Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One Year into Forever!

Last year on this day, we first held our beautiful, precious, courageous, curious, adventurous, mischievous, amazing gift of a son Josiah in our arms the Civil Affairs Office in Zhengzhou, China in the Henan Province.  It feels like a big deal to be standing on this side of a year...a year filled with ups and downs and joy and sorrow.  But, the important thing is that we are standing...one year into forever as Josiah's forever family.

Right after the new year, I wrote a journal entry on Philippians 4:8 about Josiah.  For years, I have been writing out Philippians 4:8 as a way to process and praise different chapters of my life, so it seems fitting to share it now on this one year anniversary...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things"  (Philippians 4:8).

True:  God created Josiah to be our son.  God is Sovereign and this was His good plan for our family.
Noble:  Answering this call to adopt, even knowing it would be beyond difficult to live out.
Right:  Christians answering the Biblical and global call for the orphan, no matter the cost.
Pure:  Josiah's precious life, knit by His Creator, in his birth mother's womb-fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
Lovely:  Josiah's smile, the way he loves life, his bravery, his courage to build trust, the way he loves being part of our family.
Admirable:  Persevering.  "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"  (Philippians 3:14).
Excellent:  "God places the lonely in families"  (Psalm 68:6).  Not in perfect families, but in messed up, barely holding on families, yet He is near and in this we are called to rejoice.
Praiseworthy:  God's character:  He is Able, Beautiful, Caring, Defender, Everlasting, Faithful, Good, Holy, Infinite, Just, Kind, Love, Majestic, Noble, Omnipresent, Powerful, Quintessential, Redeemer, Savior, True, Ultimate, Victor, Warrior, eXcellent, Yahweh, and Zealous.

In honor of Josiah's first year as part of our family, would you pray for the world's orphans today?  Would you ask God how He specifically has for you to answer the call to love them?  I remember Josiah clinging to us as we visited his orphanage the day after he joined our family.  He already knew the gift of family and didn't want to turn back, but there were many other children who stayed behind as we drove away.  Please consider praying for them today, even as we rejoice in our very own party of 5.  And a special thank you to each of you who support us and prayed for us and helped make Josiah ours!

                                       Celebrating 1 Year with our Precious Son!..







In other wonderful news!..Isaac prayed to receive Christ into his heart as his Lord and Savior this morning at breakfast!  February 17th is truly a special date for our family!!! :)


Friday, January 30, 2015

Overcoming the World's Orphan Crisis With Good

When Josiah was born, his left leg was filled with fluid from his hip to his knee.  Whatever doctor examined him at his orphanage in China diagnosed him with something called 'Cystic Lymphangioma' which is a vascular malformation that led to the build-up of fluid in his leg.  Sometime between the time he was 3 months old and 15 months old, a crude surgery was performed in China to remove the fluid, but his leg was stitched too tightly and too crudely and thus, after we had him examined here, it was determined that another surgery was needed or his leg might not be able to grow properly.  This was the surgery he had 2 days ago at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  (The surgery went very well.  Another smaller procedure will be needed in the Fall).

As I sat in the waiting room during Josiah's surgery, I was praying and reading Scripture.  In Romans 12, I was reminded to 'Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good' (v.9) and to 'overcome evil by doing good' (v.21).  And I thought about the millions and millions and millions of orphans around the world whose medical needs dwarf Josiah's and how they have no services, no parents, and often, seemingly no hope.  I also continued reading a book called 'Fierce Convictions' about a woman named Hannah More who lived in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries.  You have probably never heard of her (I hadn't before stumbling across this book).  Along with her much more famous counterparts William Wilberforce and John Newton, she helped abolish the slave trade in Britain during her lifetime.  I thought about how Hannah More, a famous writer in her time, appealed to the masses about the horrors of slavery and how Britain must end it and how her appeal was based on the love of Christ and the great worth of all God's creation.  Then I thought even more about the millions and millions and millions of orphans and vulnerable children around the world who are waiting for Christians to rise up and to 'abhor what is evil, cling to what is good' and to 'overcome evil by doing good'.  So, while I know this blog will reach far, far fewer than Hannah More, William Wilberforce, and John Newton (in case you are not sure who he is, he wrote the hymn 'Amazing Grace' and you have probably heard of that!) ever reached, I wanted to take these few moments since returning home from the hospital with our recovering little boy to appeal to you on the basis of love to ask God what specifically He has for you to reach the orphans of the world...to love them with the love of Christ and wait for His answer, His answer that allows you to be part of the hope for these millions of children in desperate need.

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in resources of just how to go about discerning the specifics in this calling, whether it is the road to adoption or the road to foster care or the road to financially supporting ministries in countries around the world who are serving children that will likely never be adopted or in simply serving adoptive families right where you are living and very importantly, praying fervently for God's provision for these precious lives.

Josiah's surgery allowed me to learn more about him too.  I learned more about just how determined and brave and adaptable and joyful he is.  As soon as he was unhooked from his IV, he was down on the floor trying to destroy the place in the spunky way that only he can.  He loves life.  And God has graciously given us the gift of being part of his story to help him reach his potential-physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Josiah and I walked hand in hand out of the hospital while he said 'ooooooooooo!', 'ooooooooooooo!', 'oooooooooooooooo!' about the huge fishes and ostrich that decorate the children's area of the hospital.  He will not be defeated by any circumstance and some of his circumstances have been heartbreakingly sad.  Even in the midst of many challenges in the almost year since he became ours, I prayed to God as we walked to the car to help me appreciate and celebrate who Josiah is.  He is not compliant or easy or quiet or calm.  He is willful and difficult and loud and rambunctious.  He is also amazing and beautiful and smart and hilarious.  And, graciously, he is ours.

Will you join me in overcoming the world's orphan crisis with good?

Before surgery...smiling away...our brave little trooper!..
After...sipping on some apple juice.
Recovering well...
 Foosball time in Hospital Playroom!
Home Sweet Home!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 of 2014 (Starring our Children)!

This year has been really, really, really hard.  Most days I feel like I am just barely, barely, barely holding on.  Many of my prayers sound something like this, 'God, please HELP!  Please intervene for me!  I NEED YOU!'.  But, as 2014 draws to a close, I will close with remembering the sweet, funny, blessed moments my children and I have spent together by making a special Top 10 list!

So, here you have our 'Top 10 Funny/Sweet Moments Starring Our Children of 2014'...

10. Emma to me:  'Does babies come out of the top of they mommies' heads?'
9.  Isaac and Emma's nonsensical knock-knock jokes that all go something like this:
     I&E:  Knock, Knock!  Me:  Who's there?  I&E:  Refrigerator.  Me:  Refrigerator who?
     I&E:  OVEN!  All kids:  HAHAHAHAHAHA!
8.  Josiah's attempt at his own knock-knock joke:  Josiah:  Knock-knock!  Me:  Who's there?
     Josiah:  Knock-knock!  Me:  Knock-knock who?  Josiah:  Knock-knock!  All kids: HAHAHAHA!
7.  Isaac's very lengthy conversations about anything having to do with Transformers Rescue Bots or      Super Hero Squad (and him singing the theme songs with some interesting song interpretations...
     just like his mama!).  HERO UP!  (You can also often hear Emma in the background saying,
     'But, I want to watch Doc McStuffins!')
6.  Isaac's response after realizing he was using a Baltimore Ravens blanket at our friends' house:  
     'Ewwww!  This is a Ravens blanket!' (Then throwing it down).  (This one, of course, made his
     mama proud!)  WHO-DEY!  Bonus sports memory:  driving 3 and a half hours one way to make
     sure Josiah got to his first Cincinnati Reds baseball game this year (in Pittsburgh).
5.  Emma telling just about everyone that 'we went all the way to China on an airplane to get our
     little 'brotha' named Josiah.  She also likes to say 'Ni Hao!' (hello in Chinese) to everyone who
     passes by our fence.  (After all, her blonde hair and blue eyes did make her a celebrity in China!)
4.  Josiah's pure joy in shouting 'Choo-choo!' anytime he sees anything that has anything to do with
     a train.  Bonus from the holidays:  'if i just have to dress up and hold out a bag for people to give
     me candy..sign me up!'  'if i just have to walk up to a big, white-bearded man in a red suit to get
     presents...sign me up!'  'if you want me to go on stage at church for holiday performances, i am
     going to dance my little heart out!'
3.  All the kids standing up and dancing to 'The Hot Dog Dance' at the end of Mickey Mouse
     Clubhouse.
2.  Isaac and Emma running into another room and then running back out and yelling, 'SURPRISE!'
     every single time Ricky comes home from work.
1.  Emma crying while I read her the book 'The Story of Ping' the day before we finally held Josiah
     in our arms in China.  She was upset that the duck Ping had been separated from his family and
    she cried out 'Ping needs to be with his family!'  And then sweetly, the next day, God placed our
    very own sweet duckling Josiah into our forever family!

May you and yours have a blessed 2015 filled with sweet moments in the midst of the challenging ones!


Choo-Choo!


Heatwave, Doc McStuffins, and Thomas are in!


Go Reds!


Party of 5!





Saturday, December 20, 2014

Show Hope this Season!

Last night, Ricky volunteered for Show Hope at Andrew Peterson's Christmas Concert.  For anyone who doesn't know, Show Hope is Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman's Adoption Grant and Orphan Care Organization and Andrew Peterson is one of Ricky's favorite recording artists and his Christmas Concert is one of Ricky's favorite shows (win-win all around!).  Show Hope gave us a significant grant to help bring Josiah home, so it is a wonderful privilege to us to volunteer for them.

However, earlier in the week, Ricky offered to not go.  You see, the past couple of weeks have been really, really hard.  We are in the midst of a battle for our little girl's heart.  She has been struggling with fears and control and it has been really, really hard (but her precious heart is worth fighting for and I think we are making some progress!).  I have been exhausted and sick.  But, I knew Ricky needed to go.  As Isaac, Emma, Josiah, and I sat at the dinner table last night, Isaac turned to me and said, "I'm glad daddy isn't here because he is out helping other kids get adopted."  This was a holy moment to me.  Amazing.  I'm so grateful.  From the moment we brought Josiah into our hotel room in Zhengzhou, China to meet his big brother and sister, Isaac struggled.  It was hard for him to process that he was worth just as much to us in that moment as he was in the short period of time that he was our only child and then our only boy.  And he really struggled through that for months and months.  He started really making progress at about the 6 month mark in accepting that he means just as much to us now as he did before Josiah entered our family and took his place as the only boy away.

So, after a particularly difficult 2 weeks, in addition to 10 months filled with particularly difficult days, the moment Isaac put himself aside and was glad his dad wasn't home (he would prefer his dad to be with him 24 hours a day!) for the good of orphans around the world was a sacred moment for me.  Of course, the moment lasted less than a second because right after Isaac uttered those beautiful words, Josiah started spitting chicken out on the table, but it was sacred moment nonetheless and that is how real life usually works anyway.  Well, at least real life as a mom to young children.  That is why I am writing this down-to store that moment in my heart.  I do not want to continue to allow joy to be stolen by the hard moments or disappointments or exhaustion.  Emma also took a moment after I was finished cleaning up the chicken to agree with Isaac, so that was a sweet moment too!

This morning, we celebrated our family Christmas together.  We sang 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' and Ricky read the Christmas story from Luke 2.  Josiah is celebrating his first Christmas.  He is riding around on his new Thomas the Tank Engine toy (choo-choo!).  His stocking was filled with goodies and unlike last Christmas, he is here to pull them out and say 'Open! Open!'.  While all the kids spent time trying to take the others' new toys and it has not all been peace, Josiah is here and our family is together and I can think of no better way for us to show hope this season.

Merry Christmas from all of us!

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord"  (Luke 2:11).

  Our Christmas Card photo is front of our 'Family Tree' in the front yard.  We took a picture in front
of this tree for our China Dossier (paperwork) holding a branch as a symbol that we were waiting for Josiah to fill that branch and now here he is! 
'Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.  Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies, with angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!  Hark the Herald Angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!' (Hark the Herald Angels Sing).


If you would like to learn more about how to give to Show Hope and help serve orphans and families around the world, visit their website here:  www.showhope.org  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mine!

Some moments upon moments in this season have been so, so hard.  In the midst of days when the '4 D's' (Demands, Defiance, Disobedience, and Disrespect) have been unending and navigating the waters of the terrible 2s mixed with the extra control and trust issues Josiah is likely dealing with in his quest for independence as a 2 year old when his trust needs were far from met in his orphanage as a 1 year old (and answers in books about how to deal with this feel empty), and when family is hundreds of miles away and when I feel the waves of inadequacy crashing around me, I want to step back and remember the moments I experience the sacredness of what God has done and how He has worked.

Like many 2 year olds, one of Josiah's favorite words is 'Mine!'.  He says it about his toys, his brother's Halloween candy, and his sister's shoes.  But the other day, as I took him in to brush his teeth before bed, he gently placed his hand on me and said 'Mine.'  Yes, Josiah, I am yours.  I am your mama.  For better or for worse, forever.  It was a sacred moment.

Last Sunday, was Orphan Sunday (to learn more about Orphan Sunday, visit their website at:  www.orphansunday.org), and we showed the official Orphan Sunday video at our church and then I went on stage for a few minutes with Josiah and shared our family's heart for adoption with the congregation.  In the video, people from many walks of life share how they were orphans, but now they belong.  It is impossible for me to watch that video and to not see Josiah standing there sharing how he was an orphan, but now he belongs.  As I walked up to the podium to share about our adoption journey, tears escaped from my eyes as the magnitude of what God has done hit me.  I was standing there, in Frederick, Maryland, in front of our church, with our little boy, who just 9 months ago was in a tiny crib in a room with 17 other cribs, 7000 miles away from his family.  Now he is here, where he belongs.  Anyone who really knows me, knows that crying in front of an audience is just not something I do.  But, I love that the moment hit me.  I love that God reached my heart with what He has done.  It was a sacred moment.

If you are in the midst of the journey and some days just seem unbearable, I pray God will give you glimpses into these sacred moments and that they will encourage you in the midst of the struggle.  I pray for the truth that Jesus gave everything to adopt you into His family will be your strength.  And I pray for your heart to remember that for all eternity, God has placed His hand on His children and says 'Mine!'

Another sacred moment:  Josiah standing in front of the lake where I ran the '15 for 150 Million' Fundraiser in his honor last Fall.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Terrible 2s and The Sustaining Savior

Recently, Josiah woke up in the middle of the terrible 2s and hasn't stopped reminding us why 2 year olds are often branded as such.  After spending the last 2 years trudging through his big brother's own season of power struggles, I am weary to begin this particular stage again.  I can give you an update of countless praises of Josiah's life and they are all amazing and encouraging.  He is developing wonderfully.  He is smart and beautiful and curious and adventurous.  We love him and are beyond grateful to call him our son.  But, honestly, staring down the tunnel of this season feels daunting.

Yesterday, after a day filled with many temper tantrums and quests for independence, I sat down to look up an article online I had read a couple of years ago encouraging stay-at-home moms in their important, but often wearying call and as I searched for the article, a couple of very discouraging articles popped up as well.  I did not read them, but just their titles alone told of the distain for stay-at-home moms who struggle.  There is this idea out there that says that since we likely chose this route, we need to either act happy or be quiet.  But sometimes I don't feel happy.  I feel exhausted.  I feel like a failure.  I feel alone.  Defeated.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Inadequate.  Miserable.

During the summer of 2013, I journaled a letter of encouragement to stay-at-home moms and I want to remind you and me of the encouragement in the midst of the struggle today.  I wrote from the perspective of the future and said:  'I hope I will encourage you to love God with all of yourself and trust He cares and that you are indeed significant to Him.  Please know that every craft that blows up in your face, every moment you care and try and cry out-they matter too.  And you are making an eternal investment.  I know such a vast time is sometimes hard to care about when your kids are drawing on the walls or using the floor as a bathroom (just for fun) or screaming in your face or refusing to just sit in their seat during dinner.  But it does matter.  The attachment and love and nurture and time you are giving to them can truly never be replaced.  You are giving gifts that are more valuable than all the gold in all the world...You are a hero.  A beautiful warrior hero.  And even better, there is a sweet Savior who sustains and lives and works.  I pray for you to know Him and cling to Him for salvation and help and adequacy.'

Today is a day I needed to be reminded of the perspective from the future and if you needed that too, I hope you feel encouraged that you are remembered and that you matter and that most of all Jesus is the Great Sustainer who never slumbers (Psalm 121) and that He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and that His lovingkindnesses indeed never cease (Lamentations 3:22).

I will close with the chorus from the song 'Worn' by Tenth Avenue North because I have been resting much in its words lately:
'Let me see redemption win,
Let me know the struggle ends,
That You can mend a heart that's frail and torn.
I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside can be reborn
Yes, all that's dead inside will be reborn
Though I'm worn...Yeah, I'm worn.'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zulKcYItKIA

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Giving Away the Whole Dump Truck

The other night, Isaac was playing with a toy dump truck filled with at least 20 toy cars.  Josiah wanted to play with them too.  Isaac's first response was 'no' and his second response was to let Josiah play with one broken car.  That moment was a powerful and sobering picture of how I often live and how too often the church and other Christians also live.  We have abundance and someone with nothing seeks help and at first we give him nothing.  Upon second thought, we give him broken leftovers and then we feel proud of ourselves!  We gave to the needy!!!  Look at us!!!  What this is actually called is injustice and it is easy to see a 4 year old practicing injustice on his little brother and attempt to teach him why that is wrong and far from the heart of God; it is much harder to look at our hearts and see how unwilling we are to not just give broken leftovers, but to give all of ourselves, to give away the whole dump truck.

Recently I finished reading a book called Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.  It is her story about following God's call to Uganda when she was just 18 years old and how she adopted 13 girls there and began an effective sponsorship ministry, while reaching the poorest of the poor.  For more on her ministry and how to help go to her website here:  http://www.amazima.org/.  Her story really pierced my heart, especially since a piece of my heart has been in Uganda since the day back in 2003 when a Compassion volunteer handed me a card with a little boy named Isaac from Uganda on it when I was at a Jars of Clay/Caedmon's Call concert and I began to sponsor him.  Then in 2005, I was given the wonderful opportunity to visit Isaac in Uganda and since then Ricky and I have also begun sponsoring another girl in Uganda named Doreen.  Katie Davis lives the life Jesus asks of His followers in Luke 14:25-33, a life where we bear our own cross and come after Him and where we renounce all that we have for the kingdom of God and follow after Jesus.  This is often called 'the cost of discipleship' and it is beautiful and free and convicting.  Near the beginning of the book, she responds to those who ask her if she is afraid living in Uganda and she talks about living with that risk 'because I am running from the things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus that I am of any illness or tragedy.'  Later she adds, 'I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle.  Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives.'  And countless lives are transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in action.

Friends, let us walk into this beautiful surrender and watch God do the impossible in our lives as He rescues orphans and widows and the poor and us!  Let us no longer give our broken, leftover toys, but let us give all of ourselves with generosity and gratitude!  Let us live the full, abundant life Jesus promises to His followers!  Let us pray for sensitivity to His Spirit as He shows us the particulars on our call in surrendering!  And let us stand in expectant hope of the God who does 'immeasurably more than we ask or imagine' (Ephesians 3:20)!