On your mark... Get set...


I am writing from an airplane tonight, heading HOME from an incredible, life-changing trip to China with our fifth treasure in tow.  I am happy to go home, but feel as if there is just not enough time to digest the events of the past few weeks, or more specifically, the 8 days since I finally met Rebekah!  She is so much more than I could have imagined!  Precious - afraid- tender hearted- bossy- hurting- joyful -tearful- affectionate- grieving- excited... I have been swept away in all she is and her entrance into my life seems almost like a dream. 

I am reminded though- as I return to life as normal- that some things will never be normal again.  I wonder how all of my other angels will change as they adjust to her presence in our midst.  Will it change my marriage or steal away the little freedom I had remaining in my days?  And while I leave breakfast buffets and hotel maid services behind and the fun-filled days of just getting to know one another becomes a thing of the past, I am reminded that the toughest work lies ahead.  The traumas of abandonment and less attention from Mommy to go around will mean a heavy workload for me in the foreseeable future.  I am happy to go home, but in a moment of gut level honesty- I am nervous.  I feel selfish and wonder if I am up for the challenges ahead.  The call God has placed upon my life means a greater to death to self, and like anyone else, I shrink back at that idea more than I embrace it! 

If I have learned anything about the Lord in this journey, I have learned to see His many tender mercies woven into my days when I most need them.  As we settled into our seats on the plane and I got Rebekah started with an episode of Winnie The Pooh, I began to scroll through the many, many choices of in flight entertainment.  I was shocked to see that the movie "Chariots of Fire" was offered.  While I have known for many years about the famous runner, Eric Lidell, and even quoted him when speaking before, I had never had the opportunity to see the entire movie about his running career and his bid for an Olympic Metal.  Little did I know that God would use this film to tenderly speak to my heart and remind me where I have come from, why I came, and the path He would have me run on the journey ahead. 

Eric Lidell was an amazing runner and there was much promise for him in doing what God had blessed him to do.  But he also felt a call to serve the Lord on the mission fields of China.  He felt a constant struggle between what he felt he was good at and what he sensed to be God's will for his life.  Finally, after much prayer and a refusal to compromise His commitment to honor God in all things, whether running or on the mission field, Eric decided to continue to run.  He understood completely that God is most honored when we do what He has gifted us to do and when we do ALL things for His glory.  His words echoed through my soul, as they have in the past and strengthened my resolve for my own run ahead.

Eric Lidell said this- "God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run I feel God's pleasure."   So He ran and He honored the Lord in his running and he earned an Olympic gold medal in the process!  The movie ends with his triumphant victory in the Olympic Games, but after all the credits had run and honor had been given to all the actors of this amazing story, there was a quiet footnote... "Eric Lidell died as a missionary to China after many years of faithful service".  That little footnote told me so much more about this man than an entire movie on his running career could!  He was committed to honoring the Lord with EVERYTHING he had, and he did!

Being a homemaker is not going to win me a gold medal or any earthly prize.  Neither will it earn me fame or riches.  But if I selflessly love the children God has given to me... If I love and respect my husband as onto Him, and if I care for our household with honoring Him as my ultimate goal, then I can sense His pleasure over me as I do those things too! 

My sense of purpose has been renewed as I make the final lap of this race and prepare to begin a new one when my feet hit the ground at home.  Already I sense God's pleasure and it spurs me on to give it my all!!!!   Strap on your running shoes with me!!!  We have a race to run! 

On your mark...  Get set... GO!

(Following is the video of our homecoming when Rebekah finally met her Daddy for the first time!  It was as miraculous as our Gotcha Day in China 8 days earlier!)

I cried too...

Before my traveling partner and photographer spills the beans on me, I think I should just go ahead and confess.  The first time I heard Rebekah cry, I cried too...  I know, I know!  It was only a little blood draw for her TB test and I wasn't even in the room because new parents aren't allowed.  But the sound of her crying through that closed door pushed my unusually tender heart over the edge and I lost it!!!!  Then my always tender hearted videographer lost it too, and we were both toast!!!!

Sonia and I have been through a LOT together.  We've walked through life and death situations with our heart kiddos side by side and have prided ourselves in our uncanny ability to find laughter in the midst of it all.  Never have we failed to howl our way through the most difficult circumstances we've found ourselves in.  Yes- we have cried too, (in case you're worried!) but we are best known around the hospital for our laughter.  It's our hilarious coping mechanism, I guess, and until that day in the adoption medical clinic, Sonia and I had an unspoken understanding of one another.

But in that single moment it all crumbled!  Sonia stood opposite me and clicked photos in a state of what must have been unbelief!  I was crying over a TB blood draw!!!!  I'm guessing that my unpredictable tears probably appeared only half as foolish as I felt, when I realized the camera was capturing this embarassing moment for all time!  Worst of all, I knew that my photographer would hardly let those tears dry before she responded in her most typical fashion and laughed hysterically over my upsurdity!  She did not disappoint!  

I haven't heard the end of it from Sonia, of course, and I have to admit that I, too, find myself hysterical each time I remember the events of that day.  But I feel that in defense of my behavior, I should explain...

I am a typical adopting Mama and a relentless dreamer.  That combination can create some pretty unrealistic expectations for the first few weeks together after Gotcha Day.  I have had my own share of disappointments in this area, so I dedicated many, many hours of prayer regarding this matter of my heart.  I wanted to love simply and selflessly, as Christ would.  I wanted a heart that loves for the good of another, instead of the rewards for self.  This does not come naturally for me, so I begged God to do a super-natural work in my heart and give me a sweet affection for Rebekah that I could not produce on my own.

The unexpected tears that flowed from a tender heart, for a little girl I hardly knew, were proof of God's sweet answer to my prayers.  I was keenly aware of the work He had done in my heart from the moment I met Rebekah, that flowed into those first hours and then days together.  I knew that while my emotions are unpredictable and flaky, the instant affection and tenderness I felt for her were a gift from the Lord.  I will always treasure the wonder I felt as I witnessed His super natural love flowing through me onto this broken child.

The tears that Rebekah shed at the medical clinic were the first I had seen, but were the beginning of  a time of deep grieving for her.  For several days, Rebekah's smile disappeared and the pain of all she had lost bubbled to the top.  She would hold it in as long as she could and then the tears would flow from her broken heart in the saddest sobs you've ever heard.  I felt helpless.  There was simply nothing I could do to lessen her pain or shoulder her losses...

She even bled in the shape of a heart that day!

And in one of the sweetest answers to prayer I have ever known, I cried too...

Selfie Fun...

With full disclosure I must admit that I hate the new selfie culture!!!  Never have we been more focused on ourselves and the ability to take endless instant photos of ourselves that we can share with everyone we know via social media so that they can look at us too!  This is pure craziness!!!

While on a cable car over the mountains outside Hong Kong, we had the distinct privilege of sharing the ride with a teen girl who primped and polished herself to perfection and then proceeded to take selfie, after selfie, after selfie of herself for her adoring public.  She was so engrossed in herself that she didn't notice the nine other riders witnessing the entire event in unbelief!  Someone help me!!!!

While we were in Shanghai, visiting the Ancient City, we discovered that the latest craze on the tourist market is something they call a "selfie stick"!  Sellers of these contraptions came from every direction and tried to pawn theirs off on me for "the best price" in town.  Time for some investigation as to what this thing was and why I might want one!  OK... maybe these thingies are a little bit cool!  I'm pretty certain my "yuppy device" generation kids would think so!

I must swallow hard before I type this.  Here goes...  I bought three selfie sticks.  THREE.  How embarrassing!  I am now offically contributing to the prevailing selfie insanity, including the one in my own home!  This purchase will forever allow my preteen girls to take photos of themselves from every angle and at any distance they choose within the selfie stick's extended length, with a simple click of a button!  What has become of me?

Since I had already lost all my sensibilities in this area and spent money to further its' cause- I decided to just go with it.  I had no desire for a single photo of myself, but I was pretty smitten with a little someone who rather liked taking selfies.  If a simple selfie brought a smile to my hurting girl, I was all in!

So then, with no further ado...

Selfie Fun with Rebekah~

Unexpected Joy...

(Our precious girl grieved terribly for several days.  Her sadness is evident in these photos.  
But JOY was just around the bend and we all celebrated together as she discovered it!)

"Sorrow may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning!"

Have you ever noticed that joy seems to always be found in the most unexpected of places?  Maybe it's because it takes pain and hardship to reveal the true meaning of JOY!

I have been struck in my time with Rebekah this past week and now over a year with Abby in our home, that those with the greatest hardships illuminate JOY in a way that wealthy and "happy" individuals can not.  Even in the midst of the intense grieving in Rebekah's heart at the loss of her foster family- I see joy bubbling beneath the surface.  Sometimes it's as if she can't hold it in!!! 

I am reminded that I look for JOY in all the wrong places!  I try to arrange the circumstances of my life and avoid pain at any cost.  When I do that I forget that JOY is a gift from the Lord to the weak and broken.  Those that can't produce anything remotely like joy in their own strength, discover something that only God can give!  In bolstering myself and trying to control my circumstances I actually take up the room where JOY can move in when more of self is poured out.  Those focused on self are never emptied enough to make room for joy.  When we follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist and declare that we must decrease and Christ must increase, we are finding our way to overwhelming JOY! 

One of the enemies greatest weapons against us as believers is to convince us that the pathway to joy is found anywhere but in the pouring out of ourselves to make more and more room for Him!  As we embrace the hard and costly instead of the comfortable and profitable, we discover that what we longed for all along is found in the midst of our losses.

Less of me...
More of Christ...

Unexpected JOY!

My gain...

...Their loss

I've decided that being a foster parent is a thankless job, and if it is done right, than it ultimately will mean great pain and great loss.  I saw it in Melinda when she said Goodbye to Abby and I saw it again today.  I don't even know their names.  But as I was celebrating a beginning, they were grieving an end.  I witnessed the selfless love of two people and I will never forget the beauty I saw in their tears.  I see their love reflected in the heart of my little girl and realize that her loss, too, is greater than I can imagine.

I gain. They lose.

While adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption, it is also a painful reminder of the devastation sin brought into our world and it's overwhelming consequences on the very weakest among us.  Redemption always includes loss. Sometimes I like to glamorize my role in the process and exaggerate the costs of adoption to me personally.  But if I am honest, I know that in this particular process, I am the biggest winner of all! 

Rebekah's birth mother lost.  While I can not begin to understand the reasons any mother would abandon her two and a half year old to wander in a park alone and likely resign them to a lifetime as an orphan, I can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she did so with great pain.  I have only known her precious daughter for a few days now, and the joy she brings to life is undeniable.  What a void her abandonment must have left in her mother's heart.  Her great loss breaks my heart more and more as I embrace the incredible gain of this precious child's  redemption.

Two year old PingPing was found wandering near the entrance of this park on July 24, 2011

Now the people that loved her and cared for her and wanted her good lose too!  Sadly, they have known great loss before this one, which makes this redemption through adoption more painful still... Rebekah's foster parents were an elderly couple that she affectionately called "YeYe" and "NiNi" (Grandpa and Grandma).  They had two children of their own that were both lost in a tragic car accident, leaving them childless.  So they agreed to foster orphans and pour out their love onto them instead.  I can see their love and affection in Rebekah and the way she is willing to turn to me in her hurting.  But the depth of Rebekah's loss I see in her grieving only portrays the even greater loss these precious people must feel today as "their little girl" is ushered to her new home far away.  They had not wanted to be there for her Gotcha Moment, because they feared parting would be too difficult, but we were already at the orphanage when they arrived with her, so they were forced to do so anyway.  They wept as they met us and then as they said goodbye.  I will never forget them.  I will never forget the great gain for Rebekah or for us, as her family, that has now become their loss...

The most devastating loser in this redemption story is also the sweet recipient of it!  Rebekah did not choose her loss- nor was it the consequence of her own sin. She has suffered loss after loss after loss before ever meeting us and the losses to her will always be a part of her story.  Only hours after she left the arms of her foster parents, our guide took us to the park where she had been left three and a half years ago, at the age of two.  It was an expansive, picturesque park and we made our way to the very place Rebekah was found, likely in tears because she couldn't find her Mama. 

Not thinking about the impact this might have on Rebekah emotionally, we sat her alone in that place for photos.  Suddenly I was awakened to my stupidly!  This precious child had only left the safety of her beloved foster parents hours before and she now stood in the very place she had been abandoned as a little girl, far too young to even understand what was happening to her!  I hurried and scooped her up to reassure her that her Mommy would never leave her alone again.  I asked my guide to translate on my behalf.  "You don't have to be afraid, Ping Ping," she said. "Your Mama will never leave you!"  Rebekah's answer broke my heart and reminded me of the loss she remembered well... "My Mama already left." She told my guide.  

I wept for her as we walked around the park hand in hand and then marveled as she shared her bubbles joyfully with a younger boy she befriended.  A crowd gathered, as they all admired her tenderness and joy in spite of her obvious disability.  May God use those moments to reshape the hearts and minds of a people convinced by their culture that the weak are unwanted!  Otherwise, they too become a part of this tragic loss as well.

My gains in this redemption story are incalculable!  I have rarely been as acutely aware of the indescribable gift of the precious children the world has written off as too disabled; too needy; too much expected hardship to sacrifice for.  Instead, the world's losses are an incomprehensible gain to those of us who will put ourselves in a position to be the hands and feet of Christ' redemption to a dying world.

My gain...
Their loss. 

Thank you Lord for this indescribable gift!