Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy Birthday Levi!

You are 3 my sweet boy. I cannot believe it. It feels like just a short time ago someone passed a small, 13 pound, 13 month old boy into my arms.
You were scared and quiet and analyzing all of the situation. I would have never dreamed you would have turned into my silly boy, full of affection, spunk, and joy. Your tenacity for life is inspiring! Although you keep me on my toes, (because often disobedience is somewhat comical to you) you so frequently put a smile on my face. Somedays when I look into your dark eyes I wonder who you would have become if our paths have not intersected. But that wondering is then met with such gratitude that you are forever in our family. God is orchestrating an amazing story for your life and has such a purpose with your history and your future. We chose the name Levi because it means "joined" or "attached" in Hebrew. It has been such a beautiful picture of how you have been woven so intricately into our family. Moses was the English version of your given name and how appropriately it means "drawn up out of the water" symbolizing Moses' adoption into Pharaoh's family. Moses' mother had to make a hard choice to give up her son so that he would not be harmed. I wonder frequently about the choice your first mother had to make. I am sure she had the bravery of Moses' mom, and I hope she was thinking of all the great things God would do in and through you with her sacrifice of protection.
You are a treasure, an inexplicable joy. I pray this year you continue to have a heart molded by God into a tender boy who loves the Lord and loves others. I pray my shortcomings will only remind you of the one Perfect Father you have in heaven. The Father who longs to be so close to you, to bring glory and good from your pain, and adopt you at the highest price because of your extreme value to Him.
I am so privileged to be your mom and humbled daily of all the depravity the Lord reveals in me as I imperfectly steward your life for his glory. I will not know the best way to navigate your journey in our society as a man of color, but I pray for such wisdom in shaping you into a man of God first who loves others, respects, and cares for the broken. My baby boy, you are loved, accepted, and prayed over. I am totally smitten by you,
post signature

Thursday, August 14, 2014

To Reese on her 8th Birthday...

Its hard to believe it's already been a year since sitting down and writing this post.  7 was a magical year of new maturity, conversations, closeness, and challenge. 2nd grade was a breeding ground for growth and social learnings. This year especially I would say was one of the most enjoyable to be your mom.  No longer do you need me to help you pick out clothes (when I try you make sure it is known you can do it on your own:), get you a snack, tie your shoes.  The physical demand of being a young child's mom is lessening as each year passes with you. Yet a new level to the emotional and deeper spiritual journey has begun.
This year your deepened in your faith. Last year began a big year of talking about what God is doing in your life, the brokenness of the world, the savior that came to rescue us, how God is uniquely calling us to run to the hurting and the hungry, the sick and the orphaned. I can say that Kenya changed you. It put a God sized desire in your heart to be with the broken. Ever since our adoption, but maybe even more so, that trip, you are keenly aware of others feelings and needs. God urges your heart to pray, you are emotionally tied to Africa already in a way my heart only had hints of as a girl. Your faith is becoming your own and it is a joy to watch that grow.
This year you really flourished at school and bonded with your teacher. In a public school, in a liberal city, it was not a question for us you would remain at your school indefinitely. You, little light, are someone God wants to use to point others to him, to surprise people with your kindness and different way of thinking, and to challenge people to look to him. All year long you would talk with your teacher about your faith in different ways. What you are praying for, what you saw God do in Kenya, how He is a huge part of your life. The last day of school your teacher pulled you out and had lunch with just you in your classroom to pour into your life just a little more on your way out, and she told you how much she noticed your light shining. She wrote you a note to encourage you to keep shining, keep praying, keep sharing to others about Him, keep loving others well. It was one of the best moments I have seen for you in school. It was such an affirmation that you are a little arrow, like Psalm 127 says, ready to launch out and pierce the enemy for His good. I am so proud to be your mom. Your boldness and big heart inspire me to live on purpose.
This year you have developed in gymnastics. Something you love so much and you feel God's blessings as you do what he has gifted you to do. You are developing a community of girls that is precious. To see you circle up at the end of practice and share prayer requests and pray with your coach is amazing. To watch as you learn what hard work, persistence, perseverance and even how prayer can impact your abilities and results. I watch as you encourage others when they are having trouble to get something and as you pray through and seek help when you struggle with something. I continually remind you to anchor your identity in Him, you are not a Gymnast, you are a daughter of God who he has blessed with an amazing talent in gymnastics. It is a platform, not an identity. And it has been an amazing learning and growth opportunity for your relationships and character.
This year you have grown as a Big sister. You have released a little bit of the pressure to perform that you often default to and are growing into your own on learning how to mess up gracefully, ask forgiveness, talk with me about how to pray for transformation and strength in the midst of sin. You know you are not responsible to be everyone's example. You are just a girl that will mess up and seek Jesus like anyone else. But yet you are deeply moved when you hurt your siblings. You feel deeply as you have shared in the grief of your sister's story. Life's struggles with siblings are pointing you to your perfect Father and I pray you can see beyond your imperfect mom to see Him more clearly.
I have messed up over and over again with you. The amount of times I've said I am sorry for my sin to you does not even cover the countless times I've missed that opportunity. This year, it will continue. But I ask with the boldness in James 1:5 for God to give me wisdom, and to give it in abundance, on how to be your mom and steward the life in you I have been given to hold loosely for Him. My prayer goes back to that little arrow in Psalm 127 that will be released over and over again into different situations to pierce with kindness and with truth places where it is missing. This year will bring new challenges at school, with friends and influences mounting and the struggle of identity and self esteem on the horizon. I pray you are anchored in the one who made you, just how he wanted you, with a part to play in His huge story. My prayers are too much to list for you for this year, but know you are fiercely loved, known deeply, accepted fully, and prayed over frequently! I am honored God chose me to be your mom!
post signature

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oh Congo...

A few weeks ago I got to return to Congo to accompany a dear friend visiting her children she is in process of adopting. Due to the governmental halt on adoptions, she cannot bring them home, but wanted to meet the children she has been the parent of for a year now. I was honored to go alongside.
Heading to DR Congo this trip was completely different than the last. The last time I boarded that long flight I was filled with the nerves, excitement, fear and uncertainty of what was to come as we met our two treasures there. I spent 4 weeks in a convent turned hotel, staying put as much as possible while paperwork cleared, passports were printed, and we awaited the much coveted exit letter to leave the country.  The few times we did leave the convent, we were met with opposition in public, in one situation that only God orchestrated protection in because it went violent very quickly all around us. I had small hungry boys outside the 2 inch rolled down crack in my window making gestures of slicing my neck and reaching their small hands through the cracks trying to get in. Our driver was yelled at, hustled, and arrested and a stranger got in the driver seat of our car.  It is only through God's grace we made it out of there unscathed.
The month before this most recent trip to Congo a battle was raging in my mind. Fear vs. Trust in God's sovereignty, my mind trying to find the line between wisdom and recklessness, trying to figure out the vague boundary between not letting safety be an idol and using the wisdom God has given me. 
As we arrived in DRC that June 28 evening God gave me such a peace to be back in a country so sacred to our family. My fear was gone and my heart was flooded with love for a people and place so deeply interwoven into our home.  The next morning we woke up early to attend church with a friend. We wound down unpaved roads, through slum areas where people rode on bikes carrying chickens, motorcycles 3 men full, mothers walking their bundled up babies in the 78 degree weather.

Life in Congo is awe-inspiring. I saw a mother on the side of the road with her 4 children, younger than mine, trying to sell clothes and food to make an income for that day, men carrying 30-40 soda bottles on their head in hopes to sell, little girls carrying bundles of sticks tied around their head in fabric. I saw girls around the age of 5, 6, 7 on the streets alone caring for their younger siblings.  We made our way to the church and the sermon was on Ruth. Through our translator, I was moved to tears through the rich interpretation of Ruth's story.  Here was a pastor speaking to 150 Congolese people about leaving a life of safety, security and potentially trading that in for clinging to Jesus. Over 70% of people in Congo earn an average of 2-4$ a day. This pastor challenged these people not to turn away from Jesus because they are afraid he will ask them to give up something, but instead, to run to Jesus and cling to him no matter the costs. If it costs your job, your family, your financial security. Run to Jesus. Cling to Jesus the way Ruth clung to Naomi. He said sometimes this will mean we need to leave our familiar and venture out to the unfamiliar, serve the least of these, maybe even go to another country to take the good news of Christ.  Orpah made the safe choice, to leave Naomi and return to hopefully find a husband or prosperity without the 'burden' of her mother in law. However Ruth took a risk. He preached:
 Sometimes God calls us to do the uncomfortable, something that doesn't make sense, God pushes us out of our norm, out of our culture, and asks us to follow. Giving up control to our lives doesn't mean we lose freedom, we are set free. This takes humility, God raises up the humble. Ruth didn't ask questions or give conditions to her following. She merely said "Where you go, I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you day I will die. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." What a declaration of reckless faith. 
God used a Congolese pastor in the near slums of Kinshasa to remind me of how he has called me to live, how he called us to adopt, how he gives me far more than I ever "gave up" for him. The following week was a roller coaster of emotions in my heart, reflecting on meeting our kids almost 2 years ago now in this beautiful, tragic country of strength and struggle, hope and devastation. God blessed me in ways I cannot explain in words on a page of this trip. He poured healing and purpose into my heart, He laid out for me another step in my journey of what he has called me to in this amazing country. He put a new chapter in the story of our family and I am completely humbled he would use someone so small, messed up, selfish, and insignificant as me. I am also reminded of the beauty in the adventure of following God. If you would have told me how our story would have ended up 3.5 years ago when I filled out that application to adopt I would have laughed and thought, not me. 
God also allowed me in those 10 short days to enjoy a country in a way I couldn't when I was there before. Not only did I get to witness a new mom meeting on and loving on her two Congolese children and watch the bond of unconditional love begin, but I got a fresh look at my own story, a new heart for a country I had only 'wanted to get out of' the last time I was there. 

My challenge to you is to put your yes on the table. Put your "anything" out there for God to use. Pray to him, "God I will do anything you ask!" And see what he does when you surrender your everything. He will change how you spend your life, your money, your time. Holding our stuff close only keeps us trapped in the life of the predictable, the mundane. Live recklessly like Ruth, trust he is real and live like it. He sees us and he made us and he put you in the story he is writing for you. I guarantee he will move, he will call us out, he will use us, we will live in the freedom we were intended for. We, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:18-21
Thank you Jesus for giving me a small part in your huge story. May I steward it well,

post signature