Friday, February 24, 2012

A face with a story

I look at his picture everyday. My heart breaks for this child and I cannot stop thinking about him and his need for a family.  He is 10 years old without a mother and a father.  He's been living in the orphanage for 5 years and still waiting to be adopted. 

I have no idea why this specific child out of the hundreds/thousands of children has stolen my heart. Right now he is just identified as a number on a few websites.

No name but a face with a story.

A painful story and yet he is described as a 5th grader who loves to read and is one of the most skilled soccer players for his orphanage's soccer team. His dream is to play like Freddy Adu, the Ghanaian soccer player that plays for Washington D.C.'s soccer team.

I don't know why he has never been adopted and has had to wait until now where his age may cause families to hesitate to pursue him.

If I could, I would adopt this child in a heartbeat... but our resources are limited and we still have 4 children we are waiting to bring home!  

I don't know why I am constantly thinking of him and praying for him. Praying that God would provide him a forever family. A family that will not let his age or their fears stand in the way of calling him their son. 

I want to embrace moments like these where God is expanding my heart.  It's easy to feel so overwhelmed with the statistics of 143+ million orphans worldwide.

So tonight I feel so blessed to be able to pray for 5 very special orphans: this handsome 10 year old boy and our 4 children in Ghana with the assurance that God hears and will answer.

"The Lord your God is with you.
He is mighty enough to save you.
He will take great delight in you.
The quietness of his love will calm you down.
He will sing with joy because of you."
Zephaniah 3:17

Friday, February 17, 2012

60 days and a thankful heart

We started a chain. Every link to our chain represents one day that we have been waiting to bring our 4 children home.
 As of today, we have reached 60 days since our acceptance of these children..
Our boys cannot wait for their siblings to join our family.

So it's only been 60 days since our acceptance of these 4 Ghanaian children.
Not too lengthy... so far at least...
But actually it's been 766 days since we signed and sent in our initial application to our Adoption Agency. I look back at our journey and I am astonished and amazed at God's work within our family and how He has expanded our heart to love, bear the patience to wait and the courage to step out.

Last year I shared in one of my blog entries the journey that Sol and I individually and corporately shared for adoption. I have been reflecting on that again...

Who would have thought that a 12 year old boy (Sol) who was struggling for survival on the streets of  South Tehran, Iran was dreaming that one day he would be able to adopt and provide a family to an orphan(s) from Africa. Even more unimagineable that God rescued him out of his pit of pain and survival and brought him to America to fulfill the calling that was given to him at such a young age. Converting from a Muslim faith to a disciple of Jesus and providing a loving home to 4 orphans.

Then there's me, Christine... raised in a strong, Christian home with parents who were actively involved in church and various ministries. Compassion was natural. Adoption was always spoken about. I graduated from Biola University with high hopes of one day becoming a missionary in the Middle East/India and building an orphanage or 2. Health issues hit me like a ton of bricks and it seemed my dreams were untangible. Was a humbling journey...

Then we met.  One of our first conversations was about adoption. We hardly knew each other and yet it was a mutual connection we had and felt called to do.

God has not let that go.

 Our journey hasn't been smooth sailing, but it has softened our rough edges and humbled us enough to know that we are not perfect and yet God still loves us and desires to use us in spite of our imperfections.  I am SO grateful to be married to a husband that loves God passionately and has the courage to take risks with me.

 My reflections don't end here...

We have our friends and family that have been such a tremendous inspiration within these past years of our marriage and our adoption.  We wouldn't have been able to walk through the valleys and mountain peaks of our marriage and our adoption without them.  
They pretty much "have our backs."

I feel the urge to scream out a big "THANK YOU" and I think now is a pretty good time to do it.

TO my parents who have always and continue to be such a powerful inspiration and encouragement to us. Thank you mom and dad for supporting us through every bit of our marriage and our adoption even knowing that 4 more grandkids means MORE space in your house for family reunions. =) You have inspired us to live a life worthy of His calling.  It is evident that your love for these 4 beautiful children whom you haven't even met is nothing less than for your own biological grandchildren. Thank you!

TO my sisters: Jenn and Steph. Thank you for your consistent support and encouragement. Even though you both live miles away... I know I can always count on you1

TO my moms and meals groupie: Thank you Erin, Alison, Tiffany and ElizabethYou are beautiful women inside and out. I can't even imagine life without you 4! Not only is cooking for my family so much sweeter but your friendships are precious jewels that I treasure. You have inspired my  family and I to live courageously and have pushed me to speak out a little louder at times when I feel inadequate.  Thank you for being our Cheerleaders!

TO my dear friend Lauren: You and Jeff are such an inspiration to us.  Your life and testimony of your own adoption journey has demonstrated to Sol and I that we don't have to do this perfectly, but with Jesus we can do it.  Thank you for loving our family and choosing to journey together with us.

TO my dear Annie: 15 years later and still amazed at His faithfulness in our friendship. Your example of courageous living and humility is a constant inspiration to Sol and I. Thank you for always believing that we can do it. We can't wait to be on the same continent together soon!

The road ahead still seems long and daunting with still so many unknowns and uncertainties. Who knows where our adoption process will be in 60 more days?

As we continue to wait and step out in faith, we just want to express how grateful we are for the incredible support we have around us.
 Thank you also to all of you that have generously contributed towards our adoption and continue to pray for us.  

There is still more to come...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will you pray?

I know of several adoptive families right now that are going through unexpected changes and disappointments with their adoptions. Loss of referrals, changes in countries' adoption policies etc.. -

I can sit here and ask all the "whys" and "what ifs," but I know that will not change anything.  It grieves my heart that these families have to go through such disappointment and loss. There are children... hundreds and thousands of children that may never have enough to eat, a warm bed to sleep in and a family to belong to.

And then there are families.... loving families that are waiting to embrace these children but are hindered by seemingly inadequate reasons that I can't even wrap my mind around.
It's honestly very depressing.

And then...

I remember that even though I can't and will never understand it, it should never stop me or anyone else from taking risks of faith and a risk to love.  These families that loss referrals and are praying for "what's next?" took a tremendous risk in their faith.  They risked their hearts to love a child/children whom they never met and did everything possible to be that forever family to these children. They didn't let the "what ifs" stop them in their path. 
So I have been asking myself and now I am asking you questions to reflect on...

What if..." we never turned the corner because going straight seemed to be easier?"

What if...we never stopped to say 'hi' to our neighbor that always
 seemed so hostile towards us?

What if... we never dared to ask God for the impossible?

What type of risk is God asking you to take?

Is it the risk of loving your spouse even when they don't seem loveable?

Is it the risk of stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching out to someone at church that seems so different than us? 

Is it the risk of asking forgiveness from a family member or friend that has actually hurt you but needs you to take the first step.

Is it the risk of loving an orphan that is hundreds, thousands of miles away that you may or may not meet.

What compels you and I to take risks?

During our Bible study this morning, Sol and I finally answered this question for ourselves. 
God's love has compelled us to take this risk of adopting these 4 children. We are so grateful for the love that HE has poured out on us that we want HIS love to pour through and out of us. We are just HIS vessels.

But the risks don't end here for us...

Now God has asked us to pray more boldly and pray for the impossible, the mountains in front of us that seem immoveable... mountains of paperwork, immigration and our court hearing. I admit, I lack in this area. Not only am I shy with asking God for the impossible but I also hesitate to invite others to join me in this prayer. What if.... God doesn't move the mountains I had in mind but chooses to answer another way... perhaps He chooses to take us around the mountains?

What am I going to lose anyways? 

So I'm inviting you to pray with us.
Will you pray that we get a court hearing date before the end of April? I know, it's a long shot...
But as a follower of Jesus, I know that He remains faithful to His promises. He will answer according to His ways. He may have a different timeline than me but it doesn't mean I can't pray for Him to bring us to Ghana by the end of April.

Jesus looked at them and said 
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walking on water

I find myself relating to Peter, one of Jesus' disciples. A particular story that I can relate to is from Matthew 14:22-29:

" Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them:
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
"Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
"Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When Jesus assured his disciples that it was Him. Peter immediately responded and stepped on the water attempting to walk towards Jesus. Unfortunately he started to sink when he began to focus on his own fears and self-doubt.Jesus reminds Peter to "take courage" and not be afraid.

Lately I have found myself focusing on all of the unknowns of our adoption.

To be honest, It can be discouraging when we are asked how "Sure" we are that these 4 children are ours and when we get approached with the questions like:

"How can you guys handle 6 children and is your marriage strong enough for this? Are you sure your biological children will be able to adjust to their adopted siblings?"

No doubt these questions come from good intentions but first of all, nothing is ever
 "for sure" ESPECIALLY in adoption. These 4 children will not be ours until they are flying on the airplane back home with us. Even then, all of our children - biological or adopted are God's children given to us on this earth to love and raise up. 
Taking care of 6 children will only come by depending on God's mercy and strength.
Our marriage is but a testimony of God's redemption and is going strong only because of Him. We are only attempting to walk in daily obedience and submission to Jesus. 
We believe that God equips those He calls.
He will equip us every moment of the day with whatever our needs may be.

Even though I may have some reasonable answers to others' questions, I still walk away discouraged. Like Peter, I begin to sink into my own sea of doubts and fears. I forget that Jesus is right there waiting for me. All I need to do is focus back on Him, reach out and grab his hand and I will start walking on the water again.

It seems so simple and yet it's not.

It's a daily struggle and I am confronted with different challenges every moment each day. I want to be able to walk on the water with Jesus everyday and not get consumed with what others think or even with my own self doubt.
But... even when that doubt creeps in, I can still hear Him say:

"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reaching Outward and Trusting Him

I woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

My devotional read this morning:
" Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you."
 Psalm 18:29
" With Your help, I can advance against a troop;
With my God I can scale a wall."

Part of the reason why I woke up feeling so overwhelmed was because I recently sent out a fundraising letter AND I created a facebook group to inform friends about our adoption journey and the needs that we have to bring our 4 children home. For those of you that know me well, it took ALOT of courage to press "send" and put ourselves out there. It is truly humbling to reach "out" and let others help and support. Some may say that it's our pride that got in the way of asking for help, but I think it's because receiving is harder for us than giving.  I know that this is why God has brought us here. He is showing us that we can't do this alone.  More importantly, He wants to prove Himself faithful in all of this. 

When we began our adoption process 2 years ago, we started with just a few thousand dollars in our bank account. This was all that we had, no savings and bills to pay. Sol was just starting up a business and we weren't sure how God was going to provide.  For some reason, He asked us to begin our adoption when we didn't have much. As paperwork began to process, God began to pour out His provision on us. It was as if doors in every direction began to open.  We knew He was testing our obedience. Would we trust Him with the little that we had? Even if we didn't, we still obeyed and He still blessed.  He NEVER fails us.

Why then was I was so afraid to send out a letter inviting friends and family to pray about contributing towards our adoption? I think it's because I don't want to be a burden. 
But I realize now that it isn't a burden.  It is actually a beautiful gift to have a community of friends and family that are volunteering their prayers, time, skills and finances to help us become a forever family to these 4 children.  It's not really about the funds that we need, it's about bringing community together to be a part of this life-giving journey.

I am truly grateful. Humbled and completely out of my comfort zone.... but ever so amazed at what God is doing and what He will do.

By the way,we are working on sending out our first care package to our children. I am praying that they sense ALL the love that is wrapped in it. 

Psalm 91:1,2,11,12
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.
For He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."