Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas my little Congolese cuties...

My sweet little ones...
my heart breaks as it is Christmas and two empty stockings hang here without you.  I don't even know where you are, if you are with your mom or family, or tucked away in an orphanage. All I know is that I am missing you more than ever.  I know those two stockings symbolize such a great gift Jesus has given our family in you two.  I hope you feel tonight that you are extremely valued.  I pray you feel love like you can't understand. I am so thankful for your mother's, that carried you nine months in their bodies, trying to do the best they could to give you the life they had to offer.  I pray your mother's feel the favor of God as they have done the most selfless of things.  If they did not bless me with you by choice, I struggle to say thank you to God for the way he has orchestrated her story to collide with mine.  If this is how our stories have met, through death, I pray your mothers knew Jesus closely, prayed sweet prayers over their growing bellies, and are now dancing at the foot of the throne as the master's story unfolds. I thank God for entrusting me two more precious little ones that he has intended for us our whole lives. Our family prayers for you, every night for the last 3 months, have been this.  For the Lord to protect your mind, heart and body. For the Lord to cover you in his love and joy unexplainable. For the Lord to knit us together in our hearts so you know we are coming for you and you know we are a family knit together by our amazing creator. It's so hard to pray when I don't know who, where, or what you are going through, but I consistently ask the spirit to intercede for me on your behalf.  I cannot wait until the day I lay eyes on your precious pictures, and even more so, the glorious day when I get to hold you both in my arms, kiss your sweet brown skin and look into those dark eyes and tell you that "You are mine, You are His, and our family is forever." So Merry Christmas my sweet ones. Rest well tonight knowing that joy is coming this evening. A precious baby entered the world into a situation similar to yours... humble beginnings, a rough journey, a family knit together by so much more than DNA. He is holding you tonight and giving you the only gift that will ever matter to any of us...his love and salvation.
You are a valuable treasure, of immense worth.
Merry Christmas my little daughter and son.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Quick Facts about Congo
- 71 million people (Kinshasa has over 8 million)

-Congo has world's second highest infant mortality rate

- At war from 1998 - 2003, yet militia fighting still continues today.

- 1,500 people die per day in DRC because of the conflict

- Deadliest conflict since WWII

- Over 5.4 million people have died since 1998 due to the war

- 37% of population (approx 18.5 million people) have no access to formal health care.
- Life expenctancy is 46-50 years

-over 5.2 million Congolese children receive no education

-over 1.2 million people are infected with HIV-almost 60% of those infected are women

-Malaria kills 400 children a day, medicine to save these children can cost less than 2$.

-54% of the population is below the African national poverty line of $1.25 a day (456$ a year), many rural families live on less than 0.18$ per day.

-There are more than 10,000 child soldiers. 15% of combatants are under age of 18, a substantial number are under the age of 10.

-800-900,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS

-over 400,000 children have no access to education.

-issues like child soldiers and children sold into sexual slavery are rampant.

-the sexual violence against women and female children is the worst anywhere in the world, children as young as 2 are getting gang raped by militia men or by their guns. It is some of the worst war crimes in the world.

Please read this post for a snapshot of orphan life in kinshasa from a lady who adopted from there a year or so ago.

Kinshasa is home for our kids, Congo will forever be a part of their history.  The facts are hard to read. Sometimes I wonder why I have been given so much. Just to think that 35 million people in Congo make less than 456$ a year... a year... America has often missed it.  We so often, especially around this time of the year, complain of what we don't have, can't afford, or wish we had.  We go in to debt to buy unnecessary things. And these people aren't even living in a year on what many people make in a week or two here. 

Please pray for Congo today.  Just this week, there is violence springing up around  a controversial election that occurred this month where two men are claiming to have won and some corruption in voting and power is going on.  The government offices are somewhat closed lately (which remotely affects adoptions) and people are at risk of violence already breaking out in the cities. Please pray for the orphans of Congo, for God to do big miracles in this country.

Quick update

We are now #13 on the waiting list. Sadly though things are slowing down in Congo for a while due to some political issues. Please pray for the Congolese government. The elections have some corruption going on with voting not knowing which candidate won. There is some violence going on related to that. Please be in prayer for God to move us through this process in his timing, for my impatience, and for the health and protection of our kids while we are apart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

the gospel of adoption

Each year, I feel like God gives me a new lens to view Christmas through.  Last year, I posted this about really seeing God as father as he “gave up” his son to come to earth, knowing he would be crucified by the very people he sent him to save. Thinking about giving up my own son in that way, really deepened my view of the Father’s heart. 
This year, God has given me a new perspective to view this amazing season. I have learned so much and journeyed through so much this year. Now I see Christmas through the lens of Jesus’ adoption.  After reading Russell Moore’s “Adopted for Life”, I learned so much more about how the entire Bible is threaded together through the lens of adoption.  One lesson has stuck out to me and has been brought to life even more this Christmas.
The Jewish people had knowledge of a Messiah coming. They thought he would be the grandest of kings the way that the world views Kings; riches, triumph, valor and success. They had memorized scriptures of His coming, they knew he would be coming from the line of David, one of the greatest kings.
This prophesy is what ties the old testament to the new. The prophesy of Jesus and the fulfillment of that prophesy is the good news of the Gospel.  However, I had missed how this prophesy was actually fulfilled.  Mary was not from the lineage of king David….it was Joseph.

The prophesy of the Messiah was answered through adoption.

The Gospel was fulfilled through adoption.

Joseph’s adoption of Jesus.

Moore recalls a question he was asked about one of his adopted sons. “Are you his real dad?” He expands on what it means to be a “real” dad and relates it to scripture.
He relates it to Joseph’s role in Jesus’ life: 
“Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father…no amount of Joseph’s DNA could be found in the dried blood of Jesus peeled from the wood of Golgotha’s cross…Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father, but he is his real father.  Jesus would have said “Abba” first to Joseph…And perhaps most significantly, if Joseph is not really the father of Jesus, you and I are going to hell…Joseph’s adoption of Jesus means Jesus belongs to “the house of David just as truly as if he were in a physical sense the son of Joseph”. It is through Joseph that Jesus finds his identity as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise. Joseph’s fatherhood is significant for us precisely because of the way the gospel anchors it to the fatherhood of God himself.”

I think of Mary- a “good” girl, following what society says you “should” do. Engaged to a righteous man. Plans of a wedding, a future, just like society approved of. But God had bigger plans for Mary, however, this came at the sacrifice of comfort and societal approval.  Joseph would have been deemed right to leave Mary since she was pregnant with a child that was not his while engaged. But Joseph put aside his comfort and his reputation for God’s glory. He adopted God’s son as his own. This act fulfilled the prophesy of Jesus. Joseph was the earthly father that God had planned for Jesus since the birth of time. Joseph’s surrender, submission, and obedience to that call of adoption on his life allowed such Glory and Grace to be revealed to the world.

I keep thinking about their thought process through all of that, Mary’s surrender and seemingly quick “yes” in obeying the Lord.  I wonder if Mary questioned if this was really God’s plan for her as she gave birth to the future King on a bed of hay next to barn animals.  I think of Joseph’s strength and humility as he accepted what the Lord had for his life, which I’m sure differed from his plans greatly. I think of Joseph’s bravery in the rescue of Mary and Jesus as he led them away from Herod as he tried to kill his newborn boy.

I think a lot of times we cling to our plans, what is comfortable in our lives.  Sometimes we miss out on a greater glory the Lord has for us because of our fear to obey, our fear of society’s approval, our hesitancy to step out in faith and surrender.
I pray this season you rest in God as the author of your story, you take bold steps where he is asking you to, you revel in the sacrifice and the Glory of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, and you reflect on how that will impact your life so that you can then make an impact on the kingdom.
Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trials and Attacks

That is pretty much what I should call November... November has left me wiped, defeated, and beat down just to be honest! I feel like I have been into the rink with Satan himself.  From the little instances to the huge catastrophic events, that has characterized my November. I got an email from a total stranger, a friend of a friend of my mom back in August when news went out about our adoption. He said "be will have spiritual attack like never before". I shrugged it off, knowing that I probably would but still gladly walking forward. Man. Isn't that the truth.
Picture this, I am in the Kroger parking lot hoping people won't look inside my car, I had pulled off the road because of the looks I was getting at stop lights as I cried my eyes out.  So I was in the midst of a boo-hooing session to my sweetest friend, when she really changed my perspective. She pulled me out of that pit.
She said something like this...
"remember that book we read by Donald Miller about living a great story? Remember how he said great stories are rarely easy and smooth? That kind of story would be boring and less than impactful... great stories have resistance and opression, climax and sadness. They are often characterized by - struggle -. You've been praying to live a good story, one that will impact the kingdom, and maybe just maybe God is writing this into your story to bring him more glory."
She also shared with me James 5:13-16.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
And then the verse in 1 Peter 4:12-13 came to mind...
 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 

Satan wants nothing more than to destroy us right now. Weirdly enough, that is where I have found comfort and strength.  This is my opinion only, but I think Spiritual attack is a good sign that you're right in the middle of God's will, otherwise...what threat am I to Satan? He knows two lives are about to be changed. A little boy and a little girl, somewhere in Kinshasa are sitting on a concrete or dirt floor right now, lost and abandoned as can be. Who knows what their path could have held. Prostitution, fighting in a rebel army, drugs, a life of begging or poverty. I don't know. But I do know that something is going to change for them. Yes they will still have hardships in our family.  They will have to grow through years of trauma and neglect, but their path will be changed. They will have an opportunity to know God intimately. They will be loved and provided for. And apparently that is not on Satan's agenda. 
So I guess he can let it loose on me. I am learning how to really put on the armor of God and try and get back up when I am down. I am learning how to depend on Him in new ways each day. I still fail like you'd never believe, let out my frustration on my kids or husband, or just feel defeated instead of resting in HIS victory. But I will be patient, as best I can, as I am here and look back to times knowing He is always faithful and look forward to a time when i see his glory revealed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Entering In

First off...this post comes out of a lot of things God has been doing in my heart. Funny enough, he has been working on me through some blogs I have been reading. As I have followed along with sweet Ruby Grace's story here, God has really softened my heart to the needs, physical and emotional, our kids will have when they get here.
      (Quick paraphrase of her story: her parents have adopted 13 kids or more and she was 6lbs when they met her in an   orphanage and almost a year old. They adopted her and brought her home and thought she had hydrocephalous. Once they got her checked she had 12 cysts in her brain (doctor had never seen more than a kid with 2 in their brain) that needed draining with multiple brain surgeries. After the first surgery they discovered she is blind. She has had close death calls and still pulling through surgery by surgery. They have moved their lives and left their ministry to move to be close to the best children's hospital for her)

I have gone from being somewhat "scared" of these needs, to really honored to meet these needs with the best of our abilities. Then, I read two posts from a family who adopted Miles from the same city in Congo that we are adopting from, over a year ago. I was reading this certain post she put up this week about a minor corrective surgery he went through, then I clicked into the link from an older post about trauma and triggers. As I read her very vulnerable and powerful description of this account of his trauma shortly after bringing him home, God really spoke to my heart in a strange way.  I read that terrible experience and felt no fear but actually felt this weird......


Really God?

Now, I was not excited my kids would go through this or have been through such trauma that would lead them to banging their heads against the cabinet to get food. No. That broke my heart as did several other parts.
But, I was excited to be a part as God re-wrote their story from trauma to unconditional love. That trauma will always be there as a part of their story, but soon it will be the history of their story instead of the current.  I am privileged to be a small part of their healing. I am excited to embrace a child that may not trust my embrace yet. I am honored to tell those children each meal that this will not be their last, that I will always feed them and clothe them. I am excited to tuck them in to a bed and say yes, this is your forever home, forever siblings, and forever family.

I was reminded of James 1:27.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


Yes... we will gladly enter in.

In their distress. God is calling me sweetly to THAT place. And he is making me strangely and unexplainably excited to go to that hard place.

USCIS approval!

Yay!! I got an email from the United States Center for Immigration Services that our approval went through on Friday and is on its way to us!! Hooray! This took a lot longer than I thought it would...but our dossier is sitting translated in French at our agency waiting for this slip of paper before it can be sent off to Congo! Please pray for a speedy process and for a gracious, efficient, good hearted person to receive our dossier! Christmas has been a challenge thinking our kids are over there and not here cozy and celebrating with us....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 days of kindness...starting now!

So we had been thinking of ways to really focus in on Jesus this Christmas with the kids, now that they are a little older and understand even more. I think the temptation is to make it all about Santa and gifts and all of that. Here are a few ways over the years we have tried to keep our focus on the right things...
DISCLAIMER: In no way am I saying that I am doing things right and Santa/wish lists/whatever are wrong. Everyone has Christmas tradition, some from your family of origin, some you create as you go along your journey as a family.  We have tried to be very strategic to come up with a plan to make sure our kids are exposed to a Christ centered Christmas perspective.  I don't have all of the answers, nor am I doing everything right, but this is where we are right now. I am passing no judgement here.

1. We have tried to stay away from the idea Santa or pretend that he brings the gifts:
Yes...bah humbug I guess. But I don't know. The show of it all gets me down somehow. I had a hard time thinking about pretending that a man will come down our chimney and bring our kids gifts. Plus, Santa is exciting. So much so that we may just miss Jesus if we did Santa justice in the eyes of our 3 & 5 year old.
What we do: we have a book about St. Nick. I love St. Nick. St. Nick would fill the little orphans socks as they dried on the line with special gifts on Christmas eve. We talk about how Santa is reflecting generosity. But we do not celebrate Santa because that is more about what he will do for me.
In addition, i think the temptation as a mom is to withhold gifts or threaten to lose gifts "if you're naughty" or when you have a behavior issue with your child near Christmas, I know i am tempted to threaten to take gifts back or whatever. But I have to remind myself God doesn't show his love to us conditionally based on if we are naughty or nice. God blesses us with his love and forgiveness even when we are at our worst. This is why I give my kids gifts at Christmas, not because they have been nice that year/month/day.  I give them gifts as a reflection of Christ giving us the best gift, no strings attached, unconditionally.  That is why our three gifts sit under the tree from us.
Another reason I steer clear of the jolly man in red is the disappointment I felt as a kid when I found out it was all a hoax. And I also feel like I treated God like santa claus from about the ages of 3-13. I guess that is the only un-seen person I had to compare God to. So i would pray God my wish list and wait for it to come true, until I really understood who God is.

2. We have strayed away from wish lists: The idea of asking my kids to sit down and write out what they want just hasn't set right with me. This plays right in to the mess in our hearts, my own very much so included. Plus it plays up there little hearts to think they will get exactly what they wish for...and life rarely works like that. Thankfully so. It puts a lot of pressure on me to just get what they ask for instead of what the giver wants to get for them. So we do 3 gifts from John and I and a stocking. They don't know what they are getting nor do I ask. So far, even this year, Reese hasn't ever told me something she wants. I know this will change as she gets older and that will be a great discussion point about what Giving is all about.
One of the kids gifts this year is a sponsor child each in the AMAZIMA ( program. They will be able to write letters to them through out the year, and I may be able to visit them when I go in April. They've already written the kids so that will be an awesome gift that gives both ways this Christmas!

3. We do a birthday party for Jesus- and we do it big! I let the kids make the cake mostly on their own and ice it, sprinkle it, put a big J in candy on it, etc. We sing, blow out the candles, re-light it and blow them out again, and sing. Its been a tradition since Reese was 4 months old and we love it! Its such a good reminder of what we are actually celebrating.

4. We want to have a spirit of giving: Since reese was our only, I have tried to make this month about giving. We clear out toy buckets and give away toys we don't play with and I ask the kids to part with one special toy that we can give to another. I don't want them to get used to just giving the leftovers or unwanted toys, so I ask them to part with a special one of their choice. We pack lunches for the homeless men and pass them out when we see them at the corner. We also do operation christmas child boxes and they pick all that goes in them and what age and gender they want their box to go to. Now this year we are doing.....
25 days of kindness! I am super excited about this and got this idea from the Christmas Angel and
You can follow along with ideas of how to light up your community with giving!

Today was day 1 for us and they both took apples to their teachers with a picture they drew for them. We talked about why we are giving and doing acts of kindness and the kids were totally pumped for it! I was helping wheeler scribble down what he loves about his teachers when Reese handed me her finished artworks. One said:
"Miss Chiu- i lik beig with you. God loves you. Mary Crismis."  and the next...
"Miss Pedrs (peters)- i lik yur hugs. God loves you. Mary Crismis".
Heart melt! I love that little girl's heart and how she boldly shares the love of Christ much better than I do.
Wheeler of course wanted me to write "I like throwing the ball with you Miss Beth." and "miss Gail is nice and fun". :)

So join me this month as we celebrate the best gift anyone can receive!
(and don't judge me for not liking santa... :)