Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

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Taken August 31, 2012. After 8 months of work, our dossier was ready to go to Ethiopia. The guy at FedEx took this (blurry) picture of us right before we mailed it off. Lydia had turned two that summer, and I was pregnant with Charlotte. 

When we first started this adoption journey, Lydia was 18 months old. She pronounced Ethiopia E-E-O-O, and her favorite thing to say was, “Mo, mo babies!” while she attempted to carry a half-dozen baby dolls in her arms. Fast forward four-and-a-half years and that adorable toddler is now a beautiful, compassionate first-grader. Her dream of “mo, mo babies” surrounds her in the swirl of little sisters God has given her. Granted, they don’t always do just what she wants like the baby dolls she used to play with, but they love her and look up to her and want to be just like her.

When we switched agencies this summer, we learned that our new agency highly recommends we only make one trip to Ethiopia. Instead of doing the two one-week trips that are usually 4-6 weeks apart, they recommend one trip that is usually around three weeks long. The main reason they recommend this is because our Ethiopian daughter becomes legally “ours” upon our successful court hearing which happens in the first trip. So, if we do one trip and stay in-country she is able to stay with us, and we can begin bonding with her in her home country, in the city and culture she knows and loves. After a lot of prayer, Matt and I decided one trip was the best option for our family. It wasn’t long after we received confirmation of that decision that the question started circling in my heart, “Should we bring Lydia?” In my typical fashion, I mentally made a pros and cons list. After making the list over and over for several weeks, I realized all my cons were born out of fear–fear for safety and disease, fear of the additional cost, fear of a looooooong flight with a child (and two children coming back). But I’ve made decisions in the past out of fear, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to bring the fear to God and move forward in faith.

I pray all these big prayers for my girls, but I can’t pray those prayers and then bubble wrap them and lock them in their rooms. I have to give them back to God, much like Hannah did with her beloved Samuel. I have to see the purposes God has for them and encourage those even if they might scare me. The Holy Spirit is showing me a corner of the tapestry. He has lifted back a small piece for my eyes to take in, to see how He is knitting us together, our gifts and weaknesses woven together for the beauty of His Story.

The Lord is threading Lydia’s compassionate, sensitive spirit to a baby sister she has yet to meet. Her ability to see when people are hurting despite a happy facade will allow her to know when her baby sister is struggling but doesn’t want to say. Her gentle, nurturing hands will make her baby sister feel safe when they don’t speak the same language. And her sharp memory will capture her baby sister’s homeland in exquisite detail so she can tell the story over and over to reassure her baby sister of her roots.

And there’s just the full circle quality of it all. Lyd was our only child when we started this journey. Now, she is the oldest of four sisters, the servant leader. I believe God made her “for such a time as this.” And there’s her name from Acts 16–Lydia, the woman who had her heart opened by God and then led her family to know the God she worshiped. Never could I have imagined when I sat on the couch pregnant with this child I had begged God for and my Bible open to Acts that the name He would give me would carry forth to this day and this journey and this adventure.

Today, we go to renew her passport–her first step in this journey to bring her baby sister home. There will be vaccines and malaria meds and plane tickets and Dramamine. But above all I pray she tastes for herself the goodness of the Lord and the greatness of His adventure. This morning, I read these verses from Luke speaking of John the Baptist and wrote them on a sticky note for her page.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79). 

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For Bible this week, Lydia’s lesson said to write ways she “spies” God at work. Her faith spurs me on. 

 

Can I Call Myself Brave?

Can I Call Myself Brave?

IMG_6574I looked up at a cornflower blue sky as fine silt squished between my toes. I clutched a piece of emerald green sea glass in my left hand running my fingers along the edges worn smooth by the current of the river. My husband was up ahead, and I watched him look down at the silt ripples under his feet and look up at the mountains that curved around us. I took a deep breath of spruce scented air and I felt it. Brave. I called myself brave.

It wasn’t because I had made some great decision or given some monumental sacrifice. It wasn’t even because I was far away in a tiny Canadian town. I’ve always saved the word brave for those in the history books, for the ones who moved through the night on an underground railroad, for the ones who donned a uniform knowing they might never return, for the ones who wore yellow stars. And brave isn’t adequate enough to describe those heroes. They are the bravest of the brave. But I wonder–was there a seismic shift in their hearts? Did they wake up one day saying, “It’s all changing today. Today, I’m going to be brave. Today, I’m going to risk my life for truth and light. Today, I might die or I might give up something I love or I might suffer, but I’m still doing it.” Maybe they did.

Or maybe they heard a whisper and said yes with knees trembling. Maybe they saw a hurting person and chose love. Maybe they unfurled white knuckles around the budget spreadsheet or the last bit of food or the well-built reputation and surrendered to the unknown. Maybe brave didn’t happen in one moment. Maybe brave was the culmination of a thousand little yeses, each one like a piece of sea glass in the hand, a bright flash of emerald color. Calling the adoption agency. Looking the homeless man in the eyes. Paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or finding yourself with open hands and an open heart on a remote beach in a tiny Canadian town. Maybe we don’t choose brave as much as brave chooses us. Maybe brave is a fundamental part of our being made in the image of God, but all our fear and insecurities and comfort-seeking ways obscure what was there all along. What if when He fashioned each of us He put brave within us, and every time we surrender to Him a little piece of us shimmers like sea glass in the silt?

On that day and on that beach, I decided to call myself brave because recently I’ve been facing fear head on. I’ve been leaning into it, not running from it. I’ve been calling it to the light, and I’ve been giving my small, quivering yes to God. Brave isn’t fearless, and she isn’t perfect. Brave might not be well-known or ever publicly acknowledged. But Brave wakes up every morning with an open heart and open hands and with trembling knees gives her yes, small as it may be, to a big, big God.

Scary Things

Scary Things

IMG_0571Have you ever felt like God is using everything and everyone to speak a message to you? That’s what I feel like right now. Like everywhere I turn He’s saying, “Get ready. I’m going to ask you to do something that seems crazy.” And I’m equal parts scared to death and giddy with excitement. (Okay, maybe slightly more scared to death.) It’s songs and books and blogs and words from friends that all seem to carry this same anticipation, like the music is building up and the plot of this story is about to get real interesting.

I could be wrong. That’s a very real possibility. And I have no clue what God has in store. I know that my heart has been heavy thinking about our African child. I’ve been taking a lot of scalding hot baths while reading big stacks of parenting books for our big girls, and I’ve been learning about imprinting and early childhood development. And then about the time the water gets cold, I realize that I’m going to miss those first few years–that crucial imprinting time–in our Ethiopian child’s life. And I start to panic and freak out and wonder how we will cope. Then, I remember that Jesus is my child’s Savior, not me. And I remember He can redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25) and my heart rate slows down–a little.

Last Friday, I went to lunch by myself and started this study my friend Heather told me I had to do. It’s Restless by Jennie Allen, and already by Chapter 1 I was sitting in my booth at Newk’s with tears in my eyes. Allen tells the story of answering hard questions and having hard conversations with her youngest child Cooper who was adopted from Rwanda.

“Cooper, you were made to show the world God. Everything that God gives you, your Africa, your America, your dark skin and your strong legs, your hurts, your words, your blessings, your smart mind . . . everything you have is to use for God while you are here.”

I’m getting started on the ugly cry and trying to keep my composure so the people eating their lovely sandwiches don’t stare at me, but I write the words, “For EEOO” in the margin, and I immediately text Heather and tell her it was a God thing that she told me to do this study when she did. She didn’t know the thoughts and fears I’ve been wrestling with.

Today, I’m sitting out in the sun while the big girls run around, and I notice in my book beside those words is a little mark. It almost looks like a fingerprint from a child-sized finger. When I first read it last Friday in Newk’s, I thought it was some sort of a marker in the margin denoting something of special importance. But looking through my book this afternoon, I realized it’s the only one. I texted Heather to see if the mark was in her book too. She said no.

And I smile to myself and think, “Yes, His fingerprints are all over our story. All over me. All over my husband. All over our daughters. All over our brown-eyed child.”

Sometimes even literally.

Is it okay to be scared of the story God’s writing? I think it is. I think Abraham had to have been terrified to make the climb with Isaac. I think Esther must have been shaking as she went before the king. I think Mary must have wondered what in the world she was doing. But with trembling feet, they still stepped forward. With a quivering chin, they said yes. With a heart that could never have anticipated the volumes to come, they obeyed.

This is my story. This is my song. 

Fearfully and Wonderfully

Fearfully and Wonderfully

photo (47)There are a million things I’m afraid of, and I’m pretty sure some new thing is added to the list every day. Thanks to the internet I can know about every single freak accident that occurs in the world. And suddenly I’m afraid of chemicals in my sun block while at the same time afraid of skin cancer. I’m afraid of BPA in my canned organic tomatoes and afraid of pesticides on regular tomatoes. Not to mention my filling from 5th grade is probably giving me cancer as we speak, and if it isn’t then the electromagnetic field from my cell phone certainly is. There is always something new to be afraid of.

Today was no exception. We had our big ultrasound, the one where they check to be sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. I was anxious, especially since this time I have an anterior placenta and can’t feel nearly as many kicks as I could with my two previous pregnancies. But I had a lot of people praying for a calm heart, and God provided just that. I loved watching you on the screen, your ten toes and ten little fingers. The dominoes of your spine and that precious heart beating fast and strong. I’m staring at your picture right now. I can’t believe that, Lord willing, in just twenty short weeks we will meet you. You had your legs crossed just like your big sisters helping keep the surprise until November.

The nasty thing about fear is that it never goes away. It’s always there. It’s just whether I choose to stare at the thing I’m so afraid of or whether I choose to stare at the One who is bigger than my fear. The One who holds me in the palm of His hand, just as I hold this baby in my womb. There are a million new things to be afraid of today and even more tomorrow. I can choose to go to Google and stare at those things or I can go to the Word and stare at Him.

I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. As I watched her check the individual chambers of your heart and count each tiny toe, I felt those words. Maybe we were created to fear, but we’re fearing the wrong thing. Maybe instead of fearing sickness and pain and tragedy which threaten to paralyze me, I can shift my eyes to the One who creates miracles. To the One who organizes billions of cells into tiny eyelashes and fingernails, who fashions a beating heart and a brain and a spine into nine little ounces of wonder. To the only One who can bestow a soul and a God-sized purpose. Fearfully and wonderfully made. 

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Dangerous Girls

Dangerous Girls

IMG_5384Tonight before dinner, Lydia said our blessing and it went like this, “God, please protect our food. We love you. Amen.” As soon as she finished, Matt said, “Do you think we pray about protection too much?” Ouch. I’m seeing my struggle with fear creep into my daughter, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

It reminded me of a blog Jen Hatmaker wrote a little while back, Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids. I doubt the word “brave” has ever been used to describe me, but I’m on a mission to change that. These words from Jen’s blog have stuck with me…

I don’t want to be the reason my kids choose safety over courage. I hope I never hear them say, “Mom will freak out,” or “My parents will never agree to this.” May my fear not bind their purpose here. Scared moms raise scared kids. Brave moms raise brave kids. Real disciples raise real disciples.

And Jen goes on to share a story from Erwin McManus, a story that gives me chills every time I read it…

One summer Aaron went to a youth camp. He was just a little guy, and I was kind of glad because it was a church camp. I figured he wasn’t going to hear all those ghost stories, because ghost stories can really cause a kid to have nightmares. But unfortunately, since it was a Christian camp and they didn’t tell ghost stories, because we don’t believe in ghosts, they told demon and Satan stories instead. And so when Aaron got home, he was terrified.

“Dad, don’t turn off the light!” he said before going to bed. “No, Daddy, could you stay here with me? Daddy, I’m afraid. They told all these stories about demons.”

And I wanted to say, “They’re not real.”

He goes, “Daddy, Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?”

I could feel it. I could feel warm-blanket Christianity beginning to wrap around him, a life of safety, safety, safety.

I said, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.”

And he goes, “All right. But pray I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy.”

So, tonight as I laid Charlotte down in her crib and tucked Lydia under her covers, I changed my prayer. Instead of asking God to protect them, I prayed He would make them dangerous girls, brave girls. Girls who make the enemy tremble. This mom isn’t naturally very brave, but I’ve let fear control me for far too long. It’s time to get a little dangerous.

Fajitas & Courage

Fajitas & Courage

IMG_5494This past weekend in a span of 72 hours, Matt and I traveled over 1,100 miles through five states and consumed roughly 89 gallons of Starbucks iced coffee. I will remember many, many fun memories from this weekend. The most delicious being Pappasitto’s… with their homemade tortillas which reminded me of fresh baked pita bread. And the fajitas with the little ceramic ramekin of melted butter to pour on top of the sizzling steak and chicken. At the end of the meal, I unashamedly grabbed a piece of steak and dunked it right in the butter and savored every last bite.

But truth be told, we didn’t go to Fort Worth for the food. (Although I’d probably travel all that way just for an encore of those fajitas.) It all started a few months back when my best friend of two decades, Emily, sent me a text. She and her husband lead the college and young adult ministry at Wedgwood Baptist located about a mile from Southwestern Theological Seminary. Her text said she wanted to focus their summer Ladies Retreat on overcoming fear. You might recall fear is a little something I know all too well. We chatted back and forth for a few weeks and she asked me if I would come to Fort Worth to teach. I was simultaneously scared to death (ironic, huh?) and crazy excited.

The ladies and I had so much fun Saturday. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We cried. We became fast friends. And as I prayed our last prayer to end the day, I thought about this room full of ladies and the one word that kept coming to mind was courageous. In that room sat future pastors’ and ministers’ wives.  From that room two women were headed to be missionaries on the other side of the world. And within that room were beautiful stories, stories these brave women trusted me with. Stories of determination, pain, new adventures, overcoming and heartache. I can’t help but wonder just how many lives these ladies will touch and how many hearts they will show the love of Christ. I know they have already burrowed deep and found a special place in my heart.

Saturday night, as Emily and Ethan took Matt and me on a tour of Southwestern, the sun throwing its last brilliant flame behind the flag with its proud lone star, my heart was so, so full. Full of gratitude… for two decades of friendship, for these ladies and their contagious courage and for a God who uses our pain to become our passion.