Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's in a name?

Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

We wrestled for a few months if we would keep our kids given names or rename them.  I read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore and it really impacted me (I highly recommend it even if you have no plans to adopt, it is an amazing correlation of the gospel and our adoption into Christ's family). Moore writes about his sons:
"They eat what we eat...They share our lives, and our story. They belong here. They are Moores now, with all that that entails...They {maxim and sergei} seemed to them to be someone else's names, and they were. Some people think we've done something wrong by renaming the boys...We see naming as a part of a welcome- the American names represent the fact that the children are now part of an American family. They're not foreigners geographically or emotionally. When parents name a child, they're welcoming him; they're identifying with them, forever. In our day, names tend to be doled out as the whim of a parents' wishes and cultural fads... In the world of the Bible though, a name said something about who you are, or at least who you're parents expected you to become...A name is important to one's identity And that's why in the story of our fathers and mothers God keeps changing people's names...God names things as though they are and them makes them that way (Rom. 4:17) The same thing has happened with us in our adoption."
This echoed in our hearts when it came to naming our children. We didn't want a foreign sounding name that would only make them further feel like they don't belong. With a lot of prayer, the Lord lead us to change our children's names, before we even knew them. We prayed we would find names that would tell the story God wanted told with their lives. We prayed their names would be a reminder of what God has given to our family in this journey.  In Uganda, mamas at the orphanage would name the orphans names like Patience, Hope, Joy, Faith, so they would remember when seeing that child how to treat them, remember their story and how God has used their story and redeemed their lives. In the same way is our hope for these names.  It is signifying a new chapter in their lives, the adoption into a new family where they are viewed no different than if we shared the same DNA structure.  It is a reminder to us what God has done and how he has been faithful.

Our daughter will be Maran Grace (pronounced like Aaron or Karen with an M).

Maran comes from the Aramaic word Maranatha or Maran 'atha which means the Lord comes, or the Lord is coming (when the words were separated rather than joined it was used as a declaration that the Lord will come!).  This is a phrase that was used to remind people of the eternal perspective we should have. This life is temporary and it is not the point, but the Lord is coming.  It was also used to express urgency to share the gospel in light of the Lord's coming.  It is used in the end of Revelation giving us hope and perspective to live in the knowledge of God's coming and closeness to us.  Just as in John 14:18 when Jesus says "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you."  This name is significant to us because this journey of adoption started as God gave us more of an eternal perspective and revealed idols of comfort in our lives.  Life is not about this life here or temporary material things, we want to live in a way that points to the fact that the Lord is coming, that the Lord comes when we call on him.  We decided long ago we would name her after my sweet grandmother Grace who has exemplified sacrificial love to me as she had cared for two husbands on their deathbeds. She loved and gave despite the fact that very little was given back to her in the relationship due to cancer in one situation and then 7 years of dementia. She is such an example to me and has been an example of Grace in my life.

Our son will be Levi Moses.
Levi is hebrew for attached or joined.  This will be a reminder how God has woven him into the fabric of our family. How we have been attached firmly and joined as a family forever, despite the method we brought our children into our family.  We pray one day he will be forever joined and adopted into God's family. We were going to use a family name as his middle name, but were drawn to the name Moses.  Moses means "drawn out of the water" signifying Moses' mother making the choice to giving him up in hopes his life would be spared and Pharoah's daughter drawing him up out of the water and raising him as their own in their family.  It is a beautiful picture of Moses' adoption and yet coupled with a painful past of a choice a mother should not have to make. But God redeemed her choice and sacrifice and Moses was an instrument of God and a leader of his people. This is our prayer for our son. He will have a painful beginning to go back to as he grows, but our prayer is that God redeems it and uses this part of his story to draw Levi closer to Jesus as well as have an impact on others.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

4 Questions that changed our marriage

Over the last 8 years we have asked ourselves these questions at different times, separately and together, and they have changed the purpose and trajectory of our marriage. I wanted to share them with you. I am so thankful for those that have invested in us, asked us the hard questions, and pointed us to Christ by their example and wisdom.

1. Am I living like I am the channel of God's love for my spouse? 
I think so often in marriage it gets into this balancing scale of needs being met. If my needs are met or exceeded, than I treat my husband even better. If he is slacking in meeting many of my needs, I also let my serving him and enjoyment of him slack.  This is a contractually based marriage. But God calls us to a covenant love with our spouse. This is a love that says even despite they way I am treated, how my needs are met, if I feel loved or pursued, I will love you and serve you with joy. Because after all, we are to "submit to our spouse out of reverence for Christ" not because he deserves it. I am the channel God chose to show John his love with arms and hands, am I living like this in our marriage?
2. What are the 5 core values of our marriage?
What will be the values that will be the filter for all we do in our family? If we do not have clearly known and communicated values as a family, then our children will find their own stories to be a part of and we lose any chance of passing on any values to them. We wanted something to come around as a family and put our heart and soul in. We want our finances to reflect our values. We want our time to reflect our values. I didn't want to miss the big story God had for our lives and settle in the mundane of just doing day to day life. Without a vision, the people perish.
3. What is our purpose for our marriage and family? How are we called to uniquely serve the kingdom together?
Lets pretend someone gave us 1 million dollars and it was to be used only for kingdom purposes. How would we steward his money? What were three areas that were central to the passions of our hearts and our unique talents that we could really make an impact in? We need to give sacrificially to these areas now, despite the amount of money we have to give to these efforts. We do not want to get trapped into just vacations and schedules and not work in our purpose God has called us to. For us it has been narrowed to
1. The unreached people groups with little access to the Gospel
2. The Orphan and hunger Crisis
3. Marriage and the shaping of young adults.

These are what God has burdened our hearts for. We do not know yet to what capacity we are to serve in all of these areas, but we can feel comfortable to let these guide our giving and serving with our time. We can feel comfortable to say no to other "good things" that just simply fall outside of our calling as a family.

4. Are we holding "things" with an open hand?
I think our tendency as humans is to feel like things are ours, we have worked for them, earned them, or have possession and control over them.  This can be things like cars, houses, savings accounts, even our talents, spouse and children. With that feeling of "mine/ours" only comes fear and anxiety. I remember feeling weight of fear for a season that I would lose John through sickness or an accident or something. I couldn't imagine carrying on without him. I had to surrender this because that is not from God. I am to even hold my marriage and children with an open hand. John is God's and our children are not mine, they are the Lord's. Yes I would be devastated to lose them, but I have to choose to put my hope and trust and identity in God. Not in my marriage or motherhood. This question has also been our hope to be a guide as we buy a house or car or anything major. Is our heart attached to it? If God asked us to sell it would we hesitate? Will we share it with others or hold it with a tight fist?
John has always had such a better handle on this than me. I remember after dating for about 2 weeks I hit his brand new, very nice car (in his family you have to wait until you are 18 to get a car) and I freaked out. I thought he would dump me, so I debated as I sat there in my Isuzu rodeo just fleeing the scene and dumping him over text so I wouldn't have to face it. I remember waiting outside for about 30 minutes crying and freaking out about how mad he would be. Plus people, I didn't knick the car, I actually got my suv stuck in the side door of his little sporty car and creamed the whole passenger side. Yes, it was that bad. I remember walking in his apartment bawling my eyes out and telling him after I could finally find my voice. I will never forget his reaction. "is that all that happened? That is no big deal! I am just glad you are ok! It is just a car!" What? I explained, no, this is not just a dent, come see it. He did not want to go see it, he didn't need to. He was just glad I was fine and kept saying, its just a car! That really impacted me that day. He was holding it with an open hand.
I want to hold all our "things" with this mentality. It is all God's he has let me borrow to steward for a temporary fleeting moment. And I want to steward it well. I don't want to cling to things. I want to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and let all else fade away.

My prayer for you is that you are being intentional with your marriage. You are stewarding it well, you are investing in it, you are treating your spouse as God would regardless of their actions or service to you. I pray God gives you a burden and a purpose that he calls you both to do that he could not have accomplished with you separately. I pray you pray fiercely against the evil one who wants nothing else but for your marriage to be torn apart, affairs, abuse, or to just live as roommates and have no joy or reflection of Christ. I pray you pass specific values on to your kids, that you communicate as a family what life is really about and who bought us at a high price. Marriage is the greatest picture of our relationship to Christ.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The week of waiting....

Habakkuk 2:3(msg) And then God answered; "Write this, write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming- it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.

Psalm 130:5- I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Last week we were faced with a weighty question.  We had laid eyes on our treasures and now it was in our court.  We were asked, will you accept the referral of these two children without knowing the status of their HIV tests?
My answer had been a flagged in my heart for a few months now.  God had been planting a seed in me should it come to this.  When we first started this adoption journey, and actually even before- when I would dream about it in high school or college, this was my only fear.  Special needs. It had once seemed like such a weighty phrase. But God has used the journey of adoption to open my eyes to what I thought was in my control and has been in God's hands all along.
When this question came I started my research. I poured myself into what it would look like to have a child with HIV.  By God's grace alone I fully surrendered and accepted that the Lord would do what the Lord wanted to do as we walked forward in obedience.  Surprising to myself, I felt total peace in a place where I would normally be swallowed by anxiety of the unknown.
I passed the question along to John, slightly fearful of his response. He was quiet for about 10 seconds and then began to speak.  This is pretty quick for John who usually processes big things like this alone before coming back to me on it.  We had discussed correctable special needs and drawn our line in the sand that we were fine with that.  But this had only briefly entered a few discussions and when it did, I think I was the only one commenting on it.   John spoke and said something to the effect of that these kids need a home and God led us here, he will lead us through that when it comes.  He said "God wouldn't turn them away, so I guess we shouldn't either. We should pursue it regardless of their HIV status or any other disease for that matter."
Wow. My it was as if our hearts had synced in a way we could have never worked towards or crafted. God had united us on this huge issue separately.  I felt like we should celebrate but it was also an extremely solemn moment as well.
My heart flashed to doctors appointments, prescription filling for ARV's, the hard discussions about their marriage in the future and their condition.  But yet I still felt peace.
We continued the discussion, acknowledging the difficulties that it would bring, but also just looking at the situation the best we could from God's perspective.  In light of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, it became harder and harder for us to say no.  These aren't our kids regardless of what the court documents say at the end of all of this, this is God' son and God's daughter. God would not look at these children and see a label of HIV, he would just see his child.  And I think he would hope we would too.
(these sweet Ugandan faces still call me back)

Then the waiting came. The test was run on a Friday and results were supposed to be back monday or tuesday.  For some reason, I didn't find myself anxiously checking my email for them.  I felt calm in a way only God could orchestrate because I normally default to somewhere between stress and anxious. Monday and Tuesday came and went and then passed Wednesday and thursday. Friday morning I was checking my email to see if my power of attorney had been finished and then I saw the subject line.
Again, only by the spirit did I not internally freak out.  For the first time in a whole new way, I felt totally surrendered to whatever it would say. I opened the email and saw the words.
Your children are HIV negative.
Strangely enough I felt gratitude, but not a feeling of relief like I would have thought I'd feel.  In my mind I imagined if I saw those words it would be like a load off my shoulders or a huge sigh of relief.  It really wasn't. Maybe I had just resolved that they would be positive and I was ready to embrace it and walk forward in our family. I don't know even how to explain it to you. For all we know the results could be inaccurate. But regardless of the outcome, I am thankful to our Big God that used this waiting to develop in me yet another layer of surrender.  Yet another lesson that I am not the one in control.  That God may want to use me if I am open to him. That God has a story to tell with these two little lives across the ocean from me.
The more I dig in and rest in who God is and what he has given me in Christ, I cannot help but respond in utter amazement and joyful obedience.  God gave his son on a cross and watched his body be torn apart so that he could call you daughter, that he could call me his child. He is the one I want to surrender to, not my own flawed, selfish, fear driven plans.  What a joy to rest in the one who cares for me.
Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.
Ps 63:3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Yay baby boy!

Just got an email that our sweet son pulled himself up for the first time today!! Yay! What a treasure in my inbox this afternoon. I am so proud of him! He is 10 months old and pulling up! That is right about when Wheeler did too! Our caseworker said he was pretty "thin" or malnourished when he got there but is putting on weight quickly and eating a LOT! Yay baby boy!
I am so excited to know about this little first and so thankful our caseworker was there when it happened! She said she was cheering for him! What a blessing to know our little one is growing and developing and being cheered for half way around the world!
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Identity Change

Yesterday was such a flurry of anxiousness followed by extreme joy and love.
Today (wednesday) was a hard day. I checked my email (which I have been doing a lot of these days) and then I saw the words that stopped me in my tracks.     "Abandonment Decree"
My heart sunk as I read those words and thought what they meant to these two precious children.



This was their identity. No more.  Now they are...

Treasured daughter.

Valued son.

Words cannot express the sadness I had at seeing that document.  I guess many would think this document is one step closer to bringing them home, which it is. But it is not what God intended. He did not intend for this family to be torn apart. He did not intend for these children to be given the identity "orphan". We live in a fallen world with sin and choice. It does not bring me joy to know my children were abandoned. I am thankful and gracious they will be forever a part of our lives, but I hurt for them. I ache for their mother and father. I am burdened by their circumstances that would cause them to give up their children.

But I think about that sweet mama in Uganda that asked us to take her baby. She had already taken in her neighbors children when she died and now had 7 kids. Her newborn needed formula and it was (i'm guessing) about a months salary for her to buy 1 can. She didn't want to breastfeed him so that she wouldn't pass HIV to him. These are the kind of life or death decisions have to make when giving up their children. It is not just a "I don't want the responsibility of you" sort of impulsive choice. This mom was trying to choose life for her son.
I do not know the story of our kids' parents. I do not know what led them to this path.

But I do know God makes beauty from ashes.
God is in the business of restoring.
God is invested in redeeming.

It has been a hard day. I can not put my feelings into words. I cannot begin to even put words with the situation of my heart. All I know is I will fight for these children. These children who don't have a voice. These children who have lived through something I wish I could protect them from. Please continue to pray for them, for this process of bringing them home. For sweet girl and boy as God prepares their hearts to be welcomed into a family and loved unconditionally.

Psalm 68: 4-6 Sing to God, sing in praises of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds, rejoice before him- his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his Holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.

Isaiah 1:17- Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans.

Matthew 18:5- anyone who welcomes a little child on my behalf is welcoming me.

(pictures were taken in Uganda)
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Long awaited day has come...

I wish I could shout as loud as I can!
 We have been matched with our sweet babies! 
Our case worker told us Monday night that we would have their pictures Tuesday (June 5). Monday night I could hardly sleep. I wondered about them. What they look like? What have they been through? Did their parents die? Did their mom walk them down to the orphanage or social affairs office and sign her children away?
Tuesday drug on as slow as monday night did. I was checking my phone every 3-5 minutes. Congo is 5 hours ahead so I assumed I would have something when I woke up...nothing.
I am pretty sure I neglected Wheeler all morning long! I took him to Chick-fil-A to play at the playground so I could stay by my phone. I got a movie set up for him so I could sit at the computer... nothing.
I also spent the entire day praying like never before. I prayed for these two sweet treasures, for whatever their situation was with their birth parents, for the paperwork to come through and for them to be ours. I prayed for technology/internet/scanners to work, I prayed for what they were doing right then, I prayed God would prepare me to see them just as he sees them.
I gave up after about 3:00 which would be 8pm their time. After being psychotic about checking email all day, I just gave it up to God (novel idea) and told him I would wait. I would wait for the children he chose for us.
Then at about 4:30 I was emailing a friend about praying for one of our sweet Ugandan friends and then my email ding'ed.
It was the pictures.
I did not open them (which if you know me, you would know that is a feat in and of itself. I am not good at surprises or patience. I usually give my Christmas present to John by the end of November, I can't keep a surprise from him). I called John right away and said "HURRY HOME! We got the pictures and I am not opening them until you get here" That was clearly the Holy spirit and not me...because Kylie would sure have sneaked a peak at those two sweet brown faces and then opened the email again shortly with John. ;)
John got home in about 15 minutes which felt like 30. Thankfully my dear friend Ashley consoled my craziness on the phone and prayed over me, so that I was now balling my eyes out by the time John pulled into the drive. We put the show on for the kids and prayed. We prayed that God would allow us to see them and love them how he does.

Then, we opened the email.

My heart had finally been joined with its longing. My story finally made more sense. My waiting was all now worth it. My emotions skyrocketed and it was as if I had just given birth and looked down in my sweet beloved's eyes. I knew they were ours. The children God had for me since my life was even a thought in his mind. The story he orchestrated so painfully and beautifully to graciously allow our lives to collide. 

The little girl is a 3 year old girl with beautiful dark black skin and gorgeous full lips. Her eyes are looking down in the picture and her face is to the side a little bit, but you can still see her precious profile. Her sweet round nose, smooth skin and delicate hands interlocked near her chest. She is wearing an orange, black and white polka dotted dress and looks so beautiful!

The sweet little boy is her biological brother. He is 10 months old (may or may not be accurate), although he looks older to me. When I first saw the picture my eyes locked into his dark brown Huge eyes staring intently at the camera. He looks so similar to his sister. He has the same round nose, full lips, dark black smooth skin. His hands and feet are very big compared to his thin legs. He is wearing a girl shirt, purple with a heart and a rose on it. He is curled up in our case workers arms. The look on his face is intoxicating. It draws you in immediately.

Seriously God? You are entrusting me with these two treasures? I am floored. These are the most beautiful children I have ever seen! It is amazing the connection I already feel to these two sweet children. They are perfect. They are just for us.
John and I cried and laughed and stared. John laughed and said "at least two of my kids have my brown eyes!" (somehow my blue eyes won out with Reese and Wheeler!) They are beautiful.
I am officially smitten.
I am so overwhelmed by God's grace and provision for us. I can hardly put into words all of my feelings so this will have to suffice for now. I am one proud and thankful mama. I cannot wait to scoop these two cuties into my arms and tell them we will be a forever family.
Please pray for us as the rest of their paperwork is still coming in. Pray for their medical exams this week. Pray for God to guide this next phase of court, embassy, immigration, etc. Pray for Satan to stay far from our fight to bring these two treasures into our family. Pray for our family as we prepare our hearts and home for them. Pray for the paperwork process to go without a hitch. There is still so much that could go wrong. The kids paperwork could be wrong or messed up enough to delay court, as could ours. As hard as that would be, I want God's will not ours. I am praying these are our children but it is all in God's hands. Please be in prayer with us!
Thank you for journeying along with us over this last year! There is still so much more to come! Thank you Jesus!

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Monday, June 4, 2012