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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just who do you think you are?

Rob often puts sermons on his iPod so I can listen to them during my long commute to work. Recently, he put one on there and the pastor said this:

"Any label you are wear with pride... the gospel strips you of 
and
any label you wear with shame... the gospel strips you of"

I have been hearing those sentences over and over in my mind lately. He's so right. I can't be boastful or prideful of anything I've done because, in reality, I am not the one who did it. I've never done anything "good" on my own - it has always been God working through me (or in spite of me).

And on the other side, how amazing that God can erase our past mistakes! We may still suffer the consequences of our bad decisions but as far as God is concerned, it does not define us. I have a hard time forgiving myself when I make a mistake. I got a speeding ticket this summer while on a long car trip and I was so angry with myself I cried for about an hour.  I think about some of the mistakes I have made in my life and it could be tempting to think of myself or define myself in light of those decisions.  But God does not define me by those mistakes. He sees me as His child, made in His image. Wow.

I was thinking about some of the "labels" I wear with pride: Mommy, Being "Green", Good at Sewing, Adopting... and I am humbled to think that the only reason I even get those labels is because of what Christ has done for me. I don't deserve them - I haven't done one thing that God didn't think of first or give me the ability to do. I am no better than anyone else.

And the labels I wear with shame: Judgemental, Critical, Quick to Anger, Impatient... and I praise God that I don't have to define myself with those.  I wish this list could just disappear - I don't want to own any of those things! Ugh. It stresses me out just to have written them down. I'm working on all that junk, I  promise!

I'm thinking about all this because of how much support we've gotten for our adoption lately! We're in the middle of the big fundraiser and have raised almost $3,000 so far.  I do not want to be prideful about the fact that our family is adopting or that our fundraiser is successful. The only reason both of those things are happening are because God is so amazing!

Our Both Hands fundraiser project is going to be on tv... News 2 has a segment called "Hero Central."  I am beyond thrilled that they want to tell our story but really uncomfortable with that "Hero" part. I am not a hero. (in fact, I've already blogged about that here!)  We are not heroes. God is the hero - He's the one who had the idea to take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). All we're doing is what he's told us to do. :)  If you are local, it's supposed to air on Tuesday, Nov 2nd at 5. Or 6. I'm not sure. I will be a total stressball for about three hours before and after, in case you are wondering. I'm not good at standing up in front of groups of people I know... the thought I'll be on tv makes my knees weak.  I wonder if I could get them to call it "Regular People Central" just for the night.

I am an imperfect sinner, covered by grace, made in the image of a God who loves me so.
No other label will stick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

PROJECT DAY!

Wow. Today was our Both Hands Project Day. I don't even know if I can adequately describe just how awesome the day was.  We had an INCREDIBLE team come work on Dottie's home today.  Here are the fruits of our labor:

BEFORE! Look closely - you can see rotting wood on the corners of the house
AFTER! Pretty new paint job and brand new wood to replace the rotted parts!


BEFORE - notice the rotting wood at the very top!

AFTER! Brand-new wood with a fresh paint job!
I have lots to say about today, but the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is something Dottie said to me. She told me that this was the first time she has ever been "recognized" as a widow by someone outside her peer group and offer to do something for her.  She has been a widow for 25 years. Friends do check on her regularly and some men from our church helped fix her stairs when she had hip replacement surgery but they have all been in her same life stage.  She just couldn't believe we were really there to help her just because she's a widow. She kept saying how much she wants everyone at church to know what we've done for her because she hopes a project like this will happen again some day, not necessarily for her, but for some of the many other widows she knows.

You can't spend a day helping someone and not feel wonderful. I definitely have that "mission-trip" kind of glow about me. But I also am feeling convicted. It only took us about 6 1/2 hours to do all of that work on Dottie's home. She said to me "I know this is just one day for you, but this means the world to me."  Six and a half hours out of my life to "mean the world" to someone.   This kind of "event" shouldn't be an event at all. It should be just something we do.

I know I've left this experience with a greater commitment to the widows in my community. I won't be waiting for an "event" for my next chance to do something like this.

And lastly.... THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to our amazing, incredible, wonderful Both Hands team.  Y'all were absolutely great today!! You took time out of your regular life and not only helped a widow, but are helping bring an orphan home to his forever family.  You are part of our child's story. We will never forget that. We love you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tomorrow...

Tomorrow is the day I have been so excited for! I am excited about our fundraiser for many reasons - it is helping us be able to bring our son home! But the actual process of it is all about what will happen tomorrow. Tomorrow we will go love on a woman who lost her husband to cancer 25 years ago. Tomorrow we will show up bright & early (8 am!) ready to paint her garage, replace some rotted wood on another structure, and clean out her gutters.  Okay, maybe we'll drink some coffee first.

Tomorrow we will be the hands & feet of Jesus, taking care of a person he loves so dearly.

A big part of this fundraiser has been about us - that's the part I'm so uncomfortable with. I know we need to fundraise and I know I need to push my pride out of the way and let God use others to help make this happen. But tomorrow we get to make it all about Dottie! I love that!

I told Rob the other day that I am so hoping that someone else we know decides to adopt and decides to do a Both Hands fundraiser... I will totally run it for them!  So, dear blog readers... anyone praying about adoption? Just know you have someone waiting in the wings to help you with a giant fundraiser! I am not kidding! I'm so good at this stuff when I can do it for someone else!!!

Please pray for all of us tomorrow... for Dottie, for our team as we work, for my kids (they'll be there for most of the project day), and for our son in Ethiopia - maybe something extra good will happen for him tomorrow too.

Tomorrow is going to be a great day!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All kinds of stuff goin' on!

We are smack dab in the middle of our big adoption fundraiser! We're doing a Both Hands project and we are so excited about it.

We have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the amount of support we've gotten from our family and friends. God brought us to Greensboro five years ago and we knew no one here. Not a soul. I spent the first week here unemployed, in our apt with no furniture, watching episodes of 24 on our laptop because I had no where to go and no one to do it with.  After being here five years, we have an incredible church family we love, some amazing friends, and it really feels like home.

Thursday night of last week, we had friends sitting around our kitchen table and dining room table to address envelopes and write on letters to send out about our project. This is not the final count 'cause there are still more people sending letters but as of right now, we have 566 letters going out!  I just hope I can explain one day to our son just how loved he was before he even got here.

I just read this quote on someone else's blog (which is funny 'cause I'm reading a book by David Platt right now and I'm guessing this is the same book. I haven't gotten to this part yet):

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes. So when you and I hear staggering numbers and statistics about the poor and needy around us and around the world, we have a choice. We can switch the channels on our mega-TVs and continue our comfortable, untroubled, ordinary, churchgoing lives as if the global poor don't exist. We can let these numbers remain cold, distant, and almost imaginary. Or we can open our eyes and our lives to the realities that surround us and begin considering the faces that are represented by these numbers."  --David Platt

 

You know what? The people around us are NOT ignoring statistics. We have twenty-three people officially on our "Both Hands Team" and many more who are planning to come help us work on Dottie's home this weekend. All of those people are DOING something for an orphan and a widow. Amazing. Usually when we hear quotes like that it is to inspire people to start doing something. I was so excited to read that quote and think "Our team is doing it!!!" THANK YOU to all of you!

 That is exciting enough... but want to hear more exciting news! After almost one whole month of no movement on the unofficial wait list... there was a referral!!! We are now at #18! Still #6 for a boy though. But I don't care. I was SO excited to see another referral come through! Goodbye and good riddance 19!

More on the exciting front (although this part is scary to me). I think we're going to be on the news! I got a call from News 2 and they want to do one of those "feel good" stories about our project! I am thrilled to get the word out about the importance of adoption and about the Both Hands idea. I am not thrilled that I might have to be on tv. Anyone want to pretend to be me?

 

On a serious note, I have a prayer request. We really want to bring Riley with us to Ethiopia on the first trip. He really wants to go. However, he just had to have his shots for his annual check-up and it did NOT go well. I'm talking MAJOR freak out and it took two nurses to help me hold him down (the child weighs 34 pounds). I still get upset thinking about it and he gets upset talking about it. I am having to decide if I want to put him through getting all the vaccinations in order to go.  I am really not sure we can do it. I hate to not take him over a couple shots but y'all should have seen this child in the doctor's office. I have never seen him so fearful and have never heard him scream like he did. It was just awful.

 

 But let's end on a good note... two more orphans were matched with their family today (the family who got their referral got siblings!). Two children who will NOT grow up with an uncertain future with no one to guide them.  And we are one spot closer to our child!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Clean Water

Today is Blog Action day in order to raise awareness of the clean water crisis in our world. I am excited to dedicate my blog today to helping that cause.  The UN has set a goal to halve the proportion of people in the world who don't have sustainable access to clean drinking water. Please consider signing the petition (look to the right) to thank the UN for their commitment and encourage them to make it a priority. Right now about 900 million people rely on water sources that are not clean. NINE HUNDRED MILLION people just like you and me drinking dirty water.

We are so spoiled here in the US. We walk to a tap, turn it on and can drink clean water every day. We waste it by leaving the tap running while we brush our teeth, or by just pouring out a cup if we didn't drink it while it was cold.  Our children don't die from disease they got from the water they drink.

So many people in the world have zero access to clean drinking water. Can you imagine for a moment if that was you? No clean water. No guarantee that the water you drink won't bring you some kind of disease. Clean drinking water is so important. 22,000 children die each day due to diseases they caught from drinking dirty water. 

I experienced this firsthand while in Swaziland. I went down with the women one day and the girls the next to go fetch water from the stream for the community. I will never forget the moment I saw a woman lean over with her bucket to fill it up from the stream. She was standing downstream from her donkey and the water flowed over the donkey's hoof and into her bucket. I wouldn't use that water to wash my car and this is the water she was bringing back for her children to drink.  She doesn't know if that water might bring them a disease that could kill them, but they need water and this is the ONLY option she has.

For me, this is more than statistics. I have held children and hugged their grandmothers knowing that they have no access to clean water. These are people I know. Children I have cuddled. A community for whom I pray every day.   I looked into their eyes and promised them I would not forget them, that I would tell others about their plight. They have done nothing to deserve their life's situation (just as we have done nothing to deserve the relative wealth we have in the US).

Please do something today. Sign the petition. But do more. Blood:Water Mission is a great organization dedicated to building wells in Africa. Get involved with them.

Poverty is not a money problem. It is a relational problem. Until we stop thinking about it in terms of "us" (the not poor) and "them" (the poor) it doesn't matter how much money we throw at poverty. It won't go away.  Today I ask that we all pray about how we can become part of the solution. Donating money is great, but what MORE can you do?

You can make a difference. One person can. And many "one persons" can. Be one of them!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scared when I shouldn't be...

When I started this blog I promised myself I would always be honest about this adoption journey. I knew we were embarking on a rollercoaster journey but it's scary sometimes how the ups and downs happen quickly.  I hoped our blog would keep friends/family updated on what was going on but also to inspire others to pray about whether adoption might be right for their family.

Right now, I'm scared. This is not a good adoption day. I've had other not-so-good adoption days so I know I will be just fine but at the moment, I'm scared.  We committed to this adoption before we knew where all the money would come from. Irresponsible? I don't think so. We prayed so hard about whether this was really the right path for us and trust me, I even tried to convince God otherwise. So we committed. We are bringing this baby home no matter what. God isn't a "here's the plan first and here's your safety net, now go" kind of a God. He's a "trust me, follow me no matter what" kind of God. He asks us to make big sacrifices.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

As I researched grants/loans/fundraisers, I learned about the Both Hands idea (see blog post to learn more). I was so excited and thought "this is it! This is the fundraiser for us!" And I can honestly say I did not worry about the financial aspect of this adoption again.

Until now.

It's crunch time. Our letter-writing party is on Thursday. That means our AMAZING team of friends who have stepped forward to say they want to help is getting together to address envelopes and send out our fundraising letter. It will be completely out of my hands after that. It's up to those who receive the letters to decide how they want to help.

But this is the important part (that I need to remind myself of). This fundraiser is NOT about us raising money for the adoption. We will figure that out (or God will). This fundraiser is about glorifying God. It's about making the connection between widows and orphans and reaching out to a member of our community. It's about a team of people working together to help others, just like we are supposed to do! This kind of event shouldn't even be an "event" at all - we should be reaching out to each other all the time!

Tonight I pray that I will trust in the God who led me to this journey in the first place. That this isn't all about me or what I want to happen. I pray for every person receiving one of our letters - that the letter itself would be a blessing to them, whether they choose to give, or pray for us, or decide to look into adopting themselves one day. Above all, I pray that this entire experience will point to Jesus. That, in all that we do and say, He will be the one who gets all the praise for the outcome.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Paper Pregnant

I have two good friends who are pregnant right now and it is so exciting! I really had to grieve not being pregnant again when we made the decision to adopt. As far as we know, there's no reason we couldn't have another biological child but we feel strongly that God wants us to adopt an orphan. I had easy pregnancies and Allyn's birth was picture-perfect (no pain meds, only in the hospital for an hour and a half before she was born, 6 hours total labor).  I would LOVE to do it all again.

But God has called our family to do something different this time. So I'm enjoying my friends' pregnancies from afar. I know I will not have another biological child (if we do have any more after three, we will be adopting again). And I am at the point where I am very okay with that. In fact, I am so looking forward to adopting that when we had a tiny pregnancy scare last month, I was really upset at the thought that anything would derail this adoption!

My friends are nice enough to have timed their pregnancies particularly well (ha ha). One is due in January and I am hoping we'll get our referral around then. I'll need something to focus on when I'm stressing about getting a referral call and a friend's baby sounds like a great thing!! :) And my other friend is due in April - potentially around the time we could be traveling for court and then having to come home without our child for a little while.  Another nice distraction! :)  That friend of mine and I have been on the same track with our kiddos - our oldest are about 5 months apart and our youngest are only 20 days apart. She & I both are praying that God will keep us on the same schedule :) If she wants to go into labor the day I return home without my child from Ethiopia, that will be just fine with me (you hear that, Collins??)

This time I am "paper pregnant" (apparently that is what they call us wait-listers in the adoption world).  I don't get to see ultrasounds, listen to the baby's heartbeat, or feel those little (and not-so-little) kicks.  I don't get to watch my kids see my ever-growing belly and enjoy how they react to the idea of a baby in there.  But my kids do know what's going on. In fact, when I told Riley that my one friend was having a baby, he said "Oh, is she adopting?"  Adoption is what Riley will remember - he won't remember my pregnancy with Allyn (he was 14 months old when I got pregnant again). Bless her heart, Allyn probably won't remember anything.

Some of our friends taught Allyn's Sunday School class this past week and told me she mentioned her "baby in Africa."  That is the first time she's ever said anything about it unprompted! I'm excited to think she is catching on!  The funny part was that she mentioned it in response to them talking about Baby Jesus. Not quite the same, but whatever. Someday when her younger brother is bothering her, I can remind her she once compared him to Baby Jesus.

Years ago I began praying that God would change my heart so that my desires would match His.  While I am far from "arriving" at that goal, it has been amazing to see how much He has honored that request.  When we were first married, Rob and I were both grad students and I had a full-time job while he worked part-time. Not a lot of money coming in, but we never felt poor.  I prayed that God would help me not want "stuff" and He really did change my heart about that. I continue to pray about that and I can honestly say that in my heart of hearts I don't want stuff. I am perfectly happy without a new handbag or clothes/shoes, cell phone, whatever.  We have made some major financial sacrifices (me staying home with the kids, adopting vs. having a biological child) and are on what I call "the adoption budget." No extras. I thought it would be tough. It's not. We're just fine without the extras.

And now that we're going to be a family of five, I still pray that God will keep changing my heart. I was always interested in adoption and have been praying about it for years. When the time came for us to adopt, I was really ready to do it. We keep having to answer the question "Why are you adopting?" It seems like such a weird question for us. We're a family who wants another child. There are children who need families. Do we need to say more? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

You know what is so different about adopting versus being pregnant? I don't remember yearning for my biological children like I do for this next child. Maybe it's because when I was pregnant my children were physically with me. But my heart leans out of my chest when I think about how much I want to hold my next child. As if it is trying to move in his direction, wherever he is.  I can physically feel my heart yearning to know him. In fact, I'm not sure I truly understood the meaning of the word "yearning" until now.  He is out there and I'm not with him. ugh.

But every day gets us a little closer. There have been no referrals on the unofficial wait list since the last week of September. SOMETHING has to happen soon!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Be still...

This adoption feels like it has come to a standstill for me.

I've been having a bit of a hard time with the adoption process lately.  That doesn't make much sense because you'd think after 5 months I'd have the whole waiting thing down. And we've just started our big fundraiser so I've been busy with that. And I've been sewing like crazy (all to raise more funds for the adoption). Oh yeah and I have two kids, one of whom does not nap so it's not like I actually have any down time.

But right now I just feel like life is moving painfully slowly.  I had taken some "time off" from stalking the unofficial wait list but just yesterday I realized I have somehow started back to checking it every day. I get on there and immediately count to see what number we are. And it's always 19. And my heart always sinks just a little. I think I may have a life-long aversion to the number 19.

Want to know the two hardest things for me to do in life? One is ask for help, the other is to have patience.  Ask anyone who knows me even in the slightest and they'll tell you how terribly independent I am. And then I wonder where my daughter gets it from!  I was the first-time mom who didn't even take anyone up on their offers to come over and hold the baby or do some laundry so I could take a nap. (by the way, that was really dumb. I still can't believe I turned those offers down!)

I want to do everything myself and I want to do it fast. Rob says I have "hurry sickness." He's right. I watch the people in line at the grocery store in the other lines and if someone behind me gets to their cashier first, I inwardly groan and am mad at myself for not having gotten in that line. And I get really annoyed at people who drive below the speed limit, especially if while driving behind them the "estimated arrival time" on my GPS goes up a minute or two.

But guess what two things God is asking me to do through this adoption: ask for help and have patience! Sheesh! It's as if he wants me to be a better person or something! :) 

"Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act." Psalm 37:7.

That's my prayer today. I need help learning to be still and wait for God to act. I want to hurry up and do everything myself.  But when I do that, I always mess things up or forget part of something or do something wrong.  I'm so prideful sometimes thinking my way is the best way and I can do it fastest/best.  I can't even express how thankful I am that God is patient with ME and doesn't treat me the way I do him.

Most of this adoption process has been pretty great. But this part is painful. I'm being forced to see how prideful I am: how much I try to rely on myself instead of on God to maneuver my way through this life. But I'm thankful for the lesson.  Because deep in my heart of hearts, I don't want to rely on myself. I don't want to do things my way.  I'm not so prideful that I can't acknowledge that the creator of the universe may just have a better way.

I need this lesson now. When we have three children, my life is not going to be more conducive to being still.  So today I pray that I will use the time I have now in order to learn how to be still, to really listen, to not be in such a hurry all the time.

So if you see me rushing out of the grocery store (after having turned down the offer to help me with my groceries from the check-out people), carrying all the groceries in one arm and Allyn in the other and holding Riley's hand, please feel free to yell across the parking lot "HEY! BE STILL!" I just might listen! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

FIVE MONTHS!



We must have taken forty-five pictures trying to get both kids to hold up a "high five" at the same time! This was the best I could get! :) I should really post the reject pictures - they're hilarious!
Imagine how hard it will be to get good pictures of three kids!!!

This is going to be a quick "update" post so I'll just hit you with the stats these days:
We are still #19 on the unofficial wait list. #6 for a boy
Average wait time for a family waiting for a child 13 months old or older: 8 months
Average wait time for a family waiting for a child under 12 months old: 9 months


My secret hope is that I'll see his face by Christmas.