Friday, February 27, 2015

Adoption Fundraiser T-Shirt

Introducing our custom-made t-shirt, designed to help raise money for our adoption!

This is a super-soft t-shirt and can be ordered in adult and youth sizes! The cost is $20 per shirt, regardless of the size. If you don't live in our area and would like your shirts shipped, please add $4 to the cost of your total order. We are taking orders and payment now and will place one big order in a few weeks. I'll keep you posted on when they will be arriving.

To order, click on the "Donate" button on the right side of this blog homepage. If you are on a smart phone, you'll have to scroll down and click on "View web version" in order to see the donate button. This will link you to our Paypal account. As you make your payment, please indicate in the note how many shirts you are ordering and in what sizes. You are also welcome to mail us a check with your sizes included. Please message me for our mailing address, if you'd rather pay this way.

This may be our only fundraiser. It's an easy one to organize, and who doesn't love a cool t-shirt?! A one-year long adoption process is stressful. We are trying to condense that entire process within a matter of a few months, so you can imagine how much time we (DON'T) have for fundraising! We would love to honor sweet little Ru with a party on the town square, like we did for Emily, but that just. ain't. happnin. ;) Sooooooo... if you'd like to support our adoption, please do it now by ordering some shirts for yourself and all your favorite people!

Love y'all and all your support! Can't wait to see these t-shirts all around town (and beyond)!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Baby Safe-House

(Written Feb. 17th)

We received a tidbit of new information today, regarding baby Yaru's abandonment. It turns out there is a baby safe-house (similar to a "drop box") right outside of her orphanage. She was left here, on Feb. 5, 2015 with her date of birth and a note saying that something was wrong with her liver. Here is a picture of that safe-house.

China is working to process her paperwork quickly so she can be ready for a family to step forward. We have no guarantee that her file will be reserved for our family but we have many advocates trying to make this happen. We also have no guarantee of the time frame in which her paperwork / file will be ready. Her file must be complete before an adoption can take place. It could be weeks or months. Please pray that her paperwork gets expedited very quickly and that her file becomes available for us. In the meantime, we are racing through all the steps that need to be done on our end in order to be eligible for her file (when and if it comes available). We are doing everything we can to make this adoption happen and to make it happen QUICKLY. Every day is crucial, and each day could be the difference of life or death.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Your Remarkable Response

We are completely overwhelmed by the response we have received since sharing our news yesterday. The FB messages, emails, phone calls, text messages. The encouragement. The offers to help and specific requests to tell you immediately where to give! Y'all. Few words could express our deep gratitude.

It is hard for us to accept financial help. We feel like this is a decision we made and should find the way to make it happen. However, I've also come to terms with the fact that this attitude is very prideful. This is God's journey, not ours. Yes, God has called us to pursue this sweet baby. But He is not only calling us. He calls our community to be a part of this miracle as well! And if your God-given gift is finances, why should we hinder you from using that gift? We have the faith and courage to GO (all glory to God who has given us these spiritual gifts) but others are blessed financially and are just as instrumental in saving the life of this little soul.

We are currently trying to discern how to finance this adoption. If Yaru is going to live, our adoption must happen within a matter of weeks, or a few months at the most. While we are trying to find wisdom in approaching the financial aspect, we are racing through the process and completely engulfed in the requirements. We have little time to ponder about finances, although we realize how very important this will be. You may see us doing one or two small fundraisers but we haven't the time to coordinate anything like Emily's adoption event at Terra Bella. Our efforts to fundraise will not be at the forefront of this adoption. We do not feel that debt is wise or obedient but given the circumstances this go 'round, it may be necessary in order to save her life. We are open to this being a viable option because of the critical circumstances.

That being said, we are grateful if you decide to donate towards our adoption expenses. We will keep our PayPal link ("Donate" button) on my blog home page. We do have many fees that will be due soon, since this is happening so quickly. Our second chunk ($2500) will be due next week. I will update the thermometer on the home page, as I did for our first adoption. This will reflect all funds earmarked for the adoption, including our contributions as well as all donations. We have already paid $1200 for our home study fee as well as some other miscellaneous expenses that came due this week. These costs are already reflected on the thermometer.

Also, I mentioned in my last post that Yaru needs a certain type of formula to help sustain her until a transplant. There was an incredible response from people who wanted to specifically donate formula and medicine. We have prayed about the best way to handle this. Rather than having you go through the trouble of shipping to China, we will accept donations of formula at our home. We will ship them in "shifts" according to when she begins running low. We will use general donations to help pay for the shipping costs involved. She will need this formula when she (God-willing) comes home as well so I don't believe we can have too much for her. In the event that Yaru doesn't make it, we commit to shipping all donated formula to another baby in China with biliary atresia. If you would like to donate formula, please message me through text or FB and I will give you our address. The type of formula she needs is Enfamil's Pregestimil. If you would like to donate money for the formula (and let us purchase it) or earmark a donation directly for needed vitamins, please put that in the note of your donation (through PayPal or otherwise). We will purchase the vitamins and formula as the notes present. If there's no note, we will assume the donation is for our adoption process fees, travel expenses, etc.

We are also aware that many of you have the gift of prayer. We know you will fight for Yaru through your petitions to God. Please know that we covet your prayers as much as any spiritual gift. We saw the outpour of so many gifts through our first adoption and we are excited to see how God moves through each of us again over the coming months. We are the body of Christ, each operating a different limb or organ for His unfolding will. Praise for this blessed village, this community of believers who are so eager to be a part of Yaru's story. We promise to be humble and accept whatever help for Yaru that you feel God may be calling you to.

Blessings to each of you!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Here I Am! Send me.

(This post was written on Feb. 14, 2015. It could not be posted real-time because we are only now sharing this publicly.)

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2Samuel7:18)

On February 5th, a 2-month old baby girl was abandoned in Inner Mongolia, northern China (the same province where Emily is from). She was taken in to a local Social Welfare Institute (orphanage), where she currently lives. It was immediately clear to the staff that she was very sick. Many events would transpire within a matter of days from her abandonment. We had no idea how her story would become intimately intertwined with ours.

Important to mention before I continue with the events, is an instrumental lady in the story. Her name is Hannah and she is an American who works in Inner Mongolia, China, caring for orphans in various institutions. I met her when we were in the process to adopt Emily and she was actually the one who helped me find out where Emily was! Previous to that, we only had information that she’d been moved from her original orphanage and sent somewhere else. Hannah was the angel that tracked her down to Harmony House, allowing us to be in direct contact with Emily throughout the process. Fast forward to Feb. 12, 2015.

It’s Thursday evening. I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed, looking at all the Chinese orphans being advocated for, as I often do. I run across a post from Hannah who is advocating for this sick baby girl. The post read something like this, “URGENT: 2-month old baby girl abandoned with a life-threatening condition. She has biliary atresia and is in liver failure. She will die soon without a liver transplant.” This post wasn’t any different from the many I see every day. I ache for these children and pray for them daily. Except this one actually was different. Very different. It wasn’t that the post was more alarming than others. It was personal. I didn’t know why it was so personal but would soon find out. I showed Seamus the post immediately and asked him to pray. I went to bed disturbed. Not by her condition, rather by what God was doing in my heart. Who will fight for her? Who will race to save her? Are you calling US? If not us, then who? God quickly revealed that it IS us. He revealed it to us so clearly, so quickly. It took less than a day in prayer to know that God was speaking wisdom into our hearts about how to respond.

Seamus and I had no intention of reentering the adoption process at this point. We knew we’d return to China one day. We hadn’t come to a definitive decision that we would ever adopt again and assumed our next trip to China would be one of mission and showing Emily her homeland. Within 24 hours, we went from a comfortable life of praying for orphans to answering God’s call to GO and fight for this fragile little life.

We WILL fight for this little one. We will pursue adoption of this tiny girl named Yaru. There are no guarantees. We aren’t guaranteed her file at this point. We aren’t guaranteed that she’ll live to see tomorrow, much less gotcha day. We will be on the fast track version of the adoption process. We’ve already begun our home study. Our hope is to travel in a few short months. That may be the quickest we can get there. If she makes it home, we will fight for an immediate liver transplant. We are willing. HE is able. God gives us all the strength we need for this battle. And if God has called us to be her family from a distance only, for her remaining days on earth, our answer is still, “YES!” She will be fiercely prayed for every day until the end. We will ask God to grant her salvation. The world should know that she has a family who loves her, regardless of her condition. Her prognosis is not good but we also know that God works miracles and we are expecting just that. We will rest in whatever path God chooses but we will pray boldly, daily for this miracle that we so desire for Yaru.

We have learned quite a bit about this child and her circumstances over the past few days. We have been told that they may move her from the social welfare institute to a foster orphanage similar to Emily’s Harmony House. It’s called Little Flower and is located in Beijing. It appears that most of the work they do here is infant hospice. We believe she would receive extra love and care at Little Flower. We know that her condition is very serious. We know that she needs a liver transplant. She is going to a doctor after Chinese New Year (week long holiday) and we will find out if she’s a candidate for a surgery called Kaisa. We think her condition may be too advanced to receive the surgery. If she does receive the surgery however, it’s possible it could help her to stay alive until she is able to receive a transplant in the states. If she is a candidate for Kaisa, Little Flower will have to fund it. That’s the work of these foster orphanages. They receive private donations and use the funds to pay for life-saving surgeries. We will be rallying the troops to donate, in the event we hear that she can receive the surgery. We will keep you updated as soon as we know more. We have also learned that her body needs a very specific formula and vitamin drops that she is not currently receiving. We are working on getting these to her ASAP. There will be opportunity to donate these items to her orphanage, if you are interested in helping. The formula alone could help prolong her life.

We are embarking on an amazing journey. We do not know what the future holds but we are sure that God is at the forefront. We also know that He is outside of time and has already ordained the future for Yaru, and for us. Amidst all the unknowns, we fear not. We take great comfort in knowing this call is completely from the One whose plan is perfect. I’ll end with a note Seamus wrote to a friend through text. “We are stepping out in bold faith and are prepared to be used as our Lord sees fit and according to His will and perfect plan. He is all powerful and sovereign, you know! We have witnessed miracles. My wish is that you lift up little Yaru to The Lord, that He will cover her in His grace and mercy, bring healing, love and care through the people in China who are near her. We don’t know the outcome of our efforts or her ability to survive, but we serve a mighty God and stand ready to be united with her and support and love her anyway we can.”
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am! Send me." (Isaiah 6:8)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Forever Haunted

"...once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." (Proverbs 24:12)

The faces. The cries. The conditions. The stories. The pictures. They all haunt me. It's true that once you've seen, you never forget. We've been changed. Forever. We "saw" almost one year ago. We had no idea how truly changed we'd be after that trip to China. Of course, we went for Emily but she wasn't the only soul who would enter our hearts and stay there for the rest of our lives. We will never ever forget what we experienced in those orphanages.

I remember the faces of so many children. Precious, image-bearing children who have experienced tragedy on a level that I will never understand. Some faces were sad. Others were stoic. Some cried. Many never cried because they learned that no one would respond anyway. Faces with Down Syndrome. Faces with deformities. Some without. Each of them just as precious as the next. The face of that precious 2 year old boy that turned toward me in his crib when I touched him. This particular one, the one I asked to hold but wasn't allowed to, the face that the nanny said didn't have a life behind it. "We don't hold him. He has no brain and is dying anyway." (insert deepest breath ever taken) Pictures of children who sleep in metal cribs, many without a mattress or blanket. Many whose ankles are tied to the cribs so they won't escape. Beautiful faces, left to face this cruel world alone with no one to fight for them, love them, protect them.

Seeing all this... It's almost too much to bear. We could forget. It would be the easy thing to do. The hurt and sorrow over this broken world could be relieved if we let ourselves forget. We don't have to see the conditions of these orphanages as we sit in our safe, comfortable living room. We are insulated. And we can stay here and try to forget. But we can't forget. And we will go back. Much of our hearts are still there and always will be.

My memories are vivid. And it hurts. Some days it's torture. I often wonder how agonizing it must be for Jesus to see what I've seen. He, who loves these children infinitely more than I ever could. And the joy He experiences when just one of these sweet souls are scooped up, told they are loved, introduced to Him, adopted into a forever family. To remember can be torture. But to experience the redemption that only Christ offers through the ministry of adoption brings unexplainable JOY!

This "haunting" is actually a privilege. It's a privilege because for years, Seamus and I have prayed that God would break our hearts for what breaks His and that's exactly what he's done. What an amazing, beautiful, humbling privilege it is to share perspective with Christ himself. Excuse the lacking analogy but there's an old song that says, "you bleed just to know you're alive." I want to be alive. Alive in Christ. Full joy and life comes from sharing the heart of God. Walking through an orphanage in China is like bleeding. It's painful. It hurts. But our experience, haunting as it may be, has helped make our joy complete. We are alive! There is no greater joy on earth than to have Christ revealed... Revealed to us, through us, in us, through THEM. He is present in the darkest corners of this world. He is present in those orphanages and in the images that are tattooed on our hearts and minds.

Jesus, please don't ever let these haunting images leave my head or heart. Don't ever let me forget them. Don't ever let me stop fighting for them. I am your hands, your feet. Let my life be one of sacrifice for your glory, for the good of these helpless orphans who are your prized creation.

The brokenness of what we've seen often feels like more than I can handle. My hope though. My hope is so much bigger.

"They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31)

Please come soon, sweet Jesus.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

6 Month Post-Placement Visit

6 months! 6 months? 6! MONTHS! It's hard to believe we met Emily almost 6 months ago. Our Gotcha Day was March 31st. At times it feels like yesterday. But more often it feels like Emily has always been with us.

China requires several post-placement reports after adoption is complete. This is when our social worker comes to our home to observe and interview us about Emily's progress. She then composes a report and sends to China with updated pictures and other documents. Our first visit was one month after Gotcha Day. Our 2nd visit is required at 6 months and took place this past Friday. We have grown to love our social worker and we look forward to her visits. Friday was no different. It was a joy to visit with her and reflect on the tremendous progress we've all made over the past 6 months.

Emily is a permanent part of our family. And it really feels that way now. We forget she was adopted. The stares and comments in public do remind us (we love the comments, by the way, because it's an opportunity to minister to others as well as demonstrate grace in front of our children). I no longer see a little girl from China. I see a Loman. She's beautiful, just like her sister. She is one of our 4 kids and I barely remember life before her.

She brings so much joy to our home. When I think about the first year and a half of her life, I often get sad that we couldn't be there for her sooner. We all missed a lot but the only evidence of that is conscious reflection. She has completely adjusted in every way. We don't see signs of grief anymore. It's clear she understands that we are hers and she is ours, forever.

Her brothers and sister adore her. It's beautiful to see how they have embraced her and accept her unconditionally as their sister. Blood is irrelevant. The bond that we share within our family is greater than blood. Emily has helped us realize that being a family has nothing to do with biology. She reminds us daily that family should be a reflection of the love of our heavenly Father. There is no greater love than that of our Father, who we are related to only through adoption (Ephesians 1:5).

Thank you, Emily Hope, for the blessing you have been in our lives. The past 6 months have been joy-filled and meaningful beyond my ability to express. I'm already looking forward to our 1 year post-placement visit in March and the thanksgiving we will be giving then!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy Birthday, Emily Hope

Today we celebrated Emily Hope's 2nd birthday! Needless to say, this is a very big day for us. So many reasons why.

She has never celebrated a birthday before. She was abandoned shortly after her birth and was living in an orphanage on her first birthday. I hope she got some extra kisses that day from her nannies. ;)

With so many unknowns and too many days with no family, we are now making up for lost time. Our precious 2 year old is being showered with hugs and kisses today, make no mistake about it. We decided to keep it simple and just spend the day loving on her and making up for lost time. We worshipped and prayed together, giving thanks for His beautiful creation in Emily Hope.

We don't know how her actual birth went down. No clue if it was in an apartment or a hospital, or perhaps somewhere else. We don't even know if August 5th was the exact day she was born. Medical reports show that she was likely 5 days old when a police officer found her on the ground in front of an orphanage on August 10th, 2012. I wonder if there were tears of joy or tears of pain or perhaps no tears at all. I often wonder who her birth mother is and what her story may be. We don't dwell on this painful past but it's a part of who Emily is and I expect we will one day share tears over where she may have come from. I also expect to share tears of joy with her over the fact that God so perfectly placed her with us. There can be beauty in pain when it draws us closer to one another, closer to God. I look forward to just "being there" for Emily. I know she'll have questions as she grows up. I may not be prepared to answer all of them perfectly but I do know the One to point her to, the One who does have all the answers.

Despite the unknowns, there's plenty we DO know about her. She has a family who will never take her for granted. And today, she is celebrated. We rejoice over the 2 years she has been alive. She has been through some very hard times as well as some very happy times over the past couple years. I wish we could have gotten to her earlier but the reality is that her early life has helped form who she is. Furthermore, God's plan for her life is perfect. His timing is perfect. Today, this mama cries over her baby. Tears of joy. We do know that her birth mother chose life and for that, we are forever grateful. It takes my breath away just thinking about the possibility of her not being on this earth.

This little girl is one of the most amazing human beings I've ever known. Stunningly beautiful on the outside. Even more beautiful on the inside. Courageous. Sensitive. Fierce. Affectionate. Brilliant. Funny. Determined. Made in the image of our perfect creator. I can't imagine the joy we would have missed out on had we not pursued adoption. I would be honored just to know her and her story. But to be her mother. Gracious God, I am so humbled. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Happy birthday, baby girl. We love you today... and for eternity to come.

It's my birthday, Y'all!!!



Monday, July 21, 2014

She Wants to Adopt. Her Husband Doesn't.

One of the great joys Seamus and I have been given through our adoption is being able to encourage and pray for other families. It is a privilege when someone contacts us saying they would like to discuss adoption. We pray for these opportunities to answer questions and encourage. We have seen hearts change through our own process. We've had the honor of sharing tears with people who have also been called to adopt. We praise God that He uses ordinary people like us to help carry out His great work.

I received a FB message from a sweet acquaintance last week. She wanted to chat about adoption. I called her the next day and was eager to listen. I was so excited to hear that she knows in the depth of her soul that God has convicted her to adopt an orphan in need. I got chills hearing the passion in her voice. If you've adopted, you know the passion. It's the same feeling we biological mamas have when we long to have our own newborn. I've had the privilege of knowing both desires and I know the joy and the pain this desire brings. My friend shared that her heart has been burdened for years. But.

Her husband doesn't want to adopt. He doesn't understand her desire and can't connect to the idea of bringing an adopted child in to their home. Her husband is a kind man. He loves his wife and they have cried together over this issue. He wants to support her. He wants to "fulfill her need". But his heart hasn't been softened for this ministry. "If you want another baby, why don't we just try to have another of our own?" (Sigh from sweet friend) "I could have 10 babies and still want to GO, to adopt."

I have been burdened for this family and am honored to be praying for them now. There are so many couples who are on different pages when it comes to adoption. And here's my response to them. It's okay. Sometimes our desires are not God's desires. And when God desires something for our lives, make no mistake about it. It will happen. He will change hearts. The Holy Spirit loves to convict souls to carry out God's will. God has a plan for our lives and it may or may not include adoption. We can rest knowing that God's plan for our life is perfect. It can still be painful, especially when you feel the calling to adopt IS from God. So, what can we tangibly do when our hearts burn but our spouses aren't on board?

First and foremost, pray. Pray for your spouse during your own quiet time. Surrender your desire and anxieties to Christ. Pray with your spouse. Ask God not only to soften his heart for adoption but to open your eyes to what God might be doing in your own life. Listen through prayer and scripture reading. Maybe God will answer your prayers by changing your husband's heart. Maybe he'll lead you down a totally different path that glorifies Him nonetheless. Ask God what He wants for your life together. When Seamus and I pray for God to use us however he sees fit, The Lord does crazy things. Adopting a baby from China and homeschooling our 4th grader. Y'all. Never in a million years did I think these 2 things would really happen but it was God's plan. We just listened and answered, "Yes!" (Okay, I'm still fighting Him over the homeschooling thing but that's another story) He. Will. Provide.

I'm torn over what I'm about to share. I'm not torn over my feelings, just whether or not to share them. Many Christians would like me to stop here. Pray. That's it. There's nothing wrong with relying wholly on prayer. However, I do think that God sometimes uses us to "encourage" others. Yes, I'm tip-toeing. Let me take a step back for one second...

As you know, Seamus and I weren't convicted at the same time. Most couples aren't. God began working on me years ago, around the time our 3rd child was born (he's 4 years old now). How I was convicted is another story (I'm sure it's in a post here somewhere). I never wanted to talk Seamus into adoption. I knew both of our hearts had to be in it. Adoption is obviously not a decision to be taken lightly. But I also knew that if we weren't at least having conversations, little could happen. I promised myself (and God) that I wouldn't get frustrated or impatient with my husband. So I talked. And listened. I shared some articles and stories of encounters I had. Seamus listened and believe it or not, I never pushed. Until one day, after a lot of prayer and tears, he opened up. He was not convicted because of anything I said or shared. He was convicted because the Holy Spirit convicted him. Period.

All that to say that it doesn't hurt to share some blogs and articles with your honey. ;) Just don't have any expectations. One site that I shared with my friend is a great BLOG written by a Christian man, whose family has adopted (after much reluctance). In fact, there's a link on the right side of his page, "Reluctant Husband Syndrome". Ha! He has written 16 posts there that walk through his journey of "reluctantly" adopting. His wife also writes her own BLOG. Good stuff. I also love to recommend an excellent book by Russell D. Moore, titled Adopted for Life. Considering adoption or not, please just go ahead, click on that link and order it now. Seriously amazing book, y'all. For ANYONE.   

Another great thing for a couple to consider is sponsoring an orphan in need. Emily Hope was sponsored by families before we even knew who she was. Their monthly gift provided her with food, diapers, and medicine that Harmony Outreach was able to secure for her, thanks to these sponsorships. Wouldn't it be a neat first step to sponsor a child while you pray about adoption? Or, how about a mission trip for a week to love on kids in an orphanage? Life. Changing. You will never come home the same. Only a heart of stone wouldn't be changed by one of these visits. We may not all feel called to adopt but scripture is clear that we are all commanded to care for the fatherless. Sponsoring a child or going on a mission trip would be a great way to do this, all while being in prayer over the possibility of adopting. Please let me know if you'd like more information about specific ministries where you can sponsor a child or travel to an orphanage.

Last but not least, love your spouse deeply. Thank God that He has softened your heart for adoption but lavish your husband with grace and patience. Continue to respect him as the head of your household. Praise God if he "comes around" but if he doesn't, praise God anyway! “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor.2:9) His grace is enough. Be satisfied in Him (Christ), and you will in turn be satisfied with him (your husband). Love your hubby the way Christ loves His church.
Her heart is beautiful and vulnerable and God is working mightily in her. I trust that He is also working in her husband as well. They may come to a point where they agree to adopt. If this happens, it will only be the work of God in them. If God doesn't change his heart, we can't be disappointed. This couple loves The Lord and our faithful God will work in their lives however He sees fit. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8) God knows what He's doing, I promise. There are days I get frustrated. I want everyone to understand how close adoption is to God's heart. But my frustration demonstrates my impatience and skepticism of the very God I preach about. Do I doubt His goodness? He. Is. Faithful. Who am I to say His plan is ever thwarted by our apathy? Maybe it is. But that's for Him to decide and convict over. Don't get me wrong... I will continue to advocate for the orphan and beg you to GO. ;) Just saying if it's His will, it'll happen.

So to my sweet friend on the other end of the phone...
Pray. Trust Him. Be patient. These are not easy things for us to do but they are the only things that bring true joy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

There is no Tomorrow

I'm not promised tomorrow. I'm not even promised another breath. Each one is a gift from above, God's grace in it's simplest form. My response to each breath taken... Thank you. Thank you for today. Thank you for this moment. How can I honor Him with the moments he has given me? That's our purpose in life. To know Him and once we do, to honor Him. Because when you know Him, the desire to honor is inevitable. I want to spend my life thanking Him for His amazing grace.

I'm restless. I know there is a season for everything. There is a season to wait on The Lord. I wait for Him to lead me. Still, I'm restless. We've only been home with Emily for 3 months. I've also taken on the daunting task of homeschooling my oldest son next year. Add in my career as a bookkeeper. Wife. Mother of 4. I am fully aware of the responsibility God has entrusted me with. I have a firm grasp on the fact that my mission field is, first and foremost, in my home. But I have a tendency to use that as an excuse. I shouldn't hide within my walls and ignore the hurting and lost who God craves to save. Naive? Maybe. But there's a reason He puts this fire in me. I don't know where he's leading us next. But my heart aches for the orphan and I am commanded to care for them. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) We are all called to care for them. "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)

I yearn to honor Him in all that I do. Then ... Reality strikes. I get in the way. My flesh, my sin, my inherent state. My fears, my doubts, my "what if"s. All of it stops me from devoting myself completely in gratitude. I must remind myself. There is no tomorrow. There is only today. Only this breath. And this one breath is only mine because He has given it. We must remind each other. If you are a lover of Christ, I implore you. Give thanks for the breath you are taking at this moment and transform that gratitude in to life-changing, God-glorifying, gospel-living.

What are we afraid of? Why aren't we sharing the good news with the lost? Why have I only adopted one child of the millions who cry themselves to sleep every night? Why can't we welcome a foster child who needs a temporary home? Why aren't we fighting for justice within our own country, against the genocide (the killing of millions of babies through abortion) that we fund with God's money? Why haven't I visited any of the prisons that are so close to my home? These souls are ripe to be picked for freedom! Why haven't I reached out, on a deeper level, to the precious widows in my own church family?

When I ask myself these questions, my answer is a resounding, "AMEN!" but I take little action. Wanna' know what I'm afraid of? Maybe I'll have to go without one of my many luxuries. I'd really miss lavish vacations or even my nap. I don't know where to start. Maybe I'll fail and everyone will say "I told you so." Maybe my family will oust me. Maybe a foster child would "mess up" my children's lives. People will think I'm a crazy "holy roller". Maybe I'll die if I go there. Here's what I have to say to each of those fears that I hold so close... So? Seriously. So what?

Laura... Friends... death to self is a privilege. "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25) Anything that leads to eternal life in Christ is worth sacrificing. One of my favorite pastors, Tim Keller, reminded me recently, "You. Will. Miss. Nothing." Nothing. There is nothing on this earth that's worth keeping. Nothing. Not my wealth. Not my education. Not my appearance. Not my health. Not even my family. Yes, Christ even comes before the precious souls in my home. Hands down. Everything I want on this earth will be fulfilled in heaven a million times bigger and better. I know this. So who cares about my comfort or my standing with people while I am here? I am the royal daughter of God himself and that is one fine crown I'll be wearing in glory! Radical? Nah. Not when we realize who Christ is and what He did for us.  

What if we really believed that there is no tomorrow? What would your today look like? Mine would look incredibly different than it actually does. I would get the heck outta' suburbia America. I would be on the next plane to the most horrific orphanage I could find (and they are not hard to find) and I would cradle every child in my arms at one time and I would pray. I would kiss cheeks, and rub backs, and tell the good news, and cry, and pray some more. My day would be rich. It would be meaningful. And it would please God.

This is where I say, "I'm not saying be reckless and drop everything to serve The Lord." Except I'm not gonna' say that. If you are my brother, I expect you to encourage me to "take up my cross" to follow Christ. That looks different in every one's life but nonetheless, should always look radical from the world's perspective. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:1)

Sin. Unfathomable grace to cover that sin. Gratitude. Gratitude so deep that it leads to action. Action that honors Christ, action that tells who He is. Take action. Not for merit (you can't earn that with God), rather out of gratitude for all He has already done on your behalf. When the fear sets in, focus on the kingdom ahead. The doubts that creep in... those are lies told to us by this world and the enemy. Stay focused on truth. Love deeply. Trust Him. There is no tomorrow. What does your today look like?

"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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Phil.4:8-9)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Living Water

We had the great honor today of having Emily baptized. This precious gift from God has been marked. Set apart. Deemed worthy of the title "child of God" because of Christ's great work on the cross. Adopted. ADOPTED. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:4-5)

I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude when I reflect on the past year and the calling God so clearly privileged us with. I'm humbled by the fact that this beautiful soul is my daughter. But today. Today is bigger. Her baptism represents the work that only the Holy Spirit can do. Into the water... Death to self. Emergence from the water... Life in Christ. Can we begin to comprehend what Christ did in order to offer us eternal life? Can we grasp how painful his seperation from the Father was, in order that He could adopt us? I try. I can't. Not this side of heaven. Humbled that she's my daughter but blown away at the reality that she is HIS daughter.

"The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:39)

God sought her out. He loved her before she was born. He kept His loving arms around her in China. He brought her home safely to our family. And He calls her His. I pray every day that she one day realizes the love of Christ for herself. May she be convicted so deeply of her inherent sin and turn to Christ for redemption that only He offers.

The work God is doing in this child, y'all. Mercy. When she first came home, she would go to anyone. She trusted anyone (well, really she trusted no one but disguised it in order to find attention). Over the past month and a half, we have seen her grow leary of strangers and reject them in order to choose mama. This took time but way less time than we expected! She is no longer hoarding food in her clothes and stuffing her mouth full. She rarely scratches and hits anymore. She is learning to communicate properly and comes to us when she is frustrated. She has gained several pounds and has become incredibly strong through her mid-section and legs. She laughs. Dances. Runs. Swims. Hugs. Kisses. Even fist bumps. ;) She throws her fists in the air when we say "Amen" after prayer. Talk about melt a mama's heart!

We are now allowing family and close friends to hold her and interact freely. We are so grateful for the doctors, experts, and adoptive parents who urged us to protect her until she developed trust. We are also thankful to all of you who supported our decisions and respected our wishes. We realize some of our choices are hard to understand. There are people who clearly disagree with how we've chosen to nurture her but we are so thankful that we stood firm. I expect she will continue to make progress but we are blown away by how far she has come already. God's grace in her life... the only thing to thank for this progress.

We are rejoicing today that Emily Hope has experienced the living water, Christ himself. His grace is so evident in her life. Today's baptism is representative of all the miracles in Emily's life and especially of God's greatest covenant... eternal life... through the Living Water.

We are grateful to God for the love He has lavished on Emily and us this day. And we are grateful for the many people who love her and came to witness this joyous occasion. We love you, Nana and Grandaddy, Grandma Joan, Pop and Grammy, Uncle Sean and Aunt Stephanie, the entire Tujague clan, and all our other dear friends who were there to support us! Oh happy day...