Just Look...

Just Look...

Friday, March 31, 2017

It's As Good as Done

We are doing a Bible study at church on Lysa TerKeurst's Uninvited book. She is reading my mail in that book because if there is one thing I am desperately guilty of, it's letting my emotions be dependent on my circumstances. This week in my AP class, we read Grendel. There is a passage in that book in which the main character overhears an explanation about the beginning of time and realizes that, "And I, Grendel, was the dark side, he said in effect. The terrible race God cursed.  I believed him. Such was the power of the Shaper's harp!" I wrote in the margin of that book that we are shaped by what others think of us. Those are my weak spots, my Achilles' heels. And I know that God knows that so well about me, probably gets so weary of hearing from me.

And yet He continues to reassure me, to comfort me, to remind me.

I wrote a week or so ago about being a Window Watcher. In that post, I claimed a verse to hold onto for as long as I needed it. {A little sidenote here: I was raised in church and I memorized many verses through the years. However, the idea of claiming verses and praying those verses, of letting Scripture be my very breath at times, is not intuitive to me. This is something that my pastor's wife, Dawn, and several books I have read in the past few years have taught me (The Circle Maker being most recent).} I have held onto that verse (I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.) and it has been a comfort to me over the past week or two. I have repeated it in my spirit when I needed to (I have not repeated its "address", just the words of the verse-- this will be an important point in a few minutes). And some days I have been at the window and other days I have not.

Last night I was feeling extremely confident about our adoption and travel timeline. It had all the optimism of "there are still days left in March, things can move really fast, we are probably to the last step anyway and just don't know it yet". Then I got an email and my circumstances changed and so did my mood and feelings. We are NOT to the last step, we are STILL in limbo, and there are now NO days left in March. And it surely doesn't feel likely that things will move really fast. So just like that, I crashed. Today was a busy teaching day and so I didn't have a ton of time to sink into it, but my heart is low today. This morning on the way to school, I searched for a verse to hold onto, not finding anything in particular that struck me. At lunch, I searched some more. Still nothing. After school, though, just in browsing my instagram something jumped out at me.

It was Isaiah 46:11, the second half: "What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do."

Well ok, God. OK. I felt reassured and then decided to read the verse in context, search some for the story around those lines. What I found, when I went to the entire chapter, is that this verse is from the exact same chapter that God took me to last week (remember, I said I hadn't paid attention to its "address" this week as I repeated it to myself-- it took reading it in the chapter today to even realize I was in the same place). Last week, it was Isaiah 46:4. This week, Isaiah 46:11. It's such a brilliant narrative moment He orchestrated, this Author of my life, that He actually illustrated the message of the verse by taking me to the same chapter as before. He is just reminding me that these are not all singular moments! There is a plan. There is a will. There is a time. And He can see the entire continuum. And He is already at the end, too. He could have sent me ANY verse today, but He sent me one from the same neighborhood as the one from last week. Wow.

I looked up the entire chapter in The Message translation because I always enjoy reading it. I wanted to post a passage from it here.

8 "Think about this. Wrap your minds around it. This is serious business, rebels. Take it to heart. 9 Remember your history, your long and rich history. I am God, the only God you've had or ever will have - incomparable, irreplaceable - 10 From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, All along letting you in on what is going to happen, Assuring you, 'I'm in this for the long haul, I'll do exactly what I set out to do,' 11 Calling that eagle, Cyrus, out of the east, from a far country the man I chose to help me. I've said it, and I'll most certainly do it. I've planned it, so it's as good as done. 
Think about this... 

wrap your minds around it... 

take it to heart... 

remember your history... 

assuring you, "I'm in this for the long haul, I'll do exactly what I set out to do"... 

I've said it, and I'll most certainly do it... 

I've planned it, so it's as good as done.

It's as good as done. As good as done. As. good. as. done. DONE.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

To Kelsey, On Turning 12

Dear Kelsey,

Kelsey, you amaze me. I knowI told you the other day in the car, but I am absolutely dazzled by the waythat you live your life. (Sometimes you exhaust me, too, with your never-endingstories and your constant running dialogue/monologue, but that’s beside thepoint… ;) )

I have never met anotherperson who was as universally beloved as you are. Every single teacher, everysingle friend, every single family member, every single person who has comeacross you in their life has told me how much they adore you. I remember whenyou were in second grade and you came bursting into my bathroom every morning,flinging the door open and shouting, “It’s going to be a GREAT DAY!!!”(Sometimes I really miss that greeting and reminder every morning.) You are ahighly emotional person, but somehow that emotion plays out in a way that justdraws people to you. I watched you at that first swim meet this year, nervous andshaky and tearful and upset, and I watched as person after person came up toyou to encourage you. And they weren’t doing it out of pity, either, they weredoing it because they genuinely care for you and want you to feel better. Youare a magnet, my child, and the world can’t help but be pulled in yourdirection.

I know you think I don’tnotice or don’t take it seriously, but I see the way that you feel second-bestto Emma sometimes. I know that school is hard for you but I also know that youwork so hard and you take it so seriously. I was beyond proud of you in 5thgrade when you worked to keep those grades up to stay in Beta Club. You setgoals for yourself and you plug away until you accomplish them and THAT, mygirl, is GRIT. You and Emma are two very different people and I wish so muchthat you wouldn’t compare yourself to her. And by “two different people”, Idon’t mean one is better than the other. I mean you are DIFFERENT in so many ways!There is a line I teach in Hamlet that says, “To thine own self be true” andwhat it means is that you have to figure out who you are and then become thebest version of that you. (Sometimes I wish I had learned that at a muchyounger age. In all honesty, I don’t think I fully understood myself until thepast three years or so and 37 and 38 are hard ages to finally figure it allout.)

You care so much, and sodeeply, for others. The number of times you have been upset on behalf ofanother person or the times you have stood up for your friends or defended yourfamily just makes me beam with pride. And competition just simply isn’t part ofyour DNA. I remember last year, on the last day of school, something happenedthat had the potential at first to break my heart, then it ended up thrillingit. We were about to leave Mrs. Strother’s class and a little boy came up toyou with his report card. He said, so excitedly, “Kelsey!!! I made straightA’s!” I’ll be honest with you… I cringed. I knew that you hadn’t made straightA’s, as hard as you had worked, and I didn’t want you to be in a situation foreven one second where you felt like you were less than anyone else. That’s whatwe moms do, we ache for our kids any time we think you are hurt. Boy was Iwrong. You turned and, without a single speck of regret or jealousy or sadness,high-fived him and said, “Way to go!!!” He, apparently a na├»ve little boy, saidto you, “I accomplished my goal!” As what I would have defined as salt wasrubbed in a little deeper, I smiled a little tersely at him and turned to go,hoping to get you away from painful scenario, you graciously and delightedlysaid again, “WOW! That’s really awesome!” This child then turned to you andsaid, “Did you make straight A’s?” {Cue me crying in the corner OR stuffing asock in his little mouth, haha} You just smiled again and said, “No, but I’m soglad you did!” Here’s the thing, Kelsey. I could have, at your age, respondedwith the same words you did. I could, at MY age, responded with the same wordsyou did. But I could not, then perhaps OR NOW, have responded with the sameheart. I am happy for people when they succeed but there is also always alittle part of me that feels sad for their success when I don’t have some of myown. You are not that person. When we turned to walk away, I looked at youclosely, wondering if there was going to be a hint of jealousy or sadness,waited for you to say, “Well that’s great for him but I wish I had!” or even“Must be nice!” Not. One. Word. You turned right around, smiled at me, andsaid, “Let’s go tell the others goodbye!” (And I think that’s when we bothembarrassed ourselves by crying our way out of Mayfield Elementary for the lasttime because, let’s face it, in SOME ways, like crying at embarrassing times fornostalgic reasons, you ARE my daughter. ;) )

This year, middle school….Good heavens. You have OWNED it. You tried out for Student Council completelyof your own accord and were so happy with a second place finish. You decided togo out for cross country and swim, two brand new sports to you. You pushedyourself so hard in cross country season and again, did so well but also wereso happy for your friends who went to State. You are doing Beta Club. Volleyball, from the time you were tiny, has your heart and it was another chance for you to prove your determination and character. You worked hard, you supported teammates, and you waited your turn for time on the floor. You adore FCA and Bible study in the mornings. Youhave made friends of students and teachers. J Our family is about to change in some pretty drastic ways and youhave not only enthusiastically embraced it, you have become the kind of personI DON’T feel like I need to worry about making the adjustment.

Probably my favorite day of your sixth grade year happened first semester. I picked you up and you were just glowing. You told me it had been the best day and then you told me about something that happened in one of your classes. As an activity connected to a story, your class was asked to think of a person without whom their time at CMS wouldn't be the same, someone who encourages them. The teacher asked a few people to read, and as soon as one person started reading, you said the class was pointing at you, saying, "It's about Kelsey!" Throughout the course of the day, you told me that multiple other friends and classmates told you that they had written about you. But then you said, "But Mom, one probably was more special than all the rest. There's a kid in one of my classes who ... struggles a little. I think he doesn't have a lot of support. And he wrote about me and said that I keep him on task and help him focus. That was so neat." After I choked back the tears (and laughed to myself because his description of "keeping him on task" means "bossing him"), I told you that you have accomplished exactly what should be our goal in life. Emerson said, "To know that even one person has breathed easier because you have lived... that is to have succeeded." It sounds an awful lot like "Love God, love others." And like "That's how they will know you are my disciples, by your love one for another." 

I guess what I want to say toyou, Kelsey, and what I want you to understand, is that in no way are you asecond-rate version of anyone else or a JV person or a back-up. You are someonethat others want to be around, someone others strive to be like, and someonewho challenges me daily to be a better me. You are made in the Image of aFather Who loves you and you represent Him to everyone you come across. I am sothankful that you came shrieking into our world on that mid-day in March of2005 and I have loved every single day with you since. You are the person Hehas made you to be and that person is someone who makes me GLOW with pride.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Window Watchers

This one is a little sticky icky.

Please know before I write much that I am still fully thankful and appreciative for all of God's goodness and mercy every step of the way. I am still in awe of what has been provided and what miracles we have already seen. I will never forget this period of provision and mercy and goodness and miracles.

Nor will I forget this period of stops and starts, one step forwards and two steps backs, delays, self-imposed time frames that keep getting shattered, feeling like everyone else knows the rules to the game and we just now realized we were playing, and hours spent standing at the window.

I am even struggling with writing this post because I am always so torn, both with this adoption and the rest of LIFE, between being positive and being real and they are sometimes mutually exclusive. I don't want to do anything less than lift Him up and give honor to the process but sometimes it is just HARD.

I have learned about myself that I'm a bad waiter and I'm a blamer. I'm not proud of either of those things. I am so easily swayed by my circumstances and when I get a picture in my head of how things should go and how timelines should work, I mentally react like a toddler when they don't happen that way. I also look immediately for someone to hold responsible. The past seven months have revealed to me many things about myself, some flattering and then the ones above which are.... NOT.

Today I was just irritable all day long. My day started with learning that you don't even start checking for passport progress for ten business days and the middle part brought the information that visas can't start till passports are FINISHED and it ended by learning that one couple we know has been waiting TWO MONTHS on visas since the passport appointment and still have nothing. And I'm just going to shoot totally straight here, I stay annoyed that I know so little and am so powerless. It really is like there is this giant game that you are required to play and literally everyone else knows the rules and you don't and you feel like an idiot for not knowing but yet how COULD you know because you've never played before and honestly you weren't even aware that there WAS a game until very recently. And the other layer of all of that is guilt for even feeling this way when we are truly in the best case scenario in the entire adoption world and yet I still feel like this.

Today we had major storms. Hail the size of golfballs and in some cases almost TENNIS balls fell all over this town, shattering car windshields and damaging roofs and house windows. When Kraig called to tell me to move my car in the garage, I did so and then stood in the mudroom, holding back the curtain, staring out the (messy) window. I stood there, I am ashamed to say, for close to an hour. My feet hurt, and yet I stood. I wanted to sit down, could have sat down, and yet I stood. I had a million things to do, and yet I stood. I had other windows in my house I could have watched from much more comfortable seating, and yet I stood. And while I stood, watching, I surfed facebook and looked at the pictures and videos people were posting of their hail, their storm. And I waited and watched for ours, stood uncomfortably at the window watching, and it never came.

I think what bugs me the most about all of this is that I don't have to stand at the window and I'm tired of standing at the window and yet I can't make myself walk away from the window. As Kraig told me today, we have done absolutely everything we can do. Our part of the paperwork has been finished, we have thought through every possible angle that might speed things up and our work is finished. But for whatever reason, I can't quit waiting and watching. I have a life. In fact, a very full and busy one. If I would just throw myself into that life, I bet one day I would glance up and find an email inviting us to come get our kids. But here I am, standing at the window, driving myself crazy, checking the visa status online for a case that cannot even be scheduled until passports are issued. So what in the world is the point in checking the visa status page??? I don't know. But we window watchers don't need a reason.
{I do feel like I need to say that there is a really specific reason that the timeline matters a lot right now and it's a purely unselfish motive. We desperately need the kids here and settled significantly before an incredibly important week in June, a week that affects far more people than the 7 in this household. It's not JUST that we are eager to have them here, although I'm sure that I would be window watching even without the June week issue... }

So it's past time for me to go to bed and tomorrow may be a good day, may be an easy day. I might see things in an entirely positive way and not feel "time's winged chariot" at my back. Or, tomorrow may be a lot like today. I might spend some time at the window. And if I do, this is going to be the verse I use to remind myself that I'm not actually standing at this window alone. He doesn't need to look out the window because not only does He know the end of the story, He wrote the story. But He is still willing to stand there with me, understanding my human weakness. He will slide His hand under my elbow or put His arm around my back and gently hold me upright when I feel too weak to stand but am too stubborn to walk away. He will hold the curtain back so I can see a little bit further down the road. And He will remind me that
I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you.
Isaiah 46:4
Even when He's only carrying me to the window.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Held Space

One day, I promise, I might shut up about all of this. But then again, I doubt it. You see, when God gives you a promise and you have to fight and claw and scratch to hold onto it for years and years, you really can't help but shout from the rooftops when He brings it to pass. This blog post, however, has a two-fold purpose.

In the wee hours of this morning when I should have already been in bed but I was sitting up late to relish my Spring Break chance to do so, I checked out my fb "On this Day". I have already referenced this in the past, but I love any chance to illustrate the faithfulness of God AND something else struck me last night when I saw that post.

Here is the original post from 2014. I have included a screenshot of the comments because I loved seeing that the people who commented on it at that time are some of the same people who send me random messages that they are excitedly awaiting good news or they can't wait to meet our kids or they have supported this adoption in big ways.

When we went to visit them this year in August, just after we had made the final decision, I walked up the stairs and there it was, that tiny "x", still there, only this time an "X" that was filled with so excitement and hope. It was truly going to happen, there was actually going to be a picture hanging on a hook in that very spot, Davises to come. I remember tearing up and just bursting with praise in my heart to my Father God for the fact that He doesn't call us to something then leave us without. 
The way we do Christmas in our family is that (after a Silver Christmas Eve at my mom's) the four of us celebrate in front of our own tree in the morning, then head to my mom's for breakfast and Christmas with them, then hit the road around noon to get to West Virginia in time for dinner and a nighttime Christmas with them. This year, everything we did came with the most exciting thoughts of how next Christmas will be when there are three more faces around the tree, three more sources of giggles and laughter on the drive, three more cousins contributing to the chaos. On Christmas night, after food and presents and conversation, I went upstairs before the rest of my clan. I walked to the top of these stairs and immediately saw this {edited because it has to be but her version was full and pure and beautiful}. 
I'm just telling you, I sank to my knees right there at the top of the stairs, breathless. When I could finally stand, I went into the bedroom and just collapsed on the bed and cried. That picture was more proof of the fulfillment of God's promise, YES. But it was so much more than that, and that's the second purpose of this blog post.

That picture was my mother-in-law, in her quiet, unassuming way, holding space for my kids. It was her not only accepting them, but eagerly anticipating them and celebrating them. It was her telling us that they will be as much her grandchildren as any other face on that wall, that family is of the heart, not the blood. {And I know right now you are thinking, well of course she would love and accept them, she's a good person and a Christian and did you ever doubt it??? I didn't ever doubt it, no. But that assumption is simply not always the case, and I know other people whose families have not been accepting and who have made differences in their children. And for that matter, there is a difference in being open to an adoption and celebrating it. And even though I never had a doubt that she would love all twelve of her grandkids the same, it still mattered so much to see it.}

And that's what we have received from so many of you. The Christmas card and note from a far away friend who said her heart was with us and our whole family, those on this side of the world and the other... the family tree at the reunion that our cousin drew with three extra branches... the new set of family stockings that another friend monogrammed for us... the friend who wore a bracelet every single day to remind her to pray until our I-800 came through... the family who comment at every single family gathering, "Maybe at the next one, we will have three more loved ones!"... my grandparents who ask every.single.time.I.visit what the status is and when we are going to get them... the Sunday School classes and prayer groups here and at a distance who remember our adoption in prayer... my colleagues and friends who have been asking for information so that they can best plan a shower/party... the people who have brought bags of clothes, those who have asked about sizes and interests... the friend who bought a set of globe Christmas tree ornaments, knowing I could find some way to use them... the friend who, the other night on fb messenger sent a message out of the blue that her whole world was right again because her son was home from college and she hoped mine would be soon too... the tons of people who follow along and support and pray through this blog and our fb page... the many people who have donated, bought shirts, run a 5K, attending or donated to our quarter auction, and will buy shirts again ;)... my parents who sat for an hour this weekend to feel a part of a special moment... the former pastor who bought all four mattresses... the current pastor who continually finds new ways to help... the friends who texted and facebooked on F's birthday because he is already a part of your life... the students of mine who ask me CONSTANTLY how things are going...  the network of supporters of this orphanage who have invested themselves in this journey like nothing I have ever seen... my mother-in-law, who keeps scavenging airfare sites in the hopes of traveling with us... the long-distance and longtime friend who has faithfully checked in, not only on the progress but also on ME... the group of friends I have kind of created as my own little support and prayer group who have received all kinds of texts from me, highs and lows, and always reassure me and walk beside me... the Bible study at CMS led by Terriy Esquinance that prays for our people every single week, keeps the girls talking about it, and can't wait to welcome our sweet A to their number... Kraig's colleagues who talk to him about it and look for ways to help... my principal who looked at me in a meeting when they were discussing enrollment and said, "Plus one more!", making my heart smile that whether he is in the US or not, he's already a Raider... our church family, people who have walked every step of the way by our side and will love them so much... a teacher at my school who specifically asked if I could make sure F was in his class, no matter where he falls with language or ability... the friend whose second grade daughter sold a toy from her room and sent us our first donation with the sweetest note about using that money to bring home our kids... teachers at the middle school who have requested my sweet girl be on their team... the girls' friends, who are probably so eager that I fear it might overwhelm these kids when they get here ;) ... 

In all of these ways and so many more, you are holding space for F, R, and A. That picture on the wall was a literal representation of what has happened in the figurative and metaphorical and spiritual sense from the first moment I said to another person (my mom, being that person), "I think we are going to start the adoption process for these kids." You have held space for them and you have treated us as a family of 7 even before we actually were one. You have talked to us of our sons and daughter, to Emma and Kelsey of their brothers and sister, even before it was reality. And we could never, never, never tell you enough how much that has meant to us. You are our tribe, in every sense of the word.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Purim Moments...

....He makes the orphan a son and daughter ....

Singing those words in church today, a simple little line, so heavy with truth and significance, my heart felt like it could burst. 

Starting last night in the Philippines and carrying on today in the US, we are celebrating big on this March 12. We are first celebrating an incredibly special young man whom we already love more deeply than you can imagine. It's his 18th birthday today and the testimony of his life is so deeply powerful. God has His hands all over F's story and we are so blessed to get to see the rest of the chapters be written out.
The second thing we are celebrating is a God whose Promises will always be fulfilled. He is an on-time God. Today in church, they did "Be Still and Know" as the choir song and I couldn't stop myself from editing the words to past tense and personalizing them.
I tried all I could
And I didn't understand why things wouldn't turn out right
I tried all I knew
And still it seemed so hard to comprehend
That impossibility would become reality
When His voice spoke through my doubt and brought healing
Be still and know I am God
Be still and now I had it all in control
I did work like only I could do
Even in my trial He saw me through
Be still and know I am God
His Promise was clear from August 11 and it was fulfilled on March 3. We celebrate it today, on March 12, as our son turns 18 with a hope and a future.

Although we are not Jewish, there are some Jewish traditions and holidays that either I alone or our family acknowledges. One such holiday is Purim, the Jewish holiday that remembers the story of Esther and the preservation of the Jews from Haman's evil plot to destroy them. Esther has always held special meaning for our family, so much so that we even named our business after a verse in this story. I believe the most powerful message in that story is the promise of deliverance. There was never a question as to whether or not the Jews would be saved. Mordecai tells Esther, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (emphasis mine) Sometimes we feel more important than we really are. I think sometimes we even interpret the story of Esther to mean we are more essential than we are. God's work will be done. His answer will be delivered. But why would you not want to be His vessel? And maybe you are here in this place, at this time, for this action. 

Since I became aware of the story of our three new children, I have felt so strongly that our oldest is an Esther. (The very strong, manly version of her, of course. ;) ) Many of you know their story and for those who don't, one day with their permission, I will share it here. But he has been an instrument of deliverance for others, HE has been preserved for something big, and I am certain that God has a beautiful work for him in the future. So it was with great delight that I noticed when I checked the dates for Purim this year, that Purim fell on F's 18th birthday.... the birthday that A. may not have ever happened at all without God's deliverance and B. that may have meant a different ending to His story were it not for God's incredible Providence and miraculous timing. 

Our acknowledgement of Purim this year was the most incredible God-moment I could have imagined...the birthday of a son and the celebration of a new beginning for our family of 7. Only God brings stories like this into being. Only my Abba Father.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Our Miracle

"It's possible, but it's really going to take a miracle. However, we know He can do that."

Those words were among the first we ever heard in regard to our adoption. These were words we returned to many times through the journey. And today, they are words that returned to us fulfilled. 

Today, within 2 hour's time, we went from "We can't find part of the paperwork we need, you'll have to resend it by mail" to "We can accept it via email but your approval won't come till next week" to a joyous message from our case manager that said "I-800 approval just came!" I didn't dream of getting an approval before next week and there was a point yesterday in which I truly thought there was a chance it wouldn't happen. I have only let my mind linger on that possibility two times since this process started, one of which being the second Friday in February, a day that was my worst since we made the first call in August. Other than those times, I just KNEW God was going to do it. If you knew their story, you would know it too. There is no way he would have delivered them to this point without providing them with a Lamb, manna, loaves and fishes, three smooth stones, a Red Sea Road... 

These kids are going to be warriors for Him. Their power is going to be in the word of their testimony and His Name is going to be glorified through their lives and their stories. He has saved their lives miraculously and now He has miraculously delivered all seven of us to each other. God is so, so good.

Today, upon receiving the news, I decided to take a quick trip to the Philippine Embassy to celebrate. :) Took a few pics to commemorate the moment....