Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beauty called forth

Do you ever feel like there is a specific theme to a season of your life?  Sometimes I notice (or can’t help but notice!) that the Lord surrounds me with scripture, words,  art, and music that literally scream out a simple, but profound truth for me to explore.  In the last year, that theme has been “Beauty.”  (I know, I know, that sounds pretty vain to say my theme of the year is BEAUTY.  Of all things.)  But,  I don’t mean beauty that is merely physical.  For instance, my daughter picked the most beautiful twig off a tree in our front yard to give to her Grandma.  We were meeting her at Panera and all of us were trying to figure out what in the car smelled so terrible.  Sure enough, it was those pretty flowers.  And boy, isn’t that the truth for so much physical beauty we see?  The irony of a pretty flower that stinks.
The beauty I’ve been learning about lately has a physical component, but only in the way that the stuff of the heart bubbles up and is reflected in the countenance and in a body possessing a contented and happy soul.  “For in Him, we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17:28
 The beauty of redemption and purpose in Christ that is birthed from sorrow, pain, and suffering is far more than skin-deep and yet envelopes an entire soul in such a way that one radiates beauty inside and out.  Who doesn’t want a little of that?  ;)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.   Isaiah 61:1-3

It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did when the theme of the Created for Care conference for adopting mamas this year was “He makes beautiful things”.  All of the decorations were centered on this theme and there was a plaque on each table with the words from Ecclesiastes 3:11  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” 
During the retreat, there was an opportunity for a “Date with God.”  Basically there were different stations set up to pray, read God’s word, paint, sculpt, and intercede for others.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from my “Date with God.”  I usually prefer to just pray alone or have quiet time in the comfort of my own house.  I really wasn’t prepared to experience such a sweet time with Jesus.  I looked around at tables with playdoh and paint and felt really out of place.  (I might have even rolled my eyes, in my heart.)
All of my judging stopped though, when the hour officially began.  Even in a room full of women, there was a holiness and peace that entered into that space.  There was a “wailing wall” where women could place their heart’s deepest prayer requests on sticky notes for others to pray for them.  I cannot tell you the depth of riches I felt, literally placing my hand on a weighty request of the soul, simply taped to the wall, and carrying an unknown sister or family to the throne room of heaven in prayer.  It was the most precious time.  What an absolute privilege to go before the Living God on behalf of a sweet sister who carries a heavy burden.  I shakily wrote out my own biggest prayer, encompassing my fear and as I pressed it on the wall to be carried by others, I felt that burden leave with a heavy thud.  If we, as believers are the body of Christ, then my request was being taken up by Christ himself.  Some things are too big to grasp and only the heart can comprehend the meaning of it.
Another prayer corner of the room was a map of the world, both on the walls and the floor.  As I knelt down and placed my hand on Africa to pray, I noticed how small my hands were.  I could not physically cover that place with my hands.  I felt sobs swell up as I noted my “smallness” to pray for my two little ones in their big land full of real pain and real loss.  My eyes lifted in that moment to a God who IS big enough.  As more women silently prayed near me, I realized the truth stated by Jesus in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."  There is power in Christ when believers gather together, when weak and small hands are filled with the Holy Spirit’s power to reach and to love.
The next place I visited on my “date” was the painting table.  I really wanted to avoid it.  I love art, but I am not a gifted painter.  I savor the visual art of others, but I have never expressed myself well with a paintbrush. There was an empty chair, so I went and sat.  Reluctantly.  The colors were primary, plus white and black.
I sat for awhile, praying for God to show me what to paint.  Again, I wasn’t really expecting much.  Finally I dipped my paint brush in black.  Pure darkness.  And I remembered.  I remembered a time of despair in my life.  A time when I felt truly alone and hopeless.  Depression.  I distinctly remember crying out to God in that moment from my very real pit and imprisonment.   It was in that darkness that God met me.
The next color I chose was yellow.  I almost picked white, but the warmth of light that fell on me in that time of despair was golden, like sunlight streaming and bathing me in peace.   I painted yellow falling, pouring light and reaching down to the blackness.
Then I stopped.  I waited.  I wished I could paint something growing out of that black.  I was annoyed at my artistic limitations.  I picked green.  I drew 7 green lines rising up from the dark, beckoned to come forth by the brightness of the light.  7 green lines,  representing 5 of us plus 2 more little ones we have yet to meet.  I wanted to make them flowers, but I wouldn’t have known what colors to pick.  So I just left them empty.  Full of hope and possibility; expecting beauty to come.
My painting won’t end up in any gallery.  It might not even make it onto my fridge.  But the words I wrote at the top echo the theme of my life right now, for myself, for my children, our adoption, my relationship with Christ, and even in my work with children in my music classes and adults in Pilates classes.  Beauty called forth.
God is teaching me to wait on Him and to seek Him to be an instrument of calling forth His beauty, hidden in the people I meet, in the family I love, and the face I see  every day in the mirror.  He makes all things beautiful in His time.  His beauty is worth seeking and waiting for.

So, tell me about you?  What theme does God seem to be teaching you in this season of your life?  Is there a verse you keep seeing or a song  that seems to be the “theme” of your life today?  I would love to hear about it!! Please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Word that is Greater

Psalm 138:2
I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

I shall worship in the temple of your holiness and I shall give thanks to your Name for your kindness and for your truth, because you have extolled your Word above every name!

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

What began as a flutter and quickening of life in our home, as we felt the surge of expectation at adopting has slowly become a wandering of sorts in the wilderness, with determined hope of a Promised Land.  The longer I journey, the more books I read about adoption, attachment, the mind-numbing climate of international adoption, the more I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone is the Promised Land in this adoption.  Not two precious children, no longer orphans, but Jesus Himself.  This adoption process has opened my eyes; one minute I am afraid, and the very next, I find comfort in the shadow of His wings; I am literally lifted to a Rock higher than myself.  That is a safe place to be.
This blog has been a reminder of words that I can’t find most days.  For someone who loves language and words as I do, it is baffling to discover that my soul journey to our newest children has been mostly unwritable for me.  (is that even a word?  See what I mean!)
The dossier paperwork was an act of obedience and a reminder of my weakness in ticking off lists and re-doing what I had already done what seemed like a hundred times.  I realized my terribly pouty tendencies to rebel against the whole system by procrastinating at miniscule tasks that at the time felt insurmountable.  By the time we actually made it to the waiting list just before Christmas, I didn’t feel so much victorious as completely whipped. 
If only I had known that the emotional preparation would be more difficult than the paperwork.
How does one prepare a home for someone who may initially reject the very fabric of our family?  How do I prepare my heart for little ones, older than their years marked by pain and loss, who might block my attempts to love them; who might bite and kick and spit to push me away to reject me loud and clear,  a reflexive survival mechanism of the soul.   As I read of the wounds of young children whose attachment has been disrupted by neglect, abuse, or abandonment, my heart and mind cannot grasp the effects of such pain on such a tiny person.  There are days I think “WHAT ARE WE DOING?”  My prayers go something like this, “Father, I can’t do this!  I am too weak.  I struggle as a mom to healthy children!  Father, I can’t….”  And always, always, always, I hear the Spirit of the Living God remind me deep of His word, magnified above all names, above my fear.  I am reminded of the Gospel, the Good News, that in my weakness, He is strong.  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13
Each moment my wandering heart is scooped up and placed firmly on the Rock that is higher than I…the Rock that is mighty to deliver, mighty to save, mighty to sustain.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  His heart is for the orphan.  He alone is the refuge for my soul. 
I pray every day, every quiet moment it seems, for the God who has numbered the hairs on my head, the God who has breathed life into the depths of darkness in my soul, into the rocky soil of our marriage, into the physical and spiritual bodies of my three children, that this God would be at work in Ethiopia, healing the brokenness and pain of two tiny hearts that we would be blessed to call our children.  The Word is magnified above my fears.  Jesus is magnified above all the worse-case scenarios and God can do anything He wants to in our family.  I sit here in this holy temple, surrounded by yesterday’s toys, someone’s socks, and sunlight filtering through dust, and know the presence of a Word that is exalted in this place.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Today as I’m working through some of the online course requirements for our adoption, the subject was Attachment.  Of all of the unknowns that come with adopting a child internationally, one of my biggest mommy questions is “Will our baby bond to us?  Will we bond to him?   What if he rejects us?”
Even though the course work is time consuming, I’m so thankful for it.  I have the freedom to process all sorts of thoughts, fears, and possible challenges that our family may face as we adopt.
I’m also amazed at how many wounds of the human heart carry over from one scenario to the next.  For instance, attachment issues are not limited to children who have been adopted.   Babies that are born prematurely and are hospitalized in the early months, with limited skin-to-skin contact sometimes struggle with attachment.  Infants that are abandoned and later, adopted, grieve a very real loss even though they may not remember the biological mother.  Sometimes that loss isn’t even processed until the child is grown.  What about the abandonment that happens every single day, perhaps indirectly, when parents divorce and a beloved parent suddenly no longer lives in the home?  Or a parent is diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease, and the child’s brain “prepares” him to be abandoned.  What about all the teenage girls who look for love and a sense of value and wind up giving themselves body, heart, and mind over to boys who out of the blue move on to someone new?  Do the girls remain soft to love or hardened and bitter, maybe using love and sex to control something so frightening as rejection, abandonment?  What about the child who was never loved, never put first?  Never abandoned, yet never cared for.  A child that moved from place to place like an afterthought as a young mom forges her own way through love and loss.  Will that child not also struggle to surrender to love, or will he instead attach to anyone and everyone or no one, ever.
Interestingly, children who struggle with attachment usually resist the people who are most interested in loving them.  The adoptive mom who quits her job to stay home with her child, to invest in him, to bond may face biting, spitting and hours of temper tantrums as that precious child fights to defend a frail heart.  Can you imagine the “Fight or Flight” nature of a broken heart, where rage is confronted with love and touch and the two cannot exist at once?
I remember the volatility of my own teen years.  I don’t know if I was a normal teen or a bit of a troubled one.  Maybe there is no difference.  I do remember pushing my parents away; the same parents who loved me and sacrificed for me.  Who came to every choral concert, every recital.  Parents who took me camping and rubbed my back and hugged me and told me I was beautiful.  And I raged at them.  Especially my mom.  One thing that stands out to me about those years was her steadfastness.  Yes, I made her cry and scream back.  But then she would gather herself together and make me roast beef and homemade mashed potatoes for dinner.  She brought me breakfast in bed EVERY morning during those years, when she probably would have preferred sometimes to dump the freshly-made coffee on my head.  She wrote me letters telling me I was loved.  My mom and dad read every single apology letter that I wrote and most importantly, they forgave me, time and time again.  I know that growing up with that kind of forgiving love, changed my life.  Even though my parents were human, and imperfect, because they knew Jesus, and walked humbly before Him, they were given this really amazing grace to love me, even as I rejected them.
God’s love for me has also been like that.  His forgiveness of me, and adoption of me through Jesus has changed my life.  I have become His daughter, I get to live in peace instead of fear.  I get to have purity and vulnerability in my life again, in place of hardness and bitterness.  I get to have sweet joy and thankfulness and Light that far outshines the darkness.  I get to have His love for the “least of these.”  I think that the “least of these” doesn’t just refer to an actual orphan or widow, but it speaks to the deeper spiritual state of those who have experienced loss, rejection, and abandonment.   His love is for all of us, we ARE the “least of these” in that we have all, in some way, experienced spiritually, the state of an actual orphan or widow, this state of soul-brokenness and a heart-wrenching need for healing love.
As we become attached to the great Lover of our souls, we become a vessel of His love in a hurting and broken world.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Matthew 25:35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


 In the last year or so, I have been decidedly restless.   We’re often pretty busy around here, so it wasn’t actually boredom.  But it felt like boredom.  It wasn't from a lack of activity or living.  Actually, this year has been a year of amazing joy.  There were days the kids would crack up because I was exploding with giddiness and goofy thankfulness for life.  But I was still restless.  The kind of restlessness that has you paging through Pottery Barn magazine for yet another something to fill something that won’t ever be filled with somethings.
We’ve only lived in our house for two years.  Since I love decorating, I’ve had a lot of fun looking for deals, sales, keeping my eye on things I want to ask for at Christmastime or my birthday (yes, that’s unromantic, but that’s how we do it.  He might want a new snowboard, but what I really really want is barstools for the kitchen)
However, it doesn’t take very long to realize, “There will always be something more I want.”  Did God really give me a beautiful home so I can make it look like something out of a catalog?  Or did he give me a home so I can fill it with love and laughter and messes and healing and hope?  Do we get children so we can quickly sign them up for as many activities, sports, classes to fill their days and wear them out or does God give us kids because he wants us to teach them how to truly be content, how to serve, how to fill their hearts with the only thing that fills…Jesus.  With every activity, I think, “Is this good thing good for our kid?”  Is this nurturing a gift, nurturing our relationship or it just another THING, for goodness sake, a good thing, but another thing I have to find a place for.
Our adoption is pushing us into a very sweet place of surrender.  I think God was preparing me for it all year.  Our thoughts of the normal day-to-day now share space with Ethiopia.  Even though in the past we’ve helped to support missionaries in other countries, or organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, or Compassion, this is the first time my heart is broken and pouring out for orphans.  (That came from God by the way, not me.  There were so many times I guiltily tossed out the magazines about orphans and poverty and disease.  The needs are so great that I felt so small and useless.  And I couldn’t even muster up emotion enough to care.  Any dollar we gave was simply obedience, but not really love.)
 I started saying to God, “Father, Break my heart for what breaks yours….show me how to love like you….”  That line from the Hillsong song would be on my lips, in my mind for days, weeks.  And God, in His mercy, took all the overwhelming hurt of a broken world and broke it down for me…140 million orphans worldwide….minus one.  If we follow Him, He shows us why we are here.  And who He will love through us.  It might seem small, but if we all ask Him what He wants to do, I think that is the heart of it.  If we determine to walk in the Spirit, led by the Spirit and transformed by the Spirit,  our love doesn't grow cold and our hearts don't grow complacent.
"For if we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  Galatians 5:25
He is such a good shepherd.  I say, “Lord, here I am…Send me” and yet I secretly whisper “Just please, God, NOT THERE.”  But He knows. He knows what I can handle.  He knows what our marriage can handle.  He knows what our family can handle.  He knows where we are now.  He knows about our money.  He knows about grumpy days.  He knows…..  He doesn’t wait till we “grow up” to use us.  He doesn’t wait till we have it all together.  He just waits for little-kid arms reaching up to Daddy in complete trust and surrender.  We are here for a purpose.  I believe that purpose is full surrender.

And my God shall supply all of your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adoption is Intentional

If I had to think of one word to describe the adoption process in terms of the “Paper Pregnancy,” it would be “intentional”.  Every single step so far has taken much intent, determination, and focus on the purpose of bringing our baby boy home.  In fact, I have to admit, this child’s addition has been the most intentional of any of our kiddos.  Which is probably why we waited so long in the first place.  We knew this would be a big process.  Even though we didn’t plan the month or date that we would get this party started, to me, it couldn’t have been any more ideal.  I’m mostly off work this summer, so I have plenty of time to DO THIS!
 Today was another big step in our adoption process.  We met our Home Study social worker and had our first appointment.  Just when I thought I might be getting a handle on paperwork, surprise!  We got more!  Throughout this process, I am amazed by the intentional nature of every step. Nothing is straight-forward or easy.  Most documents need to be ordered and expedited authentic copies, signatures need to be notorized, online classes need to be taken.   Child Protective agencies have to search not only places we’ve resided in, but also every single state/country we have visited for 3 weeks or longer.  For my husband, who led wilderness trips in about 6 different places, we have to fill out a bunch of search requests .  Lengthy autobiographies need to be written (I thought we already did this, but apparently this is something else)  and fingerprints need to be made for FBI checks.    References, employment checks, financial statements, dmv records…the list goes on and on.  And that is just for the Home Study.  The rest of the Dossier has its own list to accomplish.
This morning,  I tried to get a jump on our education by completing two classes before we had to leave for our home study.  Then, in the car I worked on our “Eyes Wide Open” workbook with Chris, 2 ½ hours  of meeting with our social worker  and the 1 ½ hour drive home and I’m pretty sure my eyes are anything but wide open.  (yawn)
Even though my brain hurts and I’m super-tired, my heart is really excited and with every intentional step we take, I know God is leading us.  We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t know for sure He already had the path laid out.  We can plug along knowing our adoption is in His hands. 
With every intentional step, I think of God’s adoption of us, through Jesus.  The plan, the sacrifice, the  “not my will, but yours be done” intent of a Savior who laid down his life for us to get to be His, forever. 
With every paper we sign, every check we write, every appointment we make, every phone call, every webinar, every single book we read through, every prayer we pray for our baby boy…we know, love is worth the cost.  We are trusting God with all the details.
Elliot said the other day, “I just can’t believe it!  I can’t believe we GET to adopt!”
I  feel  exactly the same way.  I can’t think of a more exciting way to bring a new child into our family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zayla Wengelawit's Gotcha Day

Bloom (written for my dear friends, Connie and Alan, as they begin their foster parenting journey)

A child is a garden,
Restless to grow
Set apart for beauty
Seeds of purpose and hope hiding deep,
His Heart for this garden, He whispers to two
Parents, He calls them by name
To bring forth, in His strength,
A place full of grace,
where the dark gives way to blooms.
So, rocks, stones and roots,
Grasped tightly, plucked out
Thick, choking vines,
finally yield;
Love pulls hard.
Hugs, smiles, hands heal
Soaks through to a thirsty soul.
The Light shines radiant, warm, and pure
From hands that tend the soil.
Tough seeds soften, bursting, bold
Tender life pushes and stirs.
Fragile green shoots,
Always threaten to break
He lends strength to the ones who bend, work and wait
For beauty to rise up from ashes,
For life called by Him
To bloom.