Tag Archives: Faith

Changing Direction

As I laid down with Gus for a nap, I thought about how his future has changed in the past few months. As an orphan, at 16, he would have been turned out onto the streets of Moscow. Many orphans commit suicide, because they see no other option for their future. Others turn to crime to get by. Life looks pretty bleak for an orphan, like this sweet boy was a few months ago.

People often make the parallel that adopting a child is like being adopted into God’s family. I never quite saw the entirety of it before.

At our church, “repentance” is often defined as “changing direction”. When we said our “yes” to Gus, his life changed direction.

Yes, we will love you forever. Yes, all of your needs will be met. Yes, you will always have enough. One “yes” can mean so much. An orphan no more, loved and treasured.

God used us to change his life forever, and him to change ours.

Isn’t it interesting that when we say “yes” to Jesus, our lives change direction, too? We are no longer wandering the streets of life, alone, trying to figure life out and struggling to get by. Our eternal needs are met.

Unlike Gus and other orphans, we don’t need someone to say “yes” to us… we must willingly change our own direction, to meet the One who already loves us.

Just my tiny glimpse of the bigger picture.

Whoa

My dear little man,

I had a moment of panic tonight… actually, I won’t lie, I’ve been panicking the last few days. What business do we have adding a third child to our family when I am so stressed right now, as a family of 4? Fortunately, I have a dear friend who spoke truth to me and a God who can put my heart right again.

After I was praying tonight, I was flipping through my prayer journal for a particular verse, but before I could get there, I found your list of medical diagnoses. It’s the only page of my prayer journal I have used for anything but prayer; I wrote them down when I was trying to memorize complex medical terms for court, with no other paper on hand.

I had forgotten. I had forgotten all of those labels someone has attached to you, all the things “wrong” with you. Big scary words– even though everything on that list is harmless, they still label you with them. But, I had forgotten about your convergent squint and delay of motor and pre-speech development and all the other terms.

To me, you are just my baby boy, Gus, August Andrey, loved, amazing, ours. The child of two parents who adore you. A child of God. 

That’s how I see you, that’s how my heart knows you.

I learned so much from you in that moment.

In a world, where I see all the things wrong with me, all of my failures, all of the ways that I’ll never be enough, all of the labels I’ve given myself and let others give me, all of the burdens I gather up daily…

that’s not how our God sees me. No, He doesn’t first look to my labels of what’s wrong with me. He doesn’t see me as messy, or fat, or… no, He loves me, like I love you. He knows me as His child, like I know you as mine.

Whoa.

Love,

your mama

Just 5 days left and then forever together.

 

P.S. That verse I was looking for?

But He said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,

so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Such Incredible Chances

Dear Baby Gus,

18 days to go. In 18 days you will be with me. 23 days until you are in our home, with your papa, big brother and big sister.

This isn’t the journey we thought we were beginning back in September. Our journey to you has been one of broken hearts and bumpy roads. My heart aches a bit when I think about it all, but knowing you will soon be a part of our family makes it all worth it.

We began this journey for a little girl, 3 years old. We felt certain that she was supposed to be our daughter. We knew there were some uncertain details, but we had complete peace about our decision. Despite some little hiccups, everything came together and we met this sweet little girl in November. She was a little firecracker! We signed the official papers to pursue her adoption.

In December, we found out that there was a local (to her) family that was interested in adopting her. We cautiously prayed about what this meant. We decided to move forward with adopting her, until we had a clear “stop” from the Lord.

In January, shortly after receiving news of our upcoming court date to adopt her, we got that “stop”. The local family had filed official papers to pursue her adoption and as a local family, they had priority over us. There was nothing we could do.

That night, after we got the news, we felt so confused, uncertain. Everything had been such a clear “go” up until that moment. We felt such a clear push from the Lord in every move. And just that, it all fell apart.

Do you know that we have an amazing support system? Calls, texts, emails– from family, friends, even strangers. Late that night, after your papa went to bed, I found the website for your orphanage, and browsed the photos of all of the children. Then I saw this…

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For the first time since we got the news, I smiled. Oh, love, you are so cute.

I wanted to get on a plane right that moment and scoop you up. But, I still wavered for another day, while your papa was certain that you were the one. I had been so certain that we were bringing home a little girl, that I struggled with the sudden change of plans, especially how abruptly and painfully it came.

Everything seemed to fall together, when we expressed interest in you. Our agency confirmed your availability. We said yes!

Just two weeks later, we were on a plane to meet you. We received your official referral on February 14, 2012. I won’t share the details here, but the fact that we even got your referral is evidence of the divine hand in your story.

You were so overwhelmed by us that first day. You watched us. When we would do something funny, you might crack a smile, but it wouldn’t stay long. The orphanage doctor came in and told us how you usually smiled. I was afraid she would think we weren’t the right family for you.

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The next day, and the day after that, you seemed to be warming up to us a bit. You love to be loved on. Kisses, eskimo kisses, rasberries, you love that physical attention, like your big sister.

After three days of visiting, we said goodbye. Our court dossier just needed one piece of paper, with your name on it, to be filed. We rushed to get it done when we got home. The first people who could take it for us were some friends travelling for court to adopt a little girl from your orphanage. They had our paper in hand, and we knew they would be delivered safely.

Well, the day they left, we got a frantic email from them, asking for prayer. Our region was canceling all court cases, and theirs would be the last one heard. Only because they were literally on the plane when the news came in.

That was when I unravelled. I was scared we might lose you, too. I didn’t know when I’d see you again. I was sad, and scared, confused and angry. I felt… raw.

But, in the same season, we were so loved. Tears and prayers from everyone who knew our story, it seemed.

Gifts to renew my resolve and my spirit. Like one Thursday morning when a dear friend sent me new photos of you. One of the best gifts I ever received was to see your face, knowing that was taken just hours before.

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A couple of weeks later, 2 months after your region shut down, we received news of our court date. What sweet news! We had to wait another month for it, but we knew when we’d see you again.

May 27, 3 months and 11 days after we said goodbye, we saw you again. You were so uncertain of us at first, but after a little while, you were comfortable enough to fall asleep in my arms.
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After two days of visits, we had our court hearing. With trembling legs and shaking voices, we stood up to ask the judge if we could be your family. And she said YES!

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You would be my baby and I would be your mama.

Little love, this story fills me with such joy. The ending, knowing that we are yours forever, that makes me so happy. And the journey, the bumpy, bittersweet journey with a God who holds our hand every step of the way, that makes me so joyful too.

This journey is ending. Soon, you will be here and our journey as a family of five will begin. A new journey with bumps and twists of its own, and… I can’t wait.

Love,
your mama

“I see your smile
And it’s so much sweeter
After all that I’ve been through
And when we laugh
I get a glimpse of forever
And I praise God that I found you

And anytime someone asks me
How it all unfolded
I’ll tell them
Such incredible chances
Make for marvelous love.

Just like the sun lights up the moon
This love is a reflection
Of more than just me and you
Our lives were less than ordinary
And while I couldn’t see past tomorrow
God was making history

Oh my, what a beautiful story of love.”

-Mandi Mapes, Story of Love

Beautiful Things

I usually find a few songs that I listen to when I am “dealing” with something. Songs I can listen to over and over again.

Right now, I have a play list called “Encouragement”. Any suggestions?  And I’ve been listening to Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” album over and over again. The title song, “Beautiful Things”…

…Could all that is lost ever be found?…

Out of chaos life is being found in You.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us…

All of the ways our family and I personally have been broken over and over again to be glued back together in a more beautiful way. We each had to broken to come together as a family.

The coolest thing is that the person who loves this song the most is… Reed. He belts it out when it’s on the radio, or just randomly.

But, last Friday, he asked if he could listen to “You make beautiful things out of Gus.”

Gus. The name we call Baby “Anderson” around our house. You make beautiful things out of Gus.

A Love Story

You often hear stories about a parenting meeting their adopted child and it’s love at first sight. It happens. But, more often are the stories you don’t hear. The love stories that are won after many battles, the love that grows slowly, day after day watering with no noticeable progress.

These stories are so much more complicated. They’re not shiny and fairy-tale like. They are the stories of tears and sleepless nights. Prayers and painful questions. Recognizing the hurt of a young child. And the deep wounds and the inadequacies of an adult.

But, while I hesitate to share it, Reed and I are one of those stories. Reed came into our relationship hurting. Cognizant that I was another woman in his life. Who was I? How long would I stay? For me, it was more like he ripped my stitches out. As some people would say, he pushed my buttons. Opening up old hurts and frustrations. Creating new ones.

Honestly, we seemed incompatible at first. Most of the time, we drove each other nuts. I wanted so badly to control him and manage him, not considering his strong willed personality. Only made worse by people who told me that I need to win and make sure he didn’t think he was the boss.

He was never interested in me. He would pick anyone else’s attention and affection over me. Even if we were alone, he would just ignore me, if he had everything he needed. We would both celebrate the moment Aaron got home, giving us relief from our long days together.

For months, we just plugged on. I did my best to fake it. Meet all of his needs, hug him and kiss him. We’d play together and I’d walk away frustrated and exhausted. Other people would tell me how wonderful they thought he was, only twisting the knife a bit more. A reminder that it was just our relationship that was broken. Still, we plugged on.

The milestones were tiny.

One day, he drew me a picture.

Slowly.

Another day, he’d grab my hand out of nowhere, holding it as we went on our walk.

Slowly.

He’d do silly things just to make me laugh.

Slowly.

When he broke his leg, he let me hold him when his leg hurt late at night and we watched movies together.

Slowly.

One day, a friend pointed out how nervous he looked when I walked out of his view.

Slowly.

I woke up one day and realized I wasn’t faking it anymore. I hadn’t been for awhile. My love for him was real. I was not longer acting out love because I knew we both needed it. I was being affectionate, and doing things for him and spending time with him because I loved him.

Now, it seems like he draws me at least two pictures a day. He asks me to play with him all the time. We love to read books together. I enjoy poking him whenever we pass each other. And, it’s not uncommon that he grabs my hand or wraps his arm around my leg when we go on walks. Sometimes, I just like to sneak up and tell him I love him, which makes him run away in embarrassment… smiling.

We still have plenty of moments where he drives me nuts, or he gets mad at me, because he got in trouble. Plenty. He’s 5. We’re both human.

Recently, I picked him up out of the car and swung him around. As I reached to help Lena, he wrapped his arm around my leg unexpectedly. “What’s that for?” ” ‘Cause I love you.”

I wrote this for myself, as a reminder of how far we’ve come. And to share with my friends, who are at the beginning of their complicated love stories.

Reflecting on this whole process, as I’ve read and edited this post over several days, I realized it doesn’t end here. I am not done with this sort of difficult love. A reminder that I especially need to love people in my life who seem incompatible with me, who seem impossible to love and who I think may never love me back.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Matthew 5:43-48

“Love never gives up. 
   Love cares more for others than for self. 
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
   Love doesn’t strut, 
   Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
   Doesn’t force itself on others, 
   Isn’t always “me first,” 
   Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
   Puts up with anything, 
   Trusts God always, 
   Always looks for the best, 
   Never looks back, 
   But keeps going to the end.

   Love never dies.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8