Friday, October 30, 2015

What Adoption Taught Me About Control

Two years ago David and Daniel joined our family. On that milestone day this month, I took some time to read all of the blog posts I've written on Adoption. God has taken us on quite a journey! So many delays, twists and turns in the path, doubts, fears...and over all of that, His sovereign goodness. This is what Adoption has taught me about Control.
  1. I had no control over the timing of our adoption. We had some pretty clear ideas of how God was going to put the pieces of our story together. And it didn't turn out that way at all. We started the adoption process in 2007, when our children were 11, 10, and 8. At that point we were expecting a 12 month wait. 

    That same year, we also took our first family trip to Gansu province, the area God had put on Charly's heart before we got married, and we began praying that God would open a door for us to move there. We believed that God would complete our adoption while we were still in Tianjin, surrounded by a strong support network, and then provide Charly with a job that would enable us to move to central western China. But God was not in a hurry, or bound to our plans.
    In His perfect sovereignty, God waited until 2013, after we had lived in Gansu on our own for 2 ½ years and after CJ had left for college, before He brought David and Daniel into our family. 
    Early on in our waiting years, when friends and family committed to praying with us for the specific request we believed God had put on our hearts of two children from Gansu, a friend shared with Charly Habakkuk 2:3, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” 

    We heard the “will not delay” part and felt confident that it would not be long before we would see God moving adoption mountains on our behalf. Looking back now, it's the “linger” and the “wait for it” that seem highlighted to me in this verse. As a result of those waiting years, I have grown in confidence that God has so much more to teach us in times of indefinite waiting, than when the answer comes right away. But it wasn't a lesson that I willingly learned.

    The years went by and we renewed our paperwork every 18 months. During that time, my doubts multiplied, “Did we hear God right? What is He doing? Did God lead us on this journey for us to actually not adopt in the end?”
A friend helped me to surrender the control that I wished I had over our adoption (as well as my migraine headaches) when she told me I needed to be Welcoming Unmet Expectations in my life, because they were going to come. The life I was currently living was God's best for me, not Plan B, not meant to punish me or make my life hard. In the Unanswered, I could accept the mystery of God. 

Waiting on God is an act of faith. The greatest thing ever required of us humans. Not faith in the outcome we are dictating to God, but faith in His character, faith in Himself. It is resting in the perfect confidence that he will guide in the right way, at the right time. He will supply our need. He will fulfill His work. He will give us the very best if we trust Him.
(Elisabeth Elliot)

To believe that God is writing a bigger story from our lives than we could possibly imagine—that all our past is indeed “Thank you,” and all our future is “Yes.” 
(Paula Rinehart)

We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions.” 
(Isaiah 26:8 MSG)
  1. The outcome of our adoption was also out of my control. In the spring of 2013, we were told that we had renewed our paperwork as many times as we could. If we wanted to stay in the system past August 22, we would have to start all over again. So instead of indefinite waiting, we now had a clear deadline. My Husband My Hero wanted to continue to wait for the Gansu miracle as long as we possibly could. I was Wanting to Wait Well, but also felt weary of waiting and ready to give up on this hope that we had held on to for so long; ready to take another match just so we could adopt. 
    God honored Charly's faith and gave us news on July 15 of David and Daniel (aged 8 and 7), who had grown up “like brothers” in the Lanzhou orphanage, not very far from where we were living. This good news quickly dissolved into the realization that it would be a battle for us to adopt them together and within our tight time frame. One of our biggest lessons, in the midst of all the discouraging news we received that month, was that It Had to be God who accomplished what had become impossible. We couldn't put our trust in how persistent Charly was in making phone calls, or in how earnestly or how many people were praying for us. He was in control, not us.
God moved the mountains that needed to be moved, and we rejoiced for exactly two days after we found out that our file had been matched with David's and Daniel's. Then our lives turned upside down when we learned that Daniel had just come out of a 6 day coma in the hospital. He had suffered a serious brain infection and it was unclear what kind of recovery he would make.

There were so many tears during the dark days that followed. Why God?

We made a unanimous family decision, including CJ through skype calls, to sign the consent form to adopt both boys. We didn't really know what the implications would be, related to the long term effects of Daniel's brain damage, but we believed that God had led us down this road and we wanted to keep following Him.

“You cannot control your life. You are therefore free. You are not trapped by the need to arrange things as you want. Trust me more fully than you ever have before. Do what I am leading you to do, even though the risks from your perspective are enormous. 
I am thoroughly good, and I am good enough to trust thoroughly.”
(Larry Crabb, Finding God)

  1. After the adoption process has been completed, so much still feels out of my control. Bonding has been a real challenge for me, and I have struggled with feelings of being a failure as an adoptive Mom. During our one year home study interview, when the social worker asked what my favorite thing was about being David and Daniel's Mom, I had nothing to say. And I felt horrible about that.
It's a journey. And I'm thankful that where we are at two years is much better than where we were at one. I am holding on to hope that God will continue to bless my relationships with David and Daniel and knit our hearts even closer together in the years to come. It's a very different experience to mother older children, when we don't have a shared history together. Different for me, and for them to have a mother when they've lived without one for most of their lives.
    I know that David and Daniel have struggled with similar feelings to mine, over lack of control on this journey. David's out-of-control screaming that he wanted to go back to the orphanage at our front door after he'd been with us for just over an hour was because, he told us later, he wasn't sure if we were going to be good to him or not. He was scared of the unknown. Me too. I continue to wrestle with fears over what issues we're going to face as the boys grow older. I have no control over that, and I have been convicted that I need to release these fears to God. Not let them control me.
God moved mountains to bring these two boys that He chose especially for us into our family at just the right time. The outcome of the adoption was exactly the way He planned it to be. He has moved major mountains in Daniel's recovery; He made The Lame to Leap and the Mute to Speak in an amazing Two Months of Change. And He is in complete control of the days, months, and years to come. I can choose to rest in His sovereign goodness.

Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 
(Exodus 14:14)

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19)

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that way was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land…God led them along a route through the wilderness…”
(Exodus 13:17-18a)

In spite of all the miracles they witnessed as God delivered them from Egypt, the Israelites still struggled with trusting God. Me too. Weren't our lives better back in Egypt? Can we get back there again and enjoy all that good food? Who wants to wander in the desert? Not me.

Manna. Water. In that dreadfully dry and barren desert. When I close my eyes I can picture it. There's daily provision. Daily compassion. Daily guidance. Which is what He offers me too. Not control of my life as an adoptive Mom. Not puffed-up feelings of “Wow, I'm such a natural at this.” But, on my knees confessing, “This is really hard. And I don't know what I'm doing. But that's why I need you, God. For hope. For strength. For love to give to them that doesn't come easily. For forgiveness. For grace. You are the One in control, so I don't need to try to be. And You are good. All the time.”

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the topic of Control)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Where to Put the Past?

We all have a past. The good parts that we want to remember. The bad and ugly parts that we'd like to forget. The choice we each have to make is how we will allow our past to shape us into who we are today. And how will the past affect our choices for the future?

Our past can strengthen us, mature us, transform us. Or it can weaken us, cripple us, confine us.

These two clips from The Lion King suggest two opposing responses to the past:

Put your behind in the past" or "Put the past behind you.” Choose not to think about the bad that happened. Just start again."When the world turns it's back on you, you turn your back on the world." Hakuna Matada. No Worries. Enjoy the easy outcast life of Pumba and Timon.

You can either run from it or learn from it.” This advice from Rafiki motivated Simba to grow in maturity, to return to the Pride Lands and claim his rightful throne from his uncle Scar. To step up and into his role as king, becoming all that he had been created to be. He courageously decided to face his painful past, willing to publicly confess that he had killed his father. Leaving behind his No Worries life, where he had been hiding from his true self and the responsibility entrusted to him, Simba boldly confronted Scar and discovered that the guilt of killing Mufasa was not his after all but his uncle's.

He was finally set free from the past that had defined him and imprisoned him.

I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” (Carl Jung)

What are we running from? What makes us want to hide?

How can we boldly face the pain and guilt from our past and learn the lessons God has for us there?

To wait on God is to see our past, especially the sins and failures of our past, as merely footprints.
It says, 'This is where I was,' never 'This is where I'm stuck.'

To wait on God is to see our present, also, as a footprint.
It says, 'This is where I am now,' never 'This is where I must stay.'

God starts with us where we are, in order to take us to the place we need to be.”
(Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent by Ben Patterson)

If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Don't be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you...
I am the Lord your God, who holds your right hand, and I tell you, 'Don't be afraid. I will help you.'”
(Isaiah 41:10)

With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”
 (Ephesians 3:20)

Let's find healing and redemption in the bad and ugly parts of our stories and allow the past to propel us forward. So that we can embrace all of who we are and become all who God made us to be.

(Linking up at Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of "Past")

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Who Am I Here?

In every new environment I step into, I find myself asking: Who am I here? And what do I have to offer? Will my authentic self be affirmed or rejected in this place?

My first three years in China as a young mom stretched me out of my comfort zone. Large groups of English students frequently crowded into our two connecting dorm rooms. My extroverted husband, quite gifted with the Chinese language, told entertaining stories while our babies got passed around the room. But what did I have to offer? I felt like I simply blended in with our mosquito stained wallpaper.

My conclusion after those early years was that my husband was made for China but I wasn’t. We returned to the US in 1998 for him to work on his Masters degree and got connected with a wonderful church in Kansas. With great relief, I tossed the ill-fitting China shoes into my closet and slid my bruised feet into comfortable American shoes. Finally, I could be my authentic self and fit in.

I no longer had to answer what had become my least favorite question of all time: “What’s your ideal job?” And have my answer of being a mom bounce back at me with a blank stare.
I felt like I had nothing to offer those career-minded Chinese college students. And that felt like a rejection of who I was...

To read more follow this link to Velvet Ashes, an online community designed to provide hope and encouragement to Christian women serving overseas: 

Friday, October 9, 2015


How was your run?” Charly asked as I staggered into the kitchen this morning.

“It was ok. But I had to stop and ask a lady for a cup of water.”

Did she think that was weird?

I paused for a moment to ponder his question. Was that considered a weird thing to do in America?

“Well. I don't know,” I answered as I filled up my cup with cold water from the refrigerator and started to drink. “She was smoking out on her porch and I walked up and said, 'Excuse me. Do you think I could have a cup of water? I've been running for about an hour and I didn't bring any water with me. I'm starting to feel kind of dizzy and I have about 20 minutes to get back home.'

She kind of looked me over and then went into her house and came out with two large cups of ice water for me. While I was drinking, she said, 'Your face does look pretty flushed.' We chatted about the beautiful flowers in her yard, and then she offered to drive me home. I told her I thought I could make it home now, and thanked her for her kindness.” 

My starting to feel dizzy this morning was a warning that I needed some water. A need to stop and rehydrate. I couldn't keep going the way I was. Or I might end up in a heap on the side of the road.

Last week I read a book I found at the library called Your God Is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan. What he writes in the chapter “Leave Yourself Alone” especially spoke to me. One of my big warning signs that my life needs realignment is when I realize I am seeking affirmation from people. I have learned that I can't keep going if I am dependent on praise from others. I might just end up a heap on the side of the road, dehydrated from not getting enough Living Water.

He writes: “We're obsessed with ourselves and afraid of ourselves. And part of that fear and that obsession--both the key symptom and the main drug that feeds it—is our need for approval. Me, I'm an addict. I can scrounge and scavenge approval in all kinds of ways, and when I don't get it, I know how to act like it doesn't matter anyhow. But that's the addiction: the need for Mark to be approved, applauded, sought after, highly regarded. One of the reasons it's so easy for me—and maybe for you—to lose Jesus is that I rarely go looking for Him anyhow. I go chasing approval and fleeing rebuke. I'm on a great commission to exalt myself and, at one and the same time, avoid myself.

It's so important that you think right thought about me. I mean—oh my!—what if for a moment you thought I was lazy, gluttonous, gossipy, cowardly, stupid, inept? I have to stay very busy ensuring that you see me in the most heroic, humble, dignified, competent light I can cast on myself. But sometimes I get tired of living like that—addicted to approval and consequently, losing Jesus just about everywhere...

If I don't believe that God sees the good I do when no one else notices—or if I resent that when others do notice it, God, not me, gets the glory—then I'll forever be fishing for compliments, finding subtle and not-so-subtle ways of getting applause, flaunting my so-called wisdom, boasting about my self-styled heroism.”

His conclusion: “Leave yourself alone. Enter solitude. Be silent. Do your good deeds in secret. Make dead space into holy ground. You will become less, it's true. But you will also become more; you will discover your true self and meet more often, lose less often, the Lord of the holy wild. For out of empty tombs and dead spaces comes the living Christ. Be still and know that He is God. Behold, the Lamb of God: See how He becomes greater.”

I learned this morning that I can't run for an hour in the sun without drinking water. And God used my dehydration to remind me to pay attention to the warning sign in my life that I'm getting addicted to approval. What other people think of me doesn't really matter. Am I getting enough time alone with Him and hydrating my soul with Living Water?

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, whom He asked for a drink of water, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Sir, give me this water.

Linking up at Velvet Ashes this week on the topic of Warning.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Compassion for Oregon

Last week, as you probably know, there was a horrible school shooting in Oregon.

I heard the news a few hours later, and my heart ached for those involved. The next day I read about one of the heroes who had gotten shot multiple times trying to protect others. Yes. Let's honor the heroes and not bring attention to the killer.

But to be honest, for several days I didn't really think about the tragedy. Until I read this tribute to the moms of the victims. And it made the reality of what happened so much more real and personal.

And I found that I couldn't get the mothers out of my mind this morning when I was at church.

Were these heartbroken mothers able to sing songs of praise in their churches this morning? With an empty seat beside them on the pew?  
God strengthen their faith. Bring them comfort today.

Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The earth is filled with your glory.

There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God's own Son. Precious Lamb of God Messiah. Holy one.

The message at church this morning was on entering into God's rest from Hebrews 4. And I thought of these young people, now gathered around the throne of God, enjoying His presence and His rest for eternity.

Would you help their families find Your rest in this time of overwhelming grief, God?

It's so much easier for me not to enter into these tragedies. I don't like feeling pain so I can choose to block it out. Focus my attention somewhere else. These mass shootings. They are way too many. Do I allow my heart to break each time? God's does.

Do I care?

For the people who have huge holes left in their lives. Who are trying to pick up the pieces, make sense of senseless death, and bury with their children the sudden loss of so many dreams. Because a young man who was filled with anger and hatred, chose to bring such incomprehensible pain and grief to the innocent. Why God? These families must be asking.

I am in awe of these young people who chose death over denying their faith. What an example they are to us.

I want to honor their lives. Their hearts of courageous faith, up to their final tragic moments. I also want to be more faithful in praying for their families who lost so much. Those who lost the precious lives of their children much sooner than anyone ever expected.

I want to choose to enter into their pain and not see past it.

Will you join me?

Friday, October 2, 2015

What Do You Want?

I've been drawn to the story of the Shunammite woman recently, in 2 Kings 4. What a generous and thoughtful woman who invited Elisha the prophet into her home for meals whenever he was passing through and then decided to create a room on her roof for him so he could have a place to overnight.

We don't know this precious woman's name, but we do know that she was well-to-do. And that she gave her material blessings away freely.

When Elisha asked what he could do for her in return, she offered no ideas. She didn't need him to speak on her behalf to the king or commander of the army because she had a home among her own people. It was Elisha's servant Gehazi who came up with the idea that this childless woman with an elderly husband could use a son. So that's what Elisha promised her. But this woman, who loved to meet others' needs, didn't want to hope for what seemed impossible.

Was she hiding behind the “Oh, I'm just fine. I don't need anything” facade? Was her fear to dream keeping her from expressing her true heart's desire? If I don't allow myself to hope, I won't ever be disappointed.

Can't you feel God's love for this woman? Unlike Hannah, who had unashamedly poured out her heart to the Lord begging Him for a son, this woman had buried her desire and resigned herself to a lifetime of barrenness.

But God in His goodness chose to give her what she was too afraid to ask for.

In spite of her objections Elisha proclaimed God's promise to her, and a year later she gave birth to a son.

Was she afraid to love him with all of her heart? Afraid of what might happen to him?

How did she feel when her young gift of a son returned early from the fields, carried by a servant, complaining of severe pain in his head? Did she cry out to God to heal him in the heart-wrenching hours that she held him in her arms? Did she ask Him to take her life too as this beautiful boy exhaled his final breath?

She had a plan. Find the man of God.

Her husband's response reminds me of Hannah's husband, pretty dense and insensitive. Hannah's husband couldn't begin to comprehend her intense desire for a son and asked her, “Don't I mean more to you than 10 sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8) This woman's husband said, “Why go to the man of God today?”

She didn't bother to explain to him what she needed to do. “It's all right,” she said.

And when she first met Gehazi, who hurried out to meet her, she told him the same thing, “Everything is all right.”

She didn't want to bear her pain to those she didn't trust.

But when she reached Elisha, she fell prostrate and took hold of his feet. Can you see into this dear mother's heart? She had received what she had always wanted but was too afraid to ask for, and then just as unexpectedly, this gift was snatched away from her. It came out in an accusation, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?”

Behind her accusation was pain. Too deep for her to even understand. Her heart's desire had been uncovered and then killed.

This was exactly why for so long she had refused to hope. Because she didn't want to experience such excruciating pain.

But now the pain was here. And she laid it at the feet of the man of God who had spoken this gift of pain into existence.

Elisha sent Gehazi to run ahead with his staff so that he could lay it on the boy's face. But the mother refused to leave Elisha, so he returned home with her. There they found that Gehazi had been unable to awaken the boy, so Elisha entered the room, prayed, and twice stretched himself out on top the boy so that the blood began to flow once more through the lifeless body that had already grown cold.

What happened in this woman's heart when Elisha presented her resurrected son to her? I want to ask her one day. The records simply say, “She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.” In those moments of laying at his feet, did she feel relief, gratitude, renewed hope in the God who had brought such joy and then unspeakable pain into her life?

She appears again a few chapters later, in 2 Kings 8. Elisha had advised her to find shelter elsewhere during the seven years of famine that the Lord had decreed, so she and her family had lived in the land of the Philistines. She was on her way back to her homeland, ready to beg the king to return her home and her land to her, when the king asked Gehazi to tell him of all the great things Elisha had done. Talk about timing. Just as Gehazi finished the story of Elisha's returning her dead son to life, this mother enters the room. She shared her own testimony of this story (I would have loved to have heard that too) and the king restored to her all that had been hers.

This woman who when we first meet her says, “Oh, I'm just fine. I don't need anything” is now ready to beg the king for her home and her land. She is now willing to express her desires, even beg for them. This hero of a mother knows the pain that comes from daring to hope. She has lived through the fear of the worst possible outcome. And has embraced the courage it takes to have met that nightmare face-to-face. She has experienced the unimaginable joy of beholding her dead son returned to life. And she has made the choice not to bury her desires anymore. Or to hide behind the facade of “Everything is all right.” This woman has been transformed.

Now instead of cowering behind her mantra, If I don't allow myself to hope, I won't ever be disappointed, I think she would bravely say, “If I never allow myself to hope, I may protect myself from some pain. But I'll never see all that God wants to do in my life.”

When Jesus encountered blind Bartimaeus on the side of the road, who was unashamedly shouting at the top of his voice, begging the Son of David for mercy, He asked him what seemed like an obvious question:“What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10:51) To which Baritmeaus didn't need to think twice. “I want to see.”

I believe today Jesus wants us to name our desires too. How would you answer His question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the topic of Facade.


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