Friday, October 19, 2012

Overlooked orphan to Trophy of Grace 

part two

 From Deprivation to the American Dream

The ride home from JFK airport told the story.  Our new son George had arrived in America and the level of sensory deprivation he had endured was glaringly apparent.  I sat in the back seat of the car with this little waif. He was 14 months old, but the infant car seat he was in swallowed him up. His frail body was almost obscured by the padding so that all I could  see clearly was his bald head and alert brown eyes. 

Those eyes.  They were hyper-focused out the window and barely took time to blink.  And then there was the frenzied kicking.  Something was exciting this boy on this dark, rainy March night, but the something was escaping me.  I knew George had spent 14 months of his life inside a government building.  His almost translucent white skin told me he had rarely, if ever, experienced God's gift of the sun.  And we had seen the pictures.  He spent his days sharing a rusty iron crib with two or three other babies, their only playthings, their own shadows on the wall.

George at the orphanage in Timisoara, Romania, sharing a crib with two others.

And then it hit me.  The rain was coming down in torrents.  It was making music on the car roof if you took the time to listen. What sounded like incessant rapping to my over-indulged ear, must have sounded like a symphony to George's unaccustomed ear.  And the flood lights lining the airport exit road.  They were what was mesmerizing George through the window.  I noticed for the first time how vivid and bold they looked; so bright they each had their own halo surrounding them.  The orphan had landed and jubilee had begun.

Each week George was home he reached a new milestone. After a year of living in a prone position in a crib, George didn't have the strength to hold his own head up.  Once he was able to hold his head up,

he learned to sit up, and then scoot on his bottom--which was his version of crawling.  One disturbing behavior was his habit of violently rocking himself side to side whenever we put him in his bed for a nap or for his night's sleep.  We realized this was his way of self-soothing and self-comforting since he had rarely, if ever, been held or comforted by the overworked and superstitious orphanage staff. It was a subconscious behavior.  If we walked into a room where he was sleeping, causing him to stir, he would begin to desperately rock in his sleep to bring himself back to a deeper sleep phase.  

Miraculously, before our eyes, as the love of our family and good nutrition had it's way with him, George began to be transformed.  The weight added to his 14-month-old frame first made him look like a healthy American infant.  And then, as his hair began to sprout, George started to look like the toddler he actually was. His sallow cheeks became the glowing color of health and when he smiled, we all agreed, God had made him handsome.

George at about 16 months old.

George's days became filled with all of the experiences of a typical American boy.  There was preschool in our small Connecticut town. And there was celebrating: Birthdays, holidays, field trips, family movie night and family game night.  George blended into the culture and started headed for what looked like normalcy, except with the flavor of the typical Dennehy family craziness thrown in. 

The garlic bread bag makes a fine hat.

He even cheerfully accepted the indignity of being dressed as a pumpkin.  With Dad, Mike and older siblings,  Marissa, Ryan and Erin on Halloween.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My son George's first single: "It's a Gift"

Here is the lyric video. I love these because words are everything to me. Jordan Lawhead and Jason Reeves, the writers, nailed it!

Five Minute Friday: Wide


Ok I'm a Presbyterian, so verse memory is not my forte, but when I hear the word "wide" my mind goes immediately to Paul's beautiful statement in the New Testament that goes something like this, " I pray that you may how long and deep and WIDE is the love of Jesus."

I just love the thought of how WIDE Jesus' love is.  It give me comfort chills.  His love is so big, I can't run to it's borders.  I can't stumble out of it's parameters when I'm having a bad day.  And there's room. Room not just for me and my foibles, but for countless others and their foibles.

His WIDE love embraces people from all nations and ethnicities.  There is no deed  too bad to keep someone locked out from this love.

And the bigness and wideness of Jesus love provides a wild and fulfilling adventure for those who submit to it.  With something so Wide to follow, everyday is a new storyline full of Kingdom surprises. Who will He bring to me today to invite to share in the Wideness?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Son, Two Families and One Extravagant Love

  How God is Transforming an Overlooked Orphan into a Trophy of Grace

George Dennehy performing live on Acces Direct, Romania, September 2012

My adopted son, George Dennehy, who was born without arms,  is receiving worldwide attention for his unique ability to sing and play the guitar with his feet to the glory of God.  Here is his story.

It began almost 18 years ago in a remote Romanian village. Comolsu Mare isn't significant enough to show up on most Romanian maps.  It's a cluster of bungalows and patches of land where small sustenance farmers eek out a living. There are a few shops and churches and a road that leads to bigger places.

Comolsu Mare Romania,  December 1994

John and Elena Dragan lived here with their three young daughters when the unspeakable happened.  Elena gave birth to a long-awaited first son, but the boy had no arms. John the farmer wept and Elena fell into despair as little George with no arms was whisked away by the doctors.

The Dragans faced an impossible situation. If they brought their boy home, he would be shunned by the townsfolk. Handicaps were largely considered a curse from God. And what kind of life would their armless son lead on a small working farm? George was placed in an orphanage in the city of Timisoara and Elena and John went home to piece together the shards of their broken lives.

As George languished in an understaffed orphanage, God was tweaking the hearts of a young couple in the United States, my husband Mike and I.  Mike and I and our three children were living a comfortable life in New England, but God's extravagant grace to us was making us restless to serve Him in a more profound way.  The black and white, blurred photo of the 3-month old armless boy in Romania led the way. The Bethany Christian Services Newsletter said he was "born with no arms" and "desperately needs a loving home."

Sharon and George at the orphanage in Timisoara, December 1994

When word reached John and Elena that a US family was willing to adopt George, panic set in. Why would an American family with three children want their son--a reject, a pariah?  Rumors of evil intentions fueled their fear.  They decided that only a face to face meeting with these Americans would quell their fears sufficiently to trust Mike and I to take their son away with us for good.

The Meeting

Mike, Sharon and Erin Dennehy with the Dragan family,  December 1994.

Then the impossible situation shifted to us. How could we convince a mother and a father from a different culture, that speak a different language and that are deeply wounded from the circumstances surrounding their son, that we have good intentions?

I knew that only God could speak a language that we both understood.  It was His Word that birthed an understanding between our two families which has spanned 18 years. I knew that George's parents needed to understand what happened to their son was not a cruel accident.  That a loving, redeeming God had created George uniquely for a purpose.  After reading portions of Psalm 139 which I had highlighted...

13. For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,  I know
         that full well.
15. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
      When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  16. your eyes saw my unformed body. 
       All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

...Elena put the Bible to her chest and said through discerning tears, "I will hold this close to my heart until I die."

The story continues in a coming installment...

Friday, February 10, 2012

There is Eternity in our Hearts

I was taken aback by the passengers. Our Delta flight from Narita, Japan to Bangkok was full of them.

The ones on the fringe.

The aging male couple, so full of apparent gaiety that you almost missed the sadness in their eyes.

 The elderly British couple. Their tweed jackets and pile of books said intellectual.  The man’s use of a  notebook-sized magnifying glass in addition to his substantial spectacles spoke of diminishing faculties.

The bohemians with the head scarves.

The young people with the intricately shaved patterns in their short hair.

The tattooed who had turned their skin into a statement.

 Those with ravaged faces from a lifetime of taking in too many substances.

I had never seen such a collection all in one place.

And then I realized what this was about.

Thailand. Maybe the closest approximation to Paradise on earth.  The fragranced air.  The vibrant tropical flowers, ubiquitous, even in the squalid slums.  The balmy, moist climate. Beauty in all corners: majestic mountains, teeming ocean, verdant life everywhere.
Thailand is The Garden of Eden, minus the cherubim guarding the entrance with the flaming swords.

We were all banished from it, yet we all long for it.  The goodness, the freedom, the pleasure, the beauty, the glory of that place called Paradise.

“He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecc. 3:11

It’s elusive to the natural man.  So we try to find it anyway we know how.  We try as many methods as we can to experience it, and by the end of our lives, some of us are left with but one option.  Hop a plane and go there.

But where we land is not the real thing.  Yes it’s a picture He has graciously given us, but it is a shadow of the real thing.

I wanted to shout to them, “Yes you CAN go home again.  He has made a way.  The path is narrow, but His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

To say, “Stop trying to find your life.  Lose it to Him. “

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Jas 4:10

He’ll lift you up so that you can taste and see the real Paradise.  Dimly now at first.  But with His promise that it will be yours. Utterly.  Completely.  And forever with Him.