Monday, July 27, 2015

When Baby Makes 6...And That's What You Had Planned

As many people know, recently, videos emerged on the Internet showing Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the sale of aborted baby organs and body parts over casual meals.  They call this 'fetal tissue' and say it is for 'scientific research' and there may be disputes over just how much money is being made (or not made) over these 'transactions', but no one is disputing that they happen.  Babies, some well into their second trimester of development, are being aborted out of the mothers who are sustaining their lives and then subsequently have vital organs cut out of their tiny bodies and sold to researchers.  This is horrifying and heartbreaking to me, but the horror especially resonates with me right now because the day before Father's Day, we very (very) unexpectedly found out I am pregnant (due date is February 26, 2 years to the day we came back to the United States from China with Josiah).  While amazing, this was a very overwhelming moment for me.  I cried for two days.  The fact that we already have a 3, 4, and 5 year old in the house is a constant reminder of just how much children ask you to give-everything!  And it is really, really hard.  My Father's Day began with throwing up in the shower, just the beginning of weeks and weeks and weeks of miserable and severe pregnancy sickness.  And it is really, really hard.  But, as I listened and read about these babies' lives ending, on purpose, before they barely had a chance to begin, I am reminded that God is the Authority on life, not me.  He is the One who knit these lives in their mother's wombs (Psalm 139) and made those heartbeats start (our baby's heart started to beat just 2 or 3 days after I found out I was pregnant) and no organization or doctor or mother is the ultimate authority on taking another's life.  It only took about 14 hours after I found out I was pregnant to start getting sick-because a true life was already there, taking and taking from me so she or he could continue living.

Like the title of this post states, we did not plan on having another baby (we were open to adopting an older child in the future, but did not plan on starting all the way from the beginning again!).  In fact, I felt like shouting from the roof tops when Josiah turned 3 that we were finished with the baby and toddler stage!  I love my children, but the pregnancy/infant/toddler stage is very difficult for me.  Anyone who truly knows me, knows I have never been good or natural with young children!  I am reading a book right now called The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams in which she talks about the amazing therapy and rehabilitative care she and her organization Exile International are giving to former children of war in Africa.  She is doing the exact thing I set out to do when I decided to get extra schooling for my counseling masters 8 years ago.  But, a baby puts most plans I would have in moving towards that calling on hold.  (Side note:  her organization is doing amazing things to help former children of war and I recommend checking out her website to see how you can be involved:  Nonetheless, like I said earlier, God is the ultimate Authority on life.  He is the Author of life and if He has given us this child as a gift, for however long He has the days of our child to be, then I trust He will give us strength and wisdom for this calling.  In her book, Williams quotes Mother Theresa as saying, "I never look at the masses as my responsibility.  I look at the individual.  I can love only one person at a time.  I can feed only one person at a time.  One.  One.  One."  As I read those words, thousands of miles away from the life saving work she did in India and from these amazing surviving and courageous children in Africa, it encouraged my heart to know that loving this baby is my responsibility.  To speak up for him or her.  But what about the babies who have no one to speak up for them?  I hope our baby's heartbeat speaks for them too.  I hope that even now, God's different plan for our family than we had will speak life and light into this world.  Please consider the truth that no one needs that beating heart more than the baby in which it resides, just like the heart I beautifully saw beating today on our baby's 9 week ultrasound.

Friends, if you are pregnant and contemplating having an abortion (or know someone who is), please contact your local pregnancy care center (we have CareNet here in Frederick, MD) or me or a trusted friend.  Every day I am grateful that our precious, rambunctious, mischievous little boy Josiah's birth mother chose life for him.  If you have had an abortion and struggle with that decision, I hope these words do not feel condemning to you.  I hope and pray that you know that there is hope, redemption, and healing found at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Josiah is wearing Isaac's 'gege' shirt.  'Gege' means 'big brother' in Chinese. :)  What a blessing that this little boy gets to be a little brother and a big brother!

Okay, so I know ultrasounds can be hard to decipher, but that is our littlest one in the middle of the oval.  His/her head is to the right.  The baby is looking right at the camera (did not pick up this skill from his/her big sister!) and his/her body is to the left, with arms out at the sides.  It never gets old seeing and hearing that little, precious heartbeat.  Amazing. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Let Me Be Singing When the Evening Comes

One of my favorite parts of any day when I am driving in the car with my kids is when we sing Matt Redman's '10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)' together.  The days when everyone sings and no one is complaining or whining or talking over the song sometimes take my breath away.  "Bless the Lord, O my soul...worship His holy name.  Sing like never before, O my soul, worship Your holy name.  The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning, it's time to sing Your song again, whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes..."  Sometimes after a really, really hard day, I especially think of the line 'let me be singing when the evening comes.'  Last night, I was walking Josiah home from church (I use the term 'walking' loosely...mostly because he was 'toddlering' me most of the walk home.  If you have a toddler, you know what I mean.  You know, making his body like dead weight and then laying down in the middle of the sidewalk instead of actually walking) and I started singing this song.  I think some of the people I passed on the way thought I was crazy, but I know God was walking with us.  He saw me struggling to walk the several blocks from church to our house and never once did He say the things I sometimes say to myself in moments like these.  He didn't tell me I was a terrible mother or that I was messing everything up.  He didn't become angry, like I often do in moments like these.  He saw us and He walked with us.

Through many of the trials of motherhood the past 5 1/2 years, I have asked God if He sees me.  If He sees me struggling and barely holding on and questioning Him entrusting me with my three children.  But, in the midst of praising Him, He reminded me that He is indeed always with me.  Sometimes that is the greatest encouragement we can remember as parents.  We are not alone.  On our walk home last night, Josiah was upset because I wouldn't let him walk with his bare feet on a part of the sidewalk that was covered with broken glass.  I carried him over it.  I protected him because I could see the big picture that he didn't understand.  And that is what God has done for me on this journey of motherhood, even in the moments I have tried to 'toddler' Him!

On Easter Sunday, Ricky had the privilege of baptizing Isaac.  This was a beautiful moment as Isaac made an outward profession of faith in Christ that he first made inwardly in his heart in our kitchen.  Isaac and I have had our struggles along the way too.  There were times and books and people who seemed to point me to the truth that I was indeed messing everything up.  But, take heart, God's Spirit is much bigger than our mistakes and He is working!  As we have told Isaac about God's love for him demonstrated in the truth that 'while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' and that Christ defeated death on the 3rd day, God's Spirit has worked to implant that truth in his heart.  It was never up to us.  Every day has been about God's grace and mercy towards us and He has been merciful to reach Isaac's heart.

These two examples may seem worlds apart, but my greater hope in thinking through these events is to encourage those who are struggling today.  I wish I had all the answers for the moment by moment struggles of parenthood or singlehood or whatever struggle you find yourself in the midst of today, but I know God walks with His children.  I know you are not alone.  I know He sees you and that He loves you.  I know He is worthy of our praise and I hope that no matter what passes, we will stand together 'singing when the evening comes.'

Josiah's sweet smile on the other side of the struggle.

Ricky and Isaac preparing for Isaac's baptism.

Emma and I have had our fair share of power struggles too, but I want to note some sweet moments from her encouraging heart.  Sometimes she will tell me, 'you're beautiful, Mommy' or 'you are a beautiful Queen' or 'you're a precious treasure, too' and I don't want to let those moments pass from memory because sometimes it is easier to remember the discouragements.  It is important to carry these moments of encouragement in our hearts.

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 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 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!