Monday, May 23, 2011

Floodgates

"Bring the whole tithe to the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it...Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land." Malachi 3:10 & 12

It's time to start publicly praising God for opening up His floodgates for this adoption.  Thursday, after the school pick-up rounds were made, we made our usual stop at the mailbox as we drove into the neighborhood.  I always flip through the stack and open anything interesting while I'm sitting there.  That day a card caught my attention.  I opened it, jumped, felt my breath leave me and started crying all at once as a check fell into my lap.  The kids instantly got quiet and Trev leaned over to ask what was wrong.  "Nothing's wrong, everything's right!"  I said as I held up the check.  $2,000, with "adoption fund" written in the memo line.  I think I could hear the scraping of those floodgates being cranked open.

A note card with Malachi 3:10 & 12 has been camped out above my kitchen sink since I followed a link of verses to it during my devotions a week or so ago.  I've been using it, as I wash dishes, to control my prayers and thoughts about the fee deadlines I see looming in the not too distant future.  Worry and fear can be such constant companions when God's Word isn't wide open in my heart every moment.  So, the gasping and tears weren't just about the money, although that was a really big deal!  They were about being heard by the Lord Almighty who throws open floodgates of heaven and pours out blessing. 

So, I need to say an out-loud, emphatic, joyful thank you to Jesus, for hearing our prayers, for answering with your presence and with the resources to follow your call.  And thank you, sweet givers, for answering your call from God and connecting it with ours.





Thursday, May 19, 2011

Homestudy Appointment #4

Here's where we are right now.  Scott & I have met our social worker, Kim, at her office 3 times to spend 1 1/2 hours talking about ourselves.    She asked the questions and we rambled, probably giving her more answers than she really needed.  The questions ranged from, "Who was the first one to bring up adoption?" to "What are the strengths and weaknesses of your marriage?" to "Describe your home growing up..." to What does your usual weekly schedule look like?"  That last one took a while to answer...which schedule is our usual one?  Soccer, beginning of school, kick-off of ministries fall schedule?  End of school field trips & programs, track & rugby, get-ready-for-a-missions trip spring schedule?  Or the school's out, sleep in, camping and summer camp schedule? 

This past Monday was the BIG homestudy meeting, the one where Kim came to us, at our house, to meet the kids and interview them.  Which meant having a clean house and well-mannered kids all at the same time.  Sometimes it seems like that happens as often as Haley's Comet comes around!  Now, don't get me wrong, my house is clean....sometimes, and my kids are well-mannered....often - but getting those things to all happen simultaneously???? Oh my goodness....give Momma an Excedrin.  And did I mention that this was all supposed to happen on my 19th Anniversary?  The whole time I was cleaning Monday, I found myself imagining Kim's usual homestudy appointments.  A young couple, fresh with the glow of a new marriage, a home with every drawer neatly organized (I actually remember saying out loud to Scott once during our first year of marriage that this keeping a home thing was pretty easy...I always had everything done and found myself looking for projects....glad I didn't say that out loud to my mother or other older, wiser women!), and a beautifully decorated nursery just waiting for the anticipated baby, maybe a toddler playing quietly in the other room.  Well, Kim, welcome to the Florida home, the new face of adoption!

It took some figuring to get a time when all the kids could be here during her work day and not miss their practices and events.  We figured it out and it went like this.... I picked Trevor and Elena up from school at 3 and 3:15 respectively.  Kim met us at our house at 4:30....Scott, Trev, Laney, Ging, me and the overly-friendly dog.  From the moment she walked in, everything suddently looked to me like a threat to a new little person fresh from an environment completely other than mine.  Would the dog freak him/her out?  Is the house perpetually too loud??  Will they have to spend too much time in a carseat as I pick everyone else up from school, track, soccer, rugby, etc?  With a deep breath I tried to remind myself that whatever I have to offer today is enough to be worth offering.....Jesus can do whatever He wants with it.  I introduced Kim to the kids who were home and she started the individual interviews with Trev on the patio.  Elena went second, and then Ginger, kinda, she just smiled and hugged her.  By that time my friend Darcy had dropped Izzie & Chloe off from their after school event and we sent them to the back yard one at a time to meet with Kim.  Scott & Trevor headed out the door to deliver Trev to rugby practice. 

During a lull, Kim joined me at the kitchen table.  We chit-chatted and I put out a cheese and cracker plate.  After we had been talking for a bit I realized that the sweet baby on my lap had been stuffing her mouth with cheese and then ejecting the well-chewed pile back onto the serving plate.  That explains why Kim didn't seem hungry.  While I was correcting that, Laney came through the kitchen riding the dog....Laney was loving it, a look of pride on her face that conveyed her thought that surely Kim would appreciate this fine show of animal dominance and grant us a child. The dog's body language screamed humiliation and like the last thing she wanted was another human master. 

The phone rang, I answered it because the caller id said it was Riley....He wanted to stay at track practice longer than the earlier agreed upon time of 5.  Should have been obvious, but I go brain-dead when I'm faced with snap decisions and I'm being observed...after much hemming and hawing on my part, he finally decided to come home.  Which was good, because he was the only kid left to be interviewed, we were waiting for him, my brain just couldn't process those heady details right then. 

While we waited I gave Kim a tour of the house....my gamble paid off, she didn't open closets, so my house looked really clean and organized.  The evidence of reality tumbled out later when we were getting ready for bed!  At the end of our little tour, Scott reappeared.  He was there when she asked in which room we thought we would put another child/children.  We've got a couple options, depending on the age/gender/number of kids God picks for us....ask the boys to share a room again, move I & C downstairs to one of their rooms and spread the littlies out among the two bedrooms nearest us.....or triple stack in the two upstairs rooms - did you know they have triple bunk beds???!!  They do, we're learning all kinds of crazy, big family, coping strategies.  It was at this point that Scott said, "So Kim, how many to you think we could fit in this house?"  My sweet, baby-loving husband.  He would bring home all 5 million Ethiopian orphans if it were possible.

Well, we laughed a lot and as Kim left she told us that we have really nice kids who really want to adopt a baby or two from Ethiopia.  I think she saw that we love each other, imperfectly, but we do.  And I think she saw that instead of the fullness of our home being a liability it's the very thing that makes it soft and squishy and welcoming to a new little Florida person.  For all the things we may not have to offer, we've got an abundance of laps to snuggle this baby, many arms to carry this baby, lots of voices to sing lullabies and a passel of feet to run to the rescue..... We've got an address, a permanent home to offer.  We've got a name, a family to give.  And we've got a Saviour to sing songs about and pray to together.  I think that's enough. Our house is full, sure, but it's full of all the right things.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Ethiopia??

If you know us, you know that we love Brazil and Thailand.  We take missions trips there, our friends are missionaries there, our hearts are there.  As adoption has been hanging around the corners of our minds, we usually thought it would lead us to Asia. I spent some pretty serious effort trying to figure out a way to adopt through our missionary friends' ministry to orphan Akha tribal children in Thailand a few years ago.  We've grown to really love those people.  Found a closed door there (for now!) and kinda put the adoption thing on the shelf again hoping something would change with the Akha situation.

Last November, God started putting adoption on the front page of both Scott & my minds again...this time it seemed to be in bold print.  The "Why A Family of 8 is Adopting" is another big story that will need to be a separate post....

"Ethiopia,"  that was a word and a place I hadn't even considered until a social worker called my house, asked for me and said she was calling back to answer my questions about adoption.  Well that was a surprise, I hadn't called in the first place but I decided to roll with it and ask some questions.  After I shut myself into the laundry room so I could concentrate, I gave her the quick run-down of our desires in adoption as well as all the obstacles we saw looming in front of us.  We aren't adopting because we need a baby, but because there are babies in the world that need families.  We want to go where the need is great and where others may not go.  One of the obvious obstacles, especially in international adoption, is cost.  Another is family size.  Many countries have income guidelines and family size limits that excluded us right off the bat.  I asked what her "professional gut opinion" was.  Her answer?  Ethiopia.  I have to admit, her answer scared me, it was so....unknown, and different from where I thought God was calling us.  I hung up the phone, went back to the food that was almost burning on the stove, and began mulling.  By the time Scott came home from work, and I found out that the social worker was returning his call, I was already feeling my heart turn toward Africa and beat with adventure excitement.

I'm a learner, a lover of facts and information.  Before I could go to bed that night I had to head to all my favorite search engines for details about this new country that had lit up on my mental globe.  Let me tell you, it wasn't hard to be convinced that there is a need in Ethiopia. 
  • There are nearly 5 million children living without families in this country.  That means 1 in 9 children is an orphan.
  • That is the same number of children under the age of 18 who are living in Massachusetts, New York State and Washington DC combined.  If all the parents of those children suddenly died we'd have a crisis on our hands too. 
  •  Nearly 50% of Ethiopia's population is under the age of 15.  There just aren't enough adults to go around.
  • Famine, drought and the AIDS epidemic have swept through the land during the last 30 years.  The usual support systems that would absorb orphans into a country's fabric have ripped at the seams because of the sheer numbers. 
  • 1 in 10 children die before their 1st birthday. 
  • 1 in 6 children die before their 5th birthday.
  • Poverty makes it extremely hard for extended family to care for extra children.  Almost 82% of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
  • This Youtube video says it well.

Ethiopia was a gulper at first because I thought my heart was too full of Brazil and Thailand.  I thought those two places were the way God had planned for the Great Commission to be carried out in my life.  Thought I had God's plans all figured out and was even being adventurous with my plans.  God's plans were bigger, He has more continents for me to love and it seems He's turning my heart to a new one.  It's not hard to fall in love with Ethiopia, it is the birthplace of coffee after all.  Did you know that the Queen of Sheba who traveled to visit Solomon is from Ethiopia?  Ethiopia is mentioned in the Bible here too.  The more I learn, the more I feel my heart drawn there and I'm so thankful I've got a penciled-in trip on my calendar.  And my heart's beginning to swell with love for little creamy skinned babies swimming through my dreams.  So who knew, Ethiopia and me, it's a perfect fit!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Don't Trust Horses....but I DO Trust God

Our Spring Break family adventure this year involved a moment of humor for my boys, at my expense.  It's one of the services I provide for my children....an occasional, up-close-and-and-personal view of Mom in a ridiculous situation, and then the freedom to laugh and point with impunity. 

Here's the short story:  It was our second horseback ride of the week.  The day before the entire family had enjoyed a leisurely walking ride through the Michigan woods.  This time, it seemed like a good idea to sign up for the Walk & Trot ride to look for a few more thrills.  The girls were too young for the trotting, so they were gonna head one way while the boys headed another, each group of kids with a parent.  Through a series of unplanned events, I ended up with the boys and Scott with the girls.  I think he was secretly disappointed, hoping for some action with the fellas.  I was excited, I always like a chance to keep up with the boys with something that they think is fun....and I'm always hopelessly optimistic about my abilities to keep up.  I'm not a horsewoman, but seriously, how hard could it be?  They take people on these rides all the time - if others can do it, I was sure I would be just fine.   Off we went, down the trail, Mom and the boys, and the poor guide.  After the obligatory instructions, we began our first little snippet of trotting.  I was not smooth...my teeth rattled together and every muscle in my body was clenching opposite the horse's bouncing.  After the second burst, our guide asked us how it was feeling.  Instead of asking if they had a chiropractor and dentist on call, I gamely asked him how he rode so smoothly, fished for the magic difference between his riding and mine.  His advice?  "It just takes a lot of practice, you've gotta feel the rhythm of the horse."  The light bulb went off in my first-born, achiever, people-pleaser brain....I'm good at following directions and I'm good at trying hard.  I was too distracted with my plans to notice how ridiculous it was to "try hard" my way into doing something that required instinct born of a lifetime of practice.   I tried hard, I was focused, my joints were loose and I was feeling that rhythm....while we were walking at least.  The guide turned again, "Ya'll ready to try it again?"  and off we went.  I was chanting to myself, "feel the rhythm, feel the rhythm, feeeeel the rhythm...." trying so hard to stay loose and just go with it.  I made progress, rode a little smoother, enjoyed it a little more, I was even feeling the rhythm enough to enjoy the scenery instead of just hope I wouldn't fall off....until my horse slipped.  My horse slipped.  Everyone else rode through the same patch of deep sand, only my horse found it slippery.  The horse is smart though, she compensated.  Took a little hop to the right, out of the sand, and was on her way again, barely breaking rhythm. Here's the moment the boy's got to take home with them as a memory....my horse slipped and hopped, I was feeling the rhythm.  Except I realized too late, as my left butt-cheek hit the sandy road, that I had been feeling the wrong rhythm.  What I though was the rhythm of the horse, was really the rhythm of what I thought a trot felt like based on the vast data I had collected during the previous 40 minutes.  I was feeling the rhythm of my plan - worked well, until the horse zigged and I zagged.  Can't blame her, she probably saved me from a worse fate.  The boys wouldn't have been able to laugh and enjoy the fall if it had ended with a thousand pound horse on top of me.  She saved me.  Her zig wasn't even that big, just enough to avert disaster.  I'm sure I could have stayed on if she had given me warning, or if I had been feeling her rhythm more than mine.

So, my Spring Break trotting companion (wish I could remember her name - that's how good of a horsewoman I am, don't even remember my horse's name - Chloe will probably remind me....) came right to my mind today when my devotions in John talked to me about fear.  The disciples, who had just watched Jesus feed 5,000+ people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, were headed across the lake in a boat.  It was dark, the wind was blowing, the waters were rough.  And then gravity shifted...they saw a man approaching, walking on the water.  Their response?  They were terrified!  Of course!  That makes perfect sense!  The circumstances were already scary, they were doing all they could to save themselves and it wasn't enough, and then an apparition appears out of the mist.  Who wouldn't be terrified?  Verse 20 of chapter 6...."But, he said to them, 'It is I; don't be afraid.'" 

It's pretty common to see saints responding in fear when their worlds shift.  Peter's fear overtook him when he saw the waves in the water he was walking  on(Mt. 14:30).  All the disciples were afraid when they heard God's voice from heaven at the transfiguration (Mt. 17:6).  The woman who was healed when she touched Jesus' robe was afraid of His response (Mk. 5:33).  The women at the tomb were alarmed and fearful when they found the stone rolled away (Mk. 16:5,8).  Zechariah, Mary, Cornelius & Daniel were all seized with fear when angels visited them with messages. 

Fearful saints are all through the pages of the Bible and I'm starting to recognize the footprints of fear all through my life.  My first impulse is to fear when I feel my weakness, when it's obvious Idon't have what it takes.  I fear when I'm faced with the unfamiliar, especially when it's unexpected.  I loose my grip and clench up out of fear when the gravity of my life that I thought was dependable, makes a 15 degree shift.  When gravity shifts, I zig instead of zagging.

Didn't even realize I was carrying fear with my on the "Walk & Trot," thought I had it all under control.  But  fear showed up when my sense of gravity shifted and the expected rhythm changed.  I clenched up and leaned away, just an instinct to keep myself safe.  But the thing that would have kept me safe was trust in my horse.  She had ridden this trail a thousand times before, probably slipped in that same sand before.  She had carried  a thousand riders before, probably some more inexperienced than me.  If I had leaned into my fear, the shifting that made my eyes go wide, I would have let my horse's instincts save both of us and given myself bragging rights for my boys to take home as memory of their Mom. 

I'm feeling gravity shift very often these days.  I clench my muscles, grit my teeth, my mind screams, "This doesn't look like the plan!"  But maybe, when the world tilts, it's not because of something that needs fixing, maybe it is the fixing.  Maybe it's just God working, keeping me out of the sand pit.  Maybe, if I start to lean into it, my fear will turn to excitement and I'll stay on the horse a little longer and sway with God's rhythm a little better.  I've learned that I don't trust horses very much....but come on, that makes sense.  They're huge and strong.  I have no idea what's going on behind those big, glassy eyes.  I don't know horses enough to trust them and they don't know me well enough to love me.  I don't trust horses, probably shouldn't, but I do trust God.  I know Him and He loves me.  If He zags, I wanna let out a whoop, throw my hat into the air, and zag too.