Sunday, January 29, 2012

"It's A Wonderful Life"

"Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence."
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

And that is exactly how we felt this weekend. The people we didn't personally know, friends of friends, people who adopted themselves, people who cared, all kinds of people came to our "tasting party fundraiser." We raised almost $4,000 dollars to go towards the $9,700 dollars we have left.
I know it's just a movie, but I pretend it's not.  I can't image the feeling George Bailey must have had.  All those people in his house, coming to show him that they loved him.  People he never knew loved him.  People who loved people he loved, coming to love him.  People gave towards our adoption that didn't even know us!
I could say so much.  Kenney and I have so many thoughts swirling around in our heads.  God has used our adoption to teach us so, so very much.  His faithfulness, our lack of faith, His promises, our lack of trust, His mercies, His grace, His love.  We have had an incredible opportunity to have our eyes opened. The difference between knowing and seeing.  Jesus has become so much more real to us.

Thank you to every single person who has prayed, who has supported us, who gave to us without even knowing us. Thank you for helping us glorify our Father. Thank you for reminding us...

See George, you really had a wonderful life.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pictures, Prayers, and Completly Sporadic

Literally minutes ago I received an email from our adoption agency with some updates on Isabell that I wanted to share.  Of course a new picture as well!

And so now, the reality of some things are really, really setting in.

Please pardon the complete randomness of this post, as I am doing it on a whim and totally just putting the thoughts in my head on this page.  I want to share this, and have something to go back and look at, so again, please understand the complete dis-organization!

Just looking at the picture and reading our updates we received, I realize we need so much prayer, so, so much prayer!  Isabell will be four on July 6th and doesn't walk at all yet.  I can see the way she is holding her body and arms in particular, and realize we have more than just clubbed hands and clubbed feet to deal with.  Her medical diagnosis she originally received may indeed be true (MOP/FOP).  If not that diagnosis then possibly some other "big" things to deal with.  We found out she doesn't speak either Cantonese or Mandarin, but a local dialect which is going to make us even learning a few words in advance nearly impossible.  She isn't potty trained.  Good news, she's not a picky eater they tell us though! She also weighs less than Noah (who thought that could be possible!) but is actually taller by nearly 3 inches than him!!!

Then, the biggy.... at least in my mind.  She has been, since found as a baby, in a foster home.  She has had the same foster mom and foster dad and one foster sister, who is the same age as her as well, and found as a baby too!  Oh does that hurt my heart tonight.  I watch my three kids play and realize how much they love each other, how important they are too each other.  I see so much improvement Noah has had because of Tommy and Audrey.  I see the way Audrey loves her brothers and loves playing with them.  I see how much they need each other and care for each other.  Just thinking about taking one of my children away from us, from the people they call mommy, daddy, sister, brother....I just cry.  I just break down and cry.  I can't think of any other response.

I am reminded that adoption is full of pain, suffering, and fear.  I am reminded that without sin, adoption would not exist.

I think of so many prayers I need right now.  Prayers for Isabell's health and what that is going to mean for our family.  Prayers for doctors, therapists, the right people at the right time is what we need.  Prayers for her healing.  I can not think of how she is going to feel towards us.  If you took me at age almost 4 from the people I love, the food, the language, the culture, the clothes, my toys, EVERYTHING.... and put me with a new family, culture, toys, food, language, well... I would probably hate you.  I know hate is a strong word, but I can't think of another that would be honest enough.

I know people like to "sugar-coat" these things, say it's all going to work out, say maybe it won't be that bad, maybe she'll just run to our arms and love us forever, but honestly, I do not feel God is preparing my heart for that.

the lines of a song have been in my head a couple days now, and I find them so fitting...

"I know I'm filled to be emptied again"

These words have been something I have been thinking about, and God has really been bringing to my attention daily.  This week alone, I've read four different posts on the subject, as well as heard two different radio programs.  (God has to sometimes kick me a bit it seems, before I get the point.) God has filled me up.  I manage my three kids great (most of the time).  This household for us, runs quite well, the daily routine, the schedule, the kids, Kenney, it's getting to be almost- dare I say- comfortable.  I like comfortable.  I like easy.  I like both a bit too much.  I find myself drawn towards comfort, drawn towards taking the easy way.  I have been reminded God didn't say the path was going to be easy for Christians.  I am reminded God didn't say it was going to be comfortable. 

What is coming up in the near future for our family is going to empty me.  I need God's grace and mercy.  I need to be weak so He can be strong.  I need to let go of my "comfortable" and "easy".  I need prayers.  I need to so desperately daily let go of myself.  I need to die to myself. 

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

I need to be reminded daily, what an important word for me. This isn't something, that I just learn and forget, and get to put a check mark on.  Every. Single. Day.  I need to die to myself.  I know I need this, I want so desperately to deny myself but, just like the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I realize so much I am a sinner.  I realize, that without Christ, I choose the easy way, the comfortable way.  I live for myself.  When Kenney said "who chooses this kind of thing" in his post, that is exactly what he was referring to.  As a sinner, he would NOT choose children with disabilities, children that cost too much, children a zillion miles away, as a sinner, he would choose the life that suited HIS needs best.  Oh, I praise God that He tells us that being crucified with Christ, the life we used to live according to the flesh, we can now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us, and died for us.  I praise Him, that He lives in me, and daily I can die to myself, and live in Him.

Lastly, my heart carries such a burden for one particular little girl.  Isabell has a foster sister, who has many of the same special needs as she does, that has lived with her the entirety of both their lives.  They are not legally sisters, but by every other definition of what family and a sister is, she is that.  I do not have any answers on this one, only that she and I need prayer.  I knelt with Tommy tonight saying prayers, and over and over again, as on most nights, I find myself thinking about this little girl.  I do not know why this is on my heart, but I know God has a reason.  I covet prayers.  I feel my heart is so full of prayer requests, it really just might burst!

Isn't this little girl just the sweetest thing ever though?  She was created by my God, He knit her together in her mother's womb, He has a plan for her, He knows her heart, and loves her, and I will get to be a part of it all.  That is something to be so thankful for!

1 Samuel 16:7 ...For the LORD sees not as man sees:
 man looks on the outward appearance,
 but the LORD looks on the heart

Friday, January 6, 2012

This isn't how it's supposed to be...or is it?

--Posted by Kenney

As you know my amazing wife has a passion for writing and this is my turn at blogging...oh boy.

When I think back at "my" plans it did not include the current path we are on.

Rewind 10-15 years-

During college I had aspirations to be a musical performer.  I had my first piece of music published when I was 16 and thought the 'Polish Cowboy' was the next biggest thing to hit Nashville.  Laura teases me still after all these years but is still my biggest fan.  Nashville wasn't as excited about "the Polish Cowboy" as I was and didn't have the welcome wagon out for me I learned quickly that the door was closed for me.

Then in late my late teens and early 20's this awkward frame of mine started doing things with a baseball and bat that garnished a future with a certain motor town team and I was headed full steam until that door was closed for me with both ankles requiring lateral collateral ligament repairs. Door closed again.

Still passionate about baseball and those I played with, I took the education I received and started a sports management business.  A few years of success and being one of the youngest agents out there, I was out to show the world what "I" could do.  But, the lifestyle that goes with the off-field activities crept into me and too soon I found myself with a gambling problem, drinking problem and partying problem. Living by "worldly" standards I found myself searching and lost. At that time I met my wife, and I accepted Christ. Well, God and Laura weren't too thrilled about the sport's management business and that door was very quickly closed.

Laura and I married in 2006 and we began our life together planning our future.  We were blessed with Tommy in 2007 and felt the calling to adopt NOW and not AFTER we were done having our "own" children.  (note I cringe at using the word "own", as Noah, and any of my children, adopted or not ARE, my OWN) I tell the story all the time of the day in January 2008 when Laura called me at work and told me we needed to be in Russia in 2 weeks, which was completely out of the blue as our paperwork wasn't even completed yet; then she called me ten minutes later and told me she was pregnant.  We  looked to God and asked "do we continue with the adoption or do we only pursue one child at a time?"  We were reminded in scripture in Thessalonians 5:24 "He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." It gave us comfort  in knowing we were not alone in this and His plan was unfolding.  A few weeks later and many flights to Russia, Noah arrived, shortly followed by Audrey being born healthy and no issues during the pregnancy.

It seemed like everything was going full steam until we decided to drive our future again. We drew plans for a 4500+ square foot house and even called it "Rustic Elegance".  Then as many felt the bubble pop on the housing market we were left with two houses, one that someone got a great deal on and one that a renter destroyed.  Of course, the destroyed one is the one we ultimately were going to tear down and build "Rustic Elegance" but with two mortgages, overseas many times and now 3 young kids under 3 we now live in the house that has both a golden harvest AND a rose colored tub!  I know you are jealous! We had been provided and blessed abundantly and when we tried to steer our future; you guessed it-someone closed the door.  (On a side note, I pause and thank God that during this time he sent my cousin Scott from Nashville up to help and for 6 weeks, he repaired the the inside of the house for us.  He felt the need to be there and help, and I think we would have lost our minds without him.)

You may have read the other posts regarding our craziness at that time and during that time our growing family of five in the 1800 square foot house with lovely harvest gold and rose colored bathrooms welcomed Laura's brother and sister in law into our home and their new baby as they needed a place to stay for 6 months... 2 1/2 years later they were able to move out into a home 10 minutes away so the kids can still see each other weekly. They sure do love each other like brothers and sisters instead of cousins. We decided taking care of the immediate need was more important than our future ones.  Now, we look back at 8 people, 2 dogs, 1 cat and 1 fish tank that cohabited in our house, and kinda miss it!

Crazy and hectic it was, but you know something?  That door was NEVER shut for us. Everything fell into place, and anything we tried to do other than live together and keep things the way they were just didn't work. Doors shut, and doors opened.

One of my closest friends taught me early in my walk with the Lord that sometimes it's good to not pray for doors to open in life, but to pray for doors to be closed that God doesn't want us going down.  Odd; this lesson was being taught to me only recently however in application the "doors" all along were being shut. Doors that I look back on and wonder if I did go through them what unknowns lay ahead, frighten me.

So, we are back in February of this year and I met with my two  friends that met everyThursday morning to encourage each other, read scripture and seek wisdom for our lives. I shared with them Laura and I felt our hearts being called to a door of adoption again, and honestly we just weren't sure. We prayed that if this was to be, or not, that God would close this door if he didn't want us going down it.

It was at this time we were looking at special needs children. Were we prepared for this? Again, we prayed for God to close the door if he didn't want us to go down that path.  But, with my employment, healthcare is provided readily and with Noah, and having 3-4 different therapists in our home weekly we just couldn't seem to close the door on special needs, it just seemed to be very loud and clear to us that we REALLY DO have the resources to take care of these children.  Then regarding children... I remember on our first trip to Russia sitting in the orphanage directors office; seeing the conditions and being so moved by the Spirit, I blurted out I want to adopt two instead of one.  It was too late in the game to call an audible so I told Laura if we were ever called down this road again, we would look at potentially adopting two.  Again we prayed for God to close the door if he only wanted us to adopt one.  The story of how we arrived at our two children is an amazing one, but another story in and of itself. Needless to say, the door remained very very open for us to adopt two.

In general our adoption process was quick and had no barriers or obstacles that MANY if not most adopting families encounter, Our door just kept staying open. Every single time we second guessed ourselves, faithfully God reminded us each and every time this door is open and for us to go down.  
We have struggled with where we have been led. (remember, we are still sinners living in a fallen world)  Five kids under five?  In fact, Tommy will still be four when they arrive home from China; so technically five kids under four?

Are we crazy? (don't answer that)-

The kiddos... reminding us of how blessed we already are!

Who in their right mind "chooses" this.  Already blessed with 3 children, who elects to take every penny found in the house and bank, and go out and bring home a child that is deaf and one that may never walk? Who does this? Who wants the stresses, the bills, the unknowns; who chooses that. Each time we have been led to this door and we have many times had the chance to close the door on our own, it remained not only open, but it seemed there was a giant shove behind us into it, and we have faithfully entered.

So is this how it is supposed to be?  If the doors haven't been shut, the answer is clear, for us. 

We hope and pray that with God much needed grace in our lives we can faithfully do what God wants of us, to one day hear..

Matthew 25:21  "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your Master"