Monday, January 22, 2018

A Season of Rest

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

Sometimes our days are so busy, it is not until we finally lay our heads down at night that we finally feel our fatigue.  We all have those days…when the flurry of activity does not subside until heads are on pillows.  We all have days when the only time we sit is to drive our children to an event, weeks of full calendars and constant movement, months of endless activity. And then, when it is over, sleep overcomes us, and we long for a few days, weeks or months of rest and peace.  

We recently came out of a season of business: several years that felt like constant change and movement and very little rest.  A few years of the Lord’s seemingly constant calls to “Go”, “Move”, “Go”, “Do”, “Yes!” His blessings were numerous as He called us to constant change. Other than the tangible blessings of added children, one of the most precious blessings for us was one of endurance and faithfulness, as from 2014 to 2017 we gave birth to our daughter, moved across the country, went to China and adopted our daughter, went to China again and adopted our son, and then moved across the country again.  All the while, we also tried our very best to nurture and care for our children as we walked through and rejoiced in these busy years.  

Peace came after we finally landed here in North Carolina.  As we settled in and started our home school routine, it was now just the children and me.  No adoption paperwork.  No moving boxes.  No looming commitments.  Just us. Day in and day out: teaching, learning, building with blocks, playing kitchen, riding bikes, reading books, making meals, exploring new museums, snuggling in front of movies, playing at the park, enjoying each other.  As the weeks passed, I noticed in this peace, we were becoming even more closely knit than before.  

In this period of peace and slower days, the Lord is teaching me that He is here in the everyday too.  As we worked through two adoptions and two moves, it was easy to feel my need for the Lord’s strength and easy to see Him moving in big ways.  Although adopting and moving were both hard, it was also—dare I say it?—fun to step far outside our normal to do work He was calling us to.  In those years of turmoil and busy activity, I leaned heavily on the Lord for guidance, endurance, hope, and courage.  Now, I knew He was calling us to a quieter season and I felt some anxiety about my relationship with Him.  Would He still whisper truths to me as I moved through weeks that ran together in seemingly identical days?  Would my Spirit still ache for time with him without the pressing need of huge life events? 

I have been humbled and delighted at just how often He still speaks to me in this time of stillness and quiet.  It’s not the big events that cause me to hear His voice, but the condition of my heart.  I am reminded of Psalm 51: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it, you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.”  Although He may call us to do, go, and be, it is not the act He desires most: but the willing, obedient heart and spirit.  

I do hear His whispers still.  And I see Him move.  He teaches me now of contentment in sameness.  My joy overflows as I get to be at home, experiencing school and life with my children.  He whispers truths about caring for their hearts, teaching them, protecting them, advocating for them, and praying over them.

There is joy in the peace and stillness.  There is joy because He is still here.  He has given us this sweet season of rest, and we are soaking up every moment.  Even as we enjoy this season, we hear Him say “There is more work ahead…” and we know He has more for us to “do”, “go”, and “move”. The vision is becoming clear but it is not for now…for now, we enjoy His presence and His directive to just “Be still.”  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Replacing Lies with Truth

"You know what your problem have too many children." 

It was November 2015, and Laura and I had been home from China for just a few weeks. We were attempting church for the second time since becoming a family of seven. Although we were tired and emotionally drained from the addition of another small human in our life, overall we were well and life was good. We were happy to be back together and overjoyed to have our daughter home. Robert was parking our van while I checked the kids into their Sunday morning classes. As I juggled Laura on my hip and check-in slips in my other hand, I casually mentioned to my eldest, "Oh, man, I left my sweater in the car. I hope Daddy sees it." (Florida in November means it is still way too hot to wear a sweater in the car or outside but the inside of buildings are still arctic from the air conditioning.) 

That's when I heard her. As I put name stickers on my children, she was watching and listening. She was the "helper" that day, assigned to help get families where they needed to be. "You know what your problem is?" she said to me. I looked up, surprised. She answered without my response: "You have too many children." I would like to say I had a quick, tart response. Or even a quick, kind response. But I didn't. I stood there for a second with my mouth hanging open. I was in church. And this was someone with whom I was vaguely acquainted. I am more than used to rude, inappropriate, or strange comments from people in the grocery store...but the location where I heard this comment and from whom it came caught me off guard. 

It is scary how quickly these voices of attack or doubt or plain meanness can dig a place in my heart. Her words hit deeply. For me, the message I hear when I am feeling defeated or tired or lost is: "You are not enough. You will never be enough." It is the lie the enemy uses to paralyze me. It is the fear that causes me to make poor, cowardly decisions. They are the words that play through my mind after those days that all mommas have: when everything seems to be falling apart. 

Flash forward seven months from that moment and we are heading to sailing camp. The boys are ready to go and I am feeling like super mom that I got them there on time, with sunscreen on, and snacks in their bags. Then I realize I forgot life jackets. Life jackets. Pretty crucial for sailing lessons. I tell their instructor I left them at home and in my head, the words play again: "You know what your problem have too many children." ... "You are not enough." The lie is at work. 

Flash forward to the insane month-of-moving when I have six children and a parakeet in one hotel room. The words play again, many, many times, as I work like crazy to hold everything together, I hear " have too many children." ... "You will never be enough." 

Flash forward to this week. I am potty training three three year olds. Do I need to write any more words about this? That is a lot of potty training...and all the messes and gross that goes with it. "You know what your problem is...?" 

My problem is obvious. It's not the number of children I have. The problem is, instead of letting that little comment roll off, instead of squashing the lie of not being enough, instead of listening to truth, I allowed myself to believe a lie. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think about the lie everyday. I don't think it even every week. I haven't been stewing on that comment for two years. BUT, when I am at my weakest, this same lie continues to resurface. I have allowed it a little place in my heart and it comes out when life gets a little painful. 

I like to start Saturday mornings with a run. This morning while I was running I kept coming back to this struggle. Why does this continue to haunt me? As I ran down my favorite neighborhood street, it was a gentle whisper that reminded me: you have never replaced this lie with truth. You nurse this lie every time you entertain it. Replace it with the truth of His Word.

It's time to replace the lie with truth. And here is the truth. The truth is every one of my children is absolutely precious to me. They are bright, curious, polite, funny, and loving. I am proud to be their mother. I can't imagine life without them. The truth is that even on the really hard days, there is always something that happens that I am so glad to be the one to witness. The truth is, if the Lord leads us, we will adopt another one some day. We don't have too many. 

And here are some even bigger truths: I know that all children are a gift of the Lord (Psalm 127) and these sweet ones were set in this family by Him. I know that even at my weariest, the Lord gives me strength, patience, and peace that can only come from Him (Isaiah 40, Romans 5, Galations 5, Philippians 4). The truth is, I am not enough, but the Lord makes me enough by working through me. I know that He has great things in store for me and for my children and I eagerly await His instruction that I may see how He will work all things for His glory (Jeremiah 29, Romans 8, Ephesians 2). 

I can't say that this internal fight won't rear its head again. But, I can say I believe I have armored myself against it by putting the Lord's truth in my mind and heart. I do believe this particular battle will get easier to fight as I continue to replace lies with truth and fear with faith. 

It is so easy to listen to the voices of our culture and society. It is easy to get sucked into fear or anxiety. It is easy to stew on lies and meanness. But, those are not the voices we should be listening to for validation or instruction or guidance. We should be listening to the voice of Truth, reading the infallible Word, and when we need counsel, seeking it from someone else who is also committed to following the Lord. May I continue to fill myself with His truth that the lies of our enemy may have no power in my life. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Lasts...

The last meal we shared in our home in Tampa was beef stew with potatoes and carrots. We had a delightful day of nothing that day. We swam in our pool. We played. We lounged on the couch and watched cartoons. And then we shared one of our favorite meals, finished with ice cream and sprinkles. We were supposed to have 4 more days at the house...but then our packers showed up the next day and everything went sideways. But this post isn't about the total chaos that ensued after that evening. It is about holding on to the sweetness of that day. Holding on to our last day and saying goodbye. I wish I had known that night as I slept next to Jacob that it would be the last night in the house. I wish I had savored waking up next to the water and the feel of being there in our house a little more.

Tampa was a good home in so many ways. It was a lonely place for me, but overall there are so many sweet memories of being there. We added two children to our family while in that home. We spent a year pretending Disney was our personal playground. We were near sweet family who we loved seeing regularly...and who my children love and miss dearly. It is where we fell in love with the beach and grew to really hate mosquitoes. We thought we'd be there for a lot longer...I never thought it would be just 2 years and then we'd be in boxes again. 

Now, a month after that last night in the Tampa house, I am sitting in my new house. All the boxes are unpacked. Our things have found their new place and my babies are sleeping in their new rooms. I scrolled through my photos of the last few weeks in Tampa and started crying. I knew the end was coming, of course, but there were so many moments that I didn't know the last was the last. 

Our last time to our "secret caves" and the kids "climbing club" was hot and humid. We loved that place. They climbed and got their feet wet in the mucky bay. They found crabs (dead and alive) and explored. How many times did we make that walk? More than I can count. On the last trip, we ran into a dear friend who shared a heartbeat with us and who was going through similar trials of change as we did. I hugged her and thought I'd see her again. But that was goodbye. I wish I had known. I wish I had known as I watched the children climb that it was goodbye. I wish I had said goodbye. 

I feel the same way about so many lasts. I wish I had known it was my last run on that nice, long, flat sidewalk. I don't miss the feeling of the humidity engulfing me as I ran. But, I do miss the run. I miss running next to the water and clearing my mind. There were many hard, lonely moments, days, and weeks. I wish I had said goodbye to that run that was therapy for my soul. 

Looking back, I didn't do a good job in those weeks of all the tumultuous change of really taking in the moments that I would soon miss. In effort to make everything as smooth as possible for my children, I forgot my goodbyes. And it wasn't until I had everyone sleeping in one hotel the peak of what was one of the hardest weeks of my mothering life...that I realized I hadn't said goodbye to anyone or anything as I should have. All I had done was tread water. And I think many times my head was actually under the water's surface. But that really is not a good enough excuse. 

And, then, after the house had been packed and we were officially homeless, I remembered a last goodbye from a decade ago. I remembered a goodbye that was the goodbye of my life. I remembered what she said. I remembered regret. And then I called my Pa-Pa. And for the first time in a long time, I did what I should have been doing all along. I threw the schedule out the window and said a meaningful, real, memorable goodbye. 

Instead of waking up and getting to where we needed to be the next day, we woke up and spent the morning at Chic Fil A with my Pa-Pa. He talked and played with my children. He held Laura. He asked Rachel if she wanted to come and stay with him. (She looked at him as if he had lost his mind.) And we said a sad, but good, goodbye. Then the kids and I made a long drive away from Tampa and toward our new life in North Carolina.

My Type A personality is so slow to learn. I have gotten better...the first adoption process and life thereafter has changed me deeply. But, I still love order. I still love accomplishing tasks and doing them well. I still do sometimes neglect the softer, more meaningful things in pursuit of checking off my list. And, in times of trial and hardship, I do revert back to a more rigid self. It's not a pretty part of me. 

And, so, I learn the lesson again. Take time to breathe. Take time to say goodbye. Take time to enjoy the moment in front of me, for I never know if it will be my last. The last time to the cherished climbing caves. The last jog along the lovely bay. The last phone call with my Gran-Gran. The last ice cream with my Pa-Pa. It just might be. Enjoy it. Savor it. Remember it. Toss the list. Live the life. 

Yesterday our art project was taking too long. I looked at my list of homeschool tasks for the day and thought "Man, we are never going to be done today." And then I looked at all six children enjoying an art project together. Cutting, taping, drawing. Creating. And I tossed the list. We did the art for an hour and you know what? Today we did a little more math and it is just fine. For now, the lesson is learned. Here's hoping I am not so slow to learn next time.

Monday, July 31, 2017

No Hands But Ours

We have loved No Hands But Ours for many years now. The website and blog have provided us with information and encouragement as we have waited, paper chased, traveled, come home, and adjusted with our two newest children.

We are honored to have the chance to share our story that we might offer a little encouragement to others as they are on their own adoption journeys.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tired Fear

Howie has a great smile and giggle!
Howie has been home for almost three months now, and he is doing amazingly well. He is doing so well, in fact, that it is easy to forget where he came from. He is smiley and happy. He plays wonderfully with his siblings, he loves to eat, he is healthy and energetic, and sometimes mischievous. As we move throughout our busy days, it is easy to forget the place where he spent the first three years of his life.

In the evenings though, we remember. At the sound of the word "bedtime", Howie runs to me and wraps his little arms tightly around my legs. When I pick him up, he presses his sweet cheek to my face, and wraps his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist. In his eyes is fear. It is the only time of day he shows it, but almost every night, I see it and remember the great losses he has faced and the fear he must have of losing again.  

We sing the same song every night as we say goodnight, and he sings it softly with me. I whisper that I will see him in the morning. Then, as he lays down in bed, he wraps his little arms around my hands so I won't leave. He looks up at me with this fearful look, that seems to say, "Will you still be here in the morning?" And, so, we sing another song or two and talk about all the people who love him and that our family is forever. Eventually he relaxes, and I know I can go when he lets go of my hands so he can put his thumb in his mouth and cuddle his bear. He is at peace again. 

I find lately that I relate deeply to my Howie. Our life is tumultuous right now. Tumultuous and busy. So busy. Everyday I hit the ground running and move constantly until everyone is asleep at night. An impending move, a husband who has already moved away, all the details to get squared away to get us out of Tampa and to Raleigh, and the hustle of keeping up with my six little loves and all the daily tasks of keeping them fed, clothed, clean, and happy combine to make one very busy momma. 

Then, there are a couple of hours between their bedtime and mine and the quiet allows for emotion that the busyness of the day does not. It is so easy to push fear and sadness aside during the day. But, as fatigue sets in and evening settles into night, I find all my anxiety and sadness and fear heighten. 

I find myself reciting the psalm, "In peace, I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8). It has become what Howie's songs are for him: just a little routine to help me remember to relax, be at peace, my Lord will still be here in the morning, guiding me throughout the day and helping me shoulder the load when it gets to be too much.
Every morning, my bubbly boy runs to find me. He greets me with a hug and a huge smile. He is so happy to see me and is ready to start a new day of play and adventure. And this is what I hope to emulate in him. May I jump up and run to God every morning, happy He is here with me, and joyful to start a new day of adventure.  May I sleep in peace knowing He is in control and may I wake happy to be of service and blessed to enjoy this sweet life He has given me.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Orphans No More

This afternoon we took our group picture on the stairs of our hotel. When we came down to the lobby, I looked around at our group and my eyes teared up immediately. I looked around at all the families with their newest children and once more was overcome with the blessing that is adoption.

18 families gathered to take a photo today and in those 18 families are 19 children who are orphans no more. They now have a future full of endless possibility, and parents and siblings who will love them for the rest of their days.

18 families gathered today and because of those 19 children, the hearts of the parents and siblings will never be the same. Those sweet children will be a blessing to their families in countless ways and will add to the joy and love in their homes.

We have had the honor and privilege to watch these newest children with their families for the last two weeks. And, as I said when I was here with Laura, the change in these children in just under two weeks is unbelievable. Eyes that were vacant and empty now have light and laughter. Screams of fear and grief have turned to giggles with Mama and Daddy. All of the children still have needs, emotional and physical, to overcome. Of course not all is healed in just a few days. But, what has happened over these few days gives us excitement and hope for all that is to come. What a difference a family makes. It just changes everything.

We are so happy to have been doubly blessed by the miracle of adoption. I am glad to call these families friends and am again humbled and thankful to be here.