Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Trust and Obey

Obedience is the theme weaving through my life now. God reminds me as the seasons change; the way the leaves begin their duty of turning, changing, and falling. He whispers to me as the sun sets and brilliant colors interplay with light until darkness swallows them away to rest. All of nature obediently follows the path the Lord has set for them.

Yet, in His goodness, God gives man freedom of choice.

Who are we that we should entertain thoughts that our ways are higher than His? Yet, when we cease to immediately obey, isn't that what we do?

Adoption was my highest form of obedience. When God called us to adopt ten years ago, He spoke to my husband and me in supernatural ways that only He can do. We knew without a doubt what God was telling us...asking us to do. Our understanding of His will and our obedience to it has been an extreme blessing that has transformed so many areas in my life. Like a pebble thrown into a body of water, the effects have reached far and wide.

Now He has chosen us for adoption again. But, just as no child is the same, no person is the same, no pregnancy is the same, no adoption story is the same. He is calling our hearts to a little girl who has spent most of her eight years in an orphanage among "the least of these." Her special need will be addressed with surgery when she comes home to her forever family, so in the midst of transition and so many new and scary things to her, she will also have to deal with many medical visits and hospitalizations.

These issues are bigger than my husband or me. They are not too big for God. He created her. He created us. He knew His plan long before any of us were born.  His ways are higher than ours. His ways are perfect as He develops us...not be become flawless, but more perfectly like Him as we are transformed daily into more of who He created us to be.

Transformation isn't pretty. Nor is it easy. But just as the caterpillar undergoes a radical shift from a wormlike larvae to a gorgeous and delicate work of art and grace, He is reworking us with every request for obedience.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Resource Review: Forever Families - God's Gift of Adoption

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Give-Away Time!

This months giveaway is brought to you by

A little about Mary & Martha:
MARY & MARTHA ARE OUR FOUNDERS. Over 2,000 years ago they began serving in their home. They learned through their experiences that having people in your home isn'’t about the act of entertaining, but it is the method by which we invite Guests into our homes to Love on Them. In fact, the greatest Guest felt so welcomed in their home, He was entertained there many times. This is where you enter the story. We are inviting you to join us. See your home transformed. Let us show you how easy it can be. We have created products and tips to give you the confidence that you can have people in your home without it being perfect, complex or routine; so you can focus on the main thing. The guests that enter into your homes.

A little about Jenny:
After dealing with infertility for 5 years, we realized that God was not going to provide us with a “traditional” family.  We were foster parents 2010 – 2012.  We received our son through foster care at birth and finalized his adoption 10 months later.  We have since been in the “hurry up and wait” process of a private adoption for the past two years, and in the process suffered a failed adoption.  We also recently reinstated our contract as foster parents again and are awaiting our first placement.

Enter to win a set of Faith Building Magnets
Each magnet has a letter and corresponding faith-building word and quote to creatively remind your child what God wants them to be.

Entering this giveaway is simple:
Under the post about this giveaway share with us one way that you serve in your home. 
For a bonus entry, "like" Jenny's FB page:
Comment on the same post as mentioned above that you "liked".

Winner will be announced on Thursday, 9pm CST.
(Item will not be delivered in time for Christmas)

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Minute with Nikki - Her First Christmas

We’re working on a year home. December is month 11. In some ways it feels like much longer than 11 months, and in others, its gone by in a flash. Through it all, we’ve seen such incredible growth in this little lady. Growth in going from a size 6 when we got here to now wearing appropriately sized 10 pants. Growth in seeing glimmers of her being able to self-regulate when the plans go awry. Growth in seeing her deal with disappointments and taking criticisms better. Growth in making lasting peer friendships. Growth in eating a cheese stick (originally thought to be the most vile food products on the planet). Growth in manners, patience, maturity, caring for others…the list can go on, because, well, my daughter is amazing.

But the most glaring growth that we see in this child, as we are in the thick of the Advent season, is her spiritual growth. From such a pure and tender place, Yiyi started to explore her faith early on. Not because we pushed it, but rather gave it an air of mystery and intrigue.  For a child who thrives on those things it wasn’t a tough sell. It started small, a prayer here, a Jesus Storybook Bible story there, and then it just continued. What started out as simple questions “Who is that shu shu (man), mommy?” “Why is his head bleeding?” “What’s wrong with his hands?” changed to statements like (after a friend died) “That’s ok, now he’s going to be with Jesus until his family can get there. He’s no more hurting or sick.”

We originally thought the “Jesus is the reason for the season” Christmas pitch would be a hard sell.  When Yiyi came here, quickly the questions about “The Christmas Man” started. Although she never celebrated Christmas, Yiyi was knowledgeable about the whole Santa deal. She has much trepidation about strangers coming into our house, so quickly I spilled the beans about the truth of The Christmas Man as I promised her that nobody comes into our house without our permission to deliver presents or otherwise. The girl loves her presents, so she seemed un-phased that I was the total Santa Grinch. So long as she’s getting presents, they can get under the tree however they want to!

But then the Elf on the Shelf (ours is named Spider Man) came. With him, he brought a note that said he was coming to visit for a month because he is also a new follower of Jesus and wanted to learn more about Advent with Yiyi. Seemingly forgetting about my telling her Santa isn’t real, she took right to the magic of Spider Man the Elf. We light our Advent wreath candles before dinner each night and talk about what each candle means. She sticks with it and remembers better than I do that week 1 is the hope candle. Last night we found the little known movie “Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Elf” and watched in horror as first Nestor’s mom died, but then is selected to be the donkey that a very pregnant Mary rode on to Bethlehem. Not surprisingly, Mary riding the donkey to Bethlehem is the part of the movie she remembered best and was talking about this morning. And we’ve broached the subject that Yiyi will only be getting three presents for Christmas, just like baby Jesus got. Surprisingly, she was totally ok with that. Then she set up the Nativity, perfectly, like she had done it 11 years previous, with absolutely no prompting or instruction. She totally gets it, 100% she’s down for it all. Down with Christmas, down with Jesus, and down with her new beliefs.

Once again, Little Miss has surprised us. She has declared Christmas is her favorite holiday, though we’re still two weeks out and she hasn’t seen one present. She loves the lights, music, fun, family, (and the hope of presents to come) but most of all, she loves it because she truly understands the meaning behind it all. That is not something my husband or I did. That, my friends, is what we call A Christmas Miracle.

Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years.  The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after.  Nikki loves writing home studies in the Western Missouri area and preparing families for the realities of adoption.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Confessions of a Waiting Mommy: The Great Wait

Remember that time I was reading a scripture about waiting on the Lord while on stage at our first Advent service this past Sunday in front of hundreds of people and it didn’t hit me until exactly THAT moment that this season of waiting was so unbelievably powerful for me that I started crying and could barely even finish the sentence? Ahh yes. Just another typical “Maggie has no emotional control whatsoever” moment. Surely that’s a scientific symptom of adoption, right? I recently described it to someone like this – If at any regular moment in life your emotional state is at a 5, I basically start crying if it jumps anywhere above a 6 or below a 4. Happy about red holiday cups returning to Starbucks? I cry. Sad that my favorite character died on Walking Dead? Instant tears. Excited that my husband put Christmas lights on our house?  Hot mess.  I’m basically a ticking emotional time bomb.

I digress.

I’ve never taken Advent that seriously until this year. I think it’s because I never really had a grasp on waiting until this year. Yes, I’ve waited for an upcoming vacation, and I’ve waited for holidays, and I’ve waited for my food at a restaurant before (but let’s be real, this is why I go to Chick-fil-a. Seriously, do they have ninjas working in the kitchen or what? My food is ready before I even get my ketchup), but never in a way like this. The uncertainty of the future does not do well for my gotta-have-a-plan mind, but the beauty of what God is teaching me through it cannot be overlooked.

I was recently reading through Luke 1 and saw something that I’ve passed over multiple times before. In this chapter, Luke is telling of the pregnancies of Mary and Elizabeth and their time together before each of their babies were born. Elizabeth is welcoming Mary into her home and says the following statement,

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

This hit me like a ton of bricks. Elizabeth doesn’t say “blessed is she who has already seen the fulfillment and because of that trusts that God knew what He was doing.” No. She says, “blessed is she who believed.” Mary has no clue what the heck God is doing right now. She doesn’t understand the plan. She doesn’t know what this whole thing is going to play out to be. BUT she knew what God had spoken to her, and she trusted Him based on His word.

As a Jew, she was told there would be a Messiah.
As a pregnant teenager, she was told there would be a baby that makes the difficult journey worth it.
As a daughter of the King, she was told there would be redemption.

She didn’t demand proof. She didn’t ask to see the plan laid out in front of her. She simply said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Whatever you’re waiting for this Advent season, remember this:
The Lord has spoken. He promises hope. He promises peace. He promises joy. He promises love.

Blessed is she who believes there will be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

Friday, December 5, 2014

My Story

Friday, November 28, 2014

Resource Review: The Advent Jesse Tree

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Story

In our home we have five children, ages six and under. Go ahead laugh, we do. God certainly has a sense of humor and we wouldn't have it any other way.

When my husband and I went through premarital counseling a decade ago we spoke about what we wanted our family to look like. I promise you this is NOT what we envisioned and dreamed about.  We knew we wanted biological children and then one day when our children were older we would adopt.

However, God had other plans.

After trying to become pregnant for ten months I was at my breaking point. People around us were getting pregnant with babies they hadn't planned for, babies they didn't desire.  And here we were starting fertility medications and listening to empty promises from our doctor. I had been faithfully praying, studying His Word and seeking counsel.  I truly felt with every fiber of my being that He had given me the desire to become a mother. So why wasn't it happening?

In the midst of our struggle I decided to stop asking God to give us the desires of our heart but instead to take the desire. I didn't want it, it was painful and it wasn't necessary to happiness.  There were plenty of people who lived amazing lives without becoming a mother, right??  Please know, it was never easy to ask Him to take the desire away but it was all my hard and weary heart could muster. I was tired of asking, begging, pleading and desiring something that just was not happening.

During a Bible Study my mentor challenged our idea of what a "family" was. Dumbfounded I had asked her what she meant.  And she simply replied, "I think you and Aaron would be wonderful foster parents."

After a short discussion with my husband and some time in prayer we came upon a few conclusions.
We were blessed, we had budgeted from the beginning of our marriage for me to be a stay at home mom. So why not.
We were blessed, we had just moved into the house my husband grew up in. A five bedroom, two bathroom farm house with a lot of land.  So why not.
We were blessed, we had the desire in both of our hearts to become parents. How that happened did not matter to us. So why not.
We did NOT go into this with the intention to adopt, we would continue our fertility treatments. Our goal was the same, we wanted to have biological children but UNTIL then we could be parents to children who needed some.  We were on the same page.  So why not.
Lastly, we fell in love serving together. While dating, we went on a missions trip and literally fell in love serving orphans in the Dominican Republic.  Serving together has always drawn us closer to Him and closer to one another.
THIS WOULD BE OUR SHARED CALLING. So why not.  Let's do this!

Within ten months we had our first case and it became clear very quickly that they needed us.
They needed all we had to give, their case was complex, they had faced MANY forms of abuse.  So we quit trying to become pregnant and we dug deep.

Five months into our journey we found out we were not only pregnant but we were 13 weeks pregnant.  Our foster placement was moved to another home about a month after that. They were moved to a home with a more mature foster mom, who had experience with their form of trauma and could advocate for them better.  We were thankful for the transfer because we literally had nothing left to give. Yet we also felt defeated because we did not see their case through to the end.  This was NOT what I had envisioned when we set out to do foster care.

Do you see a pattern here.

It has been seven years and I am still haunted by my "failure." But God makes beauty from the ashes.
He allowed us to know of their "end." Those kids needed to move in order to meet the forever family who had been praying for them and who had EXACTLY the right knowledge to advocate for their special needs.
Even in the gift of knowing their happy ending my failure made me timid. I wanted to hide in our big farm house with our perfect baby and pretend we were not foster parents anymore. We enjoyed parenthood so much and despite our past trouble to conceive we quickly became pregnant again with our second son. I was blissful and happy.  The Lord brought us respite cases that we were happy to do, yet we decided we would not do a long term case for awhile. We would enjoy our babies. We screened phone calls and often never returned messages for cases they thought we would be interested in.
I didn't like failing and I was THRILLED with our little family.  I did not want to complicate that.

However the social workers kept calling and leaving messages about one case in particular.
Long story short, we picked up a newborn baby girl from the hospital who would be in care for
"a month...tops."  Our first son was thirteen months old and I was just into my second trimester with our second.
This would be amazing. A snugly newborn, I was feeling great, we could love her and then hand her off with plenty of time before our baby arrived. However things did not go as I had envisioned.

Days prior to the arrival of our second son we signed intent to adopt papers for our little ballerina.
When he was born we now had a twenty month old, a six month old and a newborn. We were buying
diapers in three sizes and wipes by the case. We were exhausted but we were fulfilled.
Our daughters adoption brought a renewed sense of what redemption means.

We never intended to adopt when we became foster parents. We didn't take our daughter in hoping her case would go to termination. We never wanted a family to be broken apart for our selfish desires. Yet there were reasons that her birth mom could not parent, we watched as God worked in our hearts and in our marriage. He was patient when we were not. He protected her and provided for her. He spoke directly to my heart and asked me to fall in love with her for forever. He redeemed this little girls story in ways I wish I could shout from the rooftops. One day maybe she will share, we have been very open and honest with her about her adoption journey.  She knows she was formed in His image with a purpose in mind. We are blessed to be the ones who get to encourage her
to hold strong to His promises and fulfill her calling.  She is my daily reminder of how sweet redemption is. My very ugly sin is transformed by the blood of Christ, just as her life story was.

Just when we thought the Lord had fulfilled His promises to us He gave us a sweet SUPRISE. This very tired mama had just begun to celebrate the fact we only had two kiddos in diapers and I started to not feel well.
(Go ahead insert chuckle.)
The Lord blessed us with our third son. I guess the Lord did a work in our lives because hiding
"in our big farmhouse" soon became a thing of the past. When you have four small children you start to wonder if having one more would really be that much more work. So WE started calling our foster care agency begging to serve once again. Thus our fifth child (who has been with us a year).

We get plenty of comments and stares but I know that fostering has blessed us more than we could bless any of the children coming into our home. Selfishly we continue to foster as a way to not only serve with one another as husband and wife but to serve as a family. I will be forever thankful to Him for giving me the desire of my heart in ways that I never dreamed were possible.

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Story

Adoption is a bridge between God and man. It is a beautiful story of redemption, bought by pain and loss, paid for by our children.

When we entered the world of adoption ten years ago, all we knew was that we felt called that we had a daughter in China. The adoption world was different then. It was growing daily and there seemed to be such camaraderie between adoptive parents and the sweet blessings of seeing families created.

We were already happy with the biological family we had. In fact, we married and had children so young that we were still in our thirties when both of them were finished with high school. We always joked when they were growing up that we’d have time to travel and “do what we wanted” while we were still young.

God had other plans.
We had a daughter in China.
His ways are always perfect.

The immense joy and blessings of being “older” parents this time are incredible. What an insufficient way to describe our journey these last ten years, but there are not adequate words. How do you explain how incredibly deeply you love any of your children? You can’t.
But love gained by pain and loss of your child is raw. Respecting them as a person with a life before you, with a loss they feel in their soul, knowing they were cheated by what most of us take for granted is delicate.

Even something as simple as guessing a birth date is a bridge between two cultures, two halves of a beautiful life created by a loving God, a beautiful soul we have the privilege of knowing and loving. Her very existence with us bonds important pieces of her past, present, and future. As we raise her to be aware of her birth country, embrace it, and do the same with the country which is now hers, we teach her to embrace and love herself. She is special, she is beautiful; inside and out.

The first time we adopted, we knew for certain God was calling us to come for our daughter. We both had visions of God telling us she was there. Everything lined up perfectly, even the huge responsibility of financing an international adoption. God took care of every detail.
Now we feel that He is possibly calling us again.

The biggest step of obedience I’ve taken in my life is adoption. The hardest part of obeying this time is that I’m not positive of what God is trying to tell me. It was so easy the first time, but like each pregnancy and each child is unique, this possible new adoption is writing its own story.

Adoption is, indeed, a bridge between God and man. It is a beautiful story of redemption, bought by pain and loss, paid for by our children, but also paid for by the Lord.
He purchased the hurt and pain suffered. He knows the stories and backgrounds. He knows the plans He has for them and for us as He interweaves our life journeys into a design only He can conceive.

So, what is He telling us this time?

The adoption world is so different. I wrote earlier how much I love being an older mother, but I don’t desire being an ancient mother. The route I took before is long closed for us. Even if age wasn’t a factor, we are not called to bring home a baby after an excruciatingly long wait.
This time our hearts are called to a little girl who has been in the orphanage for almost all of her eight years and she has a health condition that will require careful attention and surgery 
when she goes to her forever family.

This can be scary stuff if I look inside myself, but that isn’t what God calls us to do. He asks us to keep our minds and hearts, our eyes focused above on Him alone.
What is His plan? What is His plan for this precious little one? What is His plan for our family?

Of course, our prayer is for discernment to understand God’s will so that we will make the decision that is right for our family.

My daughter from China, now ten years old, gave the most heartfelt plea for considering adoption when she said, “Only a sister from China would know and understand the secrets of my heart without me telling her because we have the same beginning from the same place.”

Her insightful, powerful words attack my heart, yet rest peacefully because she was able to speak of loss, joy, and hope in one statement. 

Those words may be a bridge from God to a little girl halfway around the world. Or are they a bridge to a mother who recognizes the trust it took her daughter to share her heart?

I’ll be on my knees waiting for the answer.