An adoption update after our first court date

An adoption update after our first court date

Your prayers and texts and emails and sweet words of encouragement covered us last week. Thank you. Because of the type of case E’s is at this court date her file was opened and entered into the MoWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) court process. Our agency staff does not have to be at this court date. So, the update is that things went according to the standard plan. While we don’t have any earth shattering news, these small but significant steps are bringing us closer to bringing our girl home.

While this might seem like a tiny step when we were hoping for a part the sea miracle, our prayers were not in vain nor a waste. I can’t wait to tell our girl how on a specific day during Advent, hundreds of people prayed specifically for her. What a display of God’s incredible pursuit of her. And I’m reminded how we have no idea what God is up to beyond our sight in places and people and offices we cannot see. There’s a verse in Revelation that I have in the front of my prayer journal. “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints.” Last week, I kept imagining that bowl, and I just saw it getting bigger and bigger as our tribe interceded for E. Our prayers don’t disappear. They continually go before the Lord Almighty because of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ. These prayers you have prayed for E are eternal, and I get chill bumps when I think of how God will use the prayers you have prayed over her life. I believe He is at work right now in Ethiopia in specific and magnificent ways whether we can see it or not.

Yes, it is hard to wait, especially as our five year mark of beginning our adoption journey looms near in January. I’m feeling every one of those months, even more so as we see our baby girl grow bigger and look older with each month’s pictures and medical reports. But this journey has changed Matt and me and even our girls in a way we could never have imagined. In a thousand ways we are learning obedience, trust, dependence, and the never-ending goodness of our God.

“The essential thing in ‘heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

Quote by Friedrich Nietzsche in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Here are some specific ways you can pray for us in the coming months…

PAIR letter//This Pre-Approval Immigration Review verifies her US citizenship status upon entering American soil. We cannot receive our second court date until we get this. They told us it usually takes 6 months. We were submitted to PAIR late November.

Travel plans//We are making one trip and will be in Ethiopia about three weeks. E will join us after our court date at the beginning of the trip. We will hang out and bond in Ethiopia until her visa is granted by the US Embassy so she can travel. We are taking Lydia with us. Our other girls will stay with grandparents.

Bonding & Attachment//This is a huge prayer need. Our girl is going to go through much loss and separation in the coming months as she moves from her orphanage to our home. We are praying for God to supernaturally knit our hearts together and for the hard and patient work of learning to trust and depend upon each other.

 

As we enter into the final days of Advent, I read this in Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, “And when we sinned and weren’t satisfied with what God gives, as if we refused to breathe air and died, when we longed for something different, something more, something better, He came and gave us Himself.

To know and trust God’s sovereignty means to be satisfied with what God has given me in this moment. Certainly, He invites and encourages me to pray fervently but in the same breath to live satisfied in Him. He came and gave us Himself. May the wonder of that never leave me. May that be the focus of my worshipping heart this Christmas.

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Adoption Update

Adoption Update

“Everybody wants to see the Red Sea split, but no one wants to walk up to it. We pray asking God to see a miracle, to be part of a miracle, but then with the very next breath we pray asking Him to never ever put us in any position where we would actually need a miracle.” ~Priscilla Shirer at Propel Conference

Whether I was brave enough to ask for it or not, we are at the Red Sea. We are right up on it, maybe smack dab in the middle of it. In his book The Red Sea Rules, Robert Morgan offers up the possibility that the Red Sea didn’t split all at once from coast to coast. Perhaps, with each step God hemmed back more and more of the sea. Maybe the whole time the Israelites saw water, water, and more water, but they kept walking.

We are stepping forward, and with each step the mighty hand of our God pushes the sea back. We got word that we have been submitted to court and that our family coordinator expects to have our PAIR papers very soon. We are at the point that we will have two processes running concurrently–our court process and our PAIR process. PAIR stands for Pre-Adoption Immigration Review. The PAIR process allows USCIS to review the child’s case for immigration status prior to our adoption in Ethiopian court. While that is going on, our court process will be moving along as well as we anxiously await our court date.

Please join us in praying for both of these processes to move with supernatural speed and efficiency. Speaking of prayer, I cannot say thank you enough for your response to my request for prayer around the clock for our girl. You flooded that page, even the middle of the night hours (thank you friends in Israel, Australia, and all of you with wee babies for covering those spots!) I am printing off a copy of her prayer tribe for her story book. Together, we are watching God do a miracle. And I’ll be filling out some more paper work and singing Bethel’s “Jesus We Love You” on repeat.

Would you take a slot to pray for our E?

Would you take a slot to pray for our E?

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetI was looking through some old stuff in my prayer notebook the other day, and I found notes from a Women’s Conference this spring. Tucked into the bottom corner, I have these words from teacher Dana James, “We’re all brave until we realize the cockroach has wings.”

That’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. The cockroach has wings. My faith is being tested in ways it never has before. I feel more desperate than brave. If you’re in a similar place, meditate on these words from Psalm 71.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. (Psalm 71:17-21 ESV, emphasis mine)

Until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come–that’s my anthem. There have been so many days recently that I wanted to give up. But this journey isn’t just about me and Matt. It’s about proclaiming His might to another generation, His power to all those to come. And it’s preparation for the journey to come, for the hard, grueling work of turning over tender, vulnerable parts of our daughter’s story (and our own brokenness) to the Redeemer so He can do His healing work.

This was my prayer to God this morning after reading this psalm, “You showed us her face. You gave us her name. You did that. Now you bring her home.” I’m believing the tribe praying for our E is impacting far more than just our one beautiful daughter. I believe they are impacting an orphanage, a city, an entire country to proclaim your might to another generation. 

With everything going on in Ethiopia right now, I would like to get a prayer list going where E’s tribe takes different times of the day to pray for her and for Ethiopia–a relentless call for our God to do what only He can do. You would have one time slot per week. The time slot will be an hour long, but you can set an alarm for your time slot, and you can take a few minutes during that hour to pray for E and for Ethiopia. Would you be willing to help carry our girl home through prayer? You can leave a comment on the blog or FB or IG if you’d like a prayer slot.

Is Jesus Enough?

Is Jesus Enough?

I gave my key away–the one I wore around my neck, the one my Mamaw jokingly thought was my house key, the one with the word dwell engraved into its aged brass. This isn’t a story of my generosity. If you knew my initial reluctance, you would see a glimpse of my selfish brokenness.

But I was in the shower a few weeks ago (read: a mom’s semi-quiet space to think) when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give away my key to a friend. Matt gave me the key last Christmas because he knew my word for the new year was dwell. In the shower I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it to her at Christmas. That’s a great idea, Holy Spirit.” But I felt Him say to me, “No, now. Give it to her now.” I love this friend so much, but the giving away of the key was more than giving a necklace. It was a surrender, a declaration to a trusted friend that even if my desires don’t come to fruition, Jesus is enough. I wrote her a letter to go with it, and it went something like this . . .

Dear friend,

I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give this to you. As you know my word for this year was dwell. At the beginning of the year, I hoped this might be the year we got to put down roots in a new home, to spread out a bit and create a new space for our family to dwell. But then we got the call and knew we needed to stay in this house for home study reasons so as not to mess anything up with our dossier in Ethiopia. And so I thought the word dwell would represent our Ethiopian daughter coming to dwell with us, united with her forever family. And while I still pray and hope God does the impossible, I recognize that unless God intervenes in a supernatural way she won’t be here before the end of the year.

While God might not have answered my prayers as I originally desired and on the timetable I had in mind, He gave me something even greater. He has shown me that in the midst of much uncertainty and right in the middle of the pain of waiting His presence dwells within me as a child of God. He has shown me that the opportunity to dwell in His presence is always there and always enough. I’ve prayed many prayers and sung many songs to my God with my hand wrapped around this key. Now, it’s yours to grip while you pray the prayers He has placed on your heart and sing the song He’s given you, while you dwell in His presence as He writes your next chapter.

With all my love,

Liss

Sometimes, for reasons He knows and I don’t have to, He moves in ways different than I prayed for. Sometimes, the loved one isn’t healed and the job isn’t saved, the pregnancy isn’t rescued and the timeline isn’t quickened. But the gift of this year has been finding His presence is always there. I can always dwell under His wings, and He is always enough. My raw, broken heart can be honest with Him, and He is always a safe place for my weary heart to find rest.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2 ESV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2 ESV)

Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:22-24 ESV)

 

Stones and Boulders and Scary Prayers

Stones and Boulders and Scary Prayers

 Stones before battle. I’ve never noticed the order before, but there’s something there, don’t you think? He does the miracle, makes the impossible possible, parts the Jordan. But we don’t just sit and chill. We battle. We fight–but not in our strength, in His! We battle on our knees and with splayed Bibles, with tears and joy.

And what did Joshua tell God’s children, his warriors, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

If we never had a Jordan to cross, never had the impossible before us, never faced adversity, would we get to see the fullness of God’s mighty hand? I know it was never God’s plan for us to experience pain, but doesn’t our Jordan give us a chance to see God dry up the mighty river?

This is me telling you there are plenty of times that I’m like, “Really, I think I’ll just sit here on the side of this river today, God. I’m just exhausted. I want to see you do the impossible. But I know there’s a battle on the other side, and I’m bone-tired.”
And this is why we need the stones. We need the stones to be our push, our steady foundation, our cornerstone.

That prayer you’ve been afraid to pray–let’s pray it today. The one that scares you. The Only God prayer–that’s the one for today.

A friend emailed me right after we got E’s referral and told me she was praying E was “home before the honeycrisps.” I smiled so big when I read her prayer. One–because she knows my love for honeycrisps. And two–because she had the courage to pray such a specific prayer. When I first read it, I thought, “There’s no way. No way it could go that quickly.” And then another friend told me she was praying for six months. Six months to have E home. And, again, I loved the specific prayer she was praying, but it’s impossible. But over the past few days I’ve been praying their prayers–the prayers I was too afraid to pray.

And the deal is–God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. No matter when and how He chooses to move, I know He is faithful. I know He is good. I know these things because I have my stones. I can see His faithfulness time and time again, through dark days and joy-filled days. But I love what Joshua said to the people before they crossed the Jordan, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you . . . .” Praying scary prayers gives me a chance to see the Living God. Praying scary prayers gets me on my knees for battle.

If you were to look back in my writing from the past couple years, you would notice there are very few posts about our adoption. Certainly not because I wasn’t thinking about it, but because I was so weary and so discouraged. I was barely hanging on, and, really, I was only hanging on because there were others lifting my arms. The whole stones thing has become a running commentary for Heather and me. I just went back to look at my text thread with her, and for the first time I realized these texts took place hours before we found out about our daughter. These texts started at 7:48 AM. We got the call about E at 3:45 that afternoon. Only God.



So, if you should happen to see boulders in a yard in Memphis and a yard in Ocala, just know . . . Only God. Let’s pray the scary prayer today. Let’s be ready to battle on our knees. The Living God is among us.

How to Make a Prayer Journal ~ Part 1

How to Make a Prayer Journal ~ Part 1

For the first twenty-five years of my life, there were a few moments of fervent prayer–when that boy with the green Jeep and the Bama bangs asked me for my phone number, when I took the ACT and a few years later the MCAT, when Katrina hit New Orleans two months before I was supposed to get married there. They were mostly selfish prayers, things I wanted God to give me, a wish list of sorts–although I would never have called it that. But prayer felt a lot like me asking with a big please and a cherry on top and then waiting to get an answer.

And then a woman named Miss Nan said to me words that would burrow deep in my heart, “When you don’t know what to pray, pray God’s Word.” Like the Israelites when Moses told them to gather all the gold and jewelry from the Egyptians before they started their exodus, God was using Miss Nan’s words to give me the tools I didn’t realize I would need in the future. Her words would stay with me, but I wouldn’t have much need for them yet. Life was good, and I thought I had everything under control. January of 2009 came, and after a few years of being married we were excited to find out I was pregnant. I remember telling Matt one cold Saturday morning, both of us elated to become parents. Only a month or so later and two days after hearing a beautiful, strong heartbeat, we lost the baby. I was devastated. Over the course of the next several months, we would walk through that whole nightmare again with the loss of our second baby. During those days, I would pull out my Bible to read and pray because I knew that’s what I was “supposed” to do, but mostly I just cried letting my tears spill over the pages. I started have awful nightmares where I would hear the heartbeat and wake up thinking everything was okay only to realize the truth, that our babies were in Heaven and my womb was empty.

It was during this time that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind what Miss Nan had taught me about praying Scripture. I opened up my Bible to where I had been reading in Luke 1. I had read Luke 1:45 several times over the past few months, but this time I grabbed that verse and clung to it. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” This was the angel speaking to Mary, but I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, “Elissa, you will be a mom. I have a plan that only I know, but believe in me. Have faith in what I can do, not what you can do.” I wrote that verse on a little pink sticky note and put it on my bedside table. Whenever I woke up in the middle of the night or couldn’t go to sleep or saw another pregnant belly while feeling my own empty arms, I prayed that verse. I couldn’t even guess how many times I have prayed it. Thousands for sure. It’s a verse I still pray over Lydia and my list of waiting moms today.

Those dark days began a great journey for me, one I’m still on today. God has used several incredible women to teach me on this journey, and I want to share what they have taught me. If you’re interested, I will show you how I created my prayer journal and how God is using prayer to change this fearful, perfectionist, broken person into a woman who gets to see firsthand the power of God. That’s how my journey started. Your journey may be similar, or it may be completely different. Three of my favorite ladies wanted to create their own prayer journals, and once a month we are getting together to add to our journals and encourage each other in prayer. Among the four of us, we have seven kids five and under, so it’s a calm, peaceful setting for sure. (Ha!) If you’re in the middle of craziness, don’t worry. Your crazy is at home here.

To get started you don’t need much, but let’s talk about a few basics.

  1. Binder: I have a cheap, plastic one-inch binder from Target. I felt just fine about it until one of the ladies showed up with this beautiful navy and gold floral fabric covered binder, and I suddenly had binder envy. But a plain, plastic one will do just fine! There’s a decent chance you have one in a box that you can take stuff out of, or maybe you can steal one from your kids. If we were really cool, we’d have Trapper Keepers (child of the 80s here). I digress. Just get you a binder. (Why a binder instead of a notebook? I like being able to rearrange stuff and add in pages.)
  2. Page Protectors: These aren’t crucial, but I love them because you can easily add pictures and stones (more about that on a future blog) and you can easily move things around if needed. Also, they help the paper last, and we want to have these words for years to come.
  3. Dividers: To make your notebook look pretty, my talented friend Lindsey Pilgreen of B&H Handmade used her pretty lettering to create dividers for the different sections of your binder. Click here for the Dividers pdf. You’ll print them on normal 8.5×11 sheets of paper. Some of the dividers are self-explanatory, and others we will talk about in future posts.
  4. Bible: It goes without saying that you can’t pray Scripture unless you are reading and studying Scripture daily. There are tons of reading plans out there. I am a big fan of the Chronological Bible because I didn’t pay attention in history class, and this helps me see how all the pieces fit together within the context of history. Also, it keeps me from skipping harder sections of the Bible. But you can do whatever reading plan you like. Bible Gateway has a list of plans if you need help finding one. I also highly recommend Angie Smith’s Seamless study. (The videos are not necessary for the study, but they are great. If you want to watch those, you can get them on Lifeway’s site.) If the context and history of the Bible overwhelms you like it did me, this six-week study will help you put all the pieces together. You can do Seamless and finish it before the end of the year and then start a one-year Bible reading plan in January. (How’s that for timing?!)

That’s all you need to get started! So as not to overwhelm you, I split this into four separate blogs. The next one will be published next Monday, November 16th. It will be about why we pray God’s Word, and if you’re wondering why one of the divider pages has Revelation 5:8 on it, we’ll talk about that too! The third blog will help you start filling up your blank pages with verses, and it will also help you if you don’t know where to start. That one will be published next Thursday, November 19th. And the last one will be published Monday, November 23rd, and we will talk about adding pictures and stones to our journals. I know that’s fast, but don’t feel like you have to complete it in that time frame. It took me the better part of a year to get mine together, and I still add to it every week. Also, I will say this on a future post, but don’t feel like you have to make it pretty. I have the dividers Lindsey made in mine, but that and the pictures of my beautiful girls are the only “pretty” parts of my journal. I’m not a scrapbooky, crafty type person, so if you’re like me don’t worry. The beauty comes in the words of Scripture.

Okay, I’m really excited! I hope you’ll join us, and I can’t wait to hear about your journey!

31

31

It’s early in the morning on my 31st birthday. My big girl woke me up needing some water and a hug. She’s back asleep now, but I’m awake. Lying here with the fan whirling and the sound of Peach’s noise machine crashing waves over the baby monitor. A few weeks ago I texted a sweet friend who is almost a decade younger, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m loving my 30s.” Of course, now I’m telling all my someones. 

At dinner last night over barbecue shrimp and crabmeat and heirloom tomatoes and the most delicious redfish of my life, Matt and I talked about many things. But one of them was how I feel like I know what my thing is now, the thing God has me here to do. I don’t have the words to write it succinctly right now, but I can feel it every day. It happens at my dining room table with a white plastic notebook and my Bible. It’s a hundred sticky notes with verses that I’m praying for myself, my husband, my girls, my Ethiopian, my friends, perfect strangers who are no longer strangers because their names have crossed my lips countless times. 

It’s me and my Bible cracked and God’s Word alive. It’s most days with tears because I can’t ever get over the awe that the God who spoke and stars glittered the sky cares about a girl like me. It’s the texts and the names beside verses and the joy I feel when the Holy Spirit gives me a verse to pray for someone. Is there anything more humbling and more honorable than to be able to pray for someone? I’m finding it my life’s greatest joy. 

Dear 20s, you might have had the great metabolism and no wrinkles or gray hair. But I wouldn’t go back for anything. To be awakened early in the morning by the child who daily shows me God’s faithfulness is the richest kind of blessing. To remember how He used dark days to drive me to my knees and begin a journey of prayer is my weapon against fear. To know the love of a God who speaks to me every day through His Word is the honor of my life. And to break and pour and share that love with others is my purpose. Here’s to 31 and all the messy beautiful ahead.