Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm Coming Back

In February, I traveled to Haiti to visit Keemberlie for the fourth time since May 2010. This trip was not just to visit Keemberlie. This trip was about prayer. God teamed me up with another adoptive mom, Karen, and we prayed over every child, every room, every dynamic, and even over Haiti itself. It was an incredible week. We saw Keemberlie set free from some things and so much more.... too much to tell. There is only one story I will take the time to tell here.

On all previous trips, Keemberlie has shut down all emotion the day before I had to leave her to go back home. For the first time ever on this trip she didn't check out on me when it was time to pack my bags. This time I looked up from my bags to see a sweet face with tears streaming down sitting quietly in the middle of the room. This was the first open, completely vulnerable I-hate-saying-goodbye between us.

I wasn't sure what to say or do to comfort her. The language barrier is torture in these kinds of moments. But I had taught her a few English words that week of items around our room - bed, pillow, food, etc. So I swooped her up and with my own tears streaming down, I put my hands on each side of her face and had her look me in the eye. I said, "Keemberlie, you can't come home yet, but you will one day. We have a bed for Keemberlie. We have a pillow just for Keemberlie. We have food for Keemberlie." This was my best effort to help her understand there is a real place for her and I am coming back to take her there as soon as I can. She smiled through her tears and I think she understood.

As I talked to her about her future home I had the most amazing realization. Jesus said these same things to his disciples before he went to the cross. I've read it a hundred times but in the past I've always thought of those words as simply something Jesus said to comfort the disciples. I knew it was true and I knew it must be comforting to the disciples (and us!). But I've never stopped to think of the emotions Jesus felt as he said those words. He was leaving his friends. He knew how they would suffer before coming to their heavenly home. He knew the pain they would feel in his going. And He longed for them to come with him.

As I sat with tears flowing down trying to comfort Keemberlie I was overcome with emotion realizing there was no way she could fathom what is in store for her future and no way she could understand why I must go home without her this time.... This is what Jesus must have been feeling. And that passage, for me, in that moment became so real. No, more than that - the depth of His love and the glory of heaven just filled me up. I haven't shared this story once without wanting to bawl my eyes out.  If nothing else, this adoption is teaching me about love and heaven by the way this adoption on earth mirrors my adoption in Christ. I have a Heavenly Father! He loves me. He's preparing a place for me. And if He prepares a place for me I must believe He is coming back! He will return!!! He's coming for me!

John 14: 1-3 Jesus Comforts His Disciples:
"Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

I pray Keemberlie believes me when I say, "I'm coming back to receive you and take you home." Jesus must be praying the same for us. And I bet He's even more excited about coming back to take us home than I am about going back for Keemberlie. How deep, wide is the love of God!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vineyard Restaurant, Asian Festival, Lady Antebellum, Rodeo, Family, Friends, Super Bowl, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes, Chocolate Cake again....

What do all those things have in common - MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND included them all!
We started my birthday weekend with a double date night out with Mark and Whitney Allen. Billy and I met the Allens for dinner at the romantic Vineyards Restaurant and had an incredible meal followed by some great conversation at Starbucks. It was a fabulous evening! Thank you, Mark and Whitney.

The next morning our family bundled up, packed a picnic and headed to the Asian Festival. I've always wanted to take Libby and this year it fell on my actual birthday -the 5th. While it was a bit unorganized getting started, it ended up being a fun experience.

Billy took the girls home from there and I met up with my sweet friend Elissa for a Lady Antebellum concert at the Rodeo! YES! LOVED it! So much fun!!!! Wish I had pics of this, but I didn't even think about it while I was there - stink! Had so much fun, Elissa. Thank you!

Came home to my sweet family who surprised me with a huge balloon, decorations and cake.  A bit later our dear friends, the Singletary's, came over with an amazing lasagna dinner, salad and cupcakes.  We ate some serious calories and enjoyed every minute of it!  Thank you, Singletary's!!

The next day, Sunday the 6th., we enjoyed church at Hillside Fellowship (our new church home:)) and followed up with Super Bowl fun at the Harrell's house where a Football FEAST was placed before us. We ate up some finger-lickin' good food and enjoyed more great conversation. Did I mention the home-made, beautifully designed birthday cake? It had chocolate chips inside the cake.... yum!!! btw - how did I not get a picture of Elissa in all of this??? We need to remedy that soon!

I don't think I've ever had such a full and blessed birthday in my adult life. It was AWESOME! To top it off I received gifts from my in-laws and my family in SC and some sweet cards. Feelin' the love!! Thank you, my precious friends and family, for making my 36th birthday extra extra special!

February... Brrrrrrrrr!

Bundled up for mom's day out!

 Yep, it actually snowed in San Antonio - enough to write in it:)

Nothing a warm blanket and a fire in the fireplace can't fix.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

January 2011 in High Speed

In a nutshell - This was January 2011: 
 1. Enjoying all the Christmas gifts (especially the costumes)
2. Four cities in 10 days leading worship - San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Corpus Christi
3. Celebrating Gracie's 2nd birthday (multiple times) - and what a precious little girl she is. I simply cannot imagine my life without her. I learn from her everyday how to be full of love and joy.
4. Homeschooling: Libby started her Kindergarten curriculum including the first field trip of the year - a trip to the zoo with our friends Elissa and Lily. Also had a playdate with Maliah but since Libby and Maliah mostly played in their underwear and socks I cannot post pics - hee hee!
5. One year anniversary of Haiti's earthquake. We hosted a gathering of all the families adopting from HCRM on that night for prayer/worship
6. The start of my CD project - inspired by our adoption journeys
7. Finally received the long-awaited confirmation number from IBESR for our adoption of Keemberlie - which simply means our papers are now officially in the social services office in Haiti with still a good ways to go.
7. Canceled trip to Haiti - but did end up going in Feb. so be looking for that post to come soon!
And here is January in Photos:

On Gracie's actual birthday we were in Corpus and she was sick. But we did have  a little gift for her and had some chocolate cake at Chili's!

So fun watching their relationship grow. They play so well together!

The outfit Grammy Foote gave Gracie for her 2nd. birthday. Lots of glitter for the glam-girl!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Journey To A Lost Coin

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10

As I read this passage a few weeks ago, my first thought was, “When Josie (Keemberlie) gets home I can’t wait to send out party invitations that say, ‘Come rejoice with us for we have found our lost coin!’” My heart skips a beat every time I think of that. And the day will come, Lord willing, though we don’t know when. But many thoughts have come since that first one regarding this passage that take the meaning of it to deeper levels for me in this adoption journey. Isn’t it great how Scripture can keep getting fuller, richer as we understand it more and more!

Our journey to Josie has been our hardest adoption journey. In part, because Josie is already seven years old (we’ve already missed so much time with her!) and in part because we’ve met her and spent time with her. She isn’t just someone who will one day be our daughter. She feels like our daughter right now!  And if Libby or Gracie were stuck in Haiti without us, I would move heaven and earth if I could to get to them. So, that is what I feel like doing for Josie (Keemberlie).

I think adoption mirrors so much of God’s love for us. Often, during our journey to Josie, I think about what we’re doing to love her, visit her and make her ours and then I realize – that’s how God feels about me! And I’m overwhelmed.
The parable of the lost coin is one of three consecutive parables we see in Luke where Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven by depicting how much He loves the lost. He’s not indifferent to the lost. He’s welcoming. And more, He seeks them out! Willing to leave the 99 for the 1. Willing to diligently search. Willing to open arms and accept the repentant sinner. Oh for the church to be more like Jesus, both in their pursuit of the lost and the orphan.

And that’s just the tip of what the Lord’s been showing me in regards to this passage. Since October (really since May, but more intensely since October 2010) I’ve been waiting for news that our paperwork has moved from the orphanage’s hands to Haiti’s social services office where it can be processed and we can be approved to adopt Josie. Each week I’ve been told, “by next week”. And then something would happen; sometimes crazy things. Once, the pastor was even shot at, delaying his work yet again! That was on top of political riots, cholera outbreaks, hurricanes and let’s not forget that Haiti has not recovered from the earthquake – not by a long shot. Then January rolled around and I thought, surely it will happen soon. But I received word that an important document was now missing and would have to be found before it could go to the ss office. With that news I began to have some questions for God. There is sin behind the following questions and I’ll get to that in a minute. But for honesty and confession’s sake here’s what I was asking/saying:

1.     You said the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective so why isn’t anything happening?
2.     You said you set the lonely in families, so why isn’t that happening faster?
3.     You said you defend and love the orphans and care for them, so why aren’t you bringing her home?
4.     If this adoption doesn’t happen I’m going to have some really big questions to ask you.
5.     I don’t feel heard so I’m not feeling loved right now.
6.     If I love Keemberlie so much, why don’t you show that you do too?

And I better stop there… but that’s the kind of thought process that began to regularly occur in my prayer time, which was also accompanied by many tears.

We traveled to three different events in three different cities in a ten day period during mid-January. So I was also tired during this season. But in that third event I had childcare and was able to sit in on the message. Our friend, Neil McClendon, was preaching about “Endurance with Gladness”. I knew I was about to hear something I needed to hear. The main thing that struck me was how Jesus agonized over having to die on the cross to the point of sweating blood drops but “for the joy set before him” He did it. And my heart swelled with humility as I recalled many of my questions.

If Jesus never did another thing for me outside of salvation, He is still good and He is still enough. He is the ultimate “joy set before me”. He doesn’t have to prove his love for me. He already did. And besides, of course He hears me. He promises that He does. And a man/God willing to die for me is also true to His Word.  And, of course He loves Josie (Keemberlie)! There is nothing in me that is good unless it comes from God. So if I love Josie it is because HE put that love in me for her. If she never comes home to us, His love for her is still evident in that He has sent us to visit her and called us to pray for her. She has food, a roof over her head, and friends. She has access to food most of the time. She hears of Jesus and sings to Him. God is still Father to the fatherless even when they are not set into families.

So, I began to confess to Jesus my sinful thoughts and questions. And I began to understand my wrong-thinking as His Word redirected my thoughts and increased my faith. Some of you are thinking, “how was your faith increased in this if you think He’s still good even if she doesn’t come home? I mean, if she doesn’t come home, you’ve been sent on some crazy, emotional journey for nothing.” But it wouldn’t be for nothing, would it?  And my faith IS increased because I am mindful of God’s true character – that He DOES hear, He DOES love, He DOES care – which allows me to pray even more boldly for her homecoming to us! Because He IS good. He IS love. He IS Father! And it’s not me loving Josie and making way for her to come home (because I would fail terribly at this if I were on my own) but it is HIM who loves her through me, and HE IS ABLE! Able to do more than I can ask or imagine. And now, I have not just the firm and sure “joy set before me” in Jesus. But also the “joy set before me” in faith that she will step off a plane with me in San Antonio one day and walk into her new life with us.

In all the agony of waiting I’ve also been reminded that Jesus must feel much the same way for His chosen to be fully sanctified and living in heaven for an eternity with Him! He lives in us, but we can’t see him, touch him or even fully understand him like we will one day in heaven. And every good father wants to be face to face with his children. So we are not alone in the ache of waiting.

Back to the parable of the lost coin – because I am finally getting to the point of this looooooong blog post yet to be longer….While Luke 15: 8-10 is about Jesus searching out the lost and rejoicing over them, I think we can glean much from this passage for our adoption journeys – our searching out the orphans and rejoicing over them.

The woman who has ten coins and loses one does three things to find this treasured, valuable coin. I find that these three things come in waves along the journey; waves that take us deeper and deeper into our walk with Jesus, not just for our further bonding to our Father, but also to break down strongholds that keep our prayers from being fully affective so that He can deliver on answering those faith-filled prayers we keep crying out. I think I’ve personally been through these three steps a hundred times and with each adoption it just gets deeper and better, though not less emotionalJ.

First, the woman turns on the lamp. The lamp symbolizes the Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments. A few other references to the “lamp” in scripture include: Jesus as a light to the world; our eyes being a lamp/window to the soul; and Proverbs 13:9 says, “the light/lamp of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out”. Ah, there’s that idea of rejoicing again!

So in our applying this to the adoption journey we must first make sure the light in us is the light of the righteous and not the wicked. Nothing selfish should be found in our decision to adopt. And if there is something selfish in the decision or along the journey, it will be discovered in His light along the way.  Our battle with selfishness is a daily “taking up our cross” matter. So selfishness can sneak into the journey at any point.

We must also “turn on” the Lamp – the Word of God and the Spirit within us. We must be attuned to it, guided by it and bonded to it in the same manner that we hope our adoptive children will bond to us – freely, fully, immediately, intensely. We must open our eyes (the lamp/window to our souls) to see truth and follow it. And furthermore, we must rejoice in it even when the Word and the Spirit lead us in a way that we do not expect or do not really want. We must embrace the journey for what it is… a battle for our adoptive child’s soul and a battle for our hearts and devotion. For the woman in this parable, turning on a lamp meant burning valuable oil. The journey, we must remember, can be costly on many levels. But it is worth it!

Second, the woman sweeps out her house to look for the lost coin in places she may not be able to see right away or to reach on her own. Her house probably had a dirt floor. Our souls and our minds often have lose dirt that need to be swept away – sin, like mine found in my self-centered questions – must be confessed and healing must reach into the deep places of our hearts where we might not be able to see or reach on our own. Again, if our prayers are to be effective, we must be right before the Lord – with no unforgiveness in our hearts among many other things. So our “sweeping” out our souls/minds is an active pursuit of our lost coins in that it allows us to pray affectively. We’ll hear the clinking of that coin when we sweep in just the right place!

As I said before, with each adoption this takes me to a deeper place. With my first adoption I was fearful of becoming a mother (I mean REALLY fearful). With my second I was fearful of Gracie’s health/starvation issues and was brought to complete exhaustion on the literal journey to her and brought to even further exhaustion and illness when she came home to us. It was a tough year and I was not a self-less person, unfortunately. I was sick, tired and brought to the end of myself. With this third one I am going deeper into my secret areas of unbelief. And those secret areas are scary!

I also think of the woman’s sweeping as an active pursuit. She is not still and hoping the lost coin will just appear one day or jump into her lap. Like her, we must physically prepare our homes, sweep for every document on the planet that is needed to do an adoption, and pray, pray, pray. When paperwork is finished and we are waiting, we must pray and be active in our faith! If the light within is righteous, our “house” will not just look/appear orderly to others, but it will be clean, pure, guarded and on alert – unable to be invaded by evil.

Third and lastly, the woman searches carefully. I think this is where we find her “being still”, though in an active sense. She’s not sitting. She’s still searching, but she’s careful. She’s not throwing things around. She’s not in a hurry. She’s not in an uproar. She is diligent, cautious, leaving nothing unturned but keeping the house orderly at the same time. This is a delicate balance, not easily achieved. She wants that coin badly, I assure you. It’s worth an entire day’s wages. But she searches carefully even still. She knows that if she is careful, she will find that coin. The “joy set before her” is worth the trial, the time, the effort set before her.

I’m resting in that concept. I have a joy set before me that is worth the trial set before me. And interestingly, once I really got that, our prayers were heard and a confirmation number we’ve been waiting for was delivered to us yesterday! Ching! Did you hear the coin? We’re getting closer! Praise Jesus! Its just one of many steps to Josie, but it was a looooong (as in much longer than this post, if you can believe that) wait for that step. Our papers are finally logged into Haiti’s social services office known as IBESR. We have no idea how long the wait will be. But I’m seeing the work of the Lord in me throughout the journey and its good, really good…. Though, I’m certain, I too have a long way to go.

But wait, that’s not all. There was a fourth thing the woman did. In her joy at finding her lost coin, she threw a party. One day I’m going to get to do the same thing! All our close friends and family will receive an invitation to this celebration that reads…

Come, Rejoice with us! We have found our lost coin!

And we are going to do some serious rejoicing and dancing in good company!

For the joy set before me,
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