Friday, May 23, 2014

"How Are You?"

"How are you?" My sweet friend texted me as she does every day.

"I'm good. Very busy, very tired, very good. Inspired? ;)"

"I don't need inspiration. I just wanna' know how my friend's doing."

Oh, riiiiiiight! You just wanna' know how I'm doing. And then today an acquaintance reminded me, "Please don't stop blogging." Maybe y'all just wanna' know how we're doing! :) So, here goes...

We are great, y'all. Life moves so quickly, doesn't it? The Bible tells us we are but a vapor that vanishes quickly (James 4:14). Why am I always surprised at the way time flies? I dunno but it does. And that's okay when your life is making a difference for the Kingdom of God. But that's not what this post is about. ;)

We have been home with Emily for 6 weeks. She is seriously one transformed little lady. We are blown away by the progress she has made in such a short period of time. We are out and about with her quite a bit now and she is enjoying every moment of being part of a family. Our family. We are beginning to feel like she has always been with us. Ya' know how when you have a new baby and you say, "I can't even remember what it was like without her"? Yep, just like that.

In other news, God has been stirring in our hearts... because adopting a baby from China wasn't enough to make my head spin. We have decided that I will homeschool Brady this coming year for 4th grade. I'm still fighting with God over this one but I'm sure it's of Him. So once again, we know He will provide in all the details. I've already ordered my ankle length jean dress with the apple monogrammed on the front pocket. Good Lord, I've come a long way since my binge-drinking college days.
I am so thankful for each of you who follow my blog. I love to write. It's not only my outlet but a ministry as well. I pray that my blog encourages others to always look to Christ. I pray that it touches even just one person at a time to step out in faith. My writings obviously won't continue down the road of adoption journey news. I am in the process of praying about where God wants me to go with my writing. I may change the title and take a slightly different path. However, I plan to continue advocating for orphans. I'm just not completely sure what that looks like at this point. I am thankful to be back in a season of waiting on The Lord. I trust that He won't leave me here, in "comfortable" for very long. I don't want that ever again. If I'm not hurting over the lost and being His hands and feet for the least of these, I'm not in a good place. Y'all hold this sister accountable!

Girlfriend loves the water. Bath. Swimming pool. Sprinkler. Toilet water. All of it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day... One Month Home

Today is Mother's Day.

Joy rises to the brim of my heart. Sadness shares this same space.

One year ago, I was mom to three precious children and daughter to a gracious and loving lady, giving thanks to God for my many blessings.  This year, this day, I give thanks for these same blessings and one extra special miracle in my life. Last year we were busy pursuing Emily Hope. This year, she is in my arms. I am her mother. She is my daughter. Forever.

Today is Mother's Day. It's also our one-month-home day. These past couple months have flown by and the whirlwind of recovery and adjustment sometimes throws my memory in to a tail spin. Thankfully, I am able to recall some special moments and major milestones when I finally sit to write.

Her laugh. Y'all. Her laugh. And oh my, her temper. The girl has a fabulous set of lungs. She has definitely learned to fight when she wants something. We never saw this personality when we Skyped with her. We just kept hearing how sweet and quiet she was. She must have been saving it all for us. We call our children "leaders". She fits right in with this motley crew. Mercy! I'm chalking her loud and opinionated voice up to brilliance. ;) A girl's gotta survive, right? She is such a sweet little soul at the same time. She gives hugs and kisses constantly to all 5 of us and regularly pats our backs when we hold her. She brings an immense amount of joy to our home.

She is making great strides. She has formed a relationship with all 5 of us. Thank you precious friends who have come to visit and been so understanding about the attachment process. Although she is making progress, and we welcome friends in her life, we do want to stay close to home as much as possible for a few more months. You are welcome to interact with her at this point but we do ask that you continue to not hold her or give her anything directly (you can give food or a toy to us and we will hand it to her). I know many of you who visit like to know where we are on her progress so I wanted to make that clear. We love that she's getting to know some new friends and are hopeful we can continue to do that while deepening her trust with Seamus and me at the same time.

I find myself staring at her, especially when she is quietly taking a bottle or rocking with me. She's so beautiful. She is "fearfully and wonderfully made". I am amazed that God so perfectly placed her with us. She is as much our child as our biological children are. I mean no difference. Seriously. I never believed that could happen. And I was okay with that. I was going to choose to love her, just like I explained HERE one year ago. We love her. The end. Except...

Except that while I'm staring at that precious little face made in the image of God, something is terribly unsettling and brings me to tears. Especially today. I expect her birthday will bring these same tears that flow so easily. So many tears of joy. So many tears of sadness. I can't help but ponder the idea that although I am 100%, God-ordained, mother to this child, she does have a birth mother who she'll never know.

Adoption is beautiful. But it comes out of something so wrong. So broken. Naturally, we grieve because abandonment is a reality. But we rejoice that Christ has offered redemption. That's where I land today. On joy. We will push through the grief that sin causes and we will praise our Lord who offers a solution to this sin. Let Emily Hope be an example of God's grace, God's goodness, His redemptive and perfect love. We will rest in that, despite the sadness that a day like today can bring. 

So today, I choose grace for Emily's birth mother. In a country where abortion is rampant, encouraged, funded, I consider it a miracle that Emily is alive. We choose to believe that this mother loved her baby girl. Emily was born premature, with a congenital heart defect and appeared to have something similar to cerebral palsy. Between the limited medical resources and the millions of people who can never afford this government run "healthcare", I can only imagine the fear that this woman faced. Emily was left at the gate of an orphanage. Perhaps she was given the best chance her mother was able to offer her.

Today, on Mother's Day, I honor Emily's birth mother. I thank her for choosing life. I offer prayers for the grief she must feel. I wish I could share the good news with her... the good news that Emily is with us but more importantly the good news that Christ offers forgiveness and redemption for her too! I will never again assume that Emily was considered a "throw-away". Although this reality exists for so many babies in China, it's not fair to assume this was the case with Emily, especially with all the circumstances surrounding her abandonment.

Happy Mother's Day. One month home with our sweet angel. Oh happy day. Gratitude. Indescribable joy.

Happy Mother's Day to Emily's birth mother. Oh how I pray she will come to know Christ so I can one day embrace her in heaven with tears only of joy.

One Month Home... Rainbow

Asleep in Momma's Arms

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Friends in Liberia... and our Ministry Moving Forward

I had the privilege today of listening in on a special conference call. This call was hosted by the Executive Director of Lifeline Children's Services (our adoption agency), along with Garth Thorpe, who works with Lifeline's sister organization, (un)adopted. If you were at our Orphan Awareness and Fundraising Event last year, you probably remember Garth who helped host and bring awareness to our community. Garth is currently in Liberia, west Africa for several weeks where he is partnered with a Christian community there, following God's command to "care for orphans in distress" (James 1:27). Today's call was for anyone interested to hear how God is working through their ministry in Liberia. I am so glad that God opened the eyes of my heart during this call and I would love to share a little with you.

Liberia has been ravaged by civil war. These wars ended about 11 years ago but the devastation remains. The wars killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced close to a million others. As you can imagine, the orphan crisis has escalated considerably over the past decade. This impoverished country has certainly become one of "the least of these" among us.

Garth Thorpe with Lifeline (unadopted) is currently on the ground in Liberia, working with an associate pastor named Destiny, who is a Liberian native. Destiny shared a little about his ministry on today's call. Garth shared details about (un)adopted's role in Liberia. They have set up "life skills camps", impacting children from 17 orphanages in Liberia. Children from these orphanages come to these camps for 5-10 days where they learn life skills that will help them survive. These skills include sewing, carpentry, farming, etc.

While the missionaries on the ground are training and caring for orphans, the church in Liberia is also being awakened! Everything that Lifeline and (un)adopted does is gospel centered so it would never be enough to simply teach these orphans how to survive. They are teaching trainers of trainers about the gospel and how to disciple others. Churches from the U.S. are taking mission trips here to help spread the gospel and love on the fatherless. Brook Hills Church in Birmingham, AL just made the trip and Garth was encouraged by the impact!

Garth was excited about the work God's doing through these camps. Real life success stories. Stories of children who were able to provide for themselves and for their families later in life, all while hearing about and accepting Jesus Christ!

So, how can we help? Garth shared some practical ways.

First, share the success stories in Liberia. Share this blog post. Tell others about the struggles of those in this country and the good news that God is present here, through His people!

Pray. Pray for the people of Liberia. Pray for the fatherless children who are blind to hope. Pray for Destiny and his church. Pray for the ministry and work of (un)adopted within Liberia. Pray that relationships continue to grow and form through these camps. Pray that awareness of Liberia's crisis would spread like wildfire. Pray that hands and feet would respond to the crisis. Pray specifically for Destiny and his family. His youngest son, Emmanuel, has heart disease of some sort and is currently in critical condition. Destiny's passion for God was inspiring, as he was willing to speak with us about God's work there, despite how ill his son is. If you are a prayer warrior, please include Destiny's family in your petitions to God.

Fund. Donate to (un)adopted's ministry in Liberia. Think of creative ways to give. Host a fundraiser for this cause. Organize a group at church to travel to Liberia with Garth. BE the hands and feet on a mission trip to this country.

Unfortunately, Liberia is not a country where children can be adopted. They closed international adoptions in 2009, due to corruption and numerous issues. Otherwise, I'd suggest y'all go get a kid! ;)

Hearing about Liberia today and being in prayer with these brothers in Christ prompted me to continue on my path of discernment. Discernment about where God wants me and Seamus, and in what capacity we are to continue with global orphan care. We are so thankful to have been called to adopt Emily Hope. We are convinced this is only the beginning of a lifelong call to be the hands and feet of Jesus for these helpless children around the world. At this point, we don't know if God will call us to adopt more. Perhaps my ministry will be through writing. Or what a privilege it would be if God sends us as "goers" to travel and witness to others around the world. Maybe we will be advocates for specific children who need homes. As our lives begin to look a little more "normal" (ha! as if there really was such a thing), Seamus and I are currently in prayer, asking God to lead us according to His will.

In this moment, I feel called to share the news about Liberia and the mighty work that The Lord is doing there. It's an honor to be able to share this with you and to encourage each of you to take one small step toward furthering His kingdom on earth. Remember, orphan care is God's ministry. It's his number one priority. We know this by looking at the cross, the perfect and most sacrificial example of adoption. "...God sent his son that we might receive the full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5) Please pray about how you can help with (un)adopted's mission in Liberia. Consider it pure joy to sacrifice what you can for something so worthy. (James 1:2) "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

When Seamus and I began the adoption process, I shared a video that touched us deeply, and continues to. It helped to sum up the answer to "why" we were pursuing adoption. The video focuses on Liberia and the discussion today reminded me of this moving video...