Thursday, December 20, 2012

Darkness and Light

Our ears almost ache for something to move us. Even as Christians we can find ourselves praying for God to rekindle the fire that use to burn passionately for Him. We say “Jesus is the Reason for the season” and try to force our focus back on Christ despite the shallowness that bombards us daily. 

Every year I resolve not to spend all my energy on presents and parties. I vow to create memories and deepen traditions while my children are still little. Yet somehow I still feel desperate to show them more. Why? Because they are growing too fast and there is so much I want to say to them about Christmas. Just a few short years away real life is waiting for them and I know what kind of harsh surprises time may have up its sleeve.

The 3 "littlest". Even they won't be little very long. 

I would like to believe that if I looked into my children's future they would be in warm houses with picket fences, have happy marriages, and lots of healthy children. I would hope their biggest worry would be what to serve for Christmas dinner. 

Yet, all around me I am confronted with reality. We are beyond blessed, yet I find my heart heavy as I offer up prayers for people I care for deeply. 

Honest Christians who need jobs, 

loving mothers who await test results; 

faithful friends who mourn the loss of those that can never be replaced. 

I see parents fighting to make an orphan legally their own only to have their intentions questioned. I mean, who could possible love a child with HIV?  (insert eye roll) 

I see other families battling to be reunited with children that God knit into their hearts- desperately praying for God to keep them safe in the meantime.

I see wives fighting to fake Christmas cheer for little ones who feel the weight of a Daddy deployed. Who knew marrying a warrior would mean you had to be one? 

I pray for the faces and the hearts I know and then my mind wanders to all those I don’t. Those who are hurting tonight. My mind journeys past parents who mourn children; past children who mourn parents, or perhaps have never known any. There is so much brokenness in the world. And I see God at work everywhere; I really do. It’s just that this doesn’t look the way I thought Christmas should look.

“Lord, it’s Christmas. It seems so unfitting that there would be such a feeling of… darkness for so many.”

He whispers, Look closer”.

The story is so familiar that my ears almost go numb at the sound of it: Mary, Joseph, a census and a journey; a stable and a baby. And somehow here in the quiet I see it. I allow myself to ponder it. 

I wonder how long she was in labor. I wonder if the smell of the animals mingling with pain and exhaustion made her nauseous. I know one thing for sure. This wasn't how she thought it would look. After an angel announced that she would give birth to the Savior I bet she felt every emotion we could think of and many we can’t. She must have felt such anticipation and excitement. Yet, I suspect there were days she felt sadness for what would never be. Her marriage just wouldn't start the way she thought it would. Her dreams and plans would have to die to this new life. And in that smelly stable she would go through childbirth and though I imagine she was overwhelmed with love and joy as she held the Messiah, surely at some point she must have looked around and said, “Lord, I just didn't think this is how it would look.”

And can I be painfully honest?

After this birth they would still have to flee to protect Jesus’ life. Herod wanted to kill Him and ordered the murder of every boy younger than 2. Children were massacred. It’s the ugly, hateful truth. Evil was there, even then. It was dark.

And hear me friends, we can’t appreciate the light until we acknowledge the dark. It is real. And we can’t grit our teeth and force joy by decorating a tree, wrapping up more than we can afford, and pretending everything is perfect. It’s so contrary to how Jesus came. We are so wrong to think we can just “simplify” or remember to “keep Christ in Christmas”. We must acknowledge the dark because that is what makes Christmas so awe-inspiring. It is the very thing that breathes joy into our soul- that there is a Light that can eradicate this darkness we feel. 

Yes, the Messiah came. But why?

He came to banish the darkness. Forever.

He came to defeat death. To abolish loneliness and heal heartache- even the deepest, most unbearable heartache. Even that heartache you are hiding. 
He would later drink down every ounce of God’s wrath toward our sin and die on a cross to absorb the punishment. And three days later He would rise in victory. And do you know where He is now? At God’s right hand, praying for YOU. 

Constantly... until you cross over and you see the fullness of that victory- where death has lost its sting and the cares of this world are no more.

Oh, sure, the story isn't finished. We wait in expectation just like Mary did- for a coming Messiah. And maybe tonight you are struggling in that wait. Maybe your heart is heavy. Maybe Christmas feels sort of dark. To you I propose that there is more reason than ever to be joyful this Christmas. When you acknowledge the darkness you can appreciate the coming of the Light.

Even my small boys know about darkness and light. If you give them a flashlight they will run into a dark closet and shut the door. Because the darkness is where we most appreciate the power of the light. 

Yes, this world brings with it lots of hurt. Its pleasures are temporary and nothing it offers ever satisfies. We long for more. We long for deeper joy. We long for a place where loved ones are never separated. But mostly, we just long for God Himself. 

For Hope. 

A Father. 

The One who can Redeem this mess. 

We need Jesus. And when we stop fighting that longing or trying to cover it up with pretty bows- we can rest in the Truth that He IS here with us. He is coming back for us. And He will eradicate this darkness. 

So if I could look into my children's future I would hope to see a lot of comfort and happiness. But at some point they are going to experience darkness of some kind. And I know at least two of them are reading this. So sweet children, I beg you to hear this, my deepest prayer is that when darkness comes you will be ok because I have taught you how to rejoice in the coming of the Light. 

"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." - Jesus of Nazareth 

"All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy." - Romans 8:22-25 MSG

Monday, August 20, 2012

D Day

It was as hard as I thought it would be.

But God’s grace was evident and your prayers were felt.

The tears started yesterday. She had to say goodbye to “Papa” yesterday. We had known before she ever came that he wouldn’t be here for the goodbye. There was just no way. And it was ok. Really, it was. She said goodbye to him yesterday and then said goodbye to friends at church last night. She bawled the whole way home and I didn’t think my heart would be able to take it. I tried to picture how today would go, but when we picture the future we never account for God’s grace. His grace makes the unbearable seem…well, bearable.

Last night God was loud and clear. I sat down to highlight a few more verses in her Bible. She had helped me previously but I thought I could do it alone. Wow. Translating the verse I wanted into English was easy enough using a translator, but finding it was a whole other story. The books are not in the same order in her Bible. The names of the books are looong. And some of the numbers seemed off. So I *thought* I had found the one I wanted to highlight and I wanted to make sure it said what I thought it said. I began to type the Ukrainian into the translator- which if you haven’t already realized- is a different alphabet. One I am not familiar with! So it was taking for-ev-er and I finally began slowly seeing words appear on the English side. It wasn’t at all the verse I *thought* I wanted to highlight.


Be still and know.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10  

I didn't know whether to cry or laugh out loud. Ok, God. You are right. This one is better. I don’t really know if it was really for me or for her, but I think probably both.

This morning Nana came to watch the littles while Kayla and I met a friend who would ride along to the airport. We ended up in the airport for much longer than I expected because we were given their passports to hold and helped the children check bags. We were with her until she went through security which must have been a couple of hours total. It felt like 47. Tears flowed off and on but there were smiles and giggles too as she reconnected with friends. They shared each others’ photo albums and she rambled on to them in a way she had not been able to ramble in weeks. Every time she looked at me the tears came again. Lots of “I love you’s” and tears, and she said “Mama you are in here (pointing to her heart) forever”. I motioned back the same. I looked to my friend who was no help because she is a tender hearted mercy kind of girl who was crying with me (thanks for that Sharon- you were perfect today). 

I almost made it out of the airport before I broke down the first time and I am sure it won’t be the last. But the ride home was filled with a mix of tears and laughter, reminiscing about the past few weeks and dreaming about the future. I know this is how God wanted us to spend our summer and I can smile about that. I can smile because His plans are good. His ways are higher, and better. Vika’s summer here was His idea - no doubt. Through the hard and the fun and the frustrations, tears, and laughter. God was all over it.  
And it was bigger than us- you all have told me so.

I haven’t had time to come out of the fog or think through things with perspective. I am looking forward to spending time with God and taking time to see it all through His eyes over the next few days and weeks. I went into “her” room tonight to find a message she left.

And I looked around at the empty hangers in the closet and the few items she left- the pictures she forgot to take off the bulletin board and the handwritten Ukrainian notes. And I just backed out and closed the door. Too soon.

It hurts to love. There is almost imminent danger when you invest a part of your heart into another human being. As I am sure you know by now, I am a mess today. But I am not the girl who started this journey 7 weeks ago and I thank God for that. There are so many signs that God has done a work here. I can’t bring myself to call her an orphan because it’s a label and it feels wrong. She is Vika. She is a person with a name, a face, a sense of humor, and feelings and likes and dislikes. And now I see what He saw all along.  The lessons have been so much different and gone so much deeper than I have even been able to articulate so far. We are changed. And I hope that Vika is changed, too. Actually, I know she is. She is not the same kid who came here 7 weeks ago either. 

There are some hard days still ahead. I don't know about your emotions but mine always lag behind everything else and tag along in a much leakier, much more dramatic fashion than I would prefer. Just bear with me for a few days, ok? If you notice something off like, say... my shoes don't match ... be a doll and just pretend its a new fad. I'll be better in a few days. Promise. 

Because I already know it was worth it. 

It was really too early but my friend went there anyway. “Do you think you will ever do anything like this again”?

I told her this had been so hard and costly in so many ways and today has been excruciating. I never want to do this again today.


We all know that His mercies flow in the morning. ;) 

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed
 for His compassions never fail. 
23 They are new every morning;
 great is your faithfulness."     - Lamentations 3:22-23

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us."  - Romans 8:18 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Words normally flow easily but the past few days they just wouldn’t come. 

Yesterday Vika and Kayla went to a pool party for the youth that go to our church. I was able to take the time to pack her big bag, as I had told her I would. As a mother of four I can pack more in one suitcase than most people can pack in three and she is only allowed one bag and one carry on. Since she came with nothing you might expect this would be easy, but this child has been loved. And her bag overflows with clothes and small things contributed from all the people who have in some way loved her while she was here. As I packed I could only hope her heart and her “cup” overflows the way her bag does. As I rolled each piece of clothing as tight as it would go and placed it in the bag my dread increased. I knew which things were most important and needed to make it into that bag. Then when I was done I worked steadily to finish her scrapbook of her time here. I pulled together pictures and I knew which memories where her favorites and needed an important place in that book. I knew what verses might be best. Yes, Vika is known. She is loved.

Last week we got to escape reality and take Vika to the beach. The time there was great. It felt like the clock stopped and she stopped counting down her days and stopped asking about when she was leaving. She experienced her first “family vacation”. She had said she had seen the sea before but it was apparent that this was really her first time at the “beach”. Whatever her experience before, it didn't compare to this one. It was also her first time staying overnight. 

Jumping waves. That's a happy face, folks. 

Enjoying the ocean

And the pool. 

We went to the beach in the mornings and we stayed out until late only leaving to alternate with the pool. We never watched the clock and the time was never important. It was so good for all of us to have that week. It was as if God stopped the clock for a few moments.

 On the last day we packed up and as we started the drive home she quietly said "thank you, Mama, Papa" and motioned that she meant for the vacation. I noticed she was a little teary and the dread began to creep in again. All I could think was that I was so thankful for that week when we didn't have to think about the reality that was waiting for us in the coming days. 

And I know I had said I would blog all about it. Last night I finished most of the packing and I finished her scrapbook and I glanced at the computer. I did remember, but I saw my husband sitting on the couch and I decided I didn't have it in me to write. So filled with dread and heartache, I chose instead to lay on the couch with my head in his lap and because he knows me so well he didn't say a word but just ran his fingers through my hair until I fell asleep. 

But morning still came, and this morning held more firsts. The first goodbyes. The first flood of tears. And it was hard to watch. There is no escape, no way to walk away unaffected. No where to go but straight through it. 

I don't even know how to sugarcoat this one. It hurts. It’s awkward and painful and it cuts deep. I wish I could hide and I keep telling God that I don't actually know how to do this. I don't know how to comfort her and there are few things I can actually say. I can't make her promises I don't know to be true and I have no idea what the future looks like for her. I keep praying for that future and I keep confessing to Him that I think he chose the wrong person to do this. I tell Him I feel helpless- and He is going to have to do everything because I can't do this on my own. 

But in the midst of all the chaos, there is this one small voice. And He reminds me constantly that He can be trusted. 

That He is enough

That He is strong when I am weak. 

That we have NEVER walked alone. 

That His ways are higher and better. 

That His plans for her are for good, to give her a future and hope. 

And that He loved her FIRST. 

Pray with us. 

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  - Romans 8:37-39

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weddings and Fairy Tales

I just feel like I need to confess to you that I am writing today from a quiet place overlooking the beach. I know, its pretty disgusting how blessed I am. Feel free to revoke my right to complain about anything. It is just what I needed this morning, with less than a week until Vika has to return. As I watch Brian on the beach playing with the kids I can't help but notice how small they look in the scheme of things. By the scheme of things, I mean up against a huge blue sky and never- ending waves. This morning I sat on the balcony and talked to Isabella about how the ocean is so huge yet God tells the waves how far they can come and they go no further. We watched the birds in air and were reminded how He knows the whereabouts of each one of them. As I reminded her, He reminded me. 

Peace is never found in changing our circumstances. It is found in the realization that God is sovereign. He is big, powerful, and He holds all things together. And there we find rest. I'll be sharing about her first beach trip soon but first I had to share about another first that happened last weekend. 

So, last weekend I got to watch a friend get married. It was such a wonderful day for so many reasons. She was beautiful and even though I don't usually cry at weddings I cried at hers. As it worked out neither Kayla or Brian was able to go so I ended up taking Isabella and Vika instead. As God would have it, someone had already given us a dress that was perfect for the occasion. When they gave us the clothes I had thought to myself that it might be a little fancy and we might not have a use for it, but I figured she could wear it to church anyway. Silly me. Didn't I just write about God and details? This is why I write it down, guys. I need reminding, too. 

As we were getting ready I was going to curl her hair under with a curling iron just to make her feel extra special. As I went to curl it I realized the haircut was uneven in many places so I used charades to ask if she would like spiral curls. She did. So I took my time and her eyes were already lit up. She twirled in the living room to watch her dress flare, and when Brian came out she went in for a hug but then pulled away yelling "Papa, no!" and motioned he would mess up her hair. 

She was so excited since it was her first wedding. A wedding is something that was, until this weekend, only in fairy tales for her. I don't think I have the words to describe her face as she walked in and saw all the flowers and beautiful decorations. She ran around wanting her picture taken with friends and I couldn't help but be grateful that she has felt so loved by so many. One of the many is our youth pastor. He and his wife are, in my humble opinion, what every church needs in their youth department. They just embody "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". At one point he grabbed Vika's hand and spun her around like only a man with daughters would think to do. She lit up and I asked him to dance with her a little because I wasn't sure she had ever been able to do that before. He did (what a good sport!) and twirled her and she was so lit up that afterward I had to turn around to keep my composure. Or, to try to keep my composure. Unfortunately I locked eyes with a friend who had also been watching her and was all choked up and teary- eyed, too. No help there. 

The highlight of her night was clear though. She begged all night for a picture with the bride. She was so captivated by this beautiful women in her beautiful dress- all radiant with love and happiness. And because my friend is beautiful inside and out, she was happy to oblige. 

I promise to stop taking pictures with my phone. I formally repent of leaving my camera at home and using cheap, red eye inducing phones to capture memories. But this kind of radiance shows even on a cellphone pic! 

Then Vika danced until it was time to go. With sore feet she hobbled out- eyes bright and a smile stretching the length of her face. It was something she would have never thought to ask for but it ended up being one of the  highlights of her time here. Yes, looking at this picture I am reminded that God writes the story of our lives so much better than we would ever be able to dream up on our own. 

Note to self: stop trying to grab the pen. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Deepest Wish

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  - Jesus

I have thought a LOT about the verses above. I had to teach on these verses at a Bible study and I spent a long time meditating on them and studying Matthew 5. They led me to a personal conclusion, too.

I love many of my titles. I love being a wife. I love being a Mom. I love being a friend, a sister, a “siesta” (wink wink) and I love being a disciple. But there is one title I most deeply desire to hold while here on earth.
I want to be a peacemaker.

Allow me to explain. A peacemaker is not the same as a “peacekeeper”. It isn’t the “bend to another person’s will” kind of doormat you might be thinking. No, a peacemaker MAKES peace where there is none. A peacemaker is no coward. They know when to be quiet and when to stand their ground. A peacemaker shows others how to be at peace with one another or with God.

So why a peacemaker? Peacemakers “will be called sons of God.” That’s straight from Jesus’ lips. And yes, it goes for daughters, too. I don’t know how you picture God. I don’t know how you imagine heaven but I will share my deepest, most sacred desire with you. When I picture my great crossover into heaven I do not imagine myself standing in awe of this remarkable place with no pain and no sin. I don’t picture myself immediately searching for loved ones so we can catch up. I don’t picture myself checking out the “mansions” reserved for those who “stored up treasures in heaven”. I am not even looking so much for a “well done, good and faithful servant” like so many like to say.


I want a bear hug. I want to run into His arms and I want a big, giant hug that can only be described as a “Daddy hug”. I want to be greeted as a beloved daughter coming home. If you know me well, this makes perfect sense to you.

And before you get your theological panties in a bunch, can I just say – it’s just a wish. I’m not claiming to have some insight into what heaven will be like. You may say I will fall on my face in worship right away– and I might and that would be awesome. I look forward to worshiping forever but I like to hope that when I am greeted it is as daughter first, one who is known, who is loved deeply, and in my head I think maybe even a spin as He hugs me because He is so happy I am there. And He could. You don’t really know. I am a daughter, and He has a long history of going to great lengths to bring me redemption and joy. He became sin and died to buy me back from darkness so are we going to argue that a spin is inconceivable? Just sayin. After that I could gladly fall on my face and stay there for at least the first 50 billion years. He is that awesome. 

Welcoming my husband home in 2003. See? Hugs. 

I share all that to say that something within me believes that I was created to be a peacemaker. We weren’t created to be puppets. We don’t get adopted into the Kingdom as “servants” or “followers” or “slaves”. Oh, to be a slave of Christ is a worthy aspiration because He is kind, merciful and only chooses best for us. But we are adopted into the Kingdom first as His children. So to be a peacemaker here is just so fitting.

Of all our time with Vika, none has been so rewarding as sharing with her about Jesus. Telling her that she does, in fact, have a loving Daddy has always been willing to adopt her as daughter, desires to protect her, love her, and have a real relationship with her. She has an all-powerful Daddy that can bend the universe in her favor; who sees her future and redeems her past. And I feel sure I know her well enough to know she is hoping for a big “daddy hug” greeting, too.

And yes, sweet Vika, I know it hurts. I know you have a void. I know something about that. But this void is God-shaped and nothing else will fill it anyway. And I am so happy for what has happened here. And I will pray every day that you remember it always and I pray specifically  “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10). And I pray on that day, He greets you with a bear hug.


But I also know we must tell the others. The orphans, the depressed and the weary, the abandoned and abused, the addict, the mother on anti-depressants with skeletons in her closet, the man searching for significance, the runaway and the Sunday morning “faker”….. we need to tell them. They were created for more. They were created for hope, joy and love. It is possible. But we must tell them.

Making a scrapbook to remind her she is known and loved. 

Yes, we were all created for more.

Oh, I am already a daughter. That was sealed years ago and there is nothing here I could or need to earn. Still, somehow I just know I was born to be a peacemaker.

Between you and me, Vika, I think you were, too. 

"Some wish to hear the word of God, others wish to receive it." --Anonymous

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Small Things

It is so hard to believe it has only been five weeks. I have heard a million questions but some are always the same so I thought I would just put the answers out there.

Yes, she has to go back. We received a letter from the Embassy shortly after she arrived stressing the fact that she is here on temporary Visa and she MUST be at the airport to go back with the others.

Yes, she is available for adoption (as far as we know). We are actively advocating for her and hope to help her find a forever family. We will continue to advocate for her even after she returns. I don’t know what God’s plan is for her life. Maybe it is simply to be a light to others there in the Ukraine. Or maybe He has a family picked out for her already. I don’t know at this point. I do know that for us, we feel certain our role is that of advocate.

I know, some of you don’t want to hear that. One thing I wasn’t really prepared for with hosting was that people would have such strong reactions. I mean STRONG opinions. Many of you have been super supportive and you have walked alongside us through this journey encouraging us and praying with us. For that a simple “thank you” just seems so insufficient. 

Others have been very critical of it. I wish I could say “I could care less” but if you have read this blog more than … oh, I don’t know …. ONCE, then you know I am a sensitive girl and that would make me a big fat liar. The criticism has been hard to handle at times but in all fairness I have at times beat myself up more than anyone else ever did. The most hurtful criticism/thought has been that we are “just hurting her more by bringing her here, showing her what she is missing and sending her back.” Yes, a few have voiced the accusation to my face. Ouch. But I will show you how God answered that for me.

“As Jesus was walking beside the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him.    Matthew 4:18-20

Ok, so that might not have seemed so profound for you. Let me show you what I saw. Or rather, what I DIDN’T see. I didn’t see where Jesus sat down for a little pow wow with them and laid out His master plan. He didn’t give them the details of the agreement or ask “so how would you like to see this go?” He walks up to them and says “follow me” and BAM. They do.

And do you know what that tells me? It tells me that you can be in the center of God’s will and have no clue what the heck you are doing other than the fact that you are following. You can be completely unaware of what God is doing in you or through you and yet He might very well be using you anyway. So, yeah,  I wish everyone knew my heart and knew that we only have the best of intentions here. Honestly, we do. At the end of the day I hope what you see is that some completely ordinary, flawed couple was chillin on the lakeside with some fishing nets and God said “Hey, follow me” and BAM. We did, and He used us for His glory because He is God and He can use anybody He pleases no matter how ordinary or quirky. That is what I hope you all see. And if you don’t, it’s cool. Really. 

We still serve an audience of One. 

But personally, I still think you are missing the bigger picture. 

Remember this? Day one at the airport. 

5 weeks later

Gotta love Isabella's face

1000 words, folks.

So have we done more harm than good? I'd be a fool to believe that. Have we done some great work? I'd be a fool to believe that, too. We just aren't big enough to be main characters here. We are just trying our best to follow. We have less than two weeks left and we are going to live it to the full! 

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."  -Mother Theresa 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I Know Best

We have spent the last week doing things around the house. Crafts were done and lots of art was painted. Games were played and books were read and things were fairly quiet. Normally words flow with ease, but it took me three days to write a one paragraph bio on Vika. The program wanted to show her bio to prospective adoptive parents. I struggled hard to find words when what I really wanted to write was instructions followed by a questionnaire. What I really wanted to write was:

 Do you promise to teach her about Jesus?

Do you promise to love her unconditionally?

Do you promise to show grace when she fails?

Do you promise to give lots of hugs?

Do you promise to advocate for her education?

But in the end, with much prayer it ended up being a bio and not a questionnaire. And I asked the Lord a million times if He was sure. Was He sure that He had this under control? Was He sure that we are doing the right thing? Was He sure that it was going to be ok? Was He sure He didn’t need my help? Didn’t need me to intervene and save the day? Surely He allowed me to have a part so I could take over and fix this mess. Right?

I confessed to Brian that I wish I was the person people think I am. I wish I was stronger. I wish that I never had doubts. I wish my identity was always rock solid in Christ and I never doubted what He says to or about me. But, it would be such a mistake for anyone to think that I "have it all together". My Bible is not a road map to my life. Its often a life vest that keeps me from drowning. Verses are underlined because I forget what God reveals 5 minutes after He teaches me. And Psalms is covered in tear stains because that is where I run when it gets hard. I run there when I need to read how even people like David struggled because I always seem to forget that no one has EVER had it all together. NOT.ONE.EVER. No one but Jesus, of course. (This is me giving us all permission to stop trying). 

I slip to the backyard to lay out for a few minutes while the little ones nap. I tell the girls I need some time in the sun, but it would be more accurate to say I need some time with the Son. And sunglasses hide tears that can’t be held back. And a lawn chair forces me to be still and look up. Praise music reminds me for the millionth time about those verses I already underlined but forget to cling to. I look at the clouds and I have to confess to Him that I see them but I have no clue how He forms them. I feel the warmth from the sun but I have no idea how He holds it there in place, causing it to rise and set at just the right time. I cry and I confess I have turned to the idol of “self reliance” (ummm....again) and I repent. I remember that I am small, and honestly it’s a huge relief.

I lay down the weight that I carried on my shoulders. I lay down responsibility for her future. I lay down the expectations of others. I lay down the desire to control and choose instead to obey.   

I was never meant to be anybody’s savior. I needed a Savior myself.

“I can’t.”
And He whispers softly.
I can.

And because I remember I am free. Free to spend my nights doing what I know best. I tell her what I do know. I know what it feels like to hurt. I know that God can redeem anything. I know that God loves her. She is known. She is NOT forgotten. There has never been a moment that He left her side. And as the tears stream down her face and mine, I tell her on and on. And sometimes I hold her and I run my hands through her hair as I tell her about how He knows her and He loves her. And I don’t know how God will redeem this mess. I know He will, though.

No, really…. I KNOW.

And the beauty of it is that Love would go that far. Love would fly her across the world just to tell her she is not invisible. She is known and she is loved. And I feel sure there’s more. But for now I can rest in that because I am not called to be the savior. I am not called to see the big picture or to make the plans. I’m called to walk. I’m called to love. So I will walk, and I will love.

And honestly, tomorrow I will probably forget. I will get overwhelmed and might even let my own thoughts beat me to death until I finally run back to that Bible. And when I turn there I will go straight for the pages with the most tear stains.  

And He will remind me of what I know best.

Futures are always best held in nail-scarred hands. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Our Knees

It's been an emotional couple of days around here. I have had a hard time finding the words to explain it when I am still processing it all myself. 

If you have been around me any length of time you know that the two things I talk about most are God and my family. Or it might be what God has done for my family. Or maybe what God is doing in my family. I can't help it, y'all. Its what excites me, they are what I love. So Vika has heard about Jesus' love for her since she got here. She has been told how she is precious to Him, she has been to church, she has been to VBS. She has, by her request, watched The Story of Jesus for Children again and again. And she has eaten up every word of every bit of it. 

At night we tell them its time for bed and she hugs us goodnight and goes to bed without complaint. But under her door I can always see the light is still on. One night when Brian went out to the car he saw her blinds were open and could see she was up reading. "Reading?", I had questioned, "but she doesn't have any books yet. All she has is a Bible and she doesn't seem interested and I think it is hard to read!" He shook his head, "I don't know what to tell you, Babe, she is reading." I talked to her about closing the blinds when it is dark but every night as she goes to bed the light stays on. A few nights later, the blinds were open again and same thing. She's clearly up reading. 

While driving she saw a cross on the side of the road and pointed it out to me. I forgot about it by the time we were home but she didn't. She asked, via translator, about the cross and what it meant. I explained that people put those at the scene of car accidents when someone dies. I explained it was a way of remembering a loved one. "But", I added, "If you happen to see one in a yard it means something different. Then it means that person has accepted Jesus as their Savior". She just looked at me. 

"Vika, do you know what that means? For Jesus to be your Savior?"

She shakes her head "no". 

I felt my heart literally ache. Because I remember what life was like before I knew. I remember that awful emptiness inside. I remember how much more painful everything is when you don't have that Hope. So I ask if she would like me to tell her more about it. She shook her head "yes" and I could tell by her eyes she was serious. I went to a website I am familiar with and I pulled up a simple Gospel tract that explains it in the most simple way I know how. Then I pulled it up in her own language. 

And she was engrossed. 

I watched her eyes slowly drink up the words. How we were separated from God because no one can be perfect and we have a sinful nature. And how God loved her so much that He gave His one and only Son to live a perfect life and die on a cross to pay the penalty for those sins. For her sins. And how she can have forgiveness. And eternal life. And freedom. And peace. And LOVE. It explained how He wanted to save her, help her, call her daughter. And it explains how to make this free gift her own. If only I could have climbed inside her mind and seen what she was thinking. 

Our ability to communicate is so limited. I asked her when she was done if this was new to her. She said "yes". I asked if it was interesting. She typed "I'm very interested. Thank you." We talked some and I told her I had ordered her lots of Christian books. Some were just to read for fun. Some would help her understand the Bible or explain the stories Jesus taught. She seemed happy about this. 

Later that evening we were sitting with the laptop again. Headed into a new week with no plans seemed like a relief to me and I was hoping to find some meaningful/ fun activities for us to all do together. I gave her options - have you ever baked cookies from scratch? Do you want to do some painting or crafts? She just shrugged. This doesn't help. With no ideas as to what she was thinking, I tried prompting her to think about activities she enjoyed. As I typed she shrugged, so I tried to think of more open ended questions. "What has been your favorite thing about America so far"? She grabbed the laptop- she had thought of something. She typed her answer and tilted the computer toward me. 

"That you are my mother."

I looked at her, into teary eyes and my throat instantly closed up. Luckily, she turned the computer back toward her and started typing because I was speechless. She proceeded with adulation I don't deserve. She said I was the kindest woman she has ever known, which made my heart hurt and convicted me all in one fell swoop. Then she paused and thought a while. 

"Thank you for everything". 

A few moments later it was time for bed. She always gives bedtime hugs so long and so strong that you wonder if she cracked any ribs. I don't want to correct her since she is so emotionally fragile so I just learned to position myself so that her arms are not around the lower, smaller, more fragile ribs. (Really ya'll, she is stronger than she looks!) Tonight she was less animated with her hug but she lingered long. I never pull away from her- I let her be the one to pull away because while I get an abundance of hugs everyday I am aware that she probably doesn't even get a hug everyday. She lingered so long I began to feel that pull in her chest. And you Mamas know that pull - the one when your little one is crying and trying not to make a sound. She buried her face and her chest started to pull harder until it was obvious she was bawling. I didn't know what to do, so I just held her. I ran my fingers through her hair and tried to comfort like I would my own. I just kept saying "Its ok". When she finally pulled away I wiped her tears and she went to hug Brian and went to bed. She made no attempt to talk about it and I wasn't about to make her. So she went to bed. 

But I could see under the door that the light was on. And I was GLAD. I hoped she was reading that Book- the only one that has the ability to comfort and heal and fill voids that are too big for me to put a real dent into. I don't know, ya'll. We are on week 4 of 7 and I don't know what to do next. But we will keep loving and sharing and moving forward. And I can assure you of only one thing. 

We will be going forward on our knees. 

Friday, July 20, 2012


It was sometime after the boys were born that we started using the phrase “sleepy sickness”. This is when little ones hit the point of exhaustion and the only thing that could make them act human and reasonable again is sleep.

Yesterday, Gavin had the sleep sickness.

And so did Mama.

It was my fault. After a long, action packed week I decided that even though it was our last night of VBS I could “squeeze in” a movie and lunch with friends that day and still have time to give the boys a nap. But these things never go as planned. By nap time my patience was wearing thin so I gave Vika clear instructions that it was quiet time and she had to find something quiet to do so she did not disturb the boys. She said “ok” and promptly went off to do as I asked. But not much later when the house was silent and Gavin was finally asleep, she flies out of her room yelling for me. This isn’t the first time it has happened and I find myself annoyed. I type into my phone and translate “it is quiet time right now. Is this urgent?” She shakes her head “yes”.  I find the laptop and I sit as she types out a request. When I read it, my frustration bubbles up and it’s a struggle to keep it hidden. She is asking a question about later. It is nothing that needs to be answered now. I take a deep breath and type into the translator. "Vika, this isn’t urgent. Please do not disturb quiet time. I need to finish ironing these clothes so Papa can wear them to work tomorrow. I haven’t had time and I won’t have time tonight." She quickly says “oh ok” and heads back to her room. But I hear the bathroom door close behind us. Gavin is awake 30 minutes into his nap. And folks, we all know 30 minutes isn’t long enough to cure the sleepy sickness.

Vika has never been mothered and it shows. Even though I feel like she should be able to wait an hour to ask for something simple, she has experienced years of uncertainty whether an adult would hear her request or attend to it. And to expect her to feel that security now, after only 3 weeks, is unfair. Sure, there is a balance somewhere and I pray we will find it. Soon. Every 5 seconds I am interrupted for a new request and it wears a Mama down. But what feels like constant demands to me is really a little girl who has someone to mother her for the first time. And more than she wants another sheet of paper, or a question answered, or another activity, I think she wants to be mothered. And 3 weeks of constant attention doesn’t fill a 13 year void.

Vika loved VBS. Especially music and crafts.

And its hard. Its hard for all of us. I drove to VBS last night and I was exhausted and empty. I prayed silently that God would change my heart and my attitude. I knew the Truth, I just didn’t feel it. 

And that is the hardest truth about loving someone. Even the people we love the most- our children, our spouses, anyone. Some days we aren’t going to feel it. But what defines us is not how we feel moment to moment. Not unless we let emotions rule our lives. My best friend is my husband and today I look at him with butterflies and adoration. But can I just tell you - there were days during the last 12 years when I didn't. And what if I had quit when I didn't feel it? I would have missed these days.

The very best days.  

Yes, real love is steady when the feelings wash back and forth like the waves. Yes, real love is much harder than that temporary feeling the world calls "love". So in those moments when we are tired or things are hard, what do we cling to? Where do we find the strength to press on?

Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Last night God answered my desperate requests while I watched the kids perform their VBS songs. I had given Vika the option to sit out if she didn’t want to get on stage but she really wanted to get up there. I had to wonder if it was because she is outgoing or because, for the first time, she had someone sitting in the audience watching her. This night, there was someone there watching her and taking pictures of her. For this one night, she had a Mama and a Papa in the audience.

And she was glowing. 

And I watched her pour her heart into those moves to songs though she probably didn’t understand 90% of them. And I longed for her to know. And on one particular song the words shot straight to the core of me, penetrating my heart and my soul. I was grateful to be in the front row because my tears threatened to break free and I knew that this night that would mean a flood. A flood of emotion, of weariness, and of gratitude.  

They sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Who died and rose again
Worthy to receive all power
Worthy to receive all praise
Jesus is worthy.”

And in that moment I remembered. This is why we press on and press in. When marriage is hard, or your children are requiring everything you have, if a circumstance or even a person demands too much- or maybe you are like us, and you have wounded children in your house and you feel like you will never make a difference in the face of overwhelming needs. We must keep pressing in, we must keep asking God to do what we can’t, and by all means we must love no matter the cost. Because that is how He loves us. We love even when we are tired. We love because love is a verb; not a noun. It is an action and not a feeling. And most importantly, Love is a Person.

And may He be what defines us. 

Because He is worthy.  The music and the Truth echoes in my ears and in my heart today. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

Folks, Jesus is worthy.