Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Just Happened?!? (Our Confirmation to Adopt)

It's been a year since it happened.
It's been shared in conversations. 
And now, after a year, it has finally been written down.

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them. Psalm 40:5 (NLT)

On December 26, 2011, my husband and I left his parents' home near Augusta, Georgia, where we'd just spent Christmas Day, and took off in search of some after-Christmas bargains as we do every year.

At the first store, we ran into a long-time friend of ours from college.  Brad, and his wife Chrystal, "just happened" to still be in the area even though they usually spend Christmas in Macon.  They also "just happened" to go into the very same store we were shopping in that day, a store in which they've never previously shopped.  We stopped to chat and both being kid-less for the afternoon, decided to continue our conversation with an impromptu lunch at the local Red Robin restaurant.

The actual Red Robin where the actual event took place.
What I already knew about Brad and Chrystal is that they had recently announced plans for their family to pursue adoption domestically.  Wanting to hear their story, I began asking questions.  Lots of questions.

For some crazy reason, I was VERY interested in hearing EVERY detail they could give.  As Chrystal explained her life-long passion for adoption, I was overcome with the pureness and unselfishness of her soul.  She truly cared for orphans, whereas I had only just begun to become aware.  She oozed love, the raw gospel kind and I found myself drawn to her words, but still struggling to personalize them in my own life.

What I didn't know was that God was about to begin writing a new chapter in the story of our family at that ordinary table on that seemingly ordinary day.

The actual booth in the actual Red Robin where the actual event took place.
At some point in our conversation, my husband and I began to open up and tell our friends of our hearts' recent nudging toward India.  We told of our "India onslaught":  the numerous, unexplained encounters we'd already had with people, situations, etc. relating to that nation. 

We told them how our hearts broke when we learned of the female gendercide situation there from a 20/20 news program earlier in the month.  We told them of the little girl, Kinnera, we chose to sponsor in India through Compassion International.  And we shared with them how we cannot seem to stop our prayers from gravitating toward India, a country which we'd never even given a second thought to in the past.

The more we talked, the more they listened.  And the more they listened, the more unsettled I began to feel. 

Suddenly, mid-sentence, my face and upper-body was overcome with extreme heat.  I began sweating profusely, and as a result, started tugging at the wool scarf encircling my neck.

Puzzled, our friends just watched as I tried to regain my composure and cool myself down from this crazy and intense physical reaction.

Brad: "Are you okay?"

Me: "Yeah...I think."

Brad: "What is that on your neck?"

Me (still tugging at scarf): "I...don't...know...what is it?"

Brad:  "It looks like you're breaking out into a rash."

Me:  "What?!?  Where?!?"

Brad:  "Oh my word...and I think...I think the rash is in the shape of...India."

He was kidding.  There was no rash.  Especially not one in the shape of India, though that would have been very cool.

After the laughter at the table died down, the dialogue continued...

Me:  "Whew.  Not sure what just happened there..."

Brad:  "Yeah...well, who knows?  Maybe God is telling y'all you need to adopt a little girl, from India."

Me (picking my jaw up off the table, and boldly declaring):  "Brad, if God wants us to adopt a little girl from India, then the next person who walks past this table, will be...will be a little girl from India."

Wait for it...because quite frankly, I couldn't have written this part better myself.

In the middle of Red Robin, in the midst of a very "white" community, five seconds later, this happens...

Back to our lunch and back to our conversation, we look up and see a dark-haired, dark-skinned, little girl (clearly of Indian heritage) walk by our table, pause and look over her shoulder before continuing on toward the restroom.

I did a double-take and looked up at Chrystal, as if to say, "Uh...did you just see what I just saw?"

She did.  We all did.  Impossible to miss.

Following closely behind the little girl was her mother and little brother.  And we were left with no doubt about their family's ethnicity.

We were also left with no words.  Only a stunned silence remained.
Without intending to, I'd just stepped onto holy ground.  I'd just laid a fleece out upon the table and God clearly answered.  No coincidence.  No mistake about it.

When I thought I was only joking around, God responded with something serious and intensely personal.

Because last I checked, adoption is a very serious and intensely personal matter with Him.

It took a minute for all four of us to regain ourselves.  Our friends were stunned.  My husband had a perplexed, but peaceful look of disbelief on his face.  And me?  Well, I felt I was on the verge of an all-encompassing nervous breakdown.  Total freak-out mama moment coming on. 

What just happened?  How did a simple shopping trip and lunch with friends turn into such a monumental, life-changing event?

Driving back to my in-law's house, a strange, but exciting silence filled the car. 

I looked over at my husband and asked, "What just happened?  Did God really just confirm what I think he confirmed in one simple moment?  Why would He want us to adopt?"

Looking over at me with a smirk on his face, my husband simply and calmly responded, "Why not?"

Here we are year later. 

As our journey toward adoption continues, we are still amazed at how clear His call for us was that cold December day a year ago.  Even on the full-of-doubt days and the "Did we hear correctly days?", we go back.  We go back and intentionally recall this real and very personal story to remind our hesitant hearts that yes, that really did happen.  We even have witnessess to prove it. :)

It reminds us that He planned this long before we ever had an inkling to His plan.  Long before we ever felt the desire for this plan. 

Since then, He has confirmed His plan repeatedly and in many similar and very personal ways (far too many to recount or retell).  His sacred echoes have been everywhere.  And we're learning to open our ears to listen and our eyes to see more because we don't want to miss a thing!

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them. Psalm 40:5 (NLT)

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Grinch's Prayer

As ashamed as I am to admit it, the Grinch and I share a similar past.

Not in the... "I hate Christmas, so I'll steal gifts and trees and lights and happiness right out from under everyone on Christmas Eve" way.

No.  Not at all.  Because, unlike the Grinch, I really, really love Christmas.

Instead, it was more on the lines of..."I think the most likely reason of all…may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

In past Christmases, I remember the internal struggle I had whenever I heard that description to explain the Grinch's personality and the reason for his less-than-acceptable behavior.

Maybe that was me, too.

Given any personality test in years past, I'd score high on thinking, low on feeling.  High on analyzing and judgment.  Low on sympathy and mercy.

I rarely cried and was rarely moved to tears by others' situations and suffering.  I cared.  At least I thought.  At least I tried.  But in truth, more often than not, I turned my head, closed my eyes, or pretended not to hear the cries of the needy and the most vulnerable.

And though I'd never considered myself a taker, I'd never described myself as a giver either.  It's not that I was opposed to giving or that I hadn't given or that I didn't give. 

I had.  I did.

It's just that giving didn't seem to overflow naturally from me like it did from so many others I knew.

The hard reality:  I needed some supernatural help with my seemingly small heart.  The heart defect had to go.  My heart needed to grow.

So I prayed.  One simple prayer.  One very short, life-altering prayer. 

(I feel the need to offer a word of caution here.  You may not want to pray this prayer unless you really, really, seriously mean it.  Consider yourself warned.)

"Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours."
What breaks the heart of God?  Here's my short list:

The lost.  The vulnerable.  The oppressed.  The captive.  The lonely.  The needy.  The helpless.  The poor.  The sick.  The persecuted.  The wounded.  The widow.  The orphan.

That one prayer changed my whole perspective on God and others.  No longer can I sit back and watch, content to stay within my own world, doing my own thing, for my own pleasure. 

No longer can I look at the needs, both here and there, and think, "There are just so many. I'm only one person so I won't be able to do much." 

Instead, I need to help.  I want to bless.  I'm compelled to give.  Something.  Anything.  Not sparingly, but generously.  Not under compulsion, but from a full heart.  A heart which has been given so much.

Weeks ago, I wrote down a specific list of giving opportunities I was aware of this holiday season.  Knowing it was not possible for our family to give to all of them, I narrowed the list to several things/people/ministries which resonated both with us and the heart of God.  And we focused our giving to that list.

And with each giving opportunity, I'm learning a valuable lesson.  Giving takes practice.  Lots of it.  Like learning to play a musical instrument or a new sport, giving is a skill.  The more you do it, the better you become at doing it. 

I'm grateful for these opportunities.  They have given me the chance to put into practice what I'm learning.

In 2 Corinthians 8:7, the apostle Paul said,

"See also that you excel in this grace of giving."
Paul knew that left on our own, we will hoard.  We will keep instead of give.  We will continue to store up temporary trinkets for ourselves.  But because God has been so incredibly generous to us, He calls us to store up eternal treasures on behalf of others and for His name's sake instead. 
Clinching closed fists less.  Extending open palms more.  

Not to receive, but to give.  Because the more I try to hold on to my life or my stuff, the more I lose it. The more I let go, the more I gain.

Including a bigger, growing heart.  A more generous heart.  A heart that breaks for what breaks His.

(To all my friends and family who possess such giving hearts, thank you. 
I have learned much from your example.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Struggling with Wonderful

The fact that it's Monday and it's rained all day doesn't help.

The fact that nearly every social media post and every news report on television screams a reminder of the horrific tragedy last Friday in Connecticut.

The fact that my husband steps into a public school everyday and works with middle schoolers, often undisciplined, unstable, unpredictable middle schoolers.

The fact that my uncle remains in the hospital after a week's stay, fighting for his life and facing surgery tomorrow from a staph infection, finally identified and located in his spine.

The fact that days before Christmas, my friend's young son, also waits in the hospital, recovering from serious surgery following his year-long battle with bone cancer.

The fact that another dear friend is nursing her husband back to health after his near-death accident, falling 24 feet, head-first off a ladder, onto a concrete driveway.  Never did my friend expect hanging a wreath above a garage would lead to her husband's jaw being wired shut, missing teeth, broken bones, and a near loss of his life.

The fact that another friend's desperate wish to have her adopted son home from India before Christmas appears to be dimming.

The fact that I know of three precious women, newly and unexpectedly widowed this Christmas, facing the days and traditions ahead without their husbands, alone.

The fact that I continue to read from organizations about more children being taken, tortured and trafficked against their will, every hour, here and across the globe.

The fact that so many of my friends and family members have succumbed to seasonal illnesses such as the flu and stomach bugs.

And finally, the fact that in one day we seem to be losing light in our house--with a third of the Christmas lights on one of our trees burned out and two prominent lamps' bulbs as well.

Staring at the tree and the lamps, I can't help but feel the same.  A little less shiny.  A little less bright.  Struggling to stay lit, fighting against the darkness.  Dimming in the midst of today.

On the radio, Christmas carols play.  One in particular catches my attention.  The tune is popular and inviting.  But today, I struggle with the lyrics, meaning what I sing.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Is it?  Wonderful?  Isn't it supposed to be? 

So, why is it so hard to believe this week, particularly in light of recent events?  Especially in such darkness?

My pastor asked this question of us yesterday, "How does God respond to darkness?" 

His answer: "Jesus". 

Why?  Because He's the Light of the world.  And light always threatens darkness.

Jesus.  Immanuel, "God with us".  He was here thousands of years ago because we needed Him then. He's here today because we need Him now.  Desperately need Him now.

In this dark world, we still have the chance to be brighter.  Brighter than the evil and uncertainty that surrounds us. 

"...declaring the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 
1 Peter 2:9

So, today I go back to the prophecy of Scripture.  I exchange my struggling thoughts and struggling questions to Someone who can counsel me.

Not just any counselor.  A Wonderful Counselor. 

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

He is wonderful when the world is not.  His wonderful act of coming to us, rescuing us from the darkness of our sin, gave us the light of life.  And because of Him, we are given a wonderful life.  Forever.

Focusing on that truth, celebrating His wonderful acts and wonderful works on our behalf, reminds me what this season truly is...the most wonderful time of the year. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two in One

Today's post...a short, but oh, so very sweet update!

We got two AMAZING pieces of news regarding the adoption in just one week's time.

1.  We were given word that the Promise686 adoption grant we'd applied for back in early November had been awarded to us!  This matching grant is substantial and will help us TREMENDOUSLY as we work toward finalizing the necessary financial obligations in this process.

(Promise686 is a new non-profit ministry dedicated to serving the needs of “the fatherless” both here and abroad. They are committed to inspiring and equipping families in the North Atlanta area to foster and adopt with the goal of placing children in loving, permanent, Christian homes. They believe this is God’s heart and have taken the name for this ministry from the promise found in Psalms 68:6a.

“God sets the lonely in families…”
God is already about this work, and they desire to join him in this by assisting families through community support, financial assistance and education.)

Thank you, Promise686 for your overwhelmingly generous gift!

2.  Next, our agency emailed us to let us know that CARA (governing agency in India pertaining to all things adoption) has finally matched us with an orphanage! 

After waiting a little over two months, we know the city!  That's big news, people! 

Next step in the process...waiting for the referral.  Basically, the referral is when the orphanage takes our homestudy and dossier (tons of detailed information about our family) and matches us with a child based upon that information.  No timeline regarding when this will happen, so we wait patiently until it comes to pass.

For now, we are reveling after receiving two GINORMOUS pieces of good news in just one week. 

Thank you for praying faithfully.  Your prayers have helped to move two big mountains this week!

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