Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What trouble brings

My husband lost his job yesterday.

The job that provided sustenance for two adults, 8 special needs children and a son in college.

The job that we viewed as our provision for now and the future.

And it has brought trouble.

It has brought anxiety.

Anxiety over how we will pay our mortgage so we won't lose the house.

It has brought concern.

Concern about how we will continue to feed this large brood with just our savings and how we will pay for the glasses that Kali needs without medical insurance.

It has brought gut-wrenching sadness.
Sadness that the 7-year-old limbless girl, the girl we named Hope, will not have a family after all. 

It has brought perplexity.
Trouble was not in our plan.  Trouble has turned our world upside-down. 

But in the midst of these human emotions, trouble is bringing us a deep, satisfying drink from the well of God's grace.

Trouble is bringing us an awareness of how much we are loved.

We are enveloped by the kindness,  prayers and expressions of love from those around us. The support is always there, but we aren't fully aware of it until trouble comes.

Trouble is making us see the preciousness of our children's hearts.

We are cherishing the offers of their McDonald's gift cards and savings to help buy food, their suggestions of job possibilities (Wal-Mart and PetSmart were the favorites) and their declarations of not wanting Christmas gifts this year.

Trouble is bringing  greater strength to our marriage relationship.

Two people, often distracted by the busy-ness and the cares of this world, are verbalizing, "I love you," to each other often and praying together with a never-before-experienced depth and zeal.

Trouble is bringing a renewed awareness that God is our portion, and not an earthly job.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." (Lamentations 3).  God has engraved this on our hearts afresh.

Will trouble crush us? God forbid.

Trouble shows us that His promises are real.

"I took you from the ends of the earth, 
from its farthest corners I called you.
 I said, 'You are my servant':
 I have chosen you and have not rejected you."

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:9-10 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Parenting and adoption: The Benevolent Dictatorship

"I've been hearing a lot lately about parents and social workers checking in with their children about whether they should add to their families through adoption.  I'm all for open and honest parent/child communication, but when did the family unit become a democracy?

We don't typically ask our children if they agree with their curfew or the amount of allowance they get, do we? We don't consult with them because we know that we will get an age-appropriate opinion--an opinion that years of experience has taught us parents is not the wisest.

As Paul says in I Cor. 13:11, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man I put childish ways behind me."

When Mike and I decided to adopt for the first time, back in 1994, we told our three biological children, then 8, 6 and 4,  about our plans.  We included them in the process, explained our sense of calling to help a  homeless child and enthusiastically invited them along on this family ministry adventure.

 The boy we were hoping to adopt (now our son George) was born without arms and was languishing in a Romanian orphanage.  The superstitious Romanian orphanage workers, believing he was born this way as a curse, were reluctant to touch him or feed him.  He weighed 9 lbs. at a year old, couldn't hold his own head up and his medical report said, "this boy will soon die."

Our three children accepted the "helping a homeless child" part, but of course, reacted the way most kids would.  One of them said to us, "If we're gonna adopt, could we at least adopt someone with hands and arms?"

The adoption was a scary step of faith for Mike and I as well, but because of the assurance we had from the Holy Spirit that this was the path God wanted us to walk, we were able to confidently explain to the kids that God wants us to want the unwanted and to love the seemingly unlovable.  He calls them "the least of these" in his Word.  We explained that his Spirit would compensate for our human weaknesses in this area.  We told them that hardships and challenges would help us grow in faith and maturity as individuals and as a family, and that through the experience we would be richly blessed.

We've gone on to adopt seven more children since George.  Each time we've told our existing children about the new addition we've met with some mild protestations.  After all, it's a natural reaction for a  person of any age to balk at sharing resources, things and parents with yet another "outsider."  But the argument on our part has gotten easier.  Whe one of the adopted kids protests, we can point to the fact that if we had "taken a vote" of the existing siblings, they, themselves, would not be part of our family.

I've suspected all along that our family focus on others rather than self has had a healthy impact on who our children have become, and that some day, they would understand more fully what this adoption calling really means.  A recent note from my  23-year-old daughter, Marissa, who is spending a year teaching and helping at an orphanage in China, has been a precious confirmation of this.

Marissa was never much of a complainer about growing up in such a large family, but I know she would sometimes dream about the "normal" life some of her contemporaries from smaller families had: the creatively-themed yearly birthday parties, the annual trips to Disney World, and the general parental fawning that an only child could expect.

 Marissa sent me this note a few weeks ago on the occasion of my 50th birthday.  She gave me permission to share parts of it.

"I miss you so much--being here at an orphanage especially, I think of you all the time.  I think 'Oh, Mom would love this' or 'I wish Mom could be here for this' or 'wish she could talk to these people.'"

"Being on the other end of the adoption world, the end where kids sit and count the days until they get a forever family, I have come to appreciate more and more what you have done with OUR family and what a special thing adoption is and what kind of thing you really give." 

"I tell people about our family and they all say that you must be a 'miracle worker' and 'a very special person.'  People in the States say that, but it is different coming from the mouths of people who work here, because they see families come to adopt all the time.  Coming from experienced people who understand what a difference adoption makes, but also what a difficult but miraculous process it is.  I understand now that they aren't just giving lip service.  You really are a special person and I love you so much!"

Thanks be to God for letting us participate in his work in the world and for giving us the grace to do so!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

God's love changes everything

Caris Dennehy

Young Life Capernaum is a ministry that shares the love of Christ with young people with disabilities. Share the joy with me. Check out this slide show from this week's camp. Our daughter, Caris, is one of the enthusiastic participants.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Moon is a Liar: Packing for eternity

The Moon is a Liar: Packing for eternity: "How would you feel if your task for this week was to sort through all of your earthly belongings and condense them down to 50 Rubber Maid tu..."

Packing for eternity

How would you feel if your task for this week was to sort through all of your earthly belongings and condense them down to 50 Rubber Maid tubs? And what you couldn't fit into that space would have to be sold, given away or trashed?

Well that's exactly what my friends April and Scott Salvant are doing this week. They, along with their five children (3 biological and 2 adopted from Haiti), have answered God's call to serve Him in Haiti. The boat full of their stuff leaves in a few weeks and now the joy that comes with saying "yes" to God is being temporarily muted by the reality of saying good-bye to loved ones and the stuff of this World.

April has been thinking a lot about these words of Jesus this week: "Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." (Jesus, Matt. 6:19-21, message).

Most of us Christians would readily assent to the wisdom of this verse. Most of us probably feel like we try to live this way. Mike and I spend most of our income to feed, clothe, house and otherwise raise to adulthood our eight adopted children. We are investing our treasure in souls that are eternal. But still, we live in a big comfortable house, have more clothes than we can wear and don't lack any good thing.

The Salvants, on the other hand, are experiencing the extreme of this idea. The family is selling their seven bedroom house, Scott is giving up a lucrative job and the family will be relying on support from other believers to live.

God doesn't call everyone to take this path. It may seem impossibly hard to some of us; but Jesus does promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The Salvants know that they are losing their lives to save them. And what a glorious day it will be when they experience the treasure that's waiting for them in Heaven.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Should I Teach My Kids to Hate Me?

I know, the title is provocative, but they are Jesus' Words, not mine. He says in Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple."

I think American Christians are in danger of making family and family time an idol.

This may sound contradictory coming from someone who highly values family and spends most of her waking hours dedicated to her family. And it may sound counterproductive in a culture that is struggling to keep families intact, a culture where families are hard pressed to find time in a week to sit down to a family meal together and peer activities can threaten to steal all of our children's time. But let me explain.

Mark D. Roberts says in his post today in The High Calling, "... one prevalent barrier to Christian discipleship is too much attachment to family, especially as defined by cultural, traditional and personal values. During my parish ministry, I watched good church-going parents use the 'priority of family time' rationale to get in the way of their teenagers' growth as disciples of Jesus. Family time would preclude the regular involvement of their kids in Bible study groups. Family vacations kept their teenagers from being part of life-changing mission trips."

We parents have so much control over our kids. It feels good to be surrounded by our offspring. We feel like royalty when we're surrounded by them at the table--especially on the sentimental days like holidays. We send subliminal messages that our approval and even financial support is tied to expected behaviors of family loyalty above all else. But Jesus speaks a better Word.

Yes, the word hate is hyperbole, but he is making the point that our children are His first and ours second. That we should be raising them in such a way that their obedience and their first priority is Him and His kingdom, not me, as a parent, and my kingdom. We should be teaching them that serving Him is our highest joy and that familial love is an added gift.

If I, someday, am sitting alone with a book on Mother's Day because my children are elsewhere occupied with my Father's business, I will consider myself a success.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Be Educated

My daughter Marissa graduated from James Madison University last weekend. All the pomp and circumstance got me thinking about the meaning of education. And then I remembered this insightful piece that a friend had given me years ago.

To Be Educated

By Carolyn Caines, Columbia Heights Christian Academy

If I learn my ABC's, can read 600 words per minute, and can write with perfect penmanship, but have not been shown how to communicate with the Designer of all language, I have not been educated.

If I can deliver an eloquent speech and persuade you with my stunning logic, but have not been instructed in God's wisdom, I have not been educated.

If I have read Shakespeare and John Locke and can discuss their writings with keen insight, but have not read the greatest of all books--the Bible--and have no knowledge of its personal importance, I have not been educated.

If I have memorized addition facts, multiplication tables and chemical formulas, but have never been disciplined to hide God's Word in my heart, I have not been educated.

If I can explain the law of gravity and Einstein's theory of relativity, but have never been instructed in the unchangeable laws of the One Who orders our universe, I have not been educated.

If I can classify animals by their family, genus and species, and can write a lengthy scientific paper that wins awards, but have not been introduced to the Maker's purpose for all creation, I have not been educated.

If I can play the piano, the violin, six other instruments, and can write music that moves men to tears, but have not been taught to listen to the Director of the Universe and worship Him, I have not been educated.

If I can run cross-country races, star in basketball and do 100 push-ups without stopping, but have never been shown how to bend my spirit to do God's will, I have not been educated.

If I can identify a Picasso, describe the style of Da Vinci, and even paint a portrait that earns an A+, but have not learned that all harmony and beauty comes from a relationship with God, I have not been educated.

If I graduate with a perfect 4.0 and am accepted at the best university with full scholarship, but have not been guided into a career of God's choosing for me, I have not been educated.

If I become a good citizen, voting at each election and fighting for what is moral and right, but have not been told of the sinfulness of man and his hopelessness without Christ, I have not been educated.

However, if one day, I see the World as God sees it, and come to know Him, Whom to know is life eternal, and glorify God by fulfilling His purpose for me, then , I have been educated.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why the title? The Moon is a Liar?

Why would a blog about family, faith and adoption be titled, "The Moon is a Liar?"

Because I think this Romanian folk saying summarizes life under the sun.

The Romanian word for the moon in the waxing crescent phase (top drawing) starts with a letter that looks like the shape of the moon in the opposite phase (bottom drawing) and vice versa. The saying was used to help school children remember to use the word starting with the letter OPPOSItE the shape of the moon when naming it. When I first heard a Romanian say this, it stopped me in my tracks. This statement was inadvertently conveying profound spiritual truth.

The natural world and our natural human inclinations lead us to conclude one thing, but the Spirit of God speaks a better (and radically contrary) Word.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12

Jesus said some hard words in the Gospel of Matthew,

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."


"Whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave--"

and this from I Cor. 1:27 - 29, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

That is why he chose: me, a person who thought she should have a career unincumbered by marriage and family, to be the mother of 11... me, a person afraid to fly in a plane, to travel to places all over the globe to bring home his, a person who needs more sleep and is less organized than the average person, to run a household of husband, who really just wanted to be a gym teacher, to provide for this brood...

That is why: a "throw-away" Romanian orphan, born without arms, plays the cello more beautifully than many with abandoned Indian orphan is a straight A student in an American school and a leader of youth in his church...

That is why: dear friends of ours, self-professed materialists, caught up in the allure of the world to the point of near self-destruction, are now powerful apologists for the transforming work of God's grace to a needy world...

Yes, the moon is a liar...but God tells the truth.