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It’s harder than I thought it would be to know what to say when questions come up from Henry regarding his past.  Of course I want to be completely honest and real with him…. but I also struggle with what to say — and when and how to say it because after all, he is only two (well, almost three) and things are never as straight-forward in real life as they are in my head.   We’ve taken a very open approach so far — talking about Africa and his B-mom often.  Her picture is on the wall in his room in a collage along with pictures of us and his “Africa buddy” Micah, and his sissy, Jo.  I have read so many different opinions on levels of openness — but this is what we feel is best for us and our family thus far.  It may change, but for now we talk about Henry’s history very openly. 

So far, he has seemed to respond to it all in a very matter-of-fact way.  It is what it is and it’s just the way it’s always been.  And he’s only two — a very smart almost-three, but young nonetheless.  He has adjusted and bonded so well; I almost get worried about the other shoe dropping at some point, because it’s been so text-book thus far.  I know there will probably be a lot to talk about and work through as he gets older… it’s just tough not knowing what questions he is going to have and what issues are going to be the hardest ones for him.  I wish I could stay up all night studying to pass the tests that are inevitably ahead. 

But, as little as we’ve had to process with him so far, the questions and difficult conversations do come up — usually when I least expect.  Yesterday morning  Joanna dug out her photo album with pictures from when she was a baby (Henry has one too with all the wonderful pics we got from our agency during the process… and of course a few of the million or so that I’ve taken since he came home!)  Anyway, we were snuggling on the couch looking through both albums, talking about the pictures like we’ve done many times before — but for some reason this time was different and Henry noticed that there weren’t any pictures of him in my tummy.  He got very, very upset about this… then sister told him he wasn’t ever in my tummy.  He was DEVASTATED.  Crushed.  I could see it all over his little face and it was so hard to see him processing it.  If I could give him nine months in my tummy, I absolutely would.  But I can’t.  And honestly, I don’t want to take that from his birth mother because SHE gave him one of the greatest gifts a person can give another… and she loved him so, so much.  But I wish I could do something now to help ease the hard stuff and the pain that he may feel in the years ahead as he works through all of the tough questions and the tough realizations.  I KNOW that he feels loved and secure with us — he knows he is an irreplaceable part of our family so much so that he naturally assumed he spent nine months inside me — but that doesn’t mean it’s going to always be easy to put it all together in his heart and mind.

He actually cried.  I cried, too (but hopefully not so much that he noticed.)  And then we talked for several minutes about how special it is that he has two moms and about what a special, beautiful woman she is and about how Peter and I got to meet her while we were in Africa… and how deeply Peter and I love him — all stuff we talk about regularly, but in this case I could see his little mind racing.  I tried to say things a little differently this time… in a way that would maybe mean something more;  but it was so much harder than the times I voluntarily talk about it because this time he asked.  He wanted to know why things were different for him.  We talked about concepts that are tough even for adults to wrap their minds around, but you know, that little guy kept up with me and asked more questions until he seemed satisfied for now.  There will be more, I know… but for now he was settled with it.  Goodness sakes, it made me commit to praying more for wisdom and discernment as questions arise.  I love him more than I can find words to express and I just want to be the best mom I can be in every way… especially in this way — in the not-so-easy to explain, complicated parts of life as much as in the straight-forward simple parts.

I’m back…

I think.

It’s been a lovely, lovely little hiatus. Unplanned — which makes it all the sweeter, I suppose.

I’ve been unplugged from phones and the internet for the most part since we moved, and I’ve been enjoying the subsequent simplicity and quietness during this major transitional season in our lives. There has been so much to process — so much to say “good-bye” to and so much to learn. I have been alone — very, very alone — for the first time in my adult life… with no best friend right across the field and no community of dear families who have been there since I was eleven just down the road. I’ve done some longer-period traveling (including two summers in Europe) — but it has been the strangest, most unknown feeling to live in a strange city and in a strange state without a singe person knowing my name. I have never felt so thin and light — as if I might float away at any moment. Even my familiar belongings look strange in their new environment. Whose lamp is that? Does it belong to me? Where did all these books come from? It’s as if I am lost in an existential moment in time — with severed ties to the past and no known future. It’s an odd feeling. A feeling that I haven’t quite known what to do with.

Of course, I know that I am NOT living in an existential moment in time. I am the product of my past; I am irrevocably tied to my future — my feelings are only the natural result of leaving behind a lifetime of familiar patterns and people. In time I will learn to create new patterns; I will wear a new path along a new road. I will make friends and discover shortcuts to my favorite places. I will actually have favorite places.  I will no longer wake up disoriented and forget that I am not in my little house in the big woods, but rather in my big house in the little woods. Both me and my life will fill up again — with work and appointments and to-do lists and play-dates.

But in the meantime, this season of emptiness has actually been so sweet — like the gift of a sabbatical at home. There have been no phone calls, no internet, no appointments… nothing but time. Time with my awesome children to tell funny made-up stories and make cavernous blanket-tents in the living room… Time with my husband to dream about the future like we did when we were younger and were just starting out… Time to worship and commune with God in a marvelous intimacy because it’s only He and I — uninterrupted… Time to sit alone and read… or just stare out the window at the snow — acutely aware of my utter aloneness — but actually savoring it. It’s been like setting the clock back. Or getting a second chance to start all over. The slate is wiped clean. And it feels so good — even in the emptiness.

But, like all seasons, this one has an end, and the end is soon. I can’t be alone forever. I don’t want to be alone forever. I am getting my feet under me; I am bravely introducing myself to nice-looking moms at the Library and I am starting to turn my computer on again. I’m getting my camera out more often and I’m calling old friends on my cell phone just to catch up.

It’s official.

I live in Idaho now.

One of the RLC “blog buzz” questions this week was about adopting a child with special needs.  I felt compelled to write a little something on the subject because of how heavily I relied on reading other people’s perspectives last spring while Peter and I were contemplating our special needs adoption.

Here are some thoughts based on our personal process.  (*Please keep in mind that I am utterly and completely new to all this.  I have not parented a child with special needs before.  I’m certainly not an expert!  Until a year ago, I had no idea what a “brachial plexus injury” was… three months ago, I had never even heard of the term “neuronal migration disorder” or the condition “polymicrogyria.”  I’m simply the lucky mom to an amazing child who constantly floors us with his persistence, tenacity and zest for life!  So this is just my own unique, unprofessional, barely-experienced perspective.  🙂 )

Obviously one of the most important things you can do at the beginning is to research like crazy!  Become a dedicated mole digging for as much information as you can get — just as you would if you were given a diagnosis about your child while expecting and had the time to learn about what the diagnosis meant and what it entailed.  Talk to everyone you can who is familiar with the particular special need you are considering.  Read books.  Read blogs.  Speak with specialists.  Learn the vocabulary.  There are a lot of great resources to help you get started.  Here’s one of my favorites:  http://specialneedsadoption.rainbowkids.com/ 

If you are considering a specific child, it is very, very helpful to get a recently updated medical report to review with a pediatric specialist.  Obviously this isn’t always possible (and sometimes, even if you’re lucky enough to get the report, it might not be completely accurate!)  But if it’s possible, go for it.  Even if the agency doesn’t offer, ask if it’s an option for the child to be taken to a doctor for an updated medical report.  And then, if possible, have a list of questions from the specialist for the doctor conducting the medical exam to answer. 

It’s also helpful during the research phase to talk with parents who are raising children with that particular special need.  It makes it so much more tangible and realistic to speak with someone who is in the arena… Someone who knows the trials and the triumphs intimately and can share with you from the perspective of being a parent.  Because as important as it is to research the medical implications, it is also really, really important to remember that medical field isn’t infallible and not all children are the same.  It can seem daunting to read the medical descriptions of certain conditions; It can seem overwhelming to listen to a doctor talk about the care involved and possible complications.  But a mom or dad who knows what it’s really like on a daily basis within a family can change that perception in an instant. 

I also think it’s important to begin processing the inevitable emotions that come with the thoughts of parenting a child with special needs.  There will be hard questions that you ask yourself in the middle of the night as you stare at the ceiling wide awake.  It’s okay!!  Ask the hard questions.  Take a deep, hard, honest look at any fears or misconceptions or even subconscious prejudices in your heart and work through them.  Let yourself process the “diagnosis” as you would in the case of a biological child.  Grieve if you need to.  It IS difficult sometimes to think about the possible potholes and steep curves in the road ahead.  But it’s so important to do so.  I know that everyone is different in how they process their emotions and their fears and concerns.  The important thing is just to do it. 

And then, even in the middle of researching and processing , you really have to come to peace with the vast amount of unknowns inherent in international adoption.  The reality is that no matter how much you research and prepare; no matter HOW many specialists and parents you speak with, there is just no way that you can be fully prepared for every unknown.  And you have to be okay with that.  Hope for the best, certainly!  Keep a positive outlook, but don’t put undue expectations on the future. 

And while I’m sharing, here’s a bit of personal advice…  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t share with quite as many people during the “research/contemplation” phase.  It was difficult to deal with people’s pointed questions and fearful assumptions before Peter and I had made a decision (even though I knew they came well-intentioned) because it complicated our thought-processing.   After we had made the decision to proceed and accepted Henry’s referral, it was much, much easier to handle the fear and concern from family and friends.  It was official.  We’d made the decision.  We were well-researched and united in our response to the myriad of reasons why it wasn’t a “good idea.”  We were able to meet people’s strong opinions from a place of confidence. 

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I want to end by saying that no matter how much you research, or how prepared you feel… it’s still a leap of faith.  Just like any other adoption.  Just like having a biological child.  We have no way to know how the future is going to turn out.   That’s the beauty and the mystery of life.   We do our best to make the right decisions, but we have to leap in faith sometimes.  The best and most beautiful things in the world come with the price tag of risk.  Each time we choose to love someone, we are risking heartache and loss.  That’s true in every relationship — loving our kids included. 

In the end, special needs kids are just kids.  Just kids that need moms and dads to love them and take care of them.  To treat them like any other kid.  They are no less deserving of a loving family and parents to take care of them than any other child.  In fact, in some cases because of medical considerations, their very lives depend on it. 

I know that adopting special needs kids is not the road for every family.  But it is the road for some.  It may be a completely unexpected road — like it was for us!  But however you get to it, it’s awesome.

(This was Henry’s picture on the special needs “waiting kids” list last spring.)

This post has been on my heart for a few weeks… it’s just taken a while to actually write it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about unexpected “yeses” in my life — times where I’ve been faced with a decision where a yes seemed CRAZY!  But as I look back now, the yeses turned out to be some of the greatest blessings in my life.  Despite the risk.  Despite the odds.  Despite all the reasons why it didn’t seem like a “good” idea at the time.  

I’ve been thinking about this especially lately because of what was going on this time last year.  

A year ago I was in the thick of wrestling through a decision Peter and I had made a few weeks prior.  We’d said no to accepting the referral of a little boy on our agency’s waiting list after being unexpectedly drawn to him.  We’d taken the time to research his probable condition.  We’d stepped out of our preconceived ideas of how our adoption was going to go by even considering this little boy to the extent that we had.  But in the end, after weeks of researching, we’d said no because our fear of the unknowns surrounding his condition was too great.  

Maybe we researched TOO much?  I think sometimes our heads get the better of our hearts.  (*I’m not saying that it’s wise to leap without checking the depth of the water… but sometimes we can over-analyze our capabilities and stop ourselves short of tremendous opportunity.  If we can learn to face our fear of the unknown and trust the strange prompting to do something completely uncharacteristic, amazing results often follow.  It’s called faith.  Whew — that’s a whole post in itself!!)

But back to topic here…  I’m finding that the sounds and smells this month are bringing back the mixed feelings and intense emotions I had during that season… the heartache, the fears, the questions… I was really undone inside and definitely not settled with that initial decision.  I wrote this post a year ago.  Re-reading it, I remember the agony I was in — all the planning and prayers and desire to adopt came down to this ONE little life.  This one little boy.  It was immensely specific.  I remember thinking “how can people even make decisions like this?”  The future of a human life was in the balance and it weighed heavily on me.  

The last few weeks as I’ve been watching Henry run around outside with his sister — every inch an almost-two-year-old boy! — I have been very, very aware of how close I came to missing such an amazing blessing.  Granted, I AM a believer in God’s sovereignty.  But I also believe that I’m faced with choices every day.  I make decisions and I live with those decisions.  I’m very aware right now of how small a word “yes” is — and how huge the ramifications can be.  My heart is so thankful that Peter and I got a second chance to say yes… a second chance to take that leap.

This whole journey has made me stop and think about other things in life I might miss because I choose to stay comfortable.  It’s not going to help anything to be paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision — but I think it’s a very, very healthy thing to be acutely aware of the tendency to stay comfortable.  I WANT to live my life aware of the doors I almost didn’t walk through.  No regrets… but an awareness of the times that I had an opportunity to leap and didn’t (or almost didn’t.)   It’s funny, on one hand I tend to be pretty adventurous and willing to take risks… but it’s generally when I know that I am actually safe and I know what the outcome will be.  I’m fine climbing a rock face when I’m tied to a rope! —  but faced with a situation where the unknowns are seriously life-changing and permanent, I’m not so risky.  I play it safe… too safe.  I don’t want to be that person.  I want to be the crazy, sold-out and willing to follow Christ ANYWHERE person. 

Thank God for his grace to change, and grow, and leap!

Our yes to Henry was such a small leap in comparison to a lot of people’s “yeses.”  Seriously, it’s awe-inspiring (and just plain inspiring!) to think about the level of so many people’s dedication to following the road less traveled.  But, it was a HUGE step for us… it opened the doors to a lot of other “yeses” in our lives and is a daily reminder to stay open and surrendered to God’s plan.  It’s certainly not the easiest thing in the world to surrender our plans and hold our lives out openly… but we are learning that the unexpected blessings in it are incomparable.  This lesson has became intensly real and personal to us through this adoption — we really can’t imagine life without our precious, unexpected son!

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger (or heartache) is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller

I woke up Friday morning and it was pouring rain again — really, really pouring… consistent with most of last week, actually!  I was up earlier than usual and absent-mindedly grabbed one of the books I have sitting on my coffee table — a collection of stories, prayers and quotes by Mother Teresa.  I flipped open to the middle of the book and read words that I’ve read before, but they particularly stood out to me on Friday and I’ve been reflecting on them since.  They are just too good not to share…

Sacrifice, surrender and suffering are not popular topics nowadays.  Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome.  This is not my attitude toward sacrifice.  I know that it is impossible to relieve the world’s suffering unless God’s people are willing to surrender to God, to make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor. 

From the beginning of time, the human heart has felt the need to offer God a sacrifice.  What is an acceptable sacrifice?  One that is good for the people of God.  One that is made on behalf of the world.

There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards.  There are so many people who are homeless!  In New York City, our sisters are working among the destitute who are dying.  What pain it causes to see these people!  They are only known by their street address now.  Yet they were all someone’s children.  Someone loved them at one time.  They loved others during their lifetime.  But now they are only known by their street address.

The words of Jesus, “love one another as I have loved you,” must not only be a light for us but a flame that consumes the self in us.  Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.

Suffering is nothing by itself.  But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.

I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others.  This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.  Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace to those around me.”

Such simple truth.

I make it too complicated sometimes. I get caught up feeling too small and unable to make the difference that I long to. And then I read words like these and I remember that it’s NOT ABOUT ME!  Even when I am wanting so badly to give more and do more, it’s still about ME when I am worrying about my impact. 

I think it’s easy to idealize lives like Mother Teresa’s.  I am profoundly inspired by her selflessness and her service and I long to live my own life in the same way — but I tend to view her opportunities for service as more noble than the ones I have around me.  I want to touch people on that level, but sometimes I struggle to see that I have the opportunity to practice that level of love EVERY day.  When I am up all night with a sick child — that’s being Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth (just so happens to be my kid — but still!)  When I visit the local nursing home and sit beside precious old men and women who have no one in their lives — that’s being Jesus’ hands and feet on the earth.  When I stop and talk to the homeless man on the street corner and give a little of my self and my time — that’s being a conduit for Christ’s love.  When I step out in faith and open my home to a stranger in need — that’s a chance to practice true love.  The opportunities are endless.   It doesn’t matter where I live or who I am surrounded by.  There is always an opportunity to give freely and serve wholeheartedly WHEREVER God has me at the moment.  There is always the need to be emptied of self and become a conduit for God’s love. 

It’s easier in some ways to excuse my selfishness when my selfish actions happen everyday with everyday people.  It’s easier to assume that if I was in a situation where I was surrounded by great and obvious needs, I would do whatever I could to physically, actually relieve as much as possible.  It’s easy to think about being the good Samaritan.  Yet how many times do I walk by the old man on the street corner without stopping?  How many times do I turn my head so I don’t make eye-contact? How many times do I turn from needs that are all around me because they are familiar?  Or write them off as not great enough…  or even worse, how many needs do I not even see because I am obliviously filled with myself?

Ouch.  So convicting — but necessarily so. 

Oh God, keep convicting me.  Keep showing me the areas where I am so self-focused that I don’t even realize the extent of it.  Empty me of self so that your love can be poured through me to all people.  Literally.  The near, the familiar and the far alike. Remove the pride that wants to serve in ways that satisfy some strange sense of idealism.  Remove ALL of me.  Remove ALL of my ideals and leave me with only YOU.  Fill me with your heart and your deep, deep love that consumes all. 

This has been a week of a lot of losses — not of family members or close friends, but of several acquaintances and friends-0f-friends.   We had a memorial service last Sunday for a man in our community who lost his battle with cancer last week and left behind a grieving family — including two children that were students of mine.  Two adoptive families also lost a parent/spouse unexpectedly in the last week.  One of them was a woman close to my age named Amber — with two kids the same ages as mine (http://cold-water-news.blogspot.com and http://www.lazydranch8.blogspot.com/) My heart is just breaking for these families.  All I can do is pray…

It’s put me in a place of reflecting again on how precious life is.  I forget sometimes.  I go about my days wrapped up in to-do lists and mundane tasks.  I take my amazing husband and beautiful children for granted.  I grumble about the snow.  I get mad at the dog…. 

Shame on me.

Or I get so focused on the “BIG” things (you know, saving the world…) that I don’t fully savor the sweet little moments with my kids… or look for the miracles that are happening all around… or kiss my husband spontaneously enough. 

What a gift each day is!  What an incredible treasure to be alive and with my family today!  It’s good to be reminded of how brief life is… and what a undeserved gift each breath is.   There’s no surety that today isn’t our last — so we should live it as if it was.  I know that I would be doing things a LOT differently if I knew I had a limited amount of time to spend with my family…

Teach me to number my days, Lord.  Teach me to savor the moments and live with gratitude and a sense of wonder…

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I went for a walk alone during Peter’s lunch break… and I was literally breathless by the beauty that surrounded me.  It is SO EASY to become blinded by familiarity.  It’s so easy to forget to look up as I walk.  It’s good to stop and see the world again as if through new eyes.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was.  Mountains I see every day suddenly seemed bigger and grander — and the sky was SO blue… I felt deeply alive and grateful for every breath of cold mountain air. 

That’s how I want to live every day.

In awe…

Breathing deeply

Seeing clearly

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A few of my good blogging friends are reading through the book Red Letters by Tom Davis and posting about it on their blogs.  (Check out Brandi and Missy’s posts.)  I finished reading it a few days ago and would heartily recommend it.  I think Tom Davis is one of those individuals who is not just talking the talk, but also undeniably walking the walk.  He shares from his heart in a way that challenges, convicts and inspires one to action.  I wasn’t able to post at the beginning of the week because of Henry’s appointments at Shriners, but I am planning on jumping in on the discussion next week.  For now I wanted to share something that has been on my heart for months (I’m finally finishing one of the half-written posts I have tucked away, Missy! 🙂 )  It’s something that hit me last fall when I read Tom Davis’s first book Fields of the Fatherless.  And it was a clear theme throughout Red Letters as well, so I was prompted to finish this post and share it. 

It has to do with the word compassion.  Tom touches on the literal meaning of this word in his first book and it prompted me to delve deeper into my own word study.  It’s one of those words you hear thrown around so often that it’s easy to become almost familiar with.  “Compassion… Oh, yes, I know what it means…”  But do we really?  It’s a word and a concept at the very core of Jesus life and as I started looking closer, I realized how much more there is to the word than I originally thought and how central it should be in my life as a believer and follower of Christ. 

There is the obvious similarity in structure (although not necessarily as obvious similarity in meaning) to the word passion.  I realized that even though it seems pretty obvious that passion is the root word of compassion, I wouldn’t have necessarily closely associated these two words.  If someone had asked me (before I started studying it) what the word compassion meant, I would have answered off the top of my head that it meant: “feeling sympathy/empathy or being stirred with feelings of pity or sorrow.”  And if someone had asked me what the word passion meant, I would have said:  “deep emotion, longing, or intense desire” — not necessarily the most eloquent definitions, but that’s what would have come to mind.

I was surprised when I started researching the origins of these words (which is one of the teacher-ish things I like doing — studying the etymology of words.)  Perhaps there are some Latin language majors out there who already know all this, but it was very fascinating to me.  I’ll start with Passion.  Our English word comes from the Latin word “Passio” which literally means “to suffer” and in the dictionary I used (the original Webster’s from 1828 ) it stated that the “highest expression” of this suffering/passion was Christ’s Passion on the cross — His suffering was the culmination of His deep love for mankind.  There was purpose to it, there was passion in it, but it was intense suffering.  There are other meanings as well in the dictionary… many of which you might more readily associate with the word (i.e. zeal; ardor; vehement desire; love) but the root is passio: to suffer

It’s the same Latin word “passio” at the root of our english word compassion.  The prefix “com” is from a Latin prefix “cum” which means “with,” “together,” or “mixed”  (it can also mean “completely or intensely.”)  So the word compassion literally means “suffering together with.”  Literally.  Not just feeling sorry for, or feeling pity toward… but literally mixing our passion; mixing our intense emotions with those who are suffering — by engaging a level of suffering with them.  (I think this could be as simple as really allowing our hearts to break… allowing ourselves to feel the pain — but it also could be actually entering a level of physical suffering with someone.)  This is a hard one because to willingly enter the arena of suffering goes against human nature.  It’s not characteristic and certainly not comfortable to actively pledge our hearts and bodies to the primary thing we as humans recoil from. 

Compassion is a “mixed passion” — compounded of both love and sorrow; it isn’t an easy thing to feel, but it is what we are called to walk in.  And it has to go farther than simply feeling sorrow — the feelings are meant to propel us into actions of love.  They motivate us toward literally mixing our lives with the lives of those we feel compassionately toward. 

As I continued pondering on this, I realized that another aspect of the meaning of compassion is mixing our passion with God’s passion.  I believe His heart still suffers passionately for the oppressed and hurting people all over the world today.  I think His heart is still passionate about the “least of these”… And as I mix my passion (“my vehement desire”) with the Lord’s desire for his precious children, I will begin to walk in a deeper level of true compassion.  My passion is purified as I mix it with His. 

It brings new meaning to the scripture “…take up your cross daily and follow me…” (Luke 9:23).  If Christ’s cross was the ultimate expression of passion.. and we are called to be compassionate people who mix our passion with His, it makes sense that the primary way we walk in compassion is by laying down our lives and following Him.  Taking up our cross isn’t for ourselves!  Following Him isn’t for what we will gain (the rest of this scripture talks about losing our lives to gain them…)  We follow His example of true passion by willingly giving our lives for others.  THIS is the passion Christ walked in and this is the compassion we are to embody.

This is one of the prevailing themes of Red Letters — making the choice to follow our Lord into all the uncomfortable places He walked… laying down our lives like Christ to love (in action) our neighbors all over the world… following His example of ministering to the outcast and oppressed.  It’s a pretty big deal asking God to help us grow in compassion.  It’s more than asking for increased feelings.  It’s asking to lose our lives — in passion for those whose lives are already being lost to disease, injustice, violence and extreme poverty.

*I know this is getting long… But I have to share one more thing:

I also looked up the word compassion in the Hebrew and Greek concordances to see what words were translated from the original Biblical languages into our English version of the Bible.  Most of the words that have been translated to “compassion” mean the same thing in their original language as they do in English — but there was one particular word that stood out to me.  It’s a Hebrew word (racham) that has been translated a few times to the word compassion in the Old Testament, and it has a very unique meaning.  It means literally “the feeling a mother has toward the unborn child in her womb”… “the cherishing and tender love, mercy and pity that she feels toward the baby within.”  Wow.  It gave me such a clear picture of the purity of feelings that come from true compassion.  I remember so clearly the way I felt toward Joanna while I was pregnant… the fierceness of my love and my overwhelming desire for her well-being — unhindered by any of the frustrating emotions that come up now that we have a reciprocal relationship.  The feelings I had toward her before she was born were almost purely unselfish.  My love for her and my desire for her goodwill were not because of anything she was giving me.  They were not a response to her love for me. 

And that is how I am to walk in compassion toward others — not for anything that I can get back — not even because I understand that it is the “right” thing to do, but simply from the same unmerited, unearned love that I had for Jo.  The greatest act of compassionate love was Christ giving His very life — not for anything he would get out of it, but simply because of the great love He had for each and every “unborn child” that ever has and ever will be conceived on this earth.  And that LOVE, that PASSION is the root from which compassion springs.

I’ve been surprised and blessed by the response we’ve gotten when we are out in public with Henry.  I wasn’t expecting so much encouragement from total strangers!  So many people stop us and ask questions and want to hear the story.  We’ve met several wonderful families who have adopted internationally — they’ve just come up and introduced themselves!

Last week while Henry and I were waiting in line at Walmart, an older couple came up behind us and started smiling and talking to Henry.  They were interested in hearing our story (it was a long line and we had time.)  They were fascinated and asked me all kinds of questions about him and about our adoption — and then toward the end of our conversation she unexpectedly asked, “Was it hard?”

It totally caught me off guard and I stopped and kind of stared at her blankly. 

“Was it hard?”

How do you even answer that question?

How can you possibly communicate the intensity of it?  This journey to adopt our son has been so deeply and profoundly life-changing on a myriad of levels — I can’t even begin to put words to it.  The spectrum of emotions along the way was overwhelming… Hope.  Fear.  Excitement.  Apprehension.  Frustration.  Elation  —  Relief.    It wasn’t “just” an adoption process… it was a season of learning to trust and rely on God in a deeper way than we have before — learning to tune our ears to His voice and rest in the peace that directed our steps. We also did a lot of soul-searching and evaluating our responses and motives as things came up…  There was also the aspect of becoming more and more aware of the needs of orphans all over the world as we began doing more research — our hearts were continually being tenderized.  A specific love for Liberia was sparked in our hearts during this time… and we ended up opening our home for Ahmad to live with us — which would have never happened if we hadn’t been in the adoption process.

Then there was all the practical stuff — which was probably harder for us than it usually is for most.  We had to finish remodeling the house before we could even begin our homestudy (which was a major project since we did the work ourselves)… and then we had to figure out the whole tax thing because of owning our own business.  Then we had to switch agencies three times and countries twice because we are too young and haven’t been married long enough, etc, etc.  Then, we spent about six weeks agonizing over the decision to possibly adopt a child with significant special needs and there was a lot of processing that the Lord did in us during that time. Then after we had accepted Henry’s referral, there was all the stuff that came up with adoptions slowing down in Liberia — Whew!  Hard???… Yes!  Worth it?… Absolutely!  

So after a long pause while all this was going through my mind, I finally said to her, “Hard? Yes, it was harder than I was expecting” and I let it be at that. 

There just isn’t an easy way to communicate the depths of it — and yet part of me wants to try.  I want people to know.  I want them to understand what has happened in my heart.  It makes me eternally grateful that there are others that have been on this journey as well.  Because even though your journey wasn’t exactly the same as ours, still, you know.  You know what the terrain is like and you know the incredible reward at the end.  It’s one thing to look at the map — it’s a totally different thing to actually walk the territory!  There’s dirt and mud and unexpected twists and turns along the way…  You can see the mountains and the valleys on the map — but you can’t see the view until you are actually standing on the mountain… and the view is breathtaking!  It far surpasses expectation.  We may have had different reasons why we began and we certainly have had different experiences along the way — but in the end, we all realize the same miracle — the miracle that a child not born of our body can become an irrevocable part of us — as if formed in our womb.  It cannot be explained.  It is one of the strongest confirmations of an all-loving, all-knowing Heavenly Father that I have witnessed in my life.   It is an absolute miracle.

sisters-037-new.jpg

“Out of intense complexities, intense simplicites emerge.” Winston Churchill

 

I shared this quote on my other blog, but in light of today being the six year anniversary of that day that changed so many lives, I wanted to post it here also.  It is so true… We live in a time of great complexity (an age of the greatest technological advancement and still, dire poverty remains throughout much of the world… a time of cutting-edge medical discoveries and yet treatable diseases claim the lives of millions every year…  A time of education and awareness and still many people choose to shut their eyes and ears… A time of crisis and contradictions…) and yet, inspite of (or perhaps because of) these sorts of complexities, simple things emerge transcendently and victoriously every day…  the love we feel for family and friends; the hope that is stirred deep within when we read something inspirational; the small acts of kindness that change the course of someone’s day; the courage of people doing the right thing even when it is difficult; the generosity of strangers; the sacrifices of organizations committed to saving lives at personal risk and expense; the simple wonder of watching a brilliant sunset; the smell of a newborn baby; the miracle of life… 

I think in some ways, the world became more complex after September 11th, 2001… and yet, in other ways it became more simple.  Things that had perhaps been taken for granted suddenly became priceless — and simple things like family and freedom and being alive were quickly brought to the forefront of people’s minds. 

It has been said that we do not remember days, we remember moments.  We all have moments etched forever upon our memories.  Among my never-to-be-forgotten memories is that heartwrenching moment six years ago when I realized what was happening on the other side of my country.  

I just didn’t want today to go by without stopping to remember…

I have been so blessed by the beautiful responses of several fellow AoH adopting families who are facing very difficult situations with their adoptions.  I am just awed and inspired by their hearts of trust and peace in the middle of the swirling storms that surround them.  Oh, that I would respond like that!  I want to!…  I would like to think that is how I would respond… but I know that it’s one thing to acknowledge in my mind how I should respond… it’s another matter entirely to actually walk it out with such deeply gracious responses to disappointment and uncertainty — standing strong in faith and trusting when the way is cloudy and the path unsure.  These awesome families are living the testimony of blessing the Lord’s name equally in abundance and lack, responding beautifully without bitterness or resentment.  I just touched the tip of this when I lost my first baby. It was phenomenal how much peace there was in letting my questions go and trusting the Lord even in the midst of the grief.  It is a difficult but beautiful process to learn to say like Mary, “Be it unto me, Lord, according to Thy word.”

Jamie Z. wrote me a comment along these lines that just amazed and blessed me — it is poignantly honest and inspiring and worth reading!  Her words are beautiful, written from personal revelation and will ring true in your heart.

God knows what we each can handle… and He has promised that we will not be tested beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13.) But He does not promise that life will be easy.  He gives each of us different paths at different seasons, and sometimes those paths are darker and steeper than we were prepared for.

When I first started rock climbing, God used an aspect of climbing to paint an illustration that remains with me vividly.  Every climb (line) up the rock has a “crux” — a point of extreme difficulty.  The crux can come at the beginning of the climb, or at the middle, or end.  Each climb’s crux is different, but each is equally the most difficult segment of that particular line.  I realized that in life as I “climb my line,” I can’t compare my crux to anyone else’s, because it’s mine alone to climb…  I can’t complain about mine being more difficult, or look next to me and imagine that someone else has it easier because their crux came earlier when they had more energy and mine has me as I struggle for strength at the end.  God hand-picked my line and knew where the crux was before I began.  My response to it is the determining factor as to whether I will finish the climb well.  Will I falter and lose my focus?  Will I become overwhelmed and release my hold? Will I compare my climb to another’s and argue that it is unfair?  …or will I keep my eyes on the top and reach beyond what I think is possible to master the line? Will I respond with faith and perseverance?

That is what these families are demonstrating so clearly (and what many, many other families have shown as well) — they are climbing faithfully at the most difficult point in the line… they are responding to the crux of the situation with a trust that will enable them to climb higher… and to exceed their previous abilities, regardless of the outcome.  They are acknowledging the Lord’s sovereignty and trusting His goodness no matter where the road leads…   

I am blessed by their responses.  I am inspired.  But my heart aches for them and I feel such a burden to pray for a release in each situation.  I am standing with them in faith that God can and does move mountains in response to our prayers, so I am praying FERVENTLY on their behalf.   

Here are the links to their blogs if you aren’t aware of their situations.  Please take a moment to join them on their climb and pray for encouragment as they reach for that next hold.

Alonso’s
Borchert’s 
Holtz’s

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

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Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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