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)!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thirtysomething and A Million Billion Moments to Praise

As I sit on the eve of my 'thirtysomething' birthday, (side note:  do you remember that show 'thirtysomething'?  Man, those people seemed SO old to me when that show was on and now I have been one of them for 6 years!) I'm going to take some time to reflect on some of the happenings of life and motherhood I have been thinking about lately.  Most of these thoughts come from a journal entry from earlier this week.

Motherhood is significant and I know what I do matters.  A million billion moments make up who my children will become.  And life is just too short.  Sometimes heartbreakingly short.  But sometimes being a mom just doesn't feel significant.  It seems so difficult to find enough people to help in areas of childcare in the church and even harder to find people to enter into lives of a mom and truly get to know and love her children (a special thanks to those who do that for mine!).  When minute after minute and hour after hour start closing in around me, I sometimes don't recognize just how deeply the gospel is at work here:  Jesus telling me to deny myself, Jesus telling me the last will be first, Jesus telling the little children to come to Him.  I've heard it said to not take too much credit for your children's successes or too much responsibility for their failures and this is wise.  But, when I lay next to Josiah in the middle of the night when he is scared or when I hold Emma's hand as she falls asleep or when I move towards Isaac in love when he is moving away from me in defiance, this is giving life and this is significant.  It matters.  I wish I always did those things with a gracious, surrendered heart.  I don't.  But sometimes I do.  Jesus taught me to live those moments.  He is refining me every day so my responses conform more to His.  He loves me!

As I write this, Emma is sitting on the floor screaming about stickers.  Josiah is trying to take other people's stuff (as he often does!).  Isaac is currently content with his stickers, but asked another why question (I wish I had a nickel for every why question he asks during a day!  And also a PhD in Science so I would actually answer half of them!).  Now Josiah is screaming.  I feel so bad at this.  God entrusted all of these children to me???  It's hard to believe sometimes.  He has given me the desires of my heart, but my heart is so fragile and weak.  The song I am listening to tells me I have never walked alone.  It says God is faithful.  It is right. 

In our hyper-independent culture, do other people ever feel this way?  Are we just afraid to admit out loud that we are inadequate for this task of motherhood?  There is hope in that moment because God is more than adequate and His Spirit lives in me!  This is what is true.  "He who calls you is faithful and He will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:24).  I want to care more about God's glory than my comfort, my adequacy, my self.  I guess, as usual, it comes back to thinking rightly about God.  He is here.  He cares.  He is in the hard moments and they are more than purposeful.  If I care as much about the gospel going out as I say I do, I will praise Him in this moment-when I am weary and weak, but where He is awake (He never slumbers!  Psalm 121!) and strong.

My precious little peach!

Celebrating our sweet King Josiah!

Enjoying beautiful days!..


And, of course, I cannot let my birthday pass without wishing you a 'Happy Flag Day!'

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Call to Adopt this Mother's Day!

It has been almost 3 months since we first held our beautiful, mischievous, curious, amazing little boy in our arms at a Civil Affairs Office in the Henan Province of China.  And they have been some of the most exhausting months of my life!  There have been days and minutes and months that I felt so overwhelmed by this beautiful call God has given me to mother my 3 young children, one who has endured more than he is able to understand, that I could hardly believe God actually entrusted me with this task!  I still find it hard to believe sometimes! 

With that being said, this Mother's Day, I want to encourage you to seek God and ask if there is indeed 'room at your table' for a waiting orphan.  I know many are not in a position to adopt and I encourage you to seek other ways to fulfill the command of James 1:27 to 'look after widows and orphans in their distress.'  But, those who ARE in a position to adopt, please ask God to help you lay down your life for the child or children who are to become yours.  I know it is overwhelming and it seems impossible!  On one particularly difficult day last month (well, it's even hard to know which are 'particularly' difficult sometimes!), Josiah walked up to me and handed me a card with a Bible verse on it that he had found on the floor.  It said 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26).  Looking at the context of this verse, Jesus is telling His disciples how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  He had just told a self-righteous rich person to sell all he had and come follow Him, but when the rich man heard this 'he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.'  Friends, don't go away sorrowful, weighed down by your great possessions that will fade away and eventually disappear.  Give your life for the life of a waiting child!  Because when he or she officially enters your family, that child instantly becomes yours!  Josiah is no longer an orphan.  He is a Simpson.  Tomorrow we will have his Child Dedication Service at church in which Ricky and I formally dedicate our lives to pointing Josiah to his Creator and our beautiful Savior Jesus Christ!  He is our son and we love him with all of ourselves.

Please take time tomorrow to pray for the millions and millions of orphans around the world.  Sometimes I grow weary of hearing arguments about 'just how many orphans there are.'  The UNICEF number of over 150,000 million are 'vulnerable' children in the world.  True orphans, trafficked children, and those on the streets are often not even counted in 'official totals.'  Let's lay down useless arguments and welcome our children into our homes!  Tomorrow, Josiah will celebrate his first Mother's Day with his mom.  And in the midst of my weariness and self-doubt and inadequacies, I could not be more thankful and humbled to carry that beautiful title.

 

 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's a Small World After All: Subtitle: It's a Big World After All

This blog will probably be filled with jumbled thoughts because that is a reflection of my life and brain right now!  For anyone who is a stay at home mom or parent, you know that your world often seems very small.  Theoretically, you know that there is a big world out there, but experientially, all you know is that your children are needy.  They need a snack.  They need to go potty.  They need you to clean up their spilled milk.  They need you to take them to the doctor when they are sick and to clean up the evidence of them being sick from the couch (and your shirt and the bathroom floor).  And although you are so abundantly thankful for them, your world starts to close in around you and you feel very alone.  At least that is how I often feel. 

Then, you remember that the world is also big.  We have had so much happen to us in the last month, it is hard to properly process it.  Just over a month ago, we first held our precious Josiah in our arms.  And we are so grateful.  We stand amazed everyday of just how much he is learning.  He says a new English word almost daily and is getting prepared for baseball season by saying 'ball' and 'Gapper' (one of the Cincinnati Reds mascots).  If you say 'I love you', he blows you a kiss and also says 'love you'.  It's amazing.  And sometimes I forget that in the midst of my 'small world' mentioned above.  Josiah is a 21 month old boy and if anyone has spent much time with 21 month old boys, you know that they climb, and get in everything, and push your boundaries, and sometimes hit you in the face over and over, sometimes in the middle of the night while they are also screaming.  There are also moments with the older children when they have a hard time remembering they matter too, so they stand on the furniture and lay on the floor throwing a temper tantrum.  These happenings were starting to close in around me.  Then I read an article about how the 'baby hatch' in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has had to close because too many babies have been abandoned there (a baby hatch is a room set up around China where people can safely leave abandoned babies).  We were just in Guangzhou a few weeks ago to get Josiah's visa.  And I step back and recognize just what God has allowed us to do:  bring this beautiful little boy into our family forever.  Instead of laying in an orphanage, he has learned to tell his parents he loves them and more importantly, hears again and again how Jesus loves him.  The other day, I realized that the very same day we moved to Frederick, Maryland, Josiah was placed in his orphanage.  The same day our baby was recognized as no longer having a family, we moved towards him-to where we could get to him.  We learned about the China Waiting List program from our Bethany caseworker in Maryland.  We were matched with him through our China Program leader through Bethany.  God was always working to bring us together.

In the midst of all of this, we are still constantly working through losing Ricky's brother Lance.  Isaac and Emma prayed for months at every meal for God to 'help Uncle Lance feel better.'  Now they thank God for Uncle Lance's life.  The other day, Isaac prayed the old prayer for God to 'help Uncle Lance feel better.'  Emma replied, 'No, Isaac, remember, Uncle Lance already feels better.'  She explains that he is 'in heaven with Jesus.'  These exchanges take my breath away.  Yesterday, we had a very long afternoon, and as I sat in the hall catching Josiah as he jumped off our little trampoline, I was overwhelmed with sadness that Lance is really not here.  Our children really no longer have their Uncle Lance on this earth.  He is really not coming to visit.  He will not be at Josiah's first Reds game.  He will not teach Isaac to how to play Super Mario Brothers (we now have his old video games). His perfect presents will not be under the Christmas tree.  And I know everything that is true.  Lance is at peace with Jesus.  He will never be sick again.  He will never struggle again.  But, we will also always miss him.  We wish he was here.  We wish it would have been a different story and it's a process to accept that it is simply not different.  This is what it is.

So, like I said, this is jumbled because that is how my life feels.  Sometimes my small world is closing around me and sometimes the big world where babies are abandoned and dear family members pass away reminds me that my world is not so small after all. 

In all of this, I know that God is sitting with us.  A dear friend pointed us towards Chris Rice's new CD filled with hymns and these have helped remind me each morning that we can truly hide ourselves in the 'Rock of Ages' and 'though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us' (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).