Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keep Moving...

God's Word spoke to my worries again this week, in a big enough way  that I'm willing to type with just my thumbs to tell you about it!

No internet today, bugger's been giving me problems all month!  No internet, but I do have shiny new phone that let's me blog on the go!  Might be dangerous though....for a couple reasons..... 1.  The phone has a very robust spell correct, and when you're typing on a touch screen, anything can happen.  It keeps trying to change "God's" to "fiscal"....hmmm...I could go somewhere with that contrast...  2.  Multitasking to this level could be dangerous.....that's how my previous phone got dropped in the sink!  That's why I'm reduced to thumb typing today!

So, first the worries....just this past week I blubbered to my table group at church about how I'm already starting to worry about the forms and cash part of this adoption experience being over.  I know it's a long way off....but I'm realizing I like it here.  I really like being in the middle of an impossible situation that I'm certain God has called me to.  It's rush to watch God work up close like this, it's so good for my heart.  I don't ever want to go back to comfortable-land, everything is bland there....I know, I built a summer home there...I'm afraid I'll move back in and take the sheets off the furniture if I don't have another itinerary planned.  It may be bland there, but there's a creepy, magnetic pull about the place. 

So Abram's experience in Genesis 12 really got my attention.  You probably know the story....God called him to leave everything comfortable and start traveling.  So Abram left, as the Lord had told him.  And then he stops, sets up camp and THE LORD APPEARS TO HIM!  He worshipped, built an altar, and probably told everyone about it.  I bet he was so in awe of God that he would have blogged about it if he had a phone like mine!

But the grabber for me comes in verse 8.  Abram kept moving!  How do you walk away from the place God appeared to you?  Everything in me would want to stay right there, reliving the memories!  Maybe that would make sense if God wasn't alive.  But Abram knew God, so he set up camp in a new place, built another altar and called on the name of the Lord again.  Instead of worshipping the experience of hearing God speak, Abram worshipped the God who speaks.  Abram was confident God would speak again, that's why he kept walking and worshipping, expecting God to appear again.

I've got an itinerary planned, and it doesn't involve a stop at comfortable-land....I'm planning to keep moving today...and tomorrow...and tomorrow.  Wanna come build some altars with me and find the next place God's gonna appear??

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Long Overdue Adoption Floodgates Update!

This adoption update is as overdue as a 45 week's ankles are swollen, it can't tie it's own shoes anymore, and it just plain wants the big moment to arrive!!  Well, if there's a perfect moment to birth a blog post, it's gotta be now.  Sister's down for a nap, there's a fall wind pushing the leaves around outside my window, the fire's blazing, I've got a snoring dog at my feet and a hot cup of tea on my desk. Oh goodness....and a ray of sunlight just beamed out of the sky, through the window onto me!  The bloggy angels are singing!

So much has been happening....I feel like I sound like a broken record saying that, it's at the beginning of each adoption update.  But those are the facts.  God keeps rolling this ball forward even though my life is as crazily busy as it's ever been!  So, my dear friends....never let me hear any of you say you wish you could adopt too, but your life is just too busy right now.   That one will come up with a big red X on the Family Feud answer board!

I think I need to use bullet points here or we're in danger of a 53 page blog goes:

  • Here's an excerpt from a thank you note I sent to an old friend last month...
"Got a great story to tell you.....

God has done amazing things to get us to the point that we were up to date with paying adoption bills....He's sent us $11,000 which covered the homestudy fee and US adoption fees which we already had bills for. The next step was to send our homestudy in to the US Immigration Department with a check for $850 to get clearance from them before we can send all our paperwork on to Ethiopia.

Last Friday, I had the filled out immigration application on my desk but was looking at an empty adoption account. A friend had emailed me to tell me to expect a $500 check in the mail near the end of October from her, almost enough to cover the Immigration fee. We are expecting to have about a 2 month wait once we send this form in, so Scott & I were discussing whether or not to "borrow" that money from our emergency account in the meantime so we could get the ball rolling and just send the application in. I was leaning toward going ahead, Scott felt that caution and waiting on God were the way to proceed. I agreed....reluctantly! I went off to run some errands and left the application on my desk. Later that day, I came home to a pile of mail sitting on the kitchen island. Our neighborhood mailboxes are keyed boxes at the front of our development. I've been without my mailbox key for the week because I traded cars with my son and gave him my mailbox key with the car keys. So, about a week's worth of mail was sitting on the counter.....with your check in it! What perfect timing - to not only pay a bill, but also inspire my confidence in God! I have a feeling your check was sitting in our mailbox for a few days before we got it. But it fell into our hands on the day we had a bill due and after we had, once again, told God that we were willing to wait on Him.

Thank you so much for what you did - I can't really explain what a big deal it is to us. It was awesome to watch the wonder in my kids' faces when they saw and realized how perfectly God had timed it and then to find out it came from another ministry family they don't even know.... I don't know what your family had to do to have a thousand dollars to put toward our adoption, but I hope you know how grateful we are to you and thankful to God for it. Please tell your sweet wife and family that we are overwhelmed by their graciousness...

You guys have paid the immigration fee, plus put the first dollars towards the Ethiopia fees that will be due in a few months! So exciting!! "

  •  A card came in the mail from a sweet couple who were part of our very first youth group.  They got the fresh-out-of-college, eager, newly married 22 year old youth pastor and wife!  We've kept up through the years on facebook.  He came to church alone, accepted Christ and started a whole new life.  One of those people you look back on and just thank God that He let you be a part of what He was doing!  Scott did the couple's wedding a few years later.  Their note came with a check and this sweet note, 
"It's ministry staff appreciation month so I thought I'd send a little something to help bring your little one(s) home.  Thank you for pouring yourself into a 16 year old boy and sticking with it even though he was only there for the girls and food!!"

  • Our church family lavishes love on us during October.  Since the October I was pregnant for Elena, we've received a big white envelope with some sort of crazy big gift stuffed in it.  Sometimes it's fist fulls of gift cards.  Sometimes it's weekend get-aways for our whole, huge family.  This year it was $1,000 worth of $20 bills and a note.  We've often wished we could properly thank these people, but they obviously want us to spend our time thanking God instead.  That's what we do because of them.  I can't express the encouragement they have brought to our family and now their encouragement is reaching across the ocean to a little person in an orphanage who doesn't even understand it yet.  Maybe our anonymous encourager is a blog reader, and you're able to feel a bit of the blessing you've given to us as you're reading....I hope so.  Here's the note that was as all cozied up with the cash:
"October is Pastor Appreciation Month!  Each year, in our effort to think of how to appreciate you and Lori, we give quite a bit of thought to what might provide the greatest blessing to the 2 of you.  This is somewhat of a difficult task (but an enjoyable one), as we can't ask for your input.  We seek God's direction, as to what He lays on our hearts.

This year we are sending some cash for you to use towards adoption expenses.  We realize that this is a bit different than what we have done in the past, but believe that this choice provides the greatest blessing to your family - and future family.  We hope we have hit the mark.

Please know that you are appreciated and this is a small way we can show that appreciation."

  • We found another envelope in the mailbox....with a love note and a check, expressing happiness at the thought of another nephew or niece!  Having family share our excitement is doubly important for us because they have more skin in the adoption game than everyone else.  They're the ones that have to do it with us, and didn't really get a choice.  These new Floridas will be  a part of their family as they become a part of ours.  It's such a gift to sense them hear God's call to us as God's call to them too.

  •  If you've been following our story, you remember some cool events that led us to another family in our town who recently adopted two lovely children from Ethiopia.  If not, the story is here.  We've met them, cooked-out together and shared stories...and their daughter, Kate has joined our fundraising team.  She sent us a check this month in a super-cute hand-made Ethiopian Adoption card from  the proceeds of cards she makes and sells.  Such a blessing to be surrounded by people who share you heart and will walk down the path with you and show you where to step! 

  • And then, another recent flooding from heaven came from a child-hood friend of mine.  Her family and mine used to vacation together when we were little.  I remember our Dads valiantly fighting off a swarm of bees that attacked my little sister and her little brother.  Her family moved across the country before we hit high school and I don't think we've seen each other since.  But through the wonders of facebook, her heart became connected to our adoption.  She decided to use a work bonus to help bring our baby home.  One more proof to me that this is God's work, not mine.

  • Work bonuses seem to be a theme this time of year.  Another fat one was laid in our lap through the hands of some loved ones....this one came with permission to be held back and used for the expenses "around" adoption if needed.  Apparently God knew what was coming next....

  • This next story may seem unrelated to adoption, but stick with me, it's in the thick of the adoption update.  We spent last weekend in Wisconsin and Chicago celebrating the wedding of one of our former youth groupers and spending a fun family day in Chicago.  Worn out and happy, we were within 30 minutes of home when the brakes woke me out of my comatose, dozing state.  I opened my eyes just in time to see the deer Scott was yelling about.  When I looked up, the 8 point buck was in full stride right in front of us.  One second later, he was dead where he landed
  • and our suburban was hissing and smoking.  The suburban's such a beast that we weren't even jolted enough to wake up the sleeping children, engage my seat-belt or deploy the air-bag.  We were safe, but the poor old suburban that had carried our family of 8 for the past 7 years had given up the ghost.  Our plans were that the old girl would limp along for another year until we could get the adoption under our belts and save up for an upgrade.  Adding a family member or two will mean that we've outgrown suburbans and will have to move into the really big family category of 12-15 passenger vans - and those aren't cheap!!   Or we could get a limo, Scott always likes to remind me.....wouldn't that be cute and convenient pulling up the car-pool lot at school?!  The best part of this story, though, is the thought that came to my heart just moments after the deer's and suburban's hearts stopped beating.  Old, tired Lori of a year ago would have started worrying before the crash actually happened.  New and improved, connected to the vine Lori got really excited about the OPPORTUNITY that had just occurred for God to do something amazing and unexplainable again!  I'm just praying that this paradigm shift of my heart is permanent - what a great way to live.  A problem becomes an adrenaline rush because my heart recognizes it as the uphill climb of the roller coaster that comes just before the good part!

I have to tell you-all what transpired as soon as I typed that silly little line about the bloggy angels singing....  Child called from school needing to be picked up early because of a raging headache, sister had to go potty - nap interrupted, husband dropped by for lunch, sons arrived home from school and changed my music to hip-hop, rest of kids needed to be picked up from school, homework needed to be monitored, dinner prep, sister woke up from nap with fever, my throat started aching......I have no idea what I though I was hearing, but now I know it certainly wasn't bloggy angels!  Right now, I'm a bit ragged and just glad we were able to push that baby out!

So, here's the low-down of where our adoption process stands today....thank you, thank you for being willing to put your heart on the line with us, can't tell you how loved and supported we feel.  But don't quit praying, and let's together fight the urge to let God's awesome, amazing acts stop stirring our hearts to awe because we're seeing so many of them.  Let's stay speechless....
  • Our homestudy is completed and paid for - $11,000
  • Our preliminary orphan immigration application has been sent to the Department of State with $890
  • There is almost $2,000 sitting in the adoption fund waiting for the next bill - can you believe it??!!
  • It can take up to 2 months to receive immigration approval back, we're praying for the fast track because I would really like to be on the waiting list by Christmas....
  • Our big project right now is gathering and notarizing documents for the dossier - our goal is to have it completed by the time our immigration clearance arrives.
  • We're hoping by Christmas to send our homestudy, immigration clearance & dossier to Ethiopia with the next big check (which will be $5,000-$6,000)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red-headed Blessings

We celebrated yesterday.  Florida baby #5 took the spotlight and had 24 hours of being the one with unlimited power to call trump.  It's so sweet to have a reason to stop the quest for fairness and unabashedly favor one above all others.  All of them deserve the chance to be the one and only for a bit.  I'm glad birthdays make it happen.

Elena's 8th birthday landed on a Sunday so it began with the "get ready for church" routine.  I woke her up a little more slowly with a few extra kisses and giggles.  Laney and I lingered in front of her closet debating over Sunday morning birthday attire.  She's got a little Fancy Nancy in her that peeks out between her tomboy efforts every now and then.  Fancy Nancy took over yesterday because of the hairstyle

One of Laney's besties had a birthday party on the hair salon.  We raced to the hair salon after a morning of soccer games.  Elena shed the muddy cleats and forgot the jammed finger she suffered during her big save in the goal as she walked into a cloud of glitter and hairspray.  The pretties worked their magic and left her feeling all soft and giggly. 

When Elena woke up the next day, on her birthday, the hairstyle was 12 hours old and needed a trip to hair  Momma's bathroom.  Lucky for me, I had thought ahead before bed the night before and done a little reconnaissance on the how-to's of her chosen hairstyl.  I knew it would be up to me to rebuild it for the birthday girl.  So Sunday morning, after carefully choosing an outfit, we set up in my room with supplies of hairspray, curling iron, bobby pins and sparkly butterfly clips carefully chosen in her favorite school colors.

Fixing up that head full of red hair brought me right back to the wee hours of the morning she was born, when I first saw her little red head.  Her birth was so fun, one of the best dates Scott & I ever had.

Contractions kinda snuck up on me and finally convinced me that they were real and regular by dinnertime.  We took our time, called Aunt Kathy to come hang out with the kids and treated them to a drive thru dinner in a bag from Wendy's.  I remember settling my 4 kids around the dining room table, doleing out ketchup packets and making sure the amount of fries in each container was even....just doing the Mom thing.  It was getting close to bedtime for my babies when Kathy got serious about shooing us out the door.  She said, "Go on!!  You get to go have a baby!!  Go meet this little person!!"  That's when the giddiness started, when I realized that a momentous world-altering event was breaking through our everyday evening routines!

We did linger long enough for Scott to start his wager ledger with the kids.  Florida baby #5 was the first baby to keep it's sex a secret through all the pre-natal ultrasounds.  Only Elena and her Heavenly Father knew what color knit cap would be used in a few hours.  Daddy couldn't resist the urge to make it a game.  Everyone recorded their predictions for gender, weight and time of birth.  We knew we were leaving for the hospital with plenty of time....expected the labor to take a few hours to really gear up and were actually looking forward to those golden moments of anticipation, just the two of us, in the delivery room.

We arrived at the hospital in a momentous cloud of anticipation...and the hospital staff joined us.  Every nurse and tech seemed to do their work in a celebratory mood. We settled in, Scott took wagers on the baby's stats from everyone who entered the room, and soon I started breathing deeper and focusing more.  The epidural did it's thing like a champ and turned the room back into a party.  While we waited for one last hour, we giggled, dreamed and talked to our new baby via video camera.  I love thinking about those sweet moments, all alone the two of us, anticipating one of the best things we've ever done...

Before long, it was time.  That moment is one like no other.  The whole world seems to stop and focus in on a small spot in time and space while the fabric of the world rips open as God delivers an un-deserved, hand-knit, beautiful gift into my arms.  This sparkly diamond moment is why TLC can run birthing stories all day long and women around the world can't stop the tears or tear themselves away from the TV.  Even on TV with people you don't know, it's magical.

Those few golden moments went by in slow motion, the good kind that lets you really soak it in.  And then, my sweet Doctor smiled and announced, "It's a girl!" with all the pomp and circumstance such an announcement deserved.

She was so beautiful....just the right amount of Florida chub, sweet little serious eyes and a halo of red hair.  We held her.  We touched her.  Daddy gave her her first bath and crooned to her in his sing-song Daddy voice.  We fell in love quickly and permanently with Elena Rose Florida.

A few hours later, when the room was quiet and dark, we called the grandparents who were waiting, wide-awake by the phone.  "The baby's here!" we told them that, but nothing else.  Her arrival was worthy of waking up 4 brothers and sisters who had no other reason to be up at 2 am and dressing them for a field trip.

They filed into the room one by one with awe on their faces.  The grandmas squealed when they saw the pink cap and squealed again when the red halo was revealed.  The sisters cutely and cautiously wanted to inspect fingers and toes, in awe of tiny and real. 

The brothers'disappointment at being outnumbered by girls melted with a warm baby sister filling up their arms.

The Florida family was never the same.  We are so glad and that's why we celebrated yesterday. 

Scott & I took Elena on a special date yesterday afternoon to visit one of her best friends in the world.  She hasn't seen him in about a year.  His name used to be Muscle, but now it's Seamus.  He's an Airedale puppy who was adopted by a sweet, sweet lady who not only loves him but also loves the little girl who took care of  him during his first 8 weeks of life.  He was Laney's special charge out of our first litter of puppies.  He wore the blue ribbon, she named him Muscle and she loved him fiercely. 

The day he went home with his new Momma, Laney cried, but they were happy tears.  She said that the happiness of watching him find a good home was bigger than the sadness of loosing him.  He's stayed large in her heart though, and in typical Laney style, he's been showered with prayers and special letters and artwork through the mail.  We figured a birthday was a perfect reason for a reunion.

Our birthday luncheon was a delicious celebration of the uniqueness Laney brings to our lives.  We enjoyed all of her favorite foods....chicken nuggets, waffle fries, fresh pineapple, Fritos' corn chips, a smorgasbord of pop choices and popsicles and mini sugar donuts for dessert.  As we dunked our nuggets, we showered Elena with one word descriptions of who she is.....artsy, fun, crazy (in a good way), creative, athletic, generous, unique....  That pretty much sums it up.  Our world without Elena would be a little flat and would lack a lot of things that give it color.

Happy Birthday sweet Elena Rose!  I'm so glad you were born and that you are mine!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Juicy Tidbits

Some news is just too juicy to keep to yourself.  Like a grade-school girl with a secret, almost before the news has time to settle in your own mind, you're imagining how fun it will be to tell someone else.  Know that feeling??  I've got it right now....

God's Word was juicy today.  My devotions need to go public.  It was so good I had a hard time forcing myself to finish and hear everything God wanted to say to me before I jumped up to tell you!  I need to share God's amazing-ness before the awe wears off! 

I hope you're familiar with the concept of a mental train because I'm gonna take you for a ride on mine!  I apologize in advance for the jerks and jolts along the way and warn you that when you're on my train, in my brain you need to be ready for unanticipated jumps of the tracks and flights of fancy, so buckle up!

If you've been watching my blog for long, or spending time with me in person during the last year, you've probably heard me talking about the way I'm using my journal with my Bible during my devotions.  I  journal a snapshot of the worries or joys in my heart on my way to the section of John I'm reading in my Bible.  (Yes, I'm STILL in John a year later!  The book is just so rich I'm crawling like a turtle through it!)  Journaling first helps my heart see, in bold black and white, that the compassions of the Lord are new every morning!  His Word is alive and powerful and He sets a fresh table full of His compassions every morning, just for me!  His Word has the ability to meet my specific needs even when I'm just methodically studying through a book and not hunting for my own answers.  God did it again today, let me show you!!

Here's this morning's journal entry:  "My head's racing with what I want to do, I've got a Martha sized list - instead I want to follow Mary's lead about who I want to be instead of what I want to do today.  I want to be the girl who sits at Jesus feet and listens to His Spirit speak.  I want to love my family by serving them.  So speak to me Jesus, move me and let my day and weekend be what you want it to be..."  I continued by listing things for each of my children that I would like God to do something about, ways I think they needed encouragement.

Then, I headed to my Bible.  On my way to John 10, I remembered that Scott had emailed me a link to a verse about a week ago that I had never checked out.  Apparently God wanted me to see it then, because not only did He remind me of it but He put the reference right there in my head!  So I detoured to Lamentations 2:19.  Here's what I found....

Arise, cry out in the night,
   as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
   in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
   for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
   at every street corner.

Do you see that?  Do you see God answering the thoughts of my heart with His Word??  Couple thoughts came immediately to my mind. 

1.  There had been a glaring omission in my journal list about my children - I only mentioned 6.  This paper pregnancy hasn't done a strong enough job of opening a couple new folders marked "Ethiopian Baby A" and "Ethiopian Baby B" in my brain yet.  I went back to my journal and added this:  "God, also fill the bellies of my little people in Ethiopia today.  Meet their needs for food & water and for soft hands and tender words.  Use someone to love them today."

2.  I realized I had worried aloud to God about my children in my journal, but I hadn't prayed, really.  And I certainly hadn't lifted up my hands to Him for the lives of my children.  I did that, and let me tell you, lifting my hands along with my heart for the lives of my children......!!  I can't even write about it without getting choked up.  Doing this, was doing something for my children that no one else can do.  Momma-prayer is so much better than Momma-worry.

3.  I am a skeptic sometimes and wonder if I'm twisting things to make them seem to be what they're really not.  Was I doing this by going to find my own Bible passage instead of sticking to the place in John I'm at?  So I didn't stop with the detour, even though it had been rich!  I ended the detour and got back to John 10.

John 10 has been teaching me about how Jesus tenderly cares for me as a good shepherd does for His sheep.  Verse 10 compares His care to the efforts of a thief.  As the thief is coming to steal, kill and destroy my life, my good shepherd is chasing me to protect my life....and not just life, but life to the full.  Fullness and satisfaction have been a recurring theme of growth in my life.  Jesus is my biggest satisfaction, the reason my life is full....but I'm frustratingly slow at living like it at times.  So, the chain reference in the side of my handy-dandy Thompson Chain Reference Bible that read "Satisfaction" caught my attention.

These chains are another reason my study of John has only taken me through only 10 chapters in the course of a year.  I want to understand and have these words and stories I'm reading penetrate my heart.  I've read John a whole lotta times since I first memorized John 3:16 as a child.  It's hard to hear the familiar words as fresh words from God.  Instead they sing through my mind like a beloved fairy tale if I don't wrestle with them and stare at them long and hard.  So, I follow a lot of the chains listed in the side of the passages in John. I take a topic from the verse that snags my soul and let the chain link me to other spots in the Word that speak of the same thing.  It's like picking up a pretty shell, brushing the sand off and holding it up to the sun while you turn it this way and that.

The pages rustled as I turned from page to page and I found my heart being bolstered with thoughts finding satisfaction by seeing the Lord's face as I awake.  I longed for God's river of delights and the abundance His house has to offer.  I was in awe of the benefits of salvation and the way God's work in my life drives out fear and lets me drink great gulps of joy from that well.  When I really sit still and look Him full in the face, God Himself brings me so much more satisfaction and full life than anything else I've ever found.  I'm so in awe of Him, and that He chooses me.

And then, here's where it gets good friends, I came to Isaiah 44:3-5.  Now, before I let you read it, I want you to get the whole experience, so click on the link below and you'll be hearing part of my morning's playlist, the exact song that "happened" to be playing as I read...pajama pants and a lukewarm cup of tea are optional!

3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
   and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
   and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
   like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’;
   others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
   and will take the name Israel.

Please just sit still and let your heart soak this up.  God Himself will reach down with a jug full of the living water of Himself and pour it on your thirsty parts, He will soften up your dry ground with the lush-ness of streams.  Do you feel the refreshment?  And if you don't break out in sobs at this next part, you're not a Momma!  God will pour out, not sprinkle or offer, but pour out His Spirit and blessing on my offspring!  My little babies, that I want so much for, will spring up like beautiful grass that grows unattended in a meadow.  They will be as strong as poplar trees growing in a place of nourishment and right-ness.  I will get to hear some of my beloved babies declare out loud that they are the Lord's.  Others of my sweet children will make a name for themselves that make it obvious that God has chosen them for greatness.  And still others will live a life in which God prevails.

Oh, and did you hear that?  Did you hear the lyrics of the song playing?  "....for here my soul is satisfied, within your presence...."  Coincidence?  I think not!

God brought satisfaction to my soul this morning, and to the journaled needs of my heart through His Word.  He reminded me that He is the source.  My satisfaction is utterly, totally, irrevocably dependant on my connection with Him.  And He did it through His living, active, powerful Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword.
In His sweetness, He also brings my life fullness and satisfaction through the way He works in my children's lives.  Oh, I know He doesn't promise lives free from pain, consequences and detours - for love to be love there has to be a choice.  I know that from the garden of Eden.  But He promises to be at work, to be doing things in my kids' hearts, to be acting on their behalf to draw their hearts, even the little ones, to Himself. He does it in spite of me and for my benefit. That's enough to bring me satisfaction and peace. 

How can He do this for me day after day and yet there are still days that I'm too busy with my Martha list to have a Mary moment?  God's Word, God's heart....aren't they amazing??!!  Writing this certainly wasn't on my list of things that needed to be done today!  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'm so glad I sat at Jesus feet today instead of running off on my own!  It was satisfying to share my plate of goodness with you today!  Can't wait to see what juicy tidbits He's already cooking up to set on the table for me tomorrow!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Floodgates & A Big Paid Bill

I've been in a perpetual state of "on the verge of tears" for the past year.  It's my new normal...and I really like it.  Well, I don't like the "cotton behind my eyes swollen headache" feeling that always comes with it.  But I do like the "I am so in love with and in awe of this God who's doing stuff that my heart might burst" feeling that gets left behind with the headache. 

Here's some of the moments over the last week that have made my girls ask me if I'm ok...

  • One afternoon I got a text on the way to pick up my girls from school.  It was a friend asking me if I was there yet....  I wasn't and wondered what reason for meeting up with her I was forgetting.  As I parked, she ran up to my window with a paper envelope and a fabric envelope, one from her son and one from her.  She gave me a smooch on the cheek, ran back to her car and pulled out of the lot before I got the envelopes open.  The paper one contained cash and a note that read, "Dear Florida family, My brother and our mom went to Meijer to put our pop cans in.  After we got the money from the pop cans I asked my mom if we could give it to you for the baby.  So here it is."  That's dripping with junior high boy tender-heartedness and primed my tear ducts for action.  The fabric envelope turned them on full force.  It contained a gold bracelet and necklace and a note that said, "Lori, It's gold.  Sell it.  Use the $ to bring that sweet baby(ies) home.  Love you...."  I had to text her back right away to tell her a story.  Our texting convo went something like this:  "Me:  Oh. My. Goodness.  Are you really that connected to God?  I heard a commercial on the radio this morning about selling gold and wished I had some to sell for our baby.  I'm gonna cry.  Her:  Don't cry.  That's crazy!  How sweet of God!  I went to bed last night crying to God that I wanted to find a way to help even though our business has been slow and He woke me up saying, 'You've got gold girl!'  Me:  I'll cry if I want to!  It's not a family heirloom is it?  Her:  Family heirlooms are over-rated....."  We used up a bunch of texts as she told me that the bracelet had been a gift from her parents on her wedding day and she was so thankful to God for the gift of a way to help.  I don't even know what to say to that....

  • Last weekend I was able to have the pulpit for a solid hour at the Lake Ann Camp Ladies Retreat.  If you remember how this all got started, much of it came from the way God breathed life back into my tired, dry heart last year at this very retreat.  This year they asked me to do a workshop to tell my story, from then to now - what God's done.  It was so cool to get a bird's eye view of my own life - to see a year of God's fingerprints in a boiled down 1 hour format.  As the hour wrapped up and the ladies started to get up from their seats, a few turned my way instead of toward the door.  These sweet ladies were so encouraging to me.  They told me stories of God working in their lives, of adoption and experiences in Africa and one lady pulled out her checkbook and started writing.  As I assured her that donations were not my intention but instead God's glory, she kept writing and assured me that God had told her to give it.  Another $100 closer....

  • A friend at church slipped an envelope into hands Sunday morning at church.  I thanked her for it and put it in my Bible and forgot about it until we got home and my sister reminded me.  A sweet note and another $100 closer....

  • My sister and her family pulled a tear-jerker on me right out in the middle of our busy church parking lot the same Sunday morning.  They got our whole family to come out to their car with them and unveiled their garage sale bounty.  Their car was decorated with the posters that had been up at their sale surrounding a pickle jar jammed full of money.  The posters had drawings of Africa and baby footprints on them and said, "Change the world one orphan at a time" and "Help us bring our new cousin home!" 3 garage sale weekends plus a whole lot of kind-hearted neighbors gave them a $1,417.13 pickle jar!  That took a HUGE bite out of the reminder of this bill - put us so close we could taste it!  I've got a running list in my head of all the things their family could have done with that money - they have needs too - but they chose to give it to our baby instead.  Amazing, once again I'm in awe of God and the people who listen to Him. 

  • Monday, as we were getting ready for dinner, there came a little knock at our door.  I called Izzie & Chloe to answer it because I've learned to recognize the knock of my friend's daughter.  We became neighbors as well as friends when we moved into this house and have enjoyed an easy sharing of kids for the past few years.  This time, though, she didn't just come for my daughters.  She came like the wise men, bearing gifts, with a decorated jar in hand. The jar was full of her savings...for my baby.  Apparently 10 year olds are hearing God speak about tears!

  • Last Thursday night I realized the adoption account was pretty darn close to the remaining amount of our bill.  We were close enough that our regular budget could kick in the remainder and get it done!  So I wrote a check (actually, did an online bill-pay, but that just doesn't write as well, does it?!) for the rest!  The first big bill is PAID!!!Now, when the account builds up to $875 we'll be petitioning the State Department for permission to immigrate.  Action will happen, a thing will get checked off the list that will put us closer to our little African Florida person!

But it's more than the "stuff" God's doing.  It's just Him.  I am being left in awe every day.  Years ago I wanted to be a writer but felt like I didn't have anything worthwhile to say.  This year of feeling God re-hydrate my heart and give me a front row seat to watch him be BIG has turned that feeling upside down.  Now I'm writing blog posts in my head every day, I've got more to say than I can.  The "empty page" syndrome I get now freezes my brain because I can't figure out where to go first or how to put all the swirling thoughts together rather than wondering what I should write about. 

And it's that other stuff, the things going on between me and God in my heart, that will have to wait till the next post.  I've got a lot more stories to tell, just from this past week, and I don't want to forget any of them.  The way God's making my heart swell, giving me glimpse after glimpse of Him, connecting the dots in my brain and leaving me breathless - it's good stuff friends and I want to tell you everything!!  Keep watching - very soon, the next time I find a few quiet moments strung together,  I'll tell you about taking LEAPS and how I'm becoming an adrenaline junkie!!  Until then....what glimpses of Himself has God been giving you?  Do share.....I could use another reason to cry!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Floodgates Update - via cash, cars, clarinets & peanut butter tubs!

I sent a $5,787.76 check to Bethany Christian Services today with "Florida Family Adoption" in the memo line.  Sent chills down my arms!!  This thing is real!  All these papers, checks, prayers and checklists WILL turn into a sweet little person in my arms someday....ok, just added a lump in my throat to the chills on my arms!

Sorry it's been so long without an adoption hasn't been because God's stopped working, He's like the energizer bunny!  It's because I keep waiting for the perfect creative, stress-free moment to craft an update that's all packaged up pretty with a ribbon on top.  Not waiting're gonna have to be happy with whatever I can slap together in the next 20 minutes while trying to keep "messy house ignoring" blinders on!!

The update can be summarized like this...."It's pointless to keep wearing mascara because God keeps doing stuff that makes me cry!"  Today Ginger saw me tearing up and asked in a concerned 2 year old voice, "Mommy, are you crying?"  I assured her that they were only happy tears because of good things.  She snorted and said I was silly...

We got the bills in the mail - the first big chunk to pay to Bethany before we go any farther.  We owe Bethany $9,600 and then right after that we'll need to send a check to the State Department for $875.  So $10,475 is the number to be praying over with your hands raised in expectation today!  (Thanks for teaching me to pray that way Laura C!!  I'll never be the same!)

Well, the floodgates haven't shut....they're still open above the Florida house!

Our family members handed us a check for $2,000.....just handed it to us like it's no big deal....for them to hand out checks like that or for us to receive them....  $2,000!! That's is big deal!  A very big deal!  That's a big chunk towards the bill sitting here on my desk!  Praise God for His abundance and for family that's walking with us so completely!  They also gave us a either keep or sell for adoption money!  Turns out, this van has more seats than Scott's car so we're planning to keep this van and sell Scott's, since large cars seem to be our inevitable fate!  Anyone in the market for a nice little silver Taurus??  All proceeds will go to the "Florida Family Adoption!!"

We've been getting cryptic emails, phone calls and facebook messages lately.  Things like, "What's your address, we need to send you something."  "Watch for me at school, I've got something for you..."  I can't believe how far and wide God is speaking and how you people's so humbling and encouraging!

An old friend from high school....we went to high school over 20 years ago ya'll....was one of those messages.  We gave the address and not too long later got a sweet note and check in the $160 check in the it's no big deal!  Such encouraging words too...
"It's so much fun when the Lord lays something on your heart and you follow His leading. 
Your adoption was immediately on my heart. 
I talked about it with my husband and here we are! 
God is truly amazing isn't he?!?
Looking forward to seeing pictures when your new family member arrives!"
Words like that are priceless to me.  They give me so much strength as they keep it obvious to me that God is doing something and it's not just some little scheme of Lori!  Thank you dear friends, for the words and the check, they both were just what we needed!!

A peanut butter jar made me cry in the school parking lot!  A family with 3 gallant young sons in my girls' classes have been very supportive of our adoption.  We talk a lot in the halls, field trips and parking lots and I've felt a lot of "kindred spirit bonding" kind of stuff happening when we're together.  Their boys are the kind of kids that make you do a fist pump and yell "yes" when you find out that they're in a class with your daughter.  This family is raising kind, strong men that stand out in a crowd.  Their mom, my friend, handed me a gift bag in the parking lot the other day.  When I opened it, this is what I found...

...with $75 in it.  Very. Big. Deal!

And then today....  I teared up mightily at the computer as I read a message from a sweet church friend.  We were working out a deal for me to buy her clarinet for my 5th grade new "band-ie."  Instead of the asked for price, she sent me a message expressing her excitement that God had answered her prayer for a way that she could help with our adoption.  She decided that her clarinet should come to us as a gift so that we could put the money we would have spent on it toward the adoption.  I am so amazed at the creative ways God does His thing....I mean, could I really have thought to pray for that?!  Thank you friend, for meeting the needs of more than one of my children with your clarinet!

So that's how the floodgates have been opening these past few weeks.  We're nearing the end of the first big milestone....just $3,422.24 away from having an approved homestudy and immigration clearance.  The next step after that will be sending our dossier and next big payment on to Ethiopia to get ourselves on that waiting list!  Maybe by Thanksgiving??  We hope, but God knows! 

We've still got a looong way to go but these are steps worth celebrating!!  Between the $1,265 from the Ordinary Hero fundraisers and the check I sent today, God's taken a $7,052.76 sized bite out of the financial piece of this adoption!  He said He would....let's keep believing!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Enough Fingers....

Today's the day my baby girls no longer have enough fingers to show their age.  And it's unlikely that such refined, grown-up ladies will whip off their shoes to throw a toe into the mix!

Izzie & Chloe's birth story is so much more than the incredible story of their's the story of a really sweet Heavenly Father who heard the secret longings of my heart and gave me the cake with the fancy icing and the cherry on top.

I recently found a letter that I had written to a friend a few years ago who was worried about a pregnancy she thought was in trouble.  I told her my story.  Listen in....

I have to tell you that I really know how crazy and awful your heart felt this weekend... I've got some stories to tell you about my life!  One of the points our pastor made in the sermon this Sunday was that when we are going through troubles, God comforts us, not just to make us comfortable, but so that we can comfort others.  I thought right away of the comfort God has give me through my pregnancy troubles and felt like I should share my story with you and hopefully also share the comfort God has give me.  I'm warning you... I don't know how to make it short!!!  Sorry!

 My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at about 9 weeks and it was emotionally devastating for me especially, and I think Scott too.  I wanted that baby so badly and I suddenly found myself worried about if I would ever be able to have children, wondering what I had done wrong and questioning a lot of the things I thought I was sure about in my relationship with God.  Honestly, I was really mad at God for a while and mad at Scott that he wasn't mad at God too!  For me, much of my faith finally came down to two things I knew I believed  in spite of how I was feeling:

1)When I don't understand life I can still trust God's character - He is trustworthy, good and gentle with me and that won't ever change.  Psalm 103 helped build my trust... it reminds me about all the blessings God has given me (vs. 2-6), how instead of treating me as my sins deserve, He loves to tenderly take care of me as His child (vs.10-14) and especially that His plan for my life is one that will satisfy my desires with good things (vs. 5).  I found myself reading this over and over and slowly my emotions followed my trust in God to be doing what was right and good for me rather than my circumstances.

Psalm 103

Of David.
 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
       all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
       and forget not all his benefits-
 3 who forgives all your sins
       and heals all your diseases,
 4 who redeems your life from the pit
       and crowns you with love and compassion,
 5 who satisfies your desires with good things
       so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
 6 The LORD works righteousness
       and justice for all the oppressed.
 7 He made known his ways to Moses,
       his deeds to the people of Israel:
 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.
 9 He will not always accuse,
       nor will he harbor his anger forever;
 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
       or repay us according to our iniquities.
 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
       so great is his love for those who fear him;
 12 as far as the east is from the west,
       so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
       so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
 14 for he knows how we are formed,
       he remembers that we are dust.
 15 As for man, his days are like grass,
       he flourishes like a flower of the field;
 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
       and its place remembers it no more.
 17 But from everlasting to everlasting
       the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
       and his righteousness with their children's children-
 18 with those who keep his covenant
       and remember to obey his precepts.
 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
       and his kingdom rules over all.
 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
       you mighty ones who do his bidding,
       who obey his word.
 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
       you his servants who do his will.
 22 Praise the LORD, all his works
       everywhere in his dominion.
       Praise the LORD, O my soul.

2)Romans was really important to building my trust in God too.  I knew and believed that God had graciously provided a free gift of salvation for me that I didn't deserve because I was a sinner.  I kept coming back to that... if God really loved me that much, enough to let His own Son die so that I could have a relationship with Him when I had absolutely nothing of value to offer back, would He now be mean to me and hold-out on me???  My prayers began to change from "Why didn't you stop this God?" to "I know that you love me and have already given me more than I deserve - help me trust you while I wait for you to satisfy this intense desire I have to be a mom."
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

I got pregnant again right away and had two trouble free pregnancies with Riley & Trevor.  But then when we began trying for baby #3 the same problems started looming.  I got pregnant easily, but at 9 weeks trouble started.  Went for the ultrasound and received bad news.  I went right back to those things I had learned the first time and God was gentle and kind with my emotions.  He gave me the help of my friends. 

I got pregnant again and this time found out something was wrong at a check-up where we couldn't find the heartbeat.  It ended up being a very rare condition that can possibly lead to cancer so the doc told me I had to wait for 6 months to try again while they watched me closely. 

Well, by this time, we were thinking that we should seriously look into adoption.  We began researching and praying and I fell in love with the idea of a little girl from China.  As Scott & talked and prayed about it, we admitted to each other and to God, that our dream would really be to adopt twin girls from China

About this time I got pregnant again and it honestly scared me to death.  I was feeling really good about the adoption option and really afraid of going through the pain of losing a baby again.  At 9 weeks we had the same trouble we had seen before.  I think I had put my emotions on hold because of my fear and was really "matter of fact" and unemotional about it this time.  I scheduled the ultrasound knowing that there wouldn't be any good news for me.  I remember the tears pooling up in my ears while I laid on the table and stared at the ceiling.  The tech kept the screen turned away from me for the longest time, another bad sign.  Finally, she turned it to us and I'll never forget her words, "The baby looks fine, the heartbeat is healthy and the best part of my job is to tell you that you're having twins!" 

I have never in my life  gone so quickly from such a low point to such a high point.  I remember going home to call my friends who had been praying and give them the good news!  My doctor put me on progesterone and my pregnancy was a breeze.  A few months later we went for the ultrasound that would tell us the secret of our babies sex - and can you believe it - twin girls!! I felt like God was saying, "Just keep trusting me darling - I know the desires of your heart and I love to fulfill them." 

Right from the start, being a mom has been an intensely spiritual journey for me.  It has tested my faith, forced me to confirm for myself that I believed the truth of the Bible and had something real to pass on to my kids, and really pushed me to "grow up" as a child of God by refining my character.  I wouldn't trade this part of my life for anything, even with all it's emotions and ups and downs! 

So, sweet daughters of my dreams, know how loved you are today, how wanted and longed for you were years ago, and how your life proves the goodness and tenderness of our Heavenly Father!  Happy Birthday!

A Good Man

I've found myself breaking out into tears over a lot of simple things today.  The more everyday and normal a thing, the more golden it seems and teary it's making me.

Our church family lost a good man today....a good man who was a good husband, a good father. 

I'm married to a good man.  I'm feeling how every simple action I'm taking would have been totally different if my good man had been the one to take his last breath today.  The tears that came without warning as I pulled toast out the toaster today were because everything, ev-er-y-THING, would be wrong, off-kilter, horrifying if I were doing it with the ugly knowledge that I was making one piece of toast less than I made yesterday.

I find myself imagining the pain his wife and girls are feeling tonight as they're faced with the sun going down on the day their good man died...and it stops me in my tracks taking my breath away.  How do you sleep in a bed alone with the worst pain you've ever encountered?  How do you face a hamper full of his lovely, dirty clothes?  How do pack your girls' backpacks with school supplies when all you can think about is who won't be walking them down the aisle someday?

He was a good, good man.  He was in the thick of a life that mattered, living humbly and acting righteously.  If his wife and girls are crying that it's not fair tonight, they're right.  It's not fair.  It's not fair at all.  It's horribly wrong.  It's ugly.  It makes me mad.  It's not the way little girls are supposed to go to bed or barely middle-aged wives are supposed to wake up.  They're going to be spending a lot of time with the question, "Why?"

But if I know anything about the husband and Daddy that was taken from them today....I'm pretty sure that I know he's left them with the answer.  As the "why's" echo through their hearts over and over today, tomorrow and as time goes by, I think they're gonna hear other echo's, in a familiar voice, that answer with the truth he left behind.

Their Daddy's voice is going to remind their hearts that....
     ...they still have a good Father who's heart hurts with every tear they cry.
     ...that their Heavenly Father will never leave them.
     ....that all things work together for their good, even ugly things like this.

Her husband's voice will whisper to her that....
     ...God is really good. All. The. Time.
     ...that God will strengthen and carry her and calm her fears.
     ...that God will satisfy her heart with good things.

Because he lived the Gospel.  He lived, in front of them, the power of Christ's redemption over the ravages of sin in the world.  God didn't plan it this way....He didn't create a world where Daddy's hearts give out when they're 38 and deeply loved husbands have to be taken off of life-support less than a week after they left for work healthy and strong. 

God created the Garden of Eden for his beloved humans, He gave them paradise.  God didn't do this.  Sin did it.  The selfish sin in the Garden of Eden started the nasty spiral into death that left us crying, "it's not fair!" today.  Sin is the ultimate cancer that's infected our world.  It leaves us gasping for breath and knowing deep in our souls that something is profoundly broken in our world.  But, God will not be thwarted, His plan will prevail, even as sin has it's way for a while.  Because, as my friend taught his daughters, Christ has conquered death, and stolen the sting of death out of Satan's arsenal.  Oh, death can knock the wind out of believers, it causes us great pain.  But death cannot crush us.  Just as the power of the cross restores our hearts to freedom, it restores our hope with the resurrection.  Sin turned the Garden of Eden into a minefield full of dangers.  The cross paved narrow paths of safety and hope with a guide offering comfort as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

The lost of a good man has left us grieving today.  But that good man would want the very pain his loss caused to be swallowed up by the care of a Good Father.  He would tell us to be mad at sin, not mad at God.  He would want us to see all the ways God is protecting us, even today, from the full ugliness of sin. 

And he wouldn't want the world to stand still, as it feels like it should today.  He would ask us to hold up his beloved family as they stagger under the weight of emptiness.  He would tell us to live deeply our everyday moments with the ones we love. He would expect us to trust our Good Father with the fullness of today as well as the emptiness of tomorrow.  He would want us to savor making every piece of toast...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jello Love

Can I just say that I love potlucks??  I really love them.  I love the anticipation and day-dreaming about lovelys I'll get to put on my Styrofoam plate.  The old friends are routinely there, like warm flannel pj pants..... cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, baked beans... 

But it's the new loves cuddled up in their Tupperware that draw me like a hummingbird.  I love trying new foods.  I love trying at least one bite of things, just for the bragging rights....toad stir-fry, chicken hearts.  I think this side of me was born when my Dad dared his 10 year old Lori to eat a frog leg and 14 year old Lori to order Wild Boar off the menu.  It's especially fun if I'm not quite sure what it is!  (The only time this didn't work out so well was in Thailand....found out into the second bite that the sweet little dumplings in my soup weren't dumplings, but blood clots. My apologies, if you're snacking while reading...) 

The jello salads slowly brought in and deposited on the long tables by the grandmas are the best for adventures.  You can never quite tell what's lurking beneath until it's in your mouth....and even then you've gotta sleuth it out by texture and taste, or the occasional "pull it out of your mouth quick to get a peek at it" when it just won't give up the secret.  And they're so full of surprises...apparently there are no rules about what's allowed in a jello salad....fruit, marshmallows, vegetables... a skilled jello architect can make almost any combination seem right.  Those sneaky little jello salads show up on every table too, don't let the word "salad" in the name  fool ya.  I've seen those stinkers on the salad table, dessert table and everywhere in between. 

Another cool thing about the jello salads is that you know the person who brought it was really committed to the whole potluck thing.  This person isn't like me....someone who swings by the store on the way in for a "2 bags of chips = a salad" or even the person who remembers the night before and stays up late so they're offering qualifies as homemade.  Oh no...the jello salad requires so much more.  It's like a lady who needs to be thoughtfully courted....ingredients must be gathered... boiling, then chilling, then combining and mixing and chilling again.  Forethought, planning and time - jello can't be a one-stop cooking experience if you're gonna do it right....old lady style. 

And then there's the jello coup-de-grace...the beautifully, tupperwarely molded jello extravaganza.  Every time I put a slice of one of these wonders on my plate angels sing, sunbeams hit my plate and I'm amazed again at the ingenuity of  the modern woman in the kitchen.  Who would thought something so delicious could also be art.

My love for potluck jellos is so thick that it can't even be slowed by those rare jellos that disappoint.  Every now and then, a veteran jello maker gets over-eager, can't just rest in their past victories and dips their toe too far into jello schizophrenia....there are some things that just shouldn't be put in jello, my dears.  And then there's the newbies....this is why I don't do jello.  Looks so simple, but girls, it really should be left to the professionals.  Unless you've been mentored in the art be someone with more white hair than not, you might end up bringing a bowl full of that gritty stuff that gives jello a bad name.

Church potlucks are, by far, the best place to eat jello salad....I can eat it spontaneously and know that I'll be getting the good stuff, made by a white-haired professional.  I met a new jello today....a nicely molded slice... opaque, creamy yellow....full of...I'm not quite sure.  But it was yummy, yummy, yummy....

So, I guess, I'd have to say that it's the jello.  Yep, jello love is why I love church potlucks so much!  What a lovely way to spend a Sunday...

Hey...if that made you hungry for some yummy jello can head over to Ordinary Hero, help us with our adoption fundraiser...and buy some!!  We get 40% of the purchase price of every jello salad ordered and we're in another race for a $500 grant to the top 3 sellers this week! Ok...they don't really sell jello salad, you'll have to make your own or crash a church potluck....but they do sell tees with a message and donation kits to help hungry, needy kids in click below and check it out!!
Choose "Scott & Lori Florida" from the affiliate pull-down menu when you check out!  Thanks!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

3 Cheers!! Our Home has Officially Been Studied!!

Got the email this past week....not THE email, the one with a picture of the cutest baby in Ethiopia attached....but the email with another attachment called 'The Completed HomeStudy.'  This is a big deal!  The giant first step.

It was a strange feeling to read a boiled down 10 page version of my life.  I felt like I was on a ladder peeking into my own windows.  If there ever was a "long story short," this is it.   Our social worker did a really good job pulling the marrow out of our interviews and leaving the rest alone.  At one point, social worker Kim asked Scott what originally attracted him to me.  The HomeStudy reads, " Scott was attracted to Loretta’s love for God, her family, and her willingness to pursue fulltime ministry. "  I like that, sounds good for Pastor Scott to be attracted to his future wife by such things.  The whole story's just un-necessary....I mean really, who in Ethiopia needs to know that the first comment out of his mouth after that question was about the hot-ness of my legs.  Probably doesn't factor much into my fitness as an adoptive mother...sounds more like ad copy.  So, we're thankful for Kim's insight and keen sifting ability. We sound like a pretty nice American family....I have to admit I was impressed with the "HomeStudy Us."

We are the first of three people who need to proof-read it and send it back to Kim with approval.  When that's done....the first big invoice will start making it's way through the postal service to our mailbox.  The sand is running through the hourglass on this one.  It's pretty important that we pay that bill right away and keep things moving to avoid bumping up against our police clearance expiration date.  They want to make sure there hasn't been any time for us to mis-behave between our clean bill of felony health and choosing to let us adopt a child!  After the bill's paid we'll be cleared to send our HomeStudy to Immigration and begin assembling our Dossier.  The Immigration Clearance will give us a green light to pay the second big bill and send the whole shebang to Ethiopia and get ourselves on the golden waiting list.

We're excited!!  So excited!!  One big step closer to bringing our baby home!  Or as Ginger would say..."My little brother's in Eefiopeeea and he's cryyyyying.  I want to take care of him."  I can't wait to get him (or her) in my arms either!

In the mean-time, we're still trying to work every fundraising open door God puts in front of us.  The day after our HomeStudy came I got an email from Ordinary Hero.  We totally knocked out the competition in a grant contest they hosted last month, won the grant and deposited $1,159 into our adoption fund!  The email announced another week-long grant contest starting today.  I really hesitated....our friends and family came through in such a big way last time, but my first thought was, "How many t-shirts can I ask people to buy??!"  After having two friends mention that they were planning another purchase, having others ask me to let them know when the next contest starts, feeling the weight of the pending invoice and getting a pep-talk from a friend about "just putting it out there and letting people do what they're gonna do..."  it seemed as if we should do just that. 

So, I'm putting it out there.  This contest works just like the last....we get 40% of all purchases and the top 3 sellers of the week earn an extra $500.  You'll be seeing lots of facebook posts in the next week.  Use them as reminders to pray, reminders to buy tees or goats to feed African kids if the Spirit leads, and as reminders to repost and help us spread the word.  But please, don't feel any pressure along with the posts....I can't stand that, it would stress me out! 

Let's get comfortable on the couch together....grab some popcorn and get ready to watch.  God's gonna do what He does best....and that's always a show worth paying attention to!  He'll be making something out of nothing....either through the Ordinary Hero contest or something beyond what I could even cook up in my own little brain as something to ask for.  The lights are dimming, the previews have started and the feature presentation is just around the corner.....I'm getting goosebumps!!
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Magnetic People

There's a curious phenomenon I'm noticing...something like a magnetic force between the hearts of people who share a common cause.  Like iron shavings that come to life and are irresistibly drawn to a magnet, I'm discovering a band of people with a bewitching charm I can't resist.  I find myself wondering if I'm suddenly sensitized in a new way to people who care about adoption in my world who were surrounding me all along.  Probably....but there has also been a steady troupe of people showing up in my life that only God could have sent.

Early on, soon after we made ourselves officially "paper pregnant" and chose Bethany as the place to make it happen, I was unconsciously yearning for a specific new friend.  I don't know anyone closely who has walked the path we're on.  I've read a lot of encouraging blogs chronicling Ethiopian adoption processes of great people from hither and yon.  And I rub shoulders with a bunch of amazing people who've adopted from near and far.  What I my heart was yearning for was someone with all the common denominators....Ethiopia, physical near-ness, and Bethany Christian Services.  My heart was yearning, and little did I know, God was already moving iron shaving  hearts towards me.

It was a two-pronged approach. 

The first prong began in a 4th grade classroom with a little girl who wrote a note and a teacher with a tender heart.  Chloe was so excited to share our adoption news with her beloved teacher and chose to do it on paper.  She made her announcement and then wrote...."We don't really know how we are going to do it (we need God's help). So we are also doing it to make Jesus famous because we can't do it without him." Well, that teacher "just happens" to have two roommates, sisters, who's family brought a brother and sister home from Ethiopia last year! In fact, the two sisters and their friend were on the verge of a missions trip back to the orphanage and birth mom in Ethiopia who loved on their siblings before they were adopted. (You can get a cool snapshot of the place our little one is likely to come from on their blog here...  Chloe's teacher immediately sent me an email linking me to their blog and emails....pushing those iron shavings closer and closer together.

The second prong came through one of my former high school small group girls.  She had gone off to Chicago for college as her parents moved to Thailand as missionaries.  During summer and holiday breaks she spent time at friends' families homes, one of which she wanted me to meet .  I got a facebook message from her, the same week as the email from Chloe's teacher, connecting me with the same family as Chloe's teacher!  And, she happened to mention, they had adopted through Bethany.

As icing on the cake, I realized that there was a actually a third prong in this connection.  Reading through this family's blog, brought me to a picture of the dad....and brought me to tears when I realized how many avenues God had been working to bring my heart just what it needed.

He was "that guy."  I had glossed over Chloe's teacher's comment that the dad worked at a camp the 4th grade had visited on a field trip that year.  In fact, I had chaperoned 3 forth grade field trips to this camp and come home each time with stories for Scott about "that guy" at the camp that just had something special about him.  The way he taught the kids about nature, loved the world and life and connected with the kids made him look suspiciously like a follower of Jesus to me and the kind of guy who you think you could easily become good friends with.  When I scrolled down far enough in the blog to stumble across a picture of him, all the pieces of God's good work for my benefit fell into place and I fell apart into tears of amazement.

We've been chatting on facebook....our unlikely band of brothers....Chloe's teacher, my former senior high student, "that guy" and his great wife and their two daughters.  We've become friends, kindred spirits...and we're working on a time this month to get together in person and share life - can't hardly wait!!

One of the daughters who spent part of June in Ethiopia, Kate, has also offered herself toward our fundraising.  She makes some pretty cool and canvases....and donates her proceeds towards the care of orphans.  She has generously offered her newest two lines  to help us bring our little person/people home!  Check out her on any to see more...

Now you can call all that coincidence....but I think that would take a whole lot of faith.  And it would have to be faith in something mindless and random, which seems to me like a poor place to trust.  Or you can admit that having all these dots connect at just the right moment in just the right hearts had a whole lot of purpose behind it....loving, thoughtful purpose. 

Iron shavings drawn together out of more than random magnetic force, but for a purpose by a loving Father who uses iron to sharpen iron as He accomplishes His purposes. 

This is God's story, from beginning to end.  This curious, magnetic-like phenomenon is just one more evidence.