Monday, December 10, 2012

The rescue

Jesus didn't die for my comfort. 
This has been a year and a half long journey that I thought I was getting to a place of understanding and then I feel right back in a place of getting slapped over the head with that lesson as if it was new again.
We have officially been home 7 weeks. It has been a great time. God has blown my mind with how well it has gone in some areas and how hard it has been in others.
The month in Congo was so difficult and taxing, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I was so reliant on the Lord minute by minute each day. Those were hard hours, minutes, days, weeks. A lot of times, I just kept thinking "once I get home this will be easier", "once I'm at least in the comforts of home, I will deal with this even better". I remember one specific afternoon I was pacing the halls with my daughter strapped in the carrier on my chest and she was hitting and biting in a rage. I remember pacing and praying and leaning hard onto the Lord and singing to him as I tried to comfort her. I remember God filling me up in those moments that I thought I could not go on. It was disgustingly desperate but it was beautiful.
Now after being home and going right back into "mom mode" and do-it myself. I have lost a little of that desperate dependence that I had on Him for every little thing in Congo. It's back to packing lunches, cleaning house, and car line. 

You see, my time in Congo, some would say was the "rescue" of my children. I would disagree. Quite the opposite.

It was my rescue.

God used my 4 weeks in Congo to show me the depth of my sin, the depravity of my heart, and the depth he had to go to adopt me.  Growing up a "good kid" in a Christian home, I somehow bypassed the rebellious "drinking sex drugs and partying" phase some go through. I grew in my relationship with the Lord all through my life (far from good or perfect, and definitely lots of mistakes along the way). But it was easy for me in the dark corners of my heart to think I was a pretty good person and had done life well. It is hard to understand the weight and glory of the cross when I could not see that I was the one who should've been on it. I was taken to a place in Congo where I saw the depth of my sin, the darkness of my heart, the way Satan could get into my thoughts so quickly.  Each minute I was praying thoughts away, leaning into Him, claiming his truth over my life, and amazed at how God would rescue me. God walked me through those 4 weeks my own orphan rescue of how he took me from a pit and called me daughter.

I was talking with Reese tonight about obedience. And how just because we obey doesn't mean we will be "blessed" or rewarded. Sure blessings may come, but we obey God's word in all ways because it is what God asks, not because it will be better on the other side. This is where I am tonight. Coming to the realization that Jesus does not need to reward any obedience with immediate comfort or happiness. I am saying yes to God each day because he is worthy of my yes, not because I deserve some sort of happiness or pat on the back. I think that kind of thinking is the start of a dangerous path. Paths I have seen many go down in marriage. The point of our lives is not happiness. We think just because we have followed God and obeyed most of his commands, we deserve happiness and that should be God's aim. So if people don't find it in their marriage, they go outside of it, because surely God wants us to be happy, right?
Jesus' aim is not our happiness, nor our comfort, it is our worship and his glory. 

One recurring adjustment thing we have been going through since being home is sharing. Granted with two 4 year olds in the house, one with total survivor mentality, sharing is of course going to be an issue. But what I have noticed is at the root of it, Maran distrusts my provision. Satan whispers to her that I am withholding my best from her.  So she wants more, or different, or when she gets the thing she wants, she now wants something someone else has because surely it is better. It plays out time and time again each day. Wheeler picks up a toy, Maran wants it. She has to wait her turn for it. He shares it, and moves on to another toy. She gets the toy she originally wanted and now sees the next toy he has moved on to and looks to me to get it for her. It is a cycle and it repeats over and over again. It is a distrust in our provision. She believes we are withholding from her and she will miss out on the next best thing. There is no contentment without trust.

As is the original lie Satan told us. 'God isn't providing everything, his is withholding his best from us'. So contentment and trust went out the window in exchange for a lie and a satisfaction that could never be quenched. Maran is surrounded materially by more than she ever has been, and yet she still distrusts provision. Same for us and God. He provides all we need, and we still think he is holding out on our happiness. So we try and get it ourselves and quench only what he can with temporary comfort that ends up empty. 
Being in Congo was somewhat easier than being here in the sense of leaning my full weight into Him for strength and joy. I find myself tonight empty and exhausted. Trying to get back to that place of dependence where He would fill me up when I would fail and fall again.
Last week at church the message was on worship. God whispered so many truths back into my heart. At the heart of worship is always a war. There is one who wants our worship to fall to things that will not measure up or sustain. "God is the only one who can bear up under the weight of our affections." So true. Our pastor has been saying a lot lately a reflection of 2 Sam 24:24:
I cannot give to God that which cost me nothing. 

It comes to mind so frequently these past few weeks. It is so true. My obedience, my surrender, my worship is not an offering if it is easy and costs me nothing. It would be easy to serve others when it is convenient for me, or tithe what is comfortable and doesn't throw off my spending. Mothering 4 children for the last 7 weeks has pushed me to places I have not been before. It has stretched me and shown me the depth of my selfishness in new ways. But  this is my offering. It is extremely costly. It is extravagantly rewarding. So tonight I lay it on the altar before God and give to him which is costing me.  I surrender my comfort and my happiness. I trade it in for joy complete and strength poured out from an Almighty God. 
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Home is where your heart is...

On the way to the airport our last day in Congo we stopped along the way and I snapped as many pictures and videos as I could as I tried to soak in our last day there, the sights, sounds and smells. I tried to drink in the culture, see the people differently, and etch in my memory the home of my children.   The beauty. The tragedy. The hope. The desparation. The strength and the plight of these people. 

I think you can travel to a place and see the sights and way of life there and think... How do people do this? I could never. I can't believe. This is so sad. The conditions. Yes... those thoughts come and go. But then I see the pride some have in their country. The dreams they have for progress. The desire to pull themselves up. The realization that you are alive another day and that is a good thing. This is their life in DRC. The juxtaposition of city and rural, rich and poor, beauty and filth. It all just captivated me as I scanned the skyline of the city and looked back how the river made its way, bringing life and change. I was in awe of this country. Of the people. Of their strength. 
 I don't know how to tell our kids the story of where they are from. God is writing that in my heart and preparing me. I have no idea how I will tell our kids bits and pieces of their story at different ages until at the right time we tell them the full story of redemption.  With all of its twists and turns, despicable things and amazing miracles. Their story is their story and not mine to share. But it is a story of hope and of restoration. And for that I am so honored to carry it for them.

 Maran was unusually quiet that morning. I am not sure if it finally soaked in that something was changing as the suitcases loaded in the car and goodbyes were said. She looked proud at moments as she waved to the workers there telling them Today was the day. Today we get on the plane. She told them goodbye. Goodbye to the workers that would taunt her when she was hungry, that would tell her I would do mean things to her. The people that would laugh at her when she cried. Not all of them, but some. She smiled as she carried her backpack and walked out of that place, but yet she did it with a cautious silence too. In the car she was sullen and looked down. We made a stop and she would not let me take her picture, she wouldnt laugh or smile, she only wanted to be held. It was like she knew something big was coming but had no idea what the future held. Unsure whether to be devastated or happy.

I remember the flurry of emotions and thoughts as we boarded the plane in Kinshasa, leaving DRC after 4 weeks. I remember walking Maran and Levi on the plane (you board outside) and Maran's face as we walked up to this giant foreign object she had never seen. I remember my heart starting to hurt as we neared the plane because we only had a few more steps on the soil of Congo.  I remember her wide eyes as we walked the stairs and stepped inside. I could see the excitement on her face after a hard and confusing day for her. We had packed our suitcases and left all we knew for the last 4 weeks. 28 days before that she had left all she ever knew, crying as she drove away from the orphanage. Now, here we were about to fly away from the home she has known for 4 years. My heart started to ache for their mother as I sat into my seat and thought about what she was doing and if she only knew that her children were leaving their country that very moment.What would she think? Would she be so thankful they were leaving? Sad? Missing them terribly? I have no idea. I felt guilt sweep over me, here I am taking them from their country. God assured my heart, they are not done with Congo and Congo is not done with them. As we taxied to take off, I tried to hold back the tears of all of the emotions I was having. My heart was heavy yet I looked at the excitement of the little girl next to me. Her eyes glistened as she looked out the window shouting "Avion! Avion" as she watched other airplanes go before us. I wish I could explain to her what was happening and share in her joy and in the pain.
We will return to Congo one day. I will be excited to show the kids where there home is. Their country. Their people. But also they have a new home, a new country, and new people. Their lives are a beautiful story that God is writing. I do not know where it will lead, but I am so grateful to be a part of the journey.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Less

Last night as I was laying in bed I just kept thinking about the 147+million orphans going to sleep that night like many I saw in DRC. Alone, on the streets, in an orphanage, tucked next to another and another all sharing the same mattress or mat.  I think about Maran and Levi sleeping on 3 mattresses between 17 children. I think about the woman who offered me her son in Kinshasa and motioned as if "What about him too? Take him?".

Every night, every hour, Maran wakes up, calling out "mama? papa?" as if the dream is over and we have now disappeared and she is on her own again.  It is a bleak reminder of the trust that needs to be built, but also a good reminder that she knows she was created to be loved and cared for.
Life here is a beautiful chaos. Going from two to four kids is a challenge especially when you throw in driving two to 2 different schools at 2 different times, gymnastics, doctors appointments, attachment, adjusting to food, time zones, etc.  Since adding Maran and Levi to the family, I don't look at them as used-to-be orphans all the time or continually see them as where they came from.  They are our kids and have quirks and preferences just like Reese and Wheeler.  But there are sometimes just gentle reminders that they are survivors, as I see Maran shovel in her food or turn on survival mode if someone takes her toy.  They have lived through much.
We made it to church this week and as I stood there holding Maran as we sang "Your great name" I just wept as we sang "All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name, hungry souls receive grace at the sound of your great name, the fatherless find their rest at the sound of your great name." And as she rested there on my shoulder I just cried over her.  I was thinking about the loss of her father, and now the gaining of a father who lavishes love and affection on her and points her to an even greater Father who loves her with a perfect love.  A love she may have never seen through the circumstances she was in.
One afternoon in DRC we were surrounded by some teenage boys on the street wanting us to buy the tissues or trinkets they had.  They became agitated and started making threatening gestures and faces at us as the half-rolled window protected us just enough.  At first I felt fear, then anger. But then, God whispered in my heart... That could have been Levi.  These kids are survivors.  They are a product of their environment. They are smart. They have learned what they need to do in order to see another day.
One of the toughest nights was in the hospital in Kinshasa with Levi. He had a fever non stop for 36 hours and you could tell his stomach was in a lot of pain.  As I laid over him in the hot operating room, I watched as needles stuck out of his arms and the nurse would collect the droplets as they appeared with an open test tube.  I had to leave the room as I began to pass out.  My mind was racing and I know my thoughts contributed to the nauseousness that overtook me. The night before, a friend staying at the same convent as us had taken her son to that same room, held him on that same bed, and watched another baby die in her mother's arms right next to her.  They wrapped the child in a sheet, taped it closed and sent the mother away.
Death is a way of life there.  It doesn't seem to be feared as much as it is here. People seem emotionless as they endure such hardships. It was all hard to process. But I just kept thinking, where would these two kids be if the Lord had not stirred us to action? Would Maran be that 14 year old mom, tucking her child in for another night on the streets? Would Levi be the teenage boy going from car to car hassling people for money for the water in a plastic bag he was trying to sell?
These pictures tell a beautiful story to me.  The first one you can almost see the hopelessness, emptiness, effects of hunger, desperation. And oh how the Lord turns our mourning into joy. With love and protection, comes trust and freedom and joy. The Lord has designed us for relationships, for family. His perfect plan was to have a mother and a father who love each other and care for their children and raise them in a home that points them to Him.  The effects of the breaking of this plan are so hard to see. How our sin and choice can damage the perfect creation God intended.
I guess sometimes I wonder what about everyone else? The story has been rewritten for these two, but what about the others? I can't let my mind go there often. But I am so grateful to have these two as a part of our family.  I am thankful God has pursued them and me with a fierce love. I am so grateful God defends the fatherless and gives them rest in his name. I am thankful there are at least two less.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beautiful things...

You make beautiful things out of dust.....

I have attempted many times to sit down and tell my story thus far. It hasnt felt right yet. Either due to sheer exhaustion or the fact I have no idea to process all I have seen and been through emotionally and physically here. I want to be sensitive to my childrens stories as well as the country they came from. I hope they feel pride when they are told of the country they come from and I dont want to portray it negatively.  A friend said it right at dinner tonight. If you just tell about the desperation and not the beauty and hope, you do it injustice. I have met many amazing people and had many great moments, undeserved moments.  I have also had moments that have stretched me beyond comfort, beyond ability, or beyond anything I can dig into my self and find.  I have felt a hurt in my heart like none before and felt joy in small victories that I normally overlook and take for granted.  When my daughter Reese hugs me, or asks me for a snack, or tells me she wants to play, I shrug it off as normal, as usual, as deserved.  To have to earn that and work hard and pray incessantly for those moments is a different heart journey.
I am finding it hard to put into words the moment when we met the kids. That will most likely have to be another post for another day. I think people fantasize about this moment and I had tried to strip all expectation from it and rightfully so.  For us it is joyous, for these kids, it is traumatic.  They have been taken from all they know, and put into someones arms that has loved them for months, connected sweetly to their picture, yet they have no idea who we are, what we are doing with them, or if they will be better or worse off than before. Another friend said it best too, "They dont even know if they can trust you for their breakfast, let alone their lives".  Rightfully so they were both hesitant, slightly fearful. Levi warmed up to us in a matter of 20 minutes. He was laughing and cooing and jabbering on and on into the very late hours of the night as we just looked at him and at each other and were so in awe of what God had done. Maran on the other hand did not speak for hours. She kept her head down, her gaze lowered. She was cautious and it was obvious she was grieving. Yet it connected me to her in a way I had not anticipated. I felt compassion in a way unlike any other, and was filled with the hope of restoration and for God to make something beautiful, just as he did when he formed her in her mother's womb.
The first week was honestly a blur of emotions and a flurry of non-progressive legal activity. It would seem at times that everything that could go wrong paperwork wise would, yet then would soon turn around with a way only God could redeem or orchestrate.  There were high highs and low lows.  I would say that parenting wise it was the closest to suffering John and I have experienced.  Not suffering because we didnt love the kids or they were a burden or bother. But to watch a child grieve is suffering. To watch a child soothe themselves in ways they most likely did because there was no one there to put them to sleep gently or feed them when they were hungry is suffering.  To see the effects of pain, abandonment and neglect is suffering. But yet it is the path Christ walked.  It draws us to his side there at the garden and lets us in on the tiniest peek of what it was like to watch as our penalty and suffering was being poured on himself because we are his children. It is also extremely painful as I saw me in her.  I was that orphan. And still at times I have the same trust issues she has with The Lord.  He puts out a feast before me and I still doubt his provision in the next moment. He says he is there to comfort me, yet I try and self soothe in the emptiest of ways. He offers his hand and I turn away and do it myself. I was her. I still am her at times. To watch this interchange between parent and child was so gut wrenching and dredges up the deepest parts of you and forces you to stare it in the face. It is a continual flesh and spirit battle. It is a dependence I have never known.
I remember holding Maran and pacing the room as I tried to get her to sleep, and as she cried, a cry with no tears, just a repetitive low noise, I sang along with these words.
"I will not fear the war,  I will not fear the storm, my help is on the way. My help is on the way.  Oh my God, he will not delay, my refuge and strength always, I will not fear, his promise is true, his love will come through, always. I lift my eyes up, my help comes from The Lord" Kristian Stanfill- Always.
I remember crying it out from my soul and just weeping over this child in prayer. I prayed over so many aspects of her life, known and unknown, beautiful and hard, full of hope and full of sadness. I listened as John cried over our son singing the same words, calling on The Lord for healing, strength and restoration of their hearts. It is a moment that will be etched into my mind forever. It was one of the closest moments Ive felt to both Jesus and John simultaneously. Our hearts were synced over a common cry in a way like never before. Later that night we just laid hands on our children and prayed over them. It was a beautiful mess.
Again, I feel like my heart is scattered in a million places and to try and communicate it is most likely an even bigger mess! 
I have officially been in Congo for 10 days. With probably 10 to 14 to go. Who knows. I am leaning into Gods timing for this trip. I think originally I wanted to rush through my time here and just get back to the comforts of home. But I am trying to put my weight on him and rest in the fact that he knows how long I should be here, how long I need with the kids before I take them into a totally new environment. It will give us time to continue to develop trust before I stick them on an airplane and away from what they know. 

God is in the business of restoring. He is doing a glorious work here. He is making beautiful things out of this African dust.

Monday, September 24, 2012

This is the day

This is the Day

The day is here.  The bags are packed.  The arrangements have been made.
Yesterday as we sat in church I was so amazed at the journey we have been on over the last year and a half. The Lord has taught me so much about myself, his heart, and the life he has called us to to live.  I've been stripped of myself, shown the depth of my depravity, and surprised by how God has filled the places where he has emptied me.  Yesterday as we sang "You're great name" I just kept resting in the fact that He's got this.  I have never felt such peace. I know it is from the prayers that so many of you are praying.  The only feeling I can remotely and ignorantly compare it to is walking into battle with confidence of victory.  I know it is going to be tough and I know we will all come out with bumps, bruises and scars.  But I know there will be victory in the end.
With me being such a planner and worrier by nature, this feeling is totally foreign to me.  I've said with my mouth before that I trust him or I know his plan is better than mine, but I feel like I'm believing it in a new way for the first time.  A time when it is actually costly and demands more weight than I naturally give it.  Our pastor says there is a difference than believing your parachute will hold you while you are in the plane, and actually jumping and throwing your full weight into that belief.  Faith is dead without action.  I feel like that is the place he has sweetly brought me to.  We have jumped and are totally, amazingly, and surprisingly resting in his provision and plan.  I was talking with my dearest friend last night on the phone and she asked if there was anything I had fear about.  For the first time I had a hard time coming up with anything.  I told her, strangely, I had even thought through going to jail and I couldn't even get worked up about that if I tried.
It is sad that its actually a strange feeling to be in such a place of surrender, rest, and trust for the first time in my life, but I am so thankful he has brought me here.
One thing I hope you take away from my journey is that this is not the story of our children's "rescue".  This is the story of your rescue, this is the story of mine.  I think the reason so many people have enjoyed watching and coming alongside our journey is that is a more real portrayal of our redemption in Christ. I pray you see all the twist and turns, trials and challenge, grieving and joy as the journey of you finding Christ.  I pray you see yourself as the orphan, sitting unknowingly in a place that you thought life would be, until you are called out, bought with a price, fought for, planned for, pursued at all costs and brought into a family that you could have never "earned" or chosen on your own. This journey has reminded me of the identity I once had.  It has reminded me of my utter helplessness and dependence on my father. It has reminded me of the price he paid to take my place, set me free instead of himself. It reminds me that this world is not my home. It is just a dim shadow of the goodness that is in heaven. And the place he has given me at the table that I never could have earned or deserved a seat at. I pray you see Jesus through this journey, and if you have never met him before in such an intimate way, my biggest prayer is that you find him here. Today. This day. The day of your rescue.
Russell Moore writes in his book Adopted For Life the following passage about picking his boys up from their Russian orphanage::

We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys.

They’d never seen the sun, and they’d never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door slamming or felt like they were being carried along a road at 100 miles an hour. I noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. Suddenly it wasn’t a stranger asking, “Are they brothers?” They seemed to be asking it, nonverbally but emphatically, about themselves.

I whispered to Sergei, now Timothy, “That place is a pit! If only you knew what’s waiting for you—a home with a mommy and a daddy who love you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates and McDonald’s Happy Meals!”

But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home.

We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they wouldn’t have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal.
This is such a good reminder.  Number one for me as a mom of these two. Maran especially, she has probably never ridden in a car, seen an airplane, been to a grocery store. Who knows.  This will be a traumatic and confusing transition for her. She will have much to grieve.  I can't imagine what she will be thinking or feeling and we will be sensitive to that and not expect anything in terms of adjustment and connection. I have prayed much for it, but expect little.
But it is also a reminder of our own lives, we live here on earth like this is it, we have arrived, live it to the fullest because its over when we die.  But we were made for more. We were made with heaven in our hearts.  I know God is holding us close and saying "This place is a pit compared to living in my home, if you only knew what's waiting for you!"

As I sit on this plane headed to DC, before we cross the ocean that separates me from my daughter and son, I am stilled in his presence and content for the journey he has set before us. I am so honored and privileged to be a part of this story, His story, my small story.  We are not in this place because we are good people, we are here because we made a decision to say yes to God, no matter what he asked or called us to.
Within 36 hours, we will be holding our son and daughter.

The only thing I kept thinking as I worshipped him yesterday was,
"Alright God, here comes the first part of the battle, I'm ready, I know you are. Lets' do it.  You got this."

Psalm 2: 6-7 The Lord says, "You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession."

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday Maran Grace!

Oh my sweet Maran. I have so much to tell you.  Your birthday makes me excited for the things Jesus has made new in your life. This birthday also makes me grieve for many reasons. The first being that I am not with you. I am not waking you up with pancakes or a present. That I am not hugging you and kissing your sweet cheeks on your big day. That I will not tuck you in on your last night tonight as a 3 year old and tell you about the journey God has for you as a big 4 year old. I grieve that I do not know much about your first 3 years of life. That I do not know the exact day you were brought into this world or who brought you in other than God. I grieve the experiences you've been through and that you have seen and felt such brokenness in 4 short years.
But, I know the one who turns grief into joy. We were reading in our storybook Bible tonight about the rescuer who makes messy things beautiful. I cannot wait to tell you about Him.
God has given you a new name sweet girl. A name that is an eternal reminder of his coming, his nearness, and the perspective he wants us to live in. Maran'atha means the Lord comes, or the Lord is coming, or come Lord. These three short words helped the scales to fall off of my eyes, for the veil to be torn that was keeping me from living the life abundant. Not the life abundant with stuff or comfort, but the life God called me to. God used so many things, including you, Maran Grace, to pull me out of a trap I was headed into and to give me new eyes to see my walk with Jesus. 
One thing I always want to show you is that Jesus is always better. Better than stuff, better than people's approval, better than the flawed love I can ever give you. The Lord has come for you Maran, and he called to you and told you he would not leave you orphaned. He will come to you. And he has. And he will come back for you again. 
 I do not try to replace or fill your birth mother's shoes. I do not know her story and all I know is I thank God for her. I pray she raised you with love and tenderness. I pray she started to point you to Him. 
I will always be here for you, to answer hard questions, to wipe your tears if someone hurts your feelings, and to walk you through the trauma you have endured in your short years here. I know life will not be rosy just because you are now in a family, our family. I know you will have trials to face that I have not walked through.  But I know your identity is not wrapped up in what color of skin your mom has, or where you were born. Those are facets of who you are but that is not your core. Your core is Jesus who leveled the grounds of any race, income level, background or title. Jesus' love is not based on our DNA structure or original last name. He will adopt you into his family regardless of these. You are his child no matter what, as you are mine.
My love for you is unbounded. I do not know if you will kick and scream at me when you meet me, I don't know if you will let me hold you when you are sad or trust that I will feed or care for you. But we will walk this journey together.  Someone once told me "God will never give you more than you can handle". I think the opposite. God has called me to a situation out of my control, outside of what I can handle or plan for or master on my own. Being your mother, and Levi's, Reese's and Wheeler's is the greatest adventure of my life and I will most definitely do a lot of things wrong! It is more than I alone can handle to point 4 little lives to Jesus and show them His ways. But, I am not alone, nor are you. We have access to the King, we get to tap into the power of the one who raises the dead, heals the sick, and sets the lonely in families. Praise Jesus for that.
May your name also ever be a reminder of the Grace God has shown me. The depth of my depravity met the extravagance of his love in the most beautiful collision of Grace the world has ever known. May that Grace push me to the urgency of his message. May your life point people to that Grace. May you ever be an example of the Grace God has shown little me and little you. We serve a mountain mover, a miracle worker, a restorer of the broken. 
I also can't wait to tell you about the man who's birthday you share. Drew Michael Miller, A friend who always pointed me to struggle with the hard questions in life, not avoid them. At the end of our conversations, he would always push me to ask myself, "Who will you serve, people or God", "Is life really worth living for something so small", "The life with God is not safe" and "God has chosen you from before his creation to adopt you as sons and daughters". This man, who walked boldly into death because he knew confidently who he was walking towards. A man who longed for heaven, for a new body, and to sit at his maker's throne and sing praises to him. A man who prayed your very name, Come quickly Lord.  Yes that is why your birthday is his birthday, September 17th. 
I pray God comforts you and fills you with his joy complete on your 4th birthday. 

Until I get to hold you in my arms,
Your mommy

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Only God...A mini-story of blessing and provision part 2

Oh my goodness. I am literally speechless about what God did today. Ok, well I guess my speechlessness is over because I actually have a lot to say about it.  This journey I knew would be full of twists and turns, battles and failures, obstacles and victories.  Today was all of the above.
I dropped the kids off at school today and ran to get coffee with a girl I am mentoring (yes, scary thought, i know, you can be praying I actually can continue pointing her to the Lord and not any wisdom from myself!).
Then I had 2 hours before I picked up Wheeler from school.  Now here is my thought process. I have 4 days with Wheeler in preschool before I leave for Congo. I have a long to do list but since I had just met with this girl, I thought, I should really go home and get in the word (contrary to all of my to-do list urgencies I felt). So I get home and I am a little ADD. Wanting to make my bed, clean up breakfast, organize a closet, anything. But I kept feeling the call to sit. So I sat in my new rocking chair that I got to rock my new babies in and picked up where I left off in John 15.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

Then, I felt an urge to go look at my adoption notebook. This thing is a beast full of all of my paperwork. It is organized to a T and everything is in plastic sheet protectors in the correct divider. I had just added last night the final paperwork I need to it before I travel.
I'll let you in on the following thought process of mine.

"Go look in your notebook. Why do I need to look in that binder? Kylie, focus, you are supposed to be reading! Go look in your notebook. NO what in the world, why can I not focus on reading!
Go look in the notebook. God, is that you or me talking?
Text from an Atlanta friend Katie

Go look in the notebook.
OK Jeez. I'll check my notebook!

Then I flip it open right to the page of our US immigration approval and my heart literally stopped and I thought I was going to throw up.
Why had I not remembered? What on earth was I thinking? Way back in the adoption process when we applied for US immigration approval (i600a) we had to set an age range we were hoping to adopt for our homestudy. With my little knowledge I put down 1-3 year old boy or girl. Now in the Lord's provision alone we were matched with an almost 1 year old boy and 3.5 year old girl. Talk about the Lord honoring that request! But now our adoption was finalized and we are 1 1/2 weeks away from flying to DRCongo to make these kids ours and US citizens. Filing in country what is called an i600. Well, about 5 weeks ago we had to select the kids birthdays since they are unknown. We chose Sept 17th for Maran, this coming monday, 1 week before we travel. Therefore, when I arrive in Congo Maran will be 4, not 3, therefore falling outside of the range the US has approved us to immigrate into the states. We would get there and be denied to take Maran home due to the age on this document.
Insert cry of desperation.
I hit my knees instantly. I knew what this meant. Either we don't travel until the document is changed (quite a process) or if we were to arrive in DRC they would not let Maran come home with us. I cried out to God like never before. This is the kind of trials we will encounter. This is the kind of opposition we will meet to bring these kids home. These are the things Satan will use to keep these kids out of a house that is under the banner of Jesus Christ.
I emailed my facilitator and prayed more. "God, do something. Bring home my daughter! I will submit to your will not mine, but I am begging you!"
I then called US Center for Immigration. As the phone was ringing, I was repeating, Jesus, you have to move this mountain, I believe you will, but you have to move this mountain. I am claiming what I just read in John 15, I am remaining and resting in you and in your word and this is what I ask. Move this mountain.
"Hello?" she said. I told her my predicament and she looked up my case to see who my officer was to see how big his caseload is if he can get to it or not (keep in mind, on our Congo facebook group of other moms everyone is saying USCIS is at an all time slow down in response time and approvals and edits). "Oh no, ma'am! Your case officer is no longer working here." Umm what do I do. She said "here is what I will do, I will request to be put on your case, get your home study changed and overnight me the home study update and I will change it in the system within 2 business days, hopefully before your travel."
Mountain is starting to move.
This process usually takes weeks. The process is getting one caseworker here to update my 30 page document, getting it notarized, mailing it in to USCIS for approval, waiting on approval and edits and updates which can take weeks. This sweet angel of God is going to move mountains to have it done in a day or two.
Next mountain to move, my home study case worker. I called her. She had told me in the beginning the updating process can take 2 weeks to be finished. I told her my story. "Oh Kylie! My goodness, I will have it done this afternoon or at the latest first thing in the morning."
Mountain Moved.

You see, for those of you that have faithfully joined us in prayer, prayer is not throwing things up to the ceiling and hoping it is heard or just thinking nice thoughts about us or our children/adoption.  Prayer is the vehicle God uses to pour out his power on a situation. God did not have to move in that situation. He could have told us to wait and we would still be here next week filing paperwork and waiting yet again.  But I truly believe 1 Peter 3:12- For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.
We are the BODY of Christ. God uses the picture of the body, as I've said in a previous post, for a special reason. If we have an itch, our entire body is involved in the process. Our left arm senses the itch, it sends a message to our brain, the brain sends a message to our right arm, hand and fingers to go scratch it. God uses our BODY to solve it, our brain could just send a message for the sensation to go away but no, it uses another member getting involved. Same way in the body of Christ. I truly believe God is using your prayers, my prayers, our children's prayers, to unleash power where he may not have previously. He is turning his face and his ears to our situation and you are part of the reason. I am so thankful for Katie hearing from the Lord this morning, for sending me that encouraging text. I truly believe God put our situation on her heart this morning because he wanted to show Himself. There was glory to be revealed. 1 Peter 4:13- But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

It is not just Katie, I have gotten text after text, email after email, comment on the blog and facebook, of people praying all over the nation! Thank you seems like such a small word to offer for such a gift. It is more effective and more appreciated than any dollar amount you could ever donate or offer for our adoption. It is a mountain mover, a waving flag to say GOD LOOK, OVER HERE, DO BIG THINGS GOD!!

I plead that you keep praying with and for us. For our children. For the paperwork to come in as it is promised. For our travel, for the time we are in country. This is not the first obstacle we face nor the biggest. There will be some that we do not find victory over so quickly like today and I will rest and trust in the one who holds this process and loves these children more than I ever could. I will trust in the defender of the orphan and the fighter for the fatherless.

Matthew 17:20
Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

To you alone Lord,
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Only God (a mini-story of blessing and provision)

Only God could answer a prayer I wasn't even bold enough to pray!
Ok this story starts a few months ago. My mom was speaking at her church and mentioned her daughter is adopting from Congo. Someone came up to her afterwards and said they had a guy in their small group that just moved away that was from there, so they passed along his contact info to my mom.  I emailed him back 4-6 months ago and he was so kind and genuinely wanted to help or answer any questions. He offered that his family still lives there and they could go by and check on the kids if we needed. A few more weeks went by and our communication was there but infrequent until we got our referral and then he realized my full name and asked if we had any relationship to WinShape (Chick-fil-A) because they had won a marriage weekend at their church in Atlanta from this couple with our names! Back story, my best friend works for this church and asked if I could help her think of a raffle idea and so John and I donated a marriage retreat weekend at WinShape Marriage. Out of hundreds of couples, this couple won it!
Fast forward again, this couple is moving to DC and we got to have them to our house (uhaul and all:) on their travel to DC. We were instant friends, our kids loved their child, I connected immediately with his sweet wife. This couple has offered us beyond anything I would have ever known how to pray: a place to stay in Congo if needed, a family member who is a doctor if we need anything medically while we are there, family members to pick us up at airport, an aunt who is a tailor and could help us pick some fabric and make this kids some african shirts, etc. I mean, ONLY GOD. Then, this sweet angel with skin on changed his flight to DRC to get onto our flight to alleviate any fears/confusion on flying into Congo and getting through the airport (which I hear can be quite the fiasco). Not to mention this gentle man is pushing nearly 7 feet tall (doesn't hurt :)
I am seriously continuously blown away by the way God is knitting this story together. A story we will tell our children and say "Look what God did here, and the way he provided here, and here! What a faithful God". Oh my goodness. I am just so amazed by this couple's kindness and generosity. It is truly a picture of Jesus!
I am so beyond thankful God answered a prayer bigger than I could have ever articulated. I know this is the first of many things he will tap me on the shoulder and shout in my face, "Did you think I'd abandon you on our mission? Did you have any reason to doubt I'd come through?"

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

And the journey begins...almost

2 and a half short weeks until I board a plane with my husband to Congo.  On our 8 year anniversary we will get to meet our son and daughter and see God do the supernatural with the ordinary.

I feel like I am 9 months pregnant, full of emotions, uncomfortable in my own skin, feeling like it is supposed to be time already, having trouble sleeping, thinking of the first moment when I lay eyes on my children. I've had crying fits when I see children in the store, when I am worshipping, or when I am just talking about them to others. I've had nervousness of what they will think of us, if they will be afraid, or how it will go that first night all tucked in our own room just the 4 of us. I've had sheer joy thinking about embracing this girl and snuggling this boy whom the Lord has filled my heart with love for. September 24 we leave and journey 26 hours to DR Congo. I cannot tell you all of the ways the Lord has orchestrated this, the way he has provided (and has yet too in some areas as well;), the connections we have made with none other but angels that have offered us beyond what we could ever ask or hope for once we arrive in Congo. The Lord has paved the way, now it is almost time to walk it. Satan, however, has not rested as we prepare to subtract 2 orphans from Congo's 5 million. Today I spent in the ER with Wheeler due to extreme dehydration and lethargicness. He had vomited 20 times in 12 hours and hadn't kept down 1 sip of water in almost a day. Reese is having trouble sleeping at nights. John had several acts of vandalism at his store this past weekend, I've been unexplainably exhausted the last 3 days. Who knows what will happen when we set foot on Congolese soil. But I am putting on the armor of God and praying like crazy!
Someone said to me today, "Wow, what a noble thing to do! Y'all must be a really great couple to do something like that".  Truth is, we are a normal couple that deal with normal issues. We have fears and worries, and we have struggles and problems. We are not noble. We are ordinary. We are not doing this because of how great we are (because we are not!), but instead, in response to how great He is. We are not rescuing these children, only God can do that. We are just putting our "Yes" on the table and going wherever God wants us to go. Even if that means right into battle for the hearts of these two treasures. I am so glad I don't have to be extraordinary for this to all work out. I don't have to know exactly how it will work and how things will go. He knows. All I have to do is put my full weight and trust into Him and he will do what only He can do. And I pray I get out of the way and let his Glory shine. 
Exodus 14:14- the Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My burden is heavy

Tonight I find myself alone with my thoughts and prayers. It is difficult to breathe and like a weight is resting on my chest.  Tonight I think of a country thousands of miles and an ocean away.  A country that has lost more people than the Hollocaust to a war of genocide, rape, and violence that we cannot imagine.
My burden is heavy for the child that takes care of their infant siblings, who lost their parents to AIDS or disease.
My burden is heavy for the child whose parents sell her body to men in the community to pay for food or alcohol.
My burden is heavy for the children who are raped because if it believed if a man has sex with a virgin his AIDS will be cured.
My burden is heavy for the 5 million children who are orphaned: who sit on street corners with their hands out, who chase down people trying to sell trash they've collected, who curl up and wait for death to take them.
My burden is heavy for the 5 year old boy who is forced to hold a gun or machete and kill his own parents or die.
My burden is heavy for the people who live in fear of rebels coming into their village, stealing their children and livelihood.
My burden is heavy for my son, whose hair has greyed from the lack of food and nutrition in his body.
My burden is heavy for my daughter, who is alone and confused, trying to deal with a life of trauma in a 3 year olds understanding.

15% of children in the DRCongo do not make it to their 5th birthday. That is my child. That is your child. That is God's child.
I know this is a downer of a post and it sounds so cliche, like some African commercial to send in your 30$ a month. But I think we just forget that it is real. We think, God, take care of the poor and all that mess in Africa, and around the world, and God looks at us and thinks "you call yourself my friend, my child, then do something!"
I posted the video "Depraved indifference" a while back. I'm not sure if you took the minutes to view it or not, but please, if this moves you at all, then at least view it. Research a ministry you can get involved in. Pray about adopting. Support a ministry that prevents orphans in the first place.  Contact a missionary family and see how you can help. Pray for the orphans of the DRC, for the sex trafficked and the children as young as 2 being raped. Pray about getting your hands in this, and living out the call God designed us for.
Isaiah 58:3-11
'Why have we fasted' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of fasting you do as you please, exploit your workers, your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chose, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the enslaved,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor outcasted wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked to clothe them, and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you and the Glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Until then,
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday Levi!

Happy Birthday my sweet one year old boy. I have no words to express my sadness, aching for you, joy, and love I have for you! I hurt to not be with you on this day, but I know we will be together soon! This will be the last birthday I miss.
Jen Hatmaker says it best:
"You realize God can put a vicious fight in you for a kid without your blood coursing through his veins.  Those early doubts about loving a child without the helpful instincts of biology are put to rest.  Of course you don't know this kid yet, but you love him in your heart, in your bones.  You'll fight like hell to get to him.  You can't think of anything else.  You are obsessed. You dream about him like you did when you were pregnant.  You realize that when God said 'He sets the lonely in families', he meant it, and he doesn't just transform the "lonely" but also the "families".  He changes us for one another.  God can create a family across countries, beyond genetics, through impossible circumstances, and past reason".
Yes my treasure, my love for you is so deep though I have only laid eyes on pictures of you, you are mine and I would break through a concrete wall to get to you!
I do not know all your first year of life has held.  I do not know where your mother birthed you, how she held you close and nursed you and gave you life, I do not know if you ever laid eyes on your father.  I do not know how many days you went without food, or if no one came to you when you cried out, I do not know the circumstances that led you to me, but I know they were pieces of God's symphony he used to bring us together.  I know a decade of prayer and unexplained desire led me to you. God would not let me get away from you because he knew you were mine. We needed you and you needed us, and the world may just see a clearer picture of Jesus through you.  A gospel that puts on skin and comes to the lowliest of places to redeem the messy parts of our life.  A God who loves to restore a foundation where there was once only dirt.  A God who loves to put broken things back together.  A God who puts himself best on display when we are cracked and broken.
You are an instrument of God, Levi Moses White.  God has big plans for you my son. I am honored to sit and watch what He will do to you, through you, and because of you.

"Ask and I'll give the nations to you" Psalm 2:8.

"Don't be afraid for I am with you, I will gather you and your children from east and west". Isaiah 43:5.

"Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharoah's daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, "I lifted him out of the water". Exodus 2:10

I love you Levi Moses.  Happy 1st birthday my beautiful son.

Until I am with you soon,
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Without vision, the people perish

If people can't see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed.
Proverbs 29:18 (msg)

It is easy to live a “good life” as a family.  I mean, we are busy enough just keeping schedules, doing homework, playing games as a family, dinner nights together, bedtime stories, reading our Bible, disciplining, refereeing arguments, limiting screen time, etc.

But is this a great story?

I was challenged when reading a Donald Miller Book, A million miles in a thousand years. One chapter is all about our story. This chapter is a discussion between Don and friend whose daughter has gotten mixed up in a bad relationship and made bad choices. Don tells him his daughter is living a bad story. The good elements of a story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.  It involves trials, risk, and adventure.

“He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story.  He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter.  He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family.  And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used.  In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence.  “She’s not a bad girl”, my friend said.  “She was just choosing the best story available to her.”

This chapter shook me.  There is more than just teaching Bible stories, praying, disciplining with Biblical truths and loving my children well. I have to invite my children into the better story; a story that has risk, danger, excitement and may even be a little uncomfortable at times.  After all, look at Jesus’ life, there was nothing safe about it.  My children have to feel needed in our family’s story, they have to have a vital role to play.  I have to be vulnerable to show them where I mess up and fall short.  I can’t be the director who has it all together.  I have to be a flawed character on the wild ride too.

We began to think about what story our family was living and how we were even communicating to our kids what is important or unique about our family.  We realized beyond reading the Bible together and praying, we weren’t being very intentional about the legacy we were leaving our kids.  There were things important to us that we were sharing lessons, but it wasn’t clearly communicated in such a way that they could see there are certain flags in the sand for our family when it comes to who we are and how we live. 

It was almost 2 years ago now, that we were challenged to define our values and vision for our family.   These needed to be concrete and over-communicated.  Our kids need to know who we are and why, and what the Lord has called our little family to be uniquely in his story. 

As we started this process and gave our kids more of a say so in our family decisions (even at the ages of 3 and 5), we began to see real change in them.  We started sharing with them the hard things going on in the world.  We would pray at night for the 26,000 people that would die that day because they had nothing to eat, we would talk about the people who could be hurt or killed if they follow Jesus.  Our kids’ eyes opened around a passion and vision we had for our family but did not communicate very well to them.

John and I took some time and separately came up with a list of 5 values that were core to us.  This list ended up being more like 9 each because it is hard to get them down. We realized when we came together we had 5 in common.  We began the process of discussing why it was important, how that is fleshed out in a family, how these will influence our story, our giving, our parenting.  We wrote them out, defined each value, and posted them.

Proverbs 29:18 says “Without vision, the people perish.” We had to cast vision over our family.  We now had a list of values that we could communicate daily to our kids, when we ate dinner, when we had an argument, when we messed up, in the midst of discipline.  It became a reminder of who we are and whose we are.  These became the thread of our story.  We began a family-giving -project that implemented several of our values and passions.  The kids had a huge part and they were thrilled to be involved.  

After examining what was really important to us and how God has uniquely designed our family, we came up with these values and descriptions in no particular order:

Stewardship/Generosity: We will give generously of what God has entrusted to us.
Gratitude: We will have an attitude of thankfulness knowing we deserve nothing.
Humility: We will remember who we are in Christ and therefore see extreme value
                  in others.
Faith: We will put our trust in Christ and the word of God and live it out in action.
Relationships: We will put high worth on healthy communication, forgiveness, and
                        respect for each other.

Out of these values we can develop our purpose and mission. We also spent some time praying through our 3 shared passions (the unreached, the orphan, and marriage) in the kingdom and that, along with our values, developed our family mission statement. These guide our decision-making, organization of priorities, and giving as a filter to what is important.

Then, post your values around the house, use them in discussion, in prayer, praise your kids when they did something that showed a value, talk about it in discipline as a reminder of who we are and are called to be. This is our legacy at stake. This is our vehicle to point people to Christ.

Our values will all look different from each other, as will our stories.  Let’s not get wrapped up in any comparison game.  Yours will look different than ours.  Let’s pray through what God has put on our hearts to pass on to our children.  Let’s instill an excitement for living the WILD story God has called us to.  If your story is boring, it may just be you aren’t hearing exactly what the Lord is calling you to! Spend some time in prayer as a couple in this. Get away for a weekend as a couple without the kids and set goals for your family, develop a mission or vision statement, narrow down to your 5 core values, discuss your shared kingdom passions. 

This is not just a good thing to do, this is crucial.  Lets set the stage for an exciting story to unfold as we follow Christ as a family. 

::If you would like to do this exercise as a family, here is how John and I did it... We took this list of 200+ values and spent some time thinking what we felt like the top 10 values are we would want to teach our children, be known by, pass down, or live by. We did this separately and then came together with our list of 10. Then we discussed why we felt like ours were important and saw which ones lined up. The list is not comprehensive. We made up a few of our own. And then we prayed about it and nailed down our 5 values we wanted to guide our teaching, discipline, dinnertime discussions, and way of life as our family.::
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Adoption Update: CONA, i600, birth certificates Oh my!

Woo Hoo!!! The kids are legally ours! We have officially passed court and received our Act of Adoption, what is also called a CONA (certificate of non-appeal) declaring our adoption finalized and irrevocable. It was a joyous day when Levi was finally ours as well and yet I also couldn't escape a heavyness on my heart for that whole week.
The joy was partnered with extreme sadness. Joy for me, but sadness for the mother and father that now were a distant memory. Sadness for the mother that no longer had parental rights to the two children she birthed.  I grieved for the birthparents especially this week. What a sacrifice, what a gift, what a tragedy.
But God is in the business of redemption and restoration.
Beauty from ashes.

Isaiah 61:1-3
The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

I am so beyond thankful to call these two treasures ours. They have been engrafted into our family. Adopted for Life.
Now we are waiting for their birth certificates to be created since their ages were unknown. We actually got to choose their birthdays! Levi was estimated to be 10 months in June so we made his birthday August 24. Maran was guessed to be over 3 1/2 so we made hers September 17. This is a very special day. It was my very dear friend Drew's birthday who passed away a few years ago from Cystic Fibrosis. You can read more about him here.  He embodied selflessness, Christ-likeness, and always challenged me to live for God and not what the world had to offer. I could go on and on about him but that will be for another day.
(here is an updated picture of them looking at our photo book we sent! They are on the page with their new grandparents!)

We should receive the birth certificates this week and then we can apply for US immigration approval (I-600). This can take 4-8 weeks. I am praying big prayers it moves through in a miraculous pace! Please join me in praying for the officer that will receive it and for everything to go smoothly.
While we await US approval we will be working on the kids passports and medicals for the embassy appointments. Then we can make appointments at the Us Embassy in DRC and then once we have that done we can do the kids visas and ours and then travel! I am still praying late october but trying to rest in the Lord's timing, all the while praying it is soon!
Levi is now in the care of our facilitator due to some issues in the orphanage of his food being stolen and being targeted by an older child with violence. Please be in prayer as the kids are separated and that Levi can get back on pace eating wise and developmentally. Please pray for Maran as she is separated from her brother. Pray for her care at the orphanage and growth. Pray for her as she deals with the trauma she has experienced and for God to heal her heart, comfort her, and give her his joy. Please also continue to pray Satan stays far away from the fight to bring these treasures home!
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My 6 year old sweetie

Happy Birthday to my sweet Reese McNeil.
6 years, I cannot believe it! I can remember like it was yesterday, feeling my first contraction (9 days late) and finishing my game of cards with John, showering, doing my hair, and heading to the hospital. 8 short hours later my beautiful 9 pound baby was there!!
You have developed so much into the woman I have prayed for.  I prayed these specific things over you in my journal back in January of 05:
A sensitivity to the Holy Spirits leading, a teachable, moldable, obedient heart, a reckless abandon to Truth and out of that an outpouring of love for others, generosity abounding, and a fun and magnetic personality.
You have all of the above! It has been such a neat journey to watch God answer these prayers as he shapes your heart and develops your personality.
Here are a few of the many things I love about you:

  • how you always want to be tickled, yet you set parameters before I start (you say "no pitters or feet!)
  • how you can color and write for hours a day
  • your love for any animals
  • how you get so excited when I sit down to play with you
  • what a great swimmer you are!
  • your love for gymnastics, flipping, and sharing it with others.
  • what a great "teacher" you are, to Wheeler, to your friends and to me!
  • your questions you have about God. A few of my favorites from this year: 
    • Why can't we just pray for Satan to believe in Jesus and he can get baptized and then have a kind heart not bad?
    • Why can't I hear God talk to me like you do? Why can't he just grow some arms and hug on me sometimes?
    • Why doesn't everyone adopt then no one will have to live in orphanages anymore?
  • when you say "i have a few questions for you mom" then proceed to ask me tough questions about having babies, getting married, or how our bodies work.
  • how you have a cheerful heart (most times) to help out.
  • when you wake up early some times you get breakfast for you and Wheeler and tell him to be quiet so we can finish sleeping.
  • Your big prayers you pray to God that challenge me to think bigger.
  • Your silly laugh and funny faces and funky dancing.
  • when you sing when no one knows and make up songs, praise music or sing to songs we know.
You are such a joy to be around and your personality and humor is infectious. It has been an honor being your mom and I look forward to the next six! I can't believe how fast it's gone!

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Attitude check

This has been the theme of our last month of summer....
T: Is it true?
H: Is it helpful?
I:  Is it inspiring?
N: Is is necessary?
K: Is is kind??
(cheesy but so true)
If not, try it again with kindness.

I don't know why we have hit a wall of attitude.  My pediatrician says you have behavior flare ups at every 6 month marks and birthday. Since our kids are 18 months apart, these always collide with true catastrophic fashion. Summer always high hopes for all these wonderful memory making days, but some days are just plain hard.  I feel like I am getting down on my knees every morning, then 20 times a day as I look into these two sets of little eyes as we work through issue after issue, disrespect after disobedience, unkind comment after argument. Somedays it is just exhausting. But I know it is worth it. I want our kids to know how to make good choices and that bad choices come with consequences. I want them to know God set boundaries for our lives not to squelch the fun out of life, but to protect our hearts from hurt and pain. I want them to truly see the value God sees in their siblings, friends, and people so very different from them.  Our home is the training ground for them to go into battle.
Our pastor mentioned to us Psalm 127:3-5
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Children aren't meant to stay in the quiver.  They are held there for a time, then they are launched right into the heart of the enemy.

I only have a short time to prepare them for the battles they will face.  I cannot always protect them from the world. But we can work at how to be a light that pierces darkness. We can show with our lives how to live on a light stand for Jesus and point others to him by the surprising way we love each other and others outside our family.
So, boot camp is never easy, but it is worth it. He is worth it.
Jesus give me wisdom and strength!!
(side note: i have no pictures of them acting badly, so just use your imagination;)
What are some practical ways you handle attitude/arguing/unkindness in your house?
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My girl....

I guess you'd say... what can make me feel this way? My girl!
Praise Jesus in heaven our 30 day wait is over and that makes sweet Maran Grace officially and legally ours! What a wonderful day coming at the end of an emotionally exhausting few weeks!
We legally have a second daughter! Now on to get the US Immigration office to recognize it and we will really be on our way!  Levi's 30 day waiting period ends Thursday, August 9 and after we receive our paperwork we can file for I600 approval with US Immigration. Another step closer to bringing our sweet ones home.
Please pray for the CONA paperwork and birth certificates to come soon! We can't apply without them and who knows how long it will take the court to create a birth certificate for the kids, then on to more waiting for US immigration approval! Thanks for journeying with us! We are so excited!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Into Battle

I went to a conference this weekend called "She Speaks" put on by Proverbs 31 ministries. It was an amazing time with 650 women and great speakers! I tried to quiet myself best I could all weekend to hear what God wanted to say to me. Speaker after speaker, meeting amazing woman after amazing woman. We were encouraged to write our story, tell our story, point it all to Jesus, develop our passions, minister to others, etc. The conference was on how to launch your writing into a platform, how to steward the message God has given you, and how to best share it with others.
I kept hearing.... Wait.


Ok, God? I will I guess. I'm  not sure what I am waiting on or waiting for, but I will wait.

I'm bad at waiting. I want to do what I need to do now or at least be getting prepared for what I'm waiting for. You could see that in how I have "nested" here at home, waiting on the kids' arrival.

The second night, I heard it again. Wait.  But this time it was accompanied by...

"We are about to go into battle".

Wow, not really the take away I was hoping for. But one I have been praying about over the last year or so.  As we have journeyed closer to the life God has called us to instead of the one we would have chosen selfishly, I have experienced spiritual warfare. It's been in our marriage, in my parenting, and in our extended family.  But this one is a little closer to home.

We are going into battle for these children.  Satan wants nothing else but these orphans to stay orphans, in an orphanage that only meets maybe 2 basic needs for food and shelter....if that. Satan does not want these kids coming into a home that proclaims Jesus as our Savior, that talks about him daily, parents that do their best to meet the emotion needs of our kids, and shine our light to others. No.  There will be a battle.

I don't know what it will look like. I don't know if the battle will come in attachment for the kids, behavior issues of Levi, Maran, Reese or Wheeler, sleepless nights, spiritual attack, health, who knows. But I know it will come. I've tried to prepare myself best I can with scripture, reading books about attachment, prayer, etc.  That is all I can do.

Then, Sunday morning of the conference came and wouldn't you know the final talk was on spiritual warfare and how to get ready for battle. Thank you God.

Here are some of my highlights:

  • To enjoy God's favor we must often endure Satan's fury. Be prepared.
  • The catalyst for Jesus' temptation in the desert was Spirit led.  Being full of the spirit doesn't protect us from temptation.  We may be led by the spirit into temptations that will test our faith. 
  • The context for Jesus' temptation was his Holy experience.  He had just come off of being filled by the spirit and had his value and identity spoken over him by the father. 
  • The content of Jesus' temptation was to be tempted in the area of
    • Provision- we have a tendency to want to provide for ourselves on God's behalf.
    • Protection- we take our protection back into our own control so we think.
    • Pride or Position
  • Battle is imminent so get ready for it
    • belt of truth (scripture), breastplate of righteousness (rest in Jesus righteousness), feet covered with gospel of peace, shield of faith (confidence, security in him, calling, rest in it all. you have to pick up the shield and put it over you in battle. If you can't you need to find people to come around you to hold their shields over you), Helmet of salvation (God will accomplish results no matter what we do), Sword of the spirit.
  • Sword of the spirit
    • We are called to take it up, not swing it. God wants us dressed and protected for battle but you in your own strength don't have to fight. God will.  You will stand in the middle of battle, dressed and ready so you don't feel naked, but God will fight for you. You only have to be prepared, trust, and focus on him.
    • Exodus 14:14- I will fight for you, you only need to be still.
    • Your IT is not worth it, I am. 
Wow, I was holding back tears the whole talk. If we were only adopting just to adopt. It would not be "worth it", but God has called us. Our "adoption" is not worth it, He is. There will be days where I want to give up, crawl in a hole, think I can't make it, but He can and He is worth it. I will be tempted to provide for myself and kids, I will be tempted to draw protection back into my own hands and it will bring fear and worry, but God has called me to trust in him and let him the the Lord of provision and protection, and only boast in Him on the other side of the battle. I am going to try to spend the next few months getting ready for battle. We could use your prayers. We have been praying for over  ayear now even for details such as attachment, sleep, the preparation of Levi and Maran's hearts, for God to pierce through the darkness they've experienced and bring light and healing, to put a shield around them and protect their minds and hearts, for wisdom, discernment, and more wisdom as we parent all of our children through this transition, for Reese and Wheeler's hearts and understanding as we walk through this as a family, for our marriage that we would lean on and encourage each other and not pit against one another.
Please join us in prayer over the next few months and beyond. Thanks for being part of the journey with us and helping put your shield over us.

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