all I want for Christmas is you…

An Fu Mei 10.10.14 pic 3Our Christmas was beautiful, slow-paced, and sweet.  We read the scriptures, sang the hymns, and thanked Jesus for His precious gift.  We enjoyed time together and the kids were [mostly] well-behaved and thankful for their gifts.  My husband and I spent some special time together on Christmas night and exchanged just stocking stuffers this year – the little things he got for me made me feel so loved and cherished.  It was perfect…

…except for the hole in my heart that belongs to a little girl who is 8,097 miles away.  Her stocking was hung by the chimney with care, she got a few little gifts, and we had Chinese food on Christmas Eve in her honor.  If I could whisper something in her ear right now, I’d tell her that Jesus came for her and her friends, too, and that we’re coming to get her as soon as we can.

one step at a time

We’ve prayed for the last two years that God would use our adoption to show Himself to people.  It’s hard to talk about money, and it’s hard to talk about taking faithful steps without being (or sounding) prideful.  Plus, many of my steps have been with a considerable amount of fear and anxiety, rather than faith!

But, we just found out that my husband’s annual bonus is almost exactly the same amount as the payment that we have due.  And he’ll be receiving the bonus two days before the payment is due.  We had no control over the timing of either event, or over the amount of either payment.  I guess it’s possible for people to see that as a coincidence, but I certainly don’t.  Especially since it isn’t the first time in this adoption process that it has happened that way.

That’s the last round of fees for our agency.  From this point on, it’s time to save for travel!  That’s a pretty overwhelming amount, but we’re just trying to take one step at a time.  Hopefully, this time they can be faithful steps!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

we found her.

Months earlier than expected, in a completely unlikely way, we found our girl.  We can’t share any details about her yet, but we’re all madly in love with her, and can’t wait to see God move mountains to bring her home.

We accepted her referral and submitted our Letter of Intent last week.  The next steps are to wait for our Letter of Approval from China, make a very large payment, and then wade through tons of red tape to prepare to travel.  We don’t have an estimate for travel at this time.

The week that we got the referral to review and the next week while we were waiting for doctor phone calls, orphanage updates, and stressing about money and other details, our whole family was studying Exodus 2-4 at Bible Study Fellowship.  Pretty intense timing, right?  Just like He did with Moses, God patiently led us through the fear, hesitations, and excuses; and gently reminded us that He was with us and would not ask us to do something if He wasn’t going to help us do it.  (**Note: None of the fear, hesitations, or excuses were about this precious little girl, who we wanted to bring home the minute we saw her beautiful face.)

We can’t wait to introduce her to you.  She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.  We know that you’ll love her, too.

smoke

This has been a year of hard reminders that our lives are as brief and uncertain as smoke.

“You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”  James 4:14

None of the grief has been in our inner circle, but we’ve been on the fringes of so many deaths and devastating diagnoses this year.  This week, some extended family members of ours lost their 2-month-old unexpectedly.  The grief is so huge that it’s impossible to understand.  My husband attended the funeral and told me it was the most gut-wrenching, but also the most hopeful, experience of his life.  The young couple is heart-broken and devastated, of course, but also so filled with hope and so eager to present the gospel to the 200+ people who came to support them and celebrate their precious little one’s life. 

I often wonder how I will handle this type of grief when I experience it.  I have not yet lost a parent, spouse, child, or very close friend.  Obviously, though, it’s only a matter of time until I do.  I don’t know how strong I’ll be.  I don’t know if presenting the gospel will be the most important thing to me.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand at the front of a church and calmly talk about how God gave his only son for me, which puts my own loss into perspective.  I’m convicted by the thought that what I would want to do is sleep and cry in my bed for a month.  And convicted about my reactions to even minor crises that I face, when others I know are handling real crises with so much grace.

Hold the ones you love tightly, and don’t take your time with them for granted.  Why is it so easy to forget this?

Say a prayer for Jack & Anna and their families, please.

so much better than hawaii.

We recently had our 10th anniversary. Over the years, when we thought we’d have “more money” by our 10th anniversary (whatever that even means), we imagined we might go to Hawaii for our 10th, or drive up the California coastline, which I really want to do someday.

But, here we are, with a toddler who has hardly ever been away from her mama, and in the middle of an international adoption. We’re living on a very strict budget day-to-day, and have just enough in our adoption account for our next payment and the postage to get it there.

I asked my husband to just be in charge of it. I was overwhelmed and didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

He found a guest house at an amazing ranch, driving distance (and close to grandparents!), for really cheap. We hiked, swam, read, explored, tubed the Guadalupe, window shopped, ate great food, lounged in the hot tub, and just enjoyed three solid days and nights of each other.  It was wonderful. It was totally not what I would have planned, and probably about 200x better because of it.

I looked up at him at some point during the trip and said,
“This is so much better than Hawaii.”

Living life with him is the greatest gift I could ever want.
anniversary pizap

“Love’s flames are fiery flames – the fiercest of all. Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

“good job, mom.”

It was definitely one of those days. I tried to cram in too much fun, and we all paid for it. Someday, maybe I’ll learn.

As I tried to round up my kids to go from one play date to another, my middle little one didn’t come when I called him. I called him again, and he didn’t come. I called him more sternly, and he finally sauntered over.

I said, “C, let’s practice. Go back over there.” He did. I called him. He yelled, “Yes, ma’am!” and came over. We practiced again. And again.

It was just a normal, everyday mom-of-a-preschooler moment. I wasn’t extra patient or loving or kind or creative or sweet.

But a mom, standing near by watched us. She had several little ones of her own. She said, “Good job, C!” and then…

“Good job, mom.”

I almost burst into tears.

As moms, we don’t get a lot of recognition. Infants don’t coo, “Thank you ever so much for changing my diaper!” Toddlers don’t exclaim, “I was so impressed with the consistency of that mac & cheese!” Generally, the things we do are only noticed if we don’t manage to get them done. That was really one of the hardest things about the transition to being a stay-at-home-mom for me. No more good evaluations, no more positive and encouraging emails from the boss, and no more bonuses or accolades for great work. If the kids are clean and fed, you actually did your hair and wore makeup, you did some sort of craft or learning activity, healthy dinner is on the table, and the house is clean when your husband gets home – your reward is that you get to do it again tomorrow.

And it is a reward. I know that. I am so thankful that I get to stay home, and I love serving my family.

But today reminded me that I need to choose to be more deliberate about encouraging and building up the moms I see every day. How much better would motherhood be if we were all telling someone, “Good job, mom!” every day?

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

good job, mom

broken.

My daughter has been sick.  Another victim of VBS Stomach Bug 2014.

The other night, I had told her to yell for me if she feels yucky or throws up and I’d come help her.  A couple of hours later, I heard her fussing, and listened.  The saddest voice ever cried, “Mommy!  I fwoed up!  I fwoed up!”  I ran down the hallway and into her room.  She was covered in it – in her hair, on her face, on her hands, on her pajamas, on her sheets, on her pillow.  My husband and I started the tub, took the sheets off her bed, and gave her a bath.  As I was tucking her clean, sweet little self back into a freshly made bed, brushing back her damp hair with my fingers, kissing her face, and telling her Mommy is right across the hall and she can yell for me if she needs me… all of the sudden, I was just heartbroken thinking about another little girl, thinking about hundreds of thousands of little girls and little boys who don’t have a mommy (or daddy, or grandma, or aunt, or someone) to clean them up when they’re sick, put a sippy cup of water next to the bed in case they get thirsty, whisper a prayer over their little bodies, and tuck them back into bed with kisses and reassurance that Mommy is right across the hall.

The world is so broken!  The problem feels so big that it’s paralyzing, and easier to just look away.  Someday, when we get to Heaven, their sweet little tears will be wiped away.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:4

In the meantime, we have to do something.  We can’t solve it – it’s too broken.  But can’t turn away.  We have to do something.

 

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
Matthew 25:34-40

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  James 1:27

rainy day

rainy day

We didn’t get that document. I’m pretty disappointed, but trying to be intentional about trusting God’s timing.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.
Psalm 27:14

getting real about money

Can we get real about money?

We lost some when we switched countries.  And China Waiting Child adoptions are usually very quick.  Which is good, but scary, because that means we need a whole lot of money really, really fast.

I didn’t want some person considering adoption somewhere to be reading my statements about trusting in God’s provision and think that he/she is somehow unworthy because he/she is worrying about money.

So, here’s the bottom line:  I’m unworthy, too.  I do trust in God’s provision.  Or, possibly more accurately, I’m trying hard to trust 100% in God’s provision.  But it’s something I have to work at.

Right this minute, we’re looking at needing almost 2/3 of our annual income for the adoption in the next 10 months.  That’s intense, y’all.  I have to be really deliberate about taking my thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) every single day, sometimes every single hour, sometimes even more often than that.  Adoption is possibly the ultimate lesson in knowing that I cannot be in control of everything.

Last July, we prayed earnestly that we needed $8,000 very quickly.  We got every cent of it right when we needed it.  (Here’s a link to that blog post.)

God does have a plan, and He will provide.  I believe part of his plan is for us to be creative. I also believe part of his plan is for us to be willing to ask for help.  I believe lots of the money will be hard-fought for, and lots of the money will be a total surprise.   We’ve already had some of those total surprises, and they’re incredible, and remind us that He is big.  If we didn’t need His help, how would we ever learn that we can’t do it without him?  (Isaiah 55:8-11, Matthew 10:29)

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine's Day

You know how much I love Valentine’s Day, but ours has been a bit more somber than usual.  A friend of ours passed away this week, leaving behind his wife who is in her early thirties and three young sons. They have been such an example of showing joy, contentment, and grace even when times are harder than most of us can begin to imagine. Such a heartbreaking reminder that we are like smoke that appears for a little while and then is gone (James 4:14). His wife has peace that surpasses understanding today, knowing that he is praising Jesus in Heaven right now. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters.

Hug your valentines closely tonight.