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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