Friday, November 11, 2011

One Small Thing for One Great Purpose

He probably has no idea how much he's given us.  There is a gray and yellow set of tea cups and saucers in my china cabinet, which he handed me on a subway in Kiev.  He bought them for us with money he should have used for himself.  Sasha gave us chocolates also.  But he did more.  He let us in.  He gave us his trust.

And he gave us an opportunity to trust in a God who asks more of us than we have resources to give... A God who wants the "yes" from us and will supply all we need to give in response. 

For two years I've wrestled with the Lord about my desire to have control over how things go in my life.  I have asked God to take me out of my comfort zone, and still I've clung to the familiar and the comfortable. I've asked God for a heart for the orphan, and He's given this to me, and I didn't really know when I asked for it, how much this type of heart can hurt.  Or how much this heart is transformed by a love that is focused outward. And upward.

For two years, I've known Sasha in letters and photos and through stories told by the adults who care for him at Sunshine Center, people who now I call sisters in Christ and dear friends.

Last year, many dear friends across the country loved on the Sunshine kids with gifts and letters at Christmas.  Some of these friends have been broken in their hearts for the child they chose and have kept on giving.

I don't think Sasha knows that he is really who God used to begin such a sweet pouring out of grace. 

The Lord used our friends again last summer to provide all that we needed to fund a trip to Sunshine, and our sweet friends sent us with suitcases filled with gifts for the kids and all the staff who work so hard and so faithfully, so often unnoticed by eyes other than the Lord's.

Selden played a version of soccer-basketball with Sasha and Zamir one afternoon.  We visited a Ilja in the hospital.  Oksana and Olia and Misha swung me so high on a bench swing that I was shrieking, and we were laughing, and Misha was making silly noises like our Eli does.

And so often we would see our own children in these kids. 

I washed dishes with Aleksandra, and I made hamburger patties with Olia and Oksana and some other girls.  Kanishko helped Selden roast marshmallows for s'mores.  Manoz never stopped smiling, not even once. Katia came quietly to me before we left and gave me a small bear.  Valik, in his camo pajamas, ran into the room we sat in with Ilia, having tea and talking about how she felt about moving to the States, and he hugged me over and over.  Then he gave me a little stuffed monkey.

How can kids we travelled acoss continents to serve be the ones giving so freely?

How is it that I am receiving so much more than I feel I am giving?

Or is that just the way it is, when we give in Jesus' name, that it is really we ourselves who continue to be filled to overflowing, so that the giving is not an emptying at all?  

When we receive from a God of limitless resources, why do I continue to be surprised by the capacity He has to do still more?

It is the time of year again when I am putting together the Facebook group "Sunshine Christmas 2011" for the gift giving project, and this year there are significantly more children who are listed.  Please pray with me that each child will be chosen by someone and will be blessed, even as I know each of those generous hearts who give will be blessed even more.

If you would like to be part of what God is doing to remind kids who have had very difficult circumstances to face so far in their lives that they are remembered, that they are loved, that they have been chosen to receive something special, that they are prayed for... please come on over and join us.

Please share this project with your friends as well.  I would like to personally invite you to be part of loving the orphan, part of doing one small thing for one great cause:  that Jesus Christ would be glorified!

(And please pray for our family at this time as well. We are updating our adoption home study, for what is now a third time.  I'm not sure at all what the Lord has planned, but when He shows us His will, we will be ready.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Cling to Fleeting Seasons

Chilly raindrops slice sideways through the air.  Trees are blazing with autumn.  The leaves are staying on late this year.  This is my favorite season.  Not the rain, but the colors.  And the crisp sun that promises to return, even in the gray of the sky today.  This season when we light the wood stove, and the kitchen air is heavy with the aroma of apples we've picked at the orchard now baking, and we spend evenings around the table playing games... this is my favorite.

If we get much more rain, the leaves will drop, and I will shake my head at the knowing that winter is on its way.  But right now, it is still autumn.  And pumpkins sit plump and jolly on my porch steps, which still need painting.  I meant to paint those this summer.

My life is like this, I notice.

It's this season of child-rearing which is beautiful and fleeting and full of projects I meant to do and days I have spent doing other things instead.  Because there will always be next spring for porch steps, but days good for apple picking with friends are rare.

I notice that so much of my day is this routine of things I do that just get undone within hours, but in the being here to do them, I am witnessing the season of life I have right now with these kids who grow so quickly.  In the rhythm of life playing out as a series of carpools and swapping out too-small clothes from dresser drawers and shredding boiled chicken for stew, I am here.  In this.  With them.

And hard as I try, I can't slow down time, but I can cling to it by my presence in these ordinary moments, which I am coming to realize are the substance of the comforts of home and family anyway.

The fiery colors of childhood spill out all over my house as piles of shoes that fit feet I can't believe have grown so much and notes about sports and music and little piles of books with dog-eared pages and flour strewn on my kitchen floor and over the little chair pulled up to the counter where my helper has stood.

I stand with my feet in two parts of the same season, as I watch a little one just learning, and I witness the transformation of my oldest ones into young adults, and I feel some days like I'm stradling an expanse so large I may lose my footing, and then some days that space is so small.

And I can't believe how quickly all these years have gone.
Please, eyes, don't miss one single beautiful moment!

The leaves flash their brilliant reds and yellows.  The mountains appear to be on fire above jagged granite.  It's something magnificent to behold.  My oldest paces with her cross country team before the championship.  My son holds his little sister on his lap at the edge of the grass-soaked field, her pink rubber rain boots on proud display above his grass-stained knees.  I breathe deep, the fresh air of autumn rainfall in the Maine countryside.

And I stand for a moment quite still, thankful for a moment like this to savor before the change of season.

"Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power." Psalm 145:4

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Saying Goodbye to a Good Dog

The doctor brought her in wrapped in a pink towel, like a baby.  This dog who has suffered recently with pain, the source of which we never could quite identify, wore a small IVin her paw, so when the time was right - whatever "right" is when saying goodbye - the doctor could inject the solution easily into her vein.  I put my face in her fur, and she licked my nose.  "You're a good girl, Fifi," I whispered.

Goodbyes are not easy for me.

I wasn't sure how long it is I was supposed to hold her before cracking the door of the exam room to let the vet know that I was ready.  I mean, I've been getting to "ready" for a little while, because we've all seen Fifi suffering a little here and there, and some days, a lot.  Her little Papillon frame, so small, hunched over in cramps and pain, running to the door, crying out sharp yelps of pain.  Neighbors have come over, one today wearing just a robe, concerned at the sound of her out in the yard, trying to go to the bathroom.

This is no way for a girl like Fifi to live. Fifi thought she was a princess, you see.

When she was tiny, she had a whole day where she was named Coco Chanel.  (That was my doing.)  Lia, at five, told me that wasn't a good name, so we changed it to Fifi.

Fifi rode in the car with me to work at my nail salon.  Certain clients loved Fifi very much, and she would often be found sleeping on their laps.  One woman walked half-sitting, so as not to disturb Fifi when it was time for her appointment, as she tiptoed quietly from the waiting area to my table.  Other clients didn't care for Fifi, and I think Fifi could tell, because she would stand square in the middle of the floor, ears sticking straight out to the side, tail tucked under, sort of glaring.  "Shannon, your dog is giving me dirty looks," one such client announced.  (She was right.  It was true.)

Fifi had a bark that would take you out of your seat.  It wasn't lovely at all.  She was a yapping, tiny dog who I believe, thought she was a cat.  If I was reading a magazine, Fifi would stand on it.  When we had a couch with a cushier back, Fifi would walk along the back of the sofa.  Not a day of my life went by when Fifi's yapping didn't cause me to say, "Good grief, Fifi, shut up."  Until my two-year old started saying, "Shut up, Fifi."  Then I began to say, "Quiet!"  But Fifi was never quiet.

My husband fell in love with me despite Fifi.  She sort of came with the package.  When he first met us, Fifi wore faux fur vests (even though she has real fur), and she often had painted toenails.  Once, he had to drop me off briefly at the store, and he and Eli, who was then 4, went to the McDonald's drive-thru. Fifi was parked in Selden's lap at the window.  He wasn't sure what to say about this little dog wearing a Barbie-brand denim vest with butterflies embroidered on it, except, "Um, she's not actually mine."  Sure, buddy, that's why she's sitting in your lap.  They've always had a love-hate relationship.  That could have well been the end of Fifi's vest-wearing days.

When Sage came home from the hospital, Fifi refused to come when I called her.  I thought she was having an attitude about the baby.  I was wrong.  She was sitting next to where Sage was lying.  Fifi's expression was fully alert, like she was looking after the baby.

Summer vacation weeks, Fifi came with us to my Dad's.  She rode out on the front of the paddle boat while Eli went fishing.  She sunned herself on the dock.  She went out in the bass boat with Selden and strained to see the ripples in the water where the fish were leaping.  When he caught one, she would come close to falling out of the boat to get a first peek.  (He may not have really liked her, but he let her fish with him, so I think underneath the tough exterior, Selden had a soft spot for Fifi..... Although he would probably beg to differ.)

In the summer, we sprayed streams of water from the hose, and Fifi ran circles to chase it, sometimes getting too close to the hose, and then sneezing out nostrils full of water.  You've never seen a worse looking sight than a drenched Papillon.  Ever.  It's not pretty.

My mother provided "foster care" for Fifi for a few months a couple years ago.  She noticed Fifi would bring each individual piece of food up to the couch to chew it, so she set (literally set) Fifi a place on the sofa.  Placemat, bowls... it was elegant.  And Fifi didn't have to run back and forth between bites.  Grandparents really know how to spoil a dog.

One year, my mom bought Fifi a lobster suit.  It was a scream to see her wearing this thing, with claws and antennae.  Fifi skulked.  Though she did expect to be the center of attention, she was certainly not sure a lobster suit was quite dignified enough for her.  The next year my mom bought her a peacock suit.  Fifi wore it, seemingly happy.  Until I noticed later that it smelled like pee.  That dog had a passive-aggressive moment and wriggled out of the suit and peed on it!  And I didn't notice until later, when I was holding her in my lap... Nice, Fifi.  Really nice.

For the past month, though, Fifi has not been herself.  Sure, she's yapped and barked.  She's run like a fool all over the house.  But she hasn't been feeling well.  Her walking became labored.  Her sitting down, tentative.  It was clear she was hurting.

So, the doctor brought her in to me in a pink towel.  I held her like a baby, which I realized I'd not done enough in recent months, what with life so crazy and things so busy.  I put my face in her fur, and a tear fell onto her head.  I wasn't sure what to say to this dog who's driven me nuts and made me smile. Mostly, I looked at her, felt the tiny weight of her all bundled up and cozy in my arms.  I thought my goodbyes quietly.  Memories flipped through my mind like slides.

Walking to the door, I opened it and said quietly to the vet, "We're ready."

Fifi whimpered just a little at the solution the doctor injected. "You're a good girl, Fif," I said.  "I love you.  You're a good girl."  And she was still.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Breath of Grace

Somewhere in the middle of all the crazy, the noisy, the messy, the overwhelming, You are there.  You find me, still small, too small for all this day holds up for me to manage, and You offer me Your strength.

Treading hard to keep my head above the rush of current that sweeps me up into moments of relentless trying-hard, You fill my lungs with Your breath of grace.  I inhale the fragrance of Your life poured out so that Your Spirit in me is my strength.  You didn't mean for me to ever try to face the swells alone.  You know I can't.  So You have made a way for me.

Why, so many days, do I press hard through deep waters and carry the weight of this life without You?  Why do I sometimes let my heart feel overwhelmed in the middle of days You've already promised to spend with me? When will I get this grace and faith and peace walk right?

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  Isaiah 43:2

You are patient with me, Lord.  You never complain when I need You to teach me the same lesson over and over.  You see the tender heart You gave me.  You know its limitations, and You so gently cover me with Your faithfulness.  You quiet the storms in me with Your sweet voice.  You lead me through the days I fight to conquer on my own, and You love me even in my stubbornness.

I don't deserve You, and You give Yourself to me still.

Please teach me to how to live each of my moments in the fullness of Your grace, to let Your peace and love flood my life, so that all I have to give out is grace.  The burdens I struggle to surrender, the dreams I don't know how to let go of, please help me uncurl my fingers from around those things that I hold onto more tightly than I do Your hand.

Show me how to raise up little lives in Your grace alone and by Your Word and Your Spirit.  I know I have to be good at recieving all this from You if I'm going to be good at giving it to them.  Thank You, Lord, that You give me what I don't deserve.  Thank You for all You've entrusted to my care and promise to help me do for Your glory.

Thank you for helping me breathe in the fullness of Your grace.

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."  1 Timothy 1:14

Friday, September 16, 2011

Substance of Things Hoped For

We've been back for almost three weeks, I think, and I haven't really posted anything about our trip to Ukraine.  Please let me say I'm sorry about that.  So many of you gave your time, bought gifts, made generous donations, prayed faithfully, and I promised to keep you posted, and I haven't done well with that at all.  And it's not because I haven't thought of it.  I've actually thought of little else.  It's just that I haven't been able to sit and write without crying.

There is no way that I could have ever known how deeply personal, how intensely emotional and how heart-stoppingly overwhelming this whole experience would have been.  I knew it would be unforgettable.  I knew I would cry when I first met Sasha.  I knew that when my eyes fell on his face in a crowd of people, I would mark that instant as a gift from my Father in heaven.  I knew our friends Oksana and Ania would be amazing.  And I knew it would be excrutiating to leave all of these people behind and return home.  But I didn't know how much this week would level my heart and bring me to a screeching halt and render me wordless (wonder of wonders).  I didn't know I would feel like I was leaving home and saying goodbye to my children both times I boarded the plane.  Truly, I could not even speak of this week without floods of tears (on airplanes, in airports, even a week later in the grocery store parking lot!).  So I just haven't known how to put all this into words.

But I need to try.

You have all been part of what God did in our family while we were in Ukraine.  So I will begin to try to put into words the indescribable goodness of God we experienced in our trip to Sunshine.

This exact moment, it was a gift from the hand of God.  Each of our moments are.  But this one, it's one I can mark to the second.  Capture in a photo.  Keep tucked in my heart. A perfectly ordinary-looking moment containing the invisible substance of an answered prayer.  

And I recall that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." (Hebrews 11:1) This moment.  This walking out the doors of an airport amidst throngs of strangers and also amidst long prayed-over friends.  This is the substance of things hoped for in my heart.  This is what faith looks like...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Guest-posting at Project HOPEFUL's blog today. Come on along!

This morning I've been given the opportunity to share a little about our visit to the orphanage in Kiev where the children with HIV or and other medical needs live.  It was truly an answer to prayer to have this open door, and another answer to prayer to be able to take photographs.  There is so much to tell you about our trip, but today, I'd love to have you come on over to the Project HOPEFUL blog with me!

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families."  Psalm 68:5-6

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sort of on our way!

We're just about at the Boston airport. After a trying-not-too-cry-too-much round of goodbyes at home, we are finally on the road. I woke up early, and there were already several middle of the night texts on my phone from Lia, while she was in her bed, promising to pray for us and to take good care of Sage (sniffle!). I kissed my babies goodbye, and little Sage (who typically prefers to save her kisses for Daddy) tole me, when I asked for one more, "But Mom, I alweady DO DAT!" So I laughed, and it was a good distraction from crying, and I kissed Lia another one and scooted to the car. Love those girls. And love our guy, who we didn't get to kiss goodbye this morning but who we'll see soon!

The week's been crazy. We're at the airport, so I'm gonna run, and I'll keep you all updated as we go.

Love and prayers that you all are doing well!
Off we go!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Living an Answered Prayer

This morning I did my usual routine.  When the alarm went off, I hopped up, ironed my husband's clothes, and then I climbed back under the covers while he showered and got ready for work.  As I was waking, I felt impressed upon to look at 1 Thessalonians.  I walked Selden downstairs, got his lunch and kissed him goodbye.  I stood, waving in the doorway, as I have for years.  And I still could hear in my spirit that I needed to sit down with this particular book of the Bible.

When I leafed through the pages, I saw my small handwriting and a date, 4/16/11 in the margin.  What I'd written was "Prayer for going to Sasha and Sunshine."  Some portions of Scripture were underlined:

"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you." 1 Thessalonians 3:9-11

And there, in the quiet of the morning, I open God's Word, and I see His faithfulness.  I see my prayers spilled out in my own handwriting, and I realize I am living in the midst of His answers to my heart's greatest longings.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Growing Season

Over a year ago, I did something dangerous.  I don't recommend you try this at home, unless you're ready for what will happen afterward. Over and over, throughout the winter of last year, I prayed that God would stretch me, take me out of my comfort zone and bring me to rely on Him alone.  And He has.  And He is.

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:10

In so many ways, God is stripping away what is me, what is comfortable.  I can look a short ways behind me now, and I see how very much I have always relied on myself.  If I couldn't see the end of the road, I would typically not step foot on it.  But in God's answering my prayer for more unleashing of faith and total reliance on Him, He is calling me and my husband to step out into new places and agree to do more than we could possibly do on our own.  It's a beautiful, raw, unbridled faith-testing, this going into the unknown.  Each step along the way, God is using His Word as "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." And He is bringing precious travellers alongside us.

My eyes are opening daily to more and more need.  It is everywhere, in this broken world we call home for now.  The love of Christ for the orphan has taken root in my heart, and over the course of a few years of learning about what the Word of God says about orphans and what my responsibility is to them, I am digging deeper and deeper into the dark places of our world, asking the Holy Spirit to really let me see.  At one time, I lived in my own world, enjoying my own "stuff" and giving my tithes and doing nice things as long as it didn't cost me my own comforts.  I can't see what Jesus sacrificed for me, and see the hurting world around me, and continue to live for myself, though.  It just isn't possible.  Christ poured out His own blood for me, and I have never been worthy of what I cost him.  How can I possibly see those needs around me and not consider them worthy of a cost to myself?

"But the king replied to Araunah, 'No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.'" 2 Samuel 24:24

God is revealing to my heart that there are many types of offering I can make to Him.  My praise in the midst of trials.  Money I set aside for something for me that I can instead use for someone else.  Being afraid to fly over the ocean and getting on the plane anyway, to go where the Lord send us. The willingness to miss my babies for a week to shower a boy we consider family, and who misses his parents every single day of his life, with the love of a mom and dad.

What started as a heart for adoption, a heart for the orphan, is being grown into a heart more burdened by the brokenness in this world... into a heart that knows more about human trafficking and that many orphans wind up in sex slavery all across this planet and even in our nation, because they are easy victims of evil people in a hugely profitable industry... a heart that knows kids watch their parents die of AIDS, sometimes curled up beside them as they succumb to the horrible death AIDS inflicts on its victims, and then wind up heads of households at age 10... a heart that knows there are little babies and children living in this world with HIV who have no family and are considered nothing more than what, in our Lord's time, people considered the lepers - filthy, outcast, throw-away people, and that is not who they are or how God considers them... and I now know these kids can actually be adopted and with meds we have access to here, can live a normal life span.  I am now aware that as my kids splash their summer days away in swimming pools and lakes, there are whole communities dying slowly from lack of clean water.  I know there are little children with empty bellies, and they all have names and faces and stories.  And God doesn't desire my guilt at having health and having food on the table and clean water to splash in, because it is the Lord who blesses us with these things.  But He is clear in His Word that I have a duty, and He has given me a desire to act. 

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the right of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3-4

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."  Proverbs 31:8-9

Recently, as I'm drawn more in love with the children in our world and in our own country who are orphans, God is not allowing me to be content living with blinders on.  I can feel my heart seeking out more understanding, and I'm asking God to give me His eyes and His heart and His strength.  

As we prepare to go on our first trip to Eastern Europe, we ask you would be praying for us.  The Lord is so faithful to guide us in the direction of His will.  It's a huge gift from the hand of God Himself to be able to look our Sasha in the face and tell him he is worth the travel and that he is loved by us and by the Lord.  That moment, and all the moments we will spend in his company, are an honor which I am humbled to be able to receive.  There is not a single person on this earth I would rather meet than our Sasha.  Not one.  (There's not an 11-year old girl on the planet who wants to meet Justin Bieber any more than we want to meet Sasha!) I cannot tell you how moved my heart is that God is giving us this opportunity. Wow... am I ever going to be crying tears of joy!

I'd like to also express my deep thanks for all those (some I know well and others I've never met) who have invested of their time, prayers, finances, energy, and words of encouragement to us.  We are going on this mission and bringing you all along in our hearts.  We could not do this were it not for your participation, and God is using every single thing you are investing to not only bless us but to make a real impact on the children and caregivers we will be with this month and on children we are working toward supporting in the future.  Your gifts are going to have eternal impact, and I am honored to watch your hearts in action.   

Please pray that we would be able to accomplish all the Lord intends for us to do.  The trip has grown by His grace into one that is allowing us opportunity to work on behalf of orphans in a number of different ways.  I'm seeing how small my faith has always been, in light of what I'm learning now about growing in my faith to the point that I press in hard toward the unknown and the too-big and the I-don't-know-how.  

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin!" Zechariah 4:10

Monday, July 25, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Posting On Bangor Daily's "Get Ginafied"! (Come on over...)

It's not everyday that manicures and missions collide.  I'm really excited to be guest posting today at Get Ginafied, and I'd love to have you follow me over there to hear what all the fuss is about....

(Just for fun, here's a photo of me and Gina from the days when we both were blondies!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Mama's Tears

With tears, I welcome my children into my life, into this world.  It's just what I do.  I cry.  And I say, "Thank you, Jesus." In fact, my husband had to remind me to wait a few more pushes to start crying over Sagie, because I apparently started crying too soon.  If that's too much information, please forgive me.

It's with certainty that I can tell you, I will be crying in a few weeks, when I first set my eyes on my oldest child.  The one I did not give birth to, but over whose life my heart and prayers have labored for 20 months.  The son who does not share our last name or live in our home, but whose presence in our family has changed us by God's hand in more ways than I can ever list, will quite possibly stand in awe of this red-headed American woman who is crying when she meets him and saying, "Thank you, Jesus" in a language he does not speak.  I'm hoping that he'll see the joy in those tears and be blessed to know how much he moves my heart. 

His photos hang on our walls.  His sleeping bag is rolled up in its case upstairs, alongside Eli's and Lia's.  His fishing pole is in our garage. Our two-year old includes him in the list of siblings she prays for at bedtime. But he is not here.  There are still a few things in bags on my bedroom floor that I have held off mailing to him.  Because I hoped he would be coming here and we could give them to him in person.  

Instead, we will take his things to him ourselves next month.  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55: 8-9 

We've also been given some wonderful things to share with our friends at Sunshine, from our local Borders, which is closing.  (More tears.)  We were told that flavored coffee is a big treat to our friends at Sunshine, so Borders has been collecting donations of coffee from wonderfully generous customers, and they have also put together some cool things for the kids!

We're so encouraged to see how the Lord is providing for our needs as we are going ahead on this trip He has called us to.  We have been relying on the Lord for every penny of our travel expenses, and He has provided graciously for all things.  We purchased our tickets last week, and we had five bucks to spare!  Now we're raising funds for our expenses in-country, and we have been blessed by friends giving, either through Project HOPEFUL's "Donate" button up at the top right of this blog or directly making gifts to us for the things we'll be doing in our ministry overseas.  

God is so faithful.  I just want to be sure to say that today.  He is so faithful, and He is always faithful. If there is anything in your life that you are sensing the Lord calling you to do, stepping out in faith, walking beyond the borders of where you are comfortable, agreeing to do more than you can possibly do with the resources you have within your control: go for it.  That's on my heart to share. I don't know if someone reading this today may be hearing all the reasons not to do something being whispered over the call of Christ to step out, but I want to encourage you to say "yes."  Say yes before the money is there, or the house is perfect, or the answers all are worked out.  Say yes, because the One who is calling you out is able to meet each need as it arises, and if you have all the resources and all the answers, then are you really even using any faith?  I'm learning so much about clinging to nothing but my Lord, and He alone is able. 

I have one request of you all.  Would you please pray for us?  This morning I've been reading in Colossians, and I'd like to make this verse my request.  "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ...Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."  Colossians 4:3 & 4  Please also pray for Sasha, that his life and his future will be impacted by the message of the Gospel, that we will share with him the love of Christ in ways that meet him right where he is, and that he will know the love of a mom and dad, even though he has had to suffer the loss of his birth mom and dad.  Please pray that we will be a blessing to the staff who work with all the kids, both at Sunshine and at any other orphanage or children's center we will be visiting.  Please pray we will be led by the Spirit in knowing what to say and how to say it at all times, and that we would be wise and that we would build lasting relationships.  Above all, please pray that God will be glorified in every single aspect of our travels and our time.  

Some of you have followed our journey with Sasha since its beginning.  There have been so many tears cried over this boy.  We have come to love him with the love of Christ and with the love of parents, and we know God's plans for him are so good.  I love what Psalm 126 says:  "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy... Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."  The Lord has brought us to the place where the tears will be tears of joy.  We've birthed dreams and we've seen them die.  We've handed back to the Lord those things which we believe He has written on our hearts, and He does what only He is able to do.  He has written for our lives a story we could not have predicted, and it is good.  His faithfulness never fails us.  He is the Lord, our God, and we are honored to be able to serve Him.  

Thank you for your prayers.  God is using you to accomplish His will, and we know we are surrounded by those who love us and who share God's heart for the orphan.  We are eager to meet the caregivers we have come to call our friends, who serve the Lord daily in the fields of the fatherless.  We look forward to reporting back beautiful stories of redemption amidst the hard places.  And we are very excited to spend time in person with our guy, Sasha.  "Thank you, Jesus." (Tears.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Psalm 12 - Promise of a Mighty God

"The LORD replies, 'I have seen
 the violence done to the helpless,
and I have heard the groans
of the poor.

Now I will rise up to rescue them,
as they have longed for me to do.'

The LORD's promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.

Therefore, LORD, we know you will
protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this
lying generation,

even though the wicked strut about,
and evil is praised throughout
the land."
Psalm 12:5-8

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why "there" when there's so much need "here"?

My grandmother and I are talking about the gifts.  We're talking about how she could mention to her girlfriends that if they'd like to buy a small gift for one of the children we'll be visiting at the center in Ukraine, and I'll give her some photos to show them, so they can see the kids.  We talk about how it's so important for a child who has lost everything - sometimes more than once - to have a little something that is just theirs.

She tells me that she has enjoyed the shoebox projects her church does at Christmas, but that a lot of people ask her, "Why do you send things to kids in other countries when their are so many needy kids here?" She doesn't really have an answer, except that she enjoys it.  But I can tell she wants an answer, as I think she feels a little anticipation of these questions coming up again.  

We talk more.  About Jesus and children and gifts. About needs so great.  And us, so small.

The question is valid, though, and I think it's important to talk about all these things, when we talk about missions and ministry and giving and orphan care.  I hear this question worded in different ways. "Why would they adopt from another country when there are so many children here?" "Why would they adopt a child with severe special needs, when there are healthy children who need a home?"  "Why did they want to have a foster child, when they could have adopted a baby, without all that baggage?"  "Why would you help kids far away, when there are so many poor children in our own communities?"  

I hope I'm not speaking out of turn, but the only thing that continually comes to mind when I hear these questions is that the needs are so great..... so great.  Way beyond what any one of us could possibly meet.  And the Lord loves each of these little ones so incredibly.  And there is truth in each of these questions.  There are so many children - little ones, bigger ones - who all have needs that sting my heart. And I'm so thankful that we serve a God who calls each of us to unique areas of service, so that, hopefully, we are all together working as the body of Christ to do what we can to reach this hurting world with the love of Jesus.  

And I'm encouraged when I step back and see a larger picture of what is happening around me.  I have friends who have adopted from foster care and others who've adopted babies of all different colors as infants, and I have friends who've travelled the globe against all earthly odds to bring children home when governments and embassies have been difficult to work with.  I have friends who have had adoptions fall apart time and again, but who've continued on in faith that God is in control, even through tremendous grief and broken hearts.  And I have friends I have not yet met who give their lives daily to rescuing children from the streets of Eastern Europe and taking care of them.  I know a man who set up a house in a whole different country just so that kids there would be safe.  And I am getting to know friends who've stared down stigmas and fear and lies to bring home children who would have died of AIDS if left in other countries, but who are able to be safe and healthy and live great lives in the U.S. because we have the medicine they need and the families they need.  I have a childhood friend who works to fight human trafficking.  Each of us can do something.  God will show us each what that is.  And that feels like hope.

And all these children are precious.  Each of them is of indescribable value to the Lord.  And they each do have needs.  And as God's people, we have to ask Him how He wants each of us to be working to meet those needs.  We are not all called to do the same thing.  But I believe we have to be honest enough to ask the Lord His heart for us, and we have to be willing to expose our own hearts to the hard things and the hard places.  Sometimes that means going.  Sometimes it means staying.  Sometimes it means seeing needs and not understanding why they are not met yet.  And it means trusting that the God we serve is able to redeem the broken pieces and create beauty from ashes.  But I don't believe it's God's will for any child to be an orphan.  It's a sad fact of living in a broken world, but it's not ok.  And I don't care where the children live, they move my heart. 

I can't really get my head around the magnitude of need in our world...In our own back yards or across the planet.  So I start where I can.  And there is no value to be placed differently among children based on their geographic location.  If you have a heart to serve, the Lord will show you where your life and your love and your time are needed.

For us, God has given us a relationship with a boy halfway around the world.  And we've been blessed to call him "son," even though he is not with us in person.  One thing that is true, no matter where we serve is that relationship and consistency are the keys.  Also, I'm learning over and over again that we have to be continually asking the Lord and asking the people who know more than we do, "How we can best help?"  

We're approaching the Ukraine orphan care work with that attitude of "Show us how, Lord."  We are working to have authentic dialogue with people who are currently in the trenches of orphan care in Ukraine, who know where the needs are and who have incredible insight into how we can come alongside and offer support. So please keep praying with us that God will continue to reveal His plans and His will to us as we are working to understand the best way to care for orphans.  

Would you like to give a small gift to an orphan in Ukraine?  Let me know, and I'll tell you about the kids who still need someone to give to them!  And I'll be sure to share photos with you.  You can also make a donation through the Donate button at the top of the page, and help through Project HOPEFUL - we're raising money to do some special things for the children while we're there.  It's really exciting!

I am praying also for you, that you'll be encouraged in your own life as you see needs and work to meet them in the name of Jesus.  If you would like to share about how God's stirring your heart into action and where you are called to serve, I would love to have you leave a comment and tell me about it. It's so encouraging to hear about what each of you is doing! 

"May the God of all peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus...equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."  
Hebrews 13:20-21