Saturday, June 30, 2012

I Have to Do This

For the last two months, we have been knee-deep in checking off items on our adoption agency's home study checklist.

By home study, we mean the first official stage of the adoption process involving a heap of paperwork required by both Georgia and the United States.

For those curious ones, here is a sample of our checklist:

*Autobiographies for Each Prospective Parent (four pages)                                       

            *Reading agreement (read 5 or more books about adoption)

 *Medical Reports for All Adults and Children Living in the Home (physicals, as well as, TB tests)

 *Residential History

 *Consent and Request for Criminal Background Check for Each Applicant and Adult in the Home (Both GBI and FBI fingerprinting done)

 *Child Abuse Clearances for Each Applicant and Adult in the Home

 *HIPPA Release Form for Sex Offender Registry


 *Birth Certificates for You and Your Children

 *Marriage Certificate

 *Most Recent Income Tax Return

 *Copy of health insurance card

 *Statement of Net Worth

 *Verification of Employment

 *Four Letters of Reference

 *Septic Tank Letter & Well Water Test (had to have our septic tank pumped)

Working down our list, my husband and I dutifully made appointments to have physicals done for our medical reports last month.  Following the routine checkup, each of us had to have a tuberculosis test as well. 

Our girls were in the room watching as the nurse inserted the small needle into each of our arms and then pulled it out.  They saw us grimace and they saw the little amount of blood on our skin afterwards.

Naturally, they asked, “Do we have to do that, too?”

Fast forward to this past week.  It was our daughters' turn.  Time for their scheduled doctor’s appointments.  

We told them they were getting a check-up (which they were). 
We told them it was for the adoption (which it was). 
We told them we had to do this so we could bring their new sister home from India (which we do).  
But we purposely failed to relay the whole truth to them beforehand.  The truth that both of them would also have to get a TB test, just like us.

As we patiently waited for the doctor to come in, our youngest just happened to ask, “Do we have to get a shot today?”

My response, “No…not a shot, really.”

“What then?” she rebounded.

“Just a little poke.  Nothing to it.”  I replied nonchalantly.

Now any parent who has or has ever had young children, especially those terrified of needles, can guess what happened next inside that quiet room.

Just as the doorknob turned and the nurses took a step inside, my youngest and normally bravest daughter, began wailing at the top of her lungs, “NO-O-O-O-O!!!  I don’t want to be poked!  I don’t want to!  I don’t want to I tell you!  I’m not doing it!  I’m not!  Do you hear me?!?”

My husband scooped her up and tried to console her.  We both tried to reason with our five year old and help her accept the facts.  She was going to be poked, whether she liked it or not.

In the midst of all the commotion, I looked over at my oldest still quietly sitting on the table.  She had her head down, arms out and ready, tears silently streaming down her cheeks.
As I made my way to her I knew exactly what she was feeling in her small eight year old body.  I remember all too well, wrestling with her at her toddler and preschool doctor appointments, holding her legs down so the nurses could give the necessary vaccinations. 

I knew what turmoil she and I have faced together because of her stark, intense fear of pain (see previous post here.)  So my mother’s heart knew just how difficult it was for her to say these words when she looked up at me through her tears.

 “I want to get Pearl, Mommy.  So…I have to do this.”

I have to confess I have had many, many proud moments as a mother.  But few can compare to hearing my daughter say what she said, at the moment she said it.

She got it. 

Despite the momentary pain and the minor wound it would cause her, she would do it for someone else.  Someone she has yet to meet.  Someone she already loves.

And then I got it. 

We have One who did the same exact thing for us.  One who would have rather avoided the pain, the wounds, the blood. 

But through tears, He looked up at His Father and said,

"I want them to be free.  I want them to be with me. 
I want them in my family.  So...I have to do this."

And He did.  He carried our sorrows.  He endured the suffering.  He was pierced for our transgressions.  And by His wounds we are healed.

Throughout every stage of this adoption journey I see the gospel more clearly than I ever have in my life.  This journey will require sacrifice and suffering.  Not just for us, but for the daughter we've yet to meet.

"But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, 
this is commendable before God." 1 Peter 2:20b

Thankful for the reminder, I tell myself, no matter how painful, no matter how difficult the task, "I have to do this."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beautiful Things Out of the Dust

I opened the book and began to read some basic facts about the infamous volcano to my girls.

Washington state.  1980.  Eruption.  Mount St. Helens.

If the pictures of the mountain before the catastrophic event were worth a thousand words, then the comparison photographs after the explosion were worth two thousand.

Complete and utter devastation. 

Fifty-seven lives lost.  Hundreds and hundreds of homes, bridges, and miles of highway destroyed.  Wildlife obliterated.  Left in its aftermath was an enormous hole in the side of the mountain, hardened lava and layers upon layers of dust and ash.

Pristine rivers.  Gone.  Lush plants.  Gone.  Wild animals.  Gone.  Towering forests.  Gone. 

My girls and I were stunned by the stark difference in the mountain's appearance before the explosion and its appearance afterwards. We were quieted by the power of the event and its effect on the land.

Then...we turned the page in the book.

The image we saw in the very next photograph caught our attention. Budding forth from its resilient shell was a tiny green sprout, stretching toward the sunlight, unhindered by the hardness and dust enveloping it.

Where death and destruction once reigned, life now returned.

My eight year old made a pretty profound statement.  A truth she'd gleaned from church.

Looking at the book she said, "Mommy, that's a picture of hope.  Believing something good can come out of something bad."

Who would've thought any kind of growth, any kind of life, any kind of hope could come after such an explosive event? 
Who would've guessed wild animals would return to roam the mountainside? 
Who would've thought plants could grow and thrive in the midst of those conditions? 
Who would've thought any good could come out of something so bad?

Meet my beautiful friend, Misty. 

Having lunch @ the Cheesecake Factory - Spring 2012
Misty and I met at Shorter College almost nineteen years ago during my freshman year.  She and I hit it off right away.  We spent most of our time laughing in class and soon became fast friends.  When I pledged the same sorority she was already a member of, she chose me as her little sister. 

Shorter College White Rose Formal - Winter 1994
Not only did we spend our college days living the good life, but we were there for each other when the circumstances of life were not so good.  We encouraged each other's walk in the Lord and truly became sisters in the faith.

We served as bridesmaids in each other's weddings. We supported each other as we both entered the realm of motherhood and we did our best to stay in touch despite living states away from one another.
One of Misty's visits back to Georgia - Spring 2009
Then one cold January day in 2010, I got a heart wrenching phone call from my friend.
The Day family the summer before Misty's diagnosis - July 2009
She desperately needed prayer.  She was experiencing severe yet numbing pain in her lower back and had no definitive answers for the cause.  In the months that followed, multiple tests were run on her body and her blood.  At times, she was bound to a wheelchair, completely unable to walk or move without excruciating pain. 

The comfortable, content, care-free world she'd known erupted around her when she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer.

In the last two and a half years, Misty has had to endure some of the most horrific tests, surgeries, and treatments out there for cancer patients.  She has fought with intense bravery.  She has fought with perseverance.  She has fought with Divine power.  And she has waited patiently while her Healer has fought for her. 

Earlier this year, she was told she was in partial remission.  Things were going well, but because the type of cancer she had was slow-growing, it was unfortunately also slow-dying.  She returned to the cancer institute at the beginning of this month for more tests and more treatments, fully expecting to resume the battle for another year or possibly more.

Then four days ago, she posted a picture which caused me to stop completely in my tracks.  The news caused me to jump up and down and bust out my very own happy dance!

Complete remission = CANCER FREE!
Following a devastating explosion in her life, a trail of destruction spread out for miles, and a hardened blanket of ash upon her, hope bursts forth from the dust!

The war she has waged for far too long is over.  Healing has won.  Hope has won.  Life has won.

The page has been turned.  And all things are being made new.

Hope - believing something good CAN (and WILL) come out of something bad

Thank You so much, Lord. 
In Your sovereignty, sometimes You heal; sometimes You do not. 
Thank You for choosing to heal my friend. 
Thank You for letting all of us "bring her to You" through prayer.
You are our Healer, our Hope and our Life. 
Thank You for making beautiful things out of the dust.

(There is a song called, "Beautiful Things" which makes me think of my beautiful friend and our beautiful Savior.  We just happened to sing it at church the Sunday after we read the book about Mount St. Helens here at home and a couple of days after my lunch date with Misty.)

Click here to hear the song. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Raising My White Flag

Job is a hard book to read.  Of all the books in the Bible, it’s the one I most often try to avoid.

Why?  Because Job is a hard-to-understand account of a man (a mighty, mighty good man I might add) who experiences unexplainable and unfathomable loss.  A man and his suffering.

Similar to the childhood game, “Mother, may I?” in which the player asks a question and waits for permission to be granted before acting, our accuser enters the presence of God, with just one question:  “God, may I?”  God’s response:  “Yes, you may.”

And in a flash, all that Job has ever known or ever possessed is gone. 

His children.  His possessions.  His health.  His position in the community.  His reputation. 

Job was stripped of everything.  Everything except his wife and his life.

Stripped.  All he had was taken from him.  All of this happened to him.  And God allowed it. 

As soon I come up for a breath from reciting this prayer, “Lord, please don’t allow all I have and all I know to be stripped away from me”, another word, a very different word, comes to mind. 


Surrendering is something I do, not something done to me.  Willingly, I choose to give something over to Someone else.  It’s not just a single action, but a posture in life.  It’s raising my white flag high above my head with the declaration, “I give up.  I hand it over it to You.  You win.”

But surrendering is hard.  For some reason, I think by hanging on to my “thing”, I am more capable of handling it or protecting it or making it more prosperous. 

In clenched fists, I hold on when God is telling me to let go.  To trust Him.  To surrender.

Just like last Christmas when an opportunity arose for our family to help some refugees from Bhutan, a tiny country north of India.

We were asked to collect blankets, winter clothing and coats to give these men, women, and children who had literally just stepped off the plane in cold Atlanta only wearing sandals and the clothes on their back.  My husband and I gathered what we were willing to give and asked others to do the same. 

The very Sunday we were to travel to Atlanta to take these items to the refugees and others already here from India, I got dressed for church, put on my brand-new coat I had only purchased days before, and walked out the door.

While donning my very new, very nice, very perfect coat, I got into the car while my husband loaded up the bags of old, worn coats into the trunk.  Without warning, I sensed these words in my spirit, “Oh, and don’t forget to give the coat off your back, too.”

“What?  Seriously, Lord?  Not my new coat.  Please.  How about I go inside and find another older coat to give?”

But even as I tried to wrestle with God over a silly coat, I knew what He was really asking.  It wasn’t even about the coat.  It was about my heart being willing to let go.  Would I give Him my best?  Would I think of others more than I think of myself?  Would I surrender to Him?

I wore my new coat to church for the first and the last time that day.  And then later in the afternoon, I carried it into the tiny apartment in Atlanta and laid it on the sofa as an offering.  Not to the refugees taking up residence there.  Not to the woman who would later wear it because she desperately needed it.  But to my God.  To the One who willingly laid down His life for me. 

Then I walked away.  Not dwelling on what I’d given up.  But thinking about what I would gain.  A more generous, giving heart.  Something I’d been praying to have.

“No matter what we give up, we are given so much more.”
~ Margaret Feinberg, The Sacred Echo

I wish I could say from that moment on, I continue to surrender my best, my all, with open hands.  But the truth is, I look down and find them closed and clenched far more often than I should.  It’s a daily surrender.  A daily death to myself.  A daily offering to Him.

At my church, we sing a song by worship leader, Chris Tomlin, entitled “White Flag”.

The lyrics are so incredibly powerful.  Read them below or click on the link to hear the song.

We raise our white flag.  We surrender all to You.  It’s all to You.
We raise our white flag.  The war is over.  Love has come.  Your love has won.

What could we lose by surrendering everything we have to Christ?  Better yet, what could we gain?

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” Luke 9:23-25 (The Message)

(Since the first of this year, I've been reading through the Bible with an amazing group of ladies--the Shine girls, led by an even more amazing friend, Jill. We've been camped out in the book of Job for weeks now. Jill asked me if I would consider writing for Shine's blog.  I wrote this piece and it posted today. Click here to read the post and also to see what God has been doing and how He is using Jill and a multitude of others to shine for Him.) :)

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