so too!  Questions regarding our decision to adopt another child with DS are predictable and I have come to expect them.  Just this week, after spending a few hours with our crazy family, a friend looked at me in disbelief and asked,  “…and you really want to adopt another one?  Wow!”  Our lives are complicated and do not include a leisurely swim or time to lounge next to the pool.  And while this is HARD- I’ve come to realize that the hardest work is in the molding of my own heart to do exactly what God has called me to do, instead of pining away for the life He has called others to…  My nest is not empty like the majority of my friends.  God’s plan for my life appears to not include an empty nest at all!  I can either adjust my heart and attitude to this or I can grow bitter and resentful as I watch my friends relax on enviable vacations, while I find myself consumed in endless days of HARD.  I joke with friends in an attempt to explain our decision to adopt child #8 by saying- “Once you’re in over your head, what difference does another foot or two under make?”  And while I’m not stupid enough to think there is not more HARD work involved in caring for another child with significant needs, I have come to realize that the strength to give more of myself is available through the very One that calls me, and is best accomplished when I embrace that call instead of resisting it and wishing for the life and freedom of others. 

My heart is the issue… not my ability to do HARD!
The truth is that there is no limit to what any of us can do…. We limit ourselves by thinking that the HARD should be left for someone else more qualified.  Yet the qualifications are few and only include a heart that is willing!

In looking back over my life, I realize that I bought into the mindset early that my sole aim was to work myself out of a job!  The goal of life was freedom!  Freedom from endless work.  Freedom from obligation and HARD!  You know… work hard and then retire!!!  It started the day I gave birth to my first born, I guess…  Then I’d hit the restart button with each addition to the family.  18 more years… then freedom!  I clearly remember the internal struggle I had in choosing to start this journey called adoption.  I couldn’t stop thinking in terms of car seats and highchairs!  Those signified another looooong commitment and prolonged years of HARD work.  I obviously chose to take the journey anyway and now, 10 years later, I am starting again for the fifth time!!!  How comical to think now, about the time right after I got home with my first from China and started calculating the number of years remaining in my 24/7 mothering “term”!  God must have chuckled from heaven.  Little did I know that two little girls with an extra chromosome each would be in my future.  And while that chromosome makes them some of God’s most precious creations, it also likely means that there is no term limit for me as their mother! 

Gone are the dreams of freedom from HARD work!  Reality has awakened me as I have drawn nearer to God.  The freedom I was striving toward was NEVER His plan.  I am His bondservant!  I have chosen to dedicate the rest of my life in service to my King!  Freedom from HARD is not part of the deal!  My sole requirement is to do what my Master says, when He says to do it!  The resources (including my aging energy!) will come from Him alone!

My aging parents have just moved into an addition on our home.  My mom cares for my ailing father 24/7.  He had a massive stroke just months after his retirement.  I watch as my mom works tirelessly and I wish for her those lost days of retirement and freedom.  Then I remind myself that retiring from servant-hood was not a part of her life plan either.  I watched years ago as she served three of my grandparents until their death and now, is left with the sole care of her husband.  People ask constantly how she does what she does so gracefully.  Some say that they could “never do that”, as if she has a special ability they don’t personally possess.  And while I would agree that my mom is a beautiful servant and a faithful spouse, she would be quick to tell you that she possesses nothing special that any of us do not!  God chose this path for her.  She is simply doing what He has asked of her and is only able to do it with the strength He provides! 


I suppose that over the past several years I’ve heard that same statement directed at me plenty of times now too.  It’s one thing to look at someone who has given birth to a child with Down Syndrome and marvel at their ability to “handle it”, (as if they had a choice), or at someone like my mom who is simply making good on the vows she spoke 52 years ago.  But to think that someone would actually choose such a path for themselves is understandably difficult!  But be sure of this…  This is not the path I would have chosen for myself either!  My desire for relaxation and freedom didn’t suddenly slip away from my selfish flesh any more than it has from yours.  God chose this path for me and I am bound by similar vows I made to Him as a young girl when He saved me!  Mary’s words echo in my ears as she heard she was to bear not only God’s Son, but the shame of the world as well….  “I am your humble servant.  Let it be done to me as you have said.” 

Because I know the Lord loves me and is using the circumstances of my life for my ultimate good, I am not afraid of HARD anymore!  HARD serves to make me stronger.  It tests my commitment and strengthens my love.  I am resolved to not avoid HARD, because in looking back I have discovered that if God withheld the tasks many would consider HARD from my calling, I would have missed some of the greatest blessings of my life!  

Like this one~
YES!  She's gonna eat every single one of those jalopenos!!!!  Tough as nails!
See?
Or this precious angel, who is the sunshine in our home!

For that matter, I suppose we should throw these two in as well, since they lengthened my mothering “term” substantially!   

Oh… and this one too, since avoiding anything too difficult would have eliminated him a long time ago!  ;-)  

I can’t forget this angel either, even though she’s still waiting for us in China…  
Rebekah is only 5 years older than my first grandson!  How's that for lengthening my days of 24/7? ;-)
Last, but not least…  If I had avoided HARD, no one would feel sorry for me and send me away to a beautiful retreat on the ocean where I’d find treasures like this one! 

Please... no haters because I didn't save "this one" this time!  :-)


Let's face it!  Life is HARD, but it won't kill you!  And "what doesn't kill you, will make you stronger"!!!  Let's run head long into God's will for us and discover just how strong we can be when the journey is through!