Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Held.

If I close my eyes and go back in time, I can still remember that day so vividly I can feel it. Jimmy and I nervously paced the confines of our hotel room, my father-in-law by our sides. We were anxiously awaiting the call from our guide that he had finally arrived.

When the phone rang--seemed like an eternity--and the words we waited for were a reality, we quickly gathered our things and headed to the elevator. We made our way up to a conference room on another floor and there he was. Daniel. The two-year-old baby whom we'd completely fallen in love with over the months we'd waited and prepared for him. He was right there in front of us. 

He was handed to me, and I could immediately see he was scared. Tears welled up in his eyes but he was so brave. I knew that he needed to feel my unconditional love, and as I held him and patted his chest, his crying stopped within a minute or two. I felt the Mama Bear rise up within me when I made that harsh realization that he was ill. His pained, watery eyes and bright red, flushed cheeks revealed it; my lips meeting his burning forehead confirmed it. The Orphanage Director suggested that he see a pediatrician when we returned to the U.S. Did she not realize that our son was a medically-fragile child? Could she not see that he needed immediate attention, especially knowing he had a broken heart? It gave us a stark, new up-close-and-personal picture of the situation across the world. Orphanages do not always have the resources to care for those left behind. And the poor health of these children does not always make them a priority in a situation where there are too many of them to count. They did their best though, and I thanked God my son was finally in my arms that had ached to hold him for so long.

As I asked questions about Daniel and found out how long he'd been sick, my mind was already thinking ahead to getting pain relievers and antibiotics into his body as soon as humanly possible. I earned his trust with a container of Cheerios, placing them nonchalantly into my hand and slipping them into his mouth until he finally felt comfortable enough to retrieve them from my hand himself.

I remember the "war" we fought (shared in Chapter Five) with his multiple layers of clothing, trying to cool him down by removing some of them but, at the same time, carefully honoring his attachment to the only items in the whole world that belonged to him. It seemed like forever in that conference room, waiting for my motherly instincts to tell me that he was ready to separate from those he was familiar with and enter a whole new world with those he wasn't. But in my heart, I know he knew. In that short time, Daniel knew that I was fighting for him.

That night in our hotel room, we began to gain his trust as we soaked in those first hours with him and slowly nursed him back to health. His layers of fear and uncertainty were gently pulled back, one by one. And though my soul longs to hold our angel again on this side of Heaven, I stand firm with belief that Jesus holds Daniel in his arms now. And that fills me with all kinds of peace and hope today as I sit wearing the very same shirt I wore when I first held our boy. What a treasured anniversary.
 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Little did we know

Seven years ago, on this very day, we boarded a plane for China.

Little did we know...

Little did we know how fuzzy your little head would be, or that you had the most beautiful dimples, or that you had the sweetest voice ever.

Little did we know how brave you would be.

Little did we know what a wise old soul you were.

Little did we know how saying yes to you would change us forever, in ways that we never imagined.

Little did we know just how much joy you would give to our family.

Little did we know how much our faith had been--and would be--strengthened beyond measure by loving you and bringing you home.

Little did we know how you would rally our community in prayer and bring countless people to their knees.

Little did we know that one million or more tears would fall from our eyes, and that human hands wouldn't heal your broken heart, but Jesus would.

Little did we know how you would open our hearts so fiercely for the orphan, and that three more children would come home after you.

Little did we know what a blessing you would be, more than we could ever possibly dream of, son.

But God knew. He knew every hair on your head and He knew that you were worth the risk. Because love is always worth the risk.

I thank God we boarded that plane seven years ago.

Little did we know.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Unwrapping the Gift

Something felt different to me this Advent season and I couldn't pinpoint exactly what was missing. And then, as I searched my heart, I realized that many of our Advent seasons have not only been surrounded in our joyful expectation of Jesus' birth, but also in the joyful hope of waiting for our own "child births" through the gift of adoption. This is the first year of many that we were not--in one way or another--in the midst of adopting a child. 

There's something about the adoption process that puts your heart--your mind--into that same space--joyfully, hopefully, expectantly waiting for the arrival of something amazing--something that will change your very being and turn you upside down in a God way. Much like waiting for Jesus. It's a journey that feels uncomfortable and harder than almost anything at times, but in the end you walk out a different person, and your faith is galvanized. It's like this great, big gift that's unwrapped through the process. While I do acknowledge that our nest feels perfectly full right now with four little souls {five including our angel} whom I love with all my heart, I can honestly say that I miss unwrapping the gift. 

As I reflect upon our tremendous list of blessings {especially the fact that our five precious children have come home} and thank God for each of them, my gaze shifts focus to the future. Lord, how will I fill that space for the least of these this year and next without adoption? And I realize that the Holy Spirit's already set those wheels in motion. For, in 2016, our charitable ministry called Open Hearts for Orphans was born, and many little lives have already been blessed. That, friends, is where my energy for the orphan will be genuinely harnessed for now. Until we are called back for more, this is where and how we'll be unwrapping the gift.

Can't wait to see where God leads. Join me?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Breaking Light

Social media makes the world so much smaller, doesn't it? Just recently, I posted a comment in response to a Facebook post that Ann Voskamp had written about ministry. It said, "The size of your ministry isn't proof of the success of your ministry."

It resonated with me so deeply having dedicated so much energy to our labor of love in Daniel's memory over these past few years. And I had just written out our $50 donation for the new cardiac care center, called Dew Drops, for abandoned and medically fragile children. Our donation seemed small. But God...

A day later, I was contacted by a woman from the Netherlands who had seen my comment and wanted to inquire about our said ministry. Turns out, Anna and her friend, Wendy, have spent the summer writing a poignant and inspirational series of posts called Breaking Light on their faith-filled blogs called Joy of the Spirit Within and Widow's Manna. With their ministry of sharing, they hope to "open doors and expose the amazing light God shines from those who know pain and adversity and heartache."

Next thing you know, we were working on an interview together. The questions challenged me, and at times I felt a loss for words, but then I watched Anna and Wendy bring my words to life! And I realized how the Holy Spirit had worked within me-within us-as a team. Here are some fine examples of their inspirational creativity, and if you feel inclined to read the whole interview, you can get it here. If my words make an impact on just one, it would be a wonderful blessing to me. All Glory to God. I'm so thankful for these Spirit-led connections that allow us to break light!

{If you'd like to read more about Anna Smit and her book, Love Embraced, find it here.}


 



Saturday, June 25, 2016

I could never...

I could never adopt a boy.

I could never adopt a child with a serious medical condition.

I could never adopt an older child.

I could never adopt a child with unknowns.

I could never adopt a child with a neurological diagnosis.

I've written this post a million times in my head over the past ten years, as the list of  "I could nevers" has grown, and I'm ashamed to admit that these were all thoughts that, at some point, belonged to me.

I owned them all.

I stand amazed, as I reflect on each one, how God has used every one of our adoptions as a gateway... a gateway to a more open heart. Those were all limitations that I put on myself, and God's plans were obviously so much better than mine. He knew there was so much more in me. We now live with all of these  "I could nevers" in our home, and in our hearts. 

You see, alone--I couldn't. But with Jesus--we could.  

He is the source of our strength. He is the source of our courage to say yes to all of the fears and doubts and "I could nevers" that could have stopped us from embracing the biggest blessings of our lives...all five of them. We simply needed to trust and follow Him. And now--with confidence, an open heart, and over-brimming faith, I can say...

I could adopt a boy.

I could adopt a child with a serious medical condition.

I could adopt an older child.

 I could adopt a child with unknowns.

I could adopt a child with a neurological diagnosis.

Because I have. 

Maybe you could too. 

"But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace."
Galatians 1:15 NLT

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Printed or Paperless...

Somehow, in the hustle and bustle of our adoption to bring our Lulu home, I forgot to post that With an Open Heart is now available in Kindle edition! The price is only $5.99, which is almost half the cost of the original version's e-book and just another reason why I love publishing through CreateSpace! As an added bonus for those who've purchased a printed copy on Amazon, you can purchase the Kindle version for just $2.99!!

As a reminder, all proceeds of With an Open Heart are donated to orphan care ministries in Daniel's memory, so we thank you for your continued support!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

February proceeds - Morning Star Foundation

When a sweet Facebook friend, Jean, who writes a beautiful blog, decided to share a book review with others in February, I asked her to choose the charity for the month. And her choice? Morning Star Foundation. Since a very important part of our giving, in Daniel's memory, is for charities that care for babies and children with broken hearts like his, there was no question that Morning Star would be a future beneficiary of our proceeds--it was simply a matter of "when," and I was thrilled with Jean's perfect choice for CHD Awareness month. February also happens to be an extra-special month for us because Daniel's birthday was February 2.   

I first "met" Meredith, the Director of Morning Star, about two years ago on Facebook. This amazing young woman has made it her mission, along with other loving nannies, to foster some of the sweet orphans in China who need it most. These women pour out every ounce of their energy to these babies. Many times they blossom, sometimes they endure painful struggles, and sometimes, much to our sadness, Meredith watches them go home to Jesus. This young lady's probably seen more in her years than most of us will in our entire lifetime. She puts her heart out there on a daily basis for those babies, and I was honored to include Morning Star as a trusted Resource in the revised version of With an Open Heart.

When it came time to choose which child would receive the donation (not an easy choice at all), Jean chose a very special baby named Lilah Lu, one of their newest little gems. She arrived at the Morning Star home as a ten-month old baby, barely weighing seven pounds. Lilah has a complicated heart condition, and they have been working hard to pack some pounds on her, so she can receive the heart surgery necessary to heal her broken heart. As of the latest updates, Lilah Lu needs our fervent prayers. She is still on the ventilator in ICU fighting to breathe as the world waits and prays for her lungs to recover. She won't be a candidate for surgery until her lungs can heal, and her road ahead will not be easy.

We sold forty books in February and an anonymous Facebook friend with a very large heart stepped forward at the last minute with an unbelievable offer to match triple our donation! We are grateful for your purchases of the book, which raised almost $650 for Lilah Lu. If you feel led to help support the Morning Star babies, you can see them all here to let hope shine. And please keep them, and their amazing caregivers, in your prayers.