Saturday, September 29, 2007

Decision Made! : )

"The answers God gives us in our tomorrows often flow from our faithful todays." - Author, Beth Moore

God has heard the many prayers offered on behalf of our family and He has moved on our hearts in a very real way. I love how He does that! Thank you so much for praying for us. The prayer cover has been so tangible, I feel like I could stand on my tip toes and touch it. It is during times like this that I know that I am serving a real God. He is not a figment of my imagination.

After weeks of wrestling with this decision, Pat and I decided yesterday that we are continuing on with adoption from Liberia. As soon as the decision was made, I felt like a TON of bricks was lifted off of my shoulders. I didn't realize until after the decision was made how much this has been weighing on me. I've been holding my breath, wondering how Pat was feeling but not wanting to push.

I've also had a fear that I heard wrong, that there never really was a "call from God" to adopt from Liberia. I worried I had made this all up, and it had been me all along trying to take matters in my own hands because I want more children so badly. I prayed Wednesday night about it. I cried out to God, saying, "Was this from You or not? Did I make it all up? Is my family following me off a cliff? How am I supposed to KNOW if You spoke to me or not?"

I was reminded of Ethan Larsen, a missionary from our church, who spoke about his decision to take his family away from America, to the Ukraine and then eventually to Hungary. He said that before you do something big for God, you need to be convinced of your call to do it because when opposition comes and things get hard, that is all you have left to rely on. You KNOW that God told you to do this so you press on through the tough stuff.

I kept asking God, was it truly a call as I believed or just a romantic idea? Thursday morning I woke up and read my daily devotion on the Proverbs 31 Ministries website. It was all about living in the "Hear and Now." Hear was misspelled on purpose which drove the teacher in me crazy : ) The point of the study was are you acting on what you hear from God. At the end of the devotion there were two key verses printed:

John 10:4, “His sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (NIV)

John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

I felt God gently whisper to me, "Becky, you belong to Me. You know my voice."

The above quote from Beth Moore was also in this devotion, and I felt God telling me, the answers for tomorrow will flow out of your faithfulness today. It wasn't until the priest stepped into the raging Jordan River that it divided and dried up. Obey first, get your feet wet, and then watch me work.

I was also reminded of a concept I learned and have often quoted from Blackaby's "Experiencing God" study. So many times people beg God to reveal His Will to them, when really all along what they want is His plan. He tells us that we already know His will, He has told us in His Word what His Will is, we need to leave His plan to Him.

God's heart for orphans has not changed. It is very, very clear in the Bible that God has said that people who follow Him are supposed to care for widows and orphans. That didn't change when we lost Ben's referral.

By Thursday morning, I was convinced that we were supposed to move forward in faith and be cautiously excited about whatever referral we receive until our child is home. Once he is home, here in our arms, he will become our own as we give of ourselves to him. I remembered this quote from Dale Evans Rogers that I've posted on this blog many times:

"Time and experience have taught me a priceless lesson: Any child you take for your own becomes your own if you give of yourself to that child. I have borne two children and had seven others by adoption, and they are all my children, equally beloved and precious."

As Pat and I talked on Friday, I knew that God had softened the pain and frustration and anger in him. We talked about how God had blessed us so much and that it is clear in the bible that to whom much has been given, much is required. We don't want to bury what God has given us, but give it back to Him for His work, and there is no denying how much God cares about those in this world who are considered the least, the abandoned, the poor, and how it is His desire to place the lonely in families.

In our individual prayer times, we both came to the conclusion that God was calling us forward and has good plans for us, but this isn't just about us. It is just as much about the child that He puts into our family. God has great plans for that individual child and I am so thankful to be a part of watching those plans unfold.

Love always requires risk. I'd much rather risk hurt and heartache and be able to love, than to be safe and unable to love and be loved. I am so blessed.

I feel a peace and joy today that I'm so grateful for. I hope that soon we will have a son home in person to love. I can't wait to celebrate that day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Taking Down Ben's Pictures

I have taken Ben's picture off our blog and down from around the house. I am keeping them in my bible. I feel committed to him for life in my heart and in my prayers. When I pray for my kids, I pray for him, and maybe that was God's purpose in allowing us to think he was ours. He will be prayed for as he grows, but I needed to take his pictures away so we could get the image of him out of our minds and hearts and open them to the possibility of another child. If we are going to continue forward in adopting from Liberia, I want to have an open heart to the one the Lord chooses, and not have a picture in my mind of who I think that child should be.

Here is an excerpt from my prayer journal tonight:

"The more time that is going by, the more I am feeling ready to let go of Ben and attach my heart to whomever You bring home to us. I surrender. You choose. You are trustworthy. I will trust You to build our family according to Your will not mine. "

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sara Groves Song

I stole the video of the song below from Jennifer Isaac's blog, "To Africa and Home." It is one of my favorite adoption blogs.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sara Groves,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Heartfelt Thank You, Decisions, and Great Quotes

I wanted to begin this post by thanking everyone for your incredible love and support. I treasure every email message, blog comment, and voice mail, because I know they represent the love and prayers of all of you. Thank you for loving us through this. I've been so busy with life this week. I'm sorry that I haven't gotten back to many of you yet. I just wanted you all to know that I am grateful and thankful for your love and concern.

This week has been emotionally draining, but I have a stubborn peace that won't go away. I know that I am being prayed for because I can feel it.

I love this quote from a missionary from the 1800's:

“If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” - Adoniram Judson

I trust that to be true for me, too.

Pat and I have some big decisions to make this week about adoption. I can't share the details just yet, but I would so appreciate your prayer cover. We want to be faithful to the call we felt, but it isn't easy. Please pray for us to keep moving forward in faith and to have clear direction as we make these decisions.

The other day I opened my Word document where I've been collecting adoption quotes this past year. A lot of them spoke to me right now. I'll share them with you:

“The place God calls you,” Frederick Buechner once said, “is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger

"Sometimes on the way to a dream, you get lost and find a
better one!"

Jesus said that if you receive a child in His name, you receive Him and the one who sent him. The question is not whether caring for children is easy and safe, or whether they are responsive and thankful, or whether caring is depleting. The question is whether Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and
forever, and whether we can say with the apostle Paul, 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13)." John Piper's "A Godward Life"(pg. 67)

"More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing. Thus I have found it many hundreds of times, and therefore I continually say to myself, "Hope thou in God."--George Mueller

"Time and experience have taught me a priceless lesson: Any child you take for your own becomes your own if you give of yourself to that child. I have borne two children and had seven
others by adoption, and they are all my children, equally beloved and precious.--Dale Evans Rogers

“If what God is calling you to do, isn’t bigger than yourself, then it isn’t God calling you.” –Stacey (story from AGCI’s e-journal)

"Oh, how happy is the woman who believes in God, for he does make his promises to her come true." – Luke 1:45

“This isn’t the family I imagined we’d have,” she says, scooping one of the twins onto her lap to share a hug with the baby. “It’s better.” – Sue Herrera Good Housekeeping article, January 2006 pg. 112

"Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)

"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with
such sacrifices God is pleased."Hebrew 13:16

"If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:17-18 NLT

"I am convinced that God longs to put His fingerprint in our lives, to act on our behalf and surprise us with His magnificence. I am equally convinced that most of the time we do not give God a context in which to do this. The mundane is not really the best context for a miracle. When we play it safe, we squeeze God out of the formula. If we go only where we know and do what we're certain will succeed, we remove our need for God. Whenever we respond to God's invitation, our need for God becomes heightened. Whenever we take on a God-sized challenge, self-sufficiency is no longer an option." (From Seizing Your Divine Moment)

Friday, September 14, 2007

You Choose Becky

I almost quit yesterday. Not just on adoption, but on everything. I am so tired and weary.

A good friend sent me an email last night. In it he wrote, “I am sure losing Benjamin is not where this will all end for you guys.” I heard God’s voice say, “It could be. It could be the end of the story for you, if you quit. You can quit right now and be done and walk away and that will be the end of the story. Or you can press on to the blessings and assignments I have for you. It’s your choice.” It was almost like He drew a line in the sand for me.

I keep hearing God ask me, “Are you a soldier or not? Get up and fight.” Will this experience strengthen our resolve to do His work, or will this disappointment be the thing that makes us quit on Him. When my brother was a plebe at the Naval Academy, I remember them talking about the huge numbers of Midshipmen who would be weeded out. I had to ask myself, are Pat and I going to be weeded out? Are we going to desert, drop out of the program and walk away? Or are we going to allow ourselves to be trained into officers.

We are tired. We have been thoroughly beat up these past two years. I have four babies in heaven. I have a little boy in Liberia who will always have a piece of my heart. He will always be my spiritual son. I think you can say I am now officially an expert in the miscarriage department. I’ve delivered my son’s little body; I’ve experienced early miscarriage, late miscarriage, and now adoption miscarriage. But have I been destroyed? No!

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
-2 Corinthians 4:7-9

I believe that because Pat and I are weak and tired and hurt, we have been marked by the enemy. He sneaks up from behind to attack us who are weak, just like the Amalekites did when the Israelites were leaving Egypt. We can sit down and say, “I deserve a break. I’m tired. I quit, someone else can take over.” That’s when we can be picked off; we need to be on guard as we are tired.

God is the defender of the weak and He has asked Pat and me to join him in taking care of the weak, defenseless, the abandoned, even if He has a different one for us then the cute little face that we decided we wanted. Another question he keeps asking me is, “Who is this about?” If you quit now you are saying, “This is about me.” If you keep going, you are saying, “This is about You, Lord, and the defenseless orphans that need us.” Are we in this to take care of orphans, and to be obedient to the Lord, or are we in it to get a prize for the pain we’ve been through, because we think we deserve it like a consolation prize. What is our motivation?

As I was writing these thoughts out, my five-year-old daughter came into the room. This was the conversation we just had:

Karissa: Mommy are you still sad because we can’t adopt Benjamin?

Me: Yes, honey, I am. How are you feeling about it?

Karissa: I’m OK. God gave his mommy enough money and food to take care of him because He knew he wasn’t the little boy for us. Can you get a picture of our new brother? What’s his name? Are we going to change his name again?

Me: I don’t know, honey, we’ll see.

The faith of a child. Karissa understands that God has our best interest, and Benjamin’s and his mother’s best interest in mind. He is good. He is love. He will work this out for our good if we will participate with him. Karissa knows to just keep moving forward, looking toward the best blessing God has for us. I need to follow her example and allow myself to keep following my Daddy.

How it will all play out for us, I don’t know, but I’m determined to not let this be the end of the story for us. Please pray for us to be strong and faithful to the plans that God has for us. As always, He is trustworthy. He didn’t change after that phone call came in on Wednesday night. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Will Praise You Still

Today we learned that Benedict Aquai will not be our son. His birthmother returned to the orphanage and said that she could no longer go through with the adoption. She took him with her and removed him from the program.

I'm a wreck right now. I shouldn't have believed he was our son until he was on the airplane headed home, but I took one look at his picture and fell in love. I don't know what to think or feel, other than raw pain.

I know that God will carry me through this loss just like the others. As we've gone through losing our babies, God has given us theme songs. The first one was Tree63's "Blessed Be Your Name" and the then it was "Praise You in This Storm" by Casting Crowns. Today, my song is "Jesus Bring the Rain" by MercyMe.

I'm broken. I'm hurt, and I feel lost, but Jesus, I will praise You still!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Longing for Ben Today

I am sitting here listening to a football game on the radio, and feeling lonely for Ben. Sometimes I feel so discouraged and so afraid that he is just a figment of my imagination. The visa situation feels dismal and I have started imagining that our file fell under a desk somewhere and that we've fallen through the cracks somehow and have been forgotten.

We accepted our referral the beginning of May and got new photos in June, but that's all that we've heard about the adoption. The silence is hard. AOH is incredibly busy trying to deal with this visa situation, several people are in Liberia right now, and they are in transition with hiring new staff. They are too busy doing everything right for the kids, so I totally understand, but its still hard and for some reason today is one of the hardest. I'm just really low in the faith and trust and optimism department.

Is our adoption process really going through? Is Ben ever really going to get a visa to get out of the country? Will he ever really be here in our home with us in person? Will he, Lord? Lord, help my unbelief.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Invisible Mom

I just got this email message. I wanted to share it with the other "invisible moms" out there. I wish I could give credit to the author, but it didn't say on the email who wrote it. Jen, thanks for forwarding this one to me. It was perfect timing! : )

Invisible Mom:
It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, "Who is that with you, young fella?"

"Nobody," he shrugged.

Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family - like "Turn the TV down, please" - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would someone turn the TV down?" Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We'd been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when you are." He just kept right on talking. I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going...She's going...She's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness . It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table. " That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.