Train of Opportunity

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Prayers are a tricky thing. You have to be careful what you pray for, because you might just get it. Usually, it looks nothing like what you pictured when you were on your knees.  I so often pray for grace, for wisdom. I pray for patience and peace, for understanding. For each character trait listed in Proverbs 31, which often seem so far out of my reach. Then slowly – these traits creep up on me.  Well they don’t often creep up on me, but the opportunity for each attribute appears.

It blows softly, as a quiet breeze and gently whispers in my ear. My heart, in its refined wisdom feels the gentle tug of this opportunity and I know (sigh) as the sun casts threads of pink over the rolling waves, here is my chance to be patient, or wise, or gracious.

Or you could scratch that, and it could be a touch more realistic. Opportunities barrel at me like a freight train screeching to a halt but without the ability to brake. Chaos ensues and death looms in from of me. I have no choice but to gulp for air and hope I can wrestle my petrified body off the tracks, before the headlight becomes my white light. That’s how opportunities for grace actually come.

It’s in that chaos – if I can quiet my throbbing heart, I hear my Father say, “This is what you asked for. This is how you are changed.” The train stills, the screeches go silent, and the track, once vibrating with the sound of my oncoming slaughter, is now dead beneath my feet. In this moment in time, all freezes, and floats about me. I am able to see, by the power of the Spirit, that this train is exactly what I prayed for.

If I am present in this moment I will grow. If I am aware of my surroundings I will understand.  If I see what He sees, if I hears what He hears, with His strength alone, I can put aside my anger, hurt and frustration and be everything that I am not. Patient, wise, understanding, pure of heart, sincere, gracious.

I know I can be present here and now because this train is not out of my Father’s control.

In fact it is exactly what I asked for. It’s certainly not how I pictured it, but let’s face it, who was I kidding?  I can only welcome this railroad opportunity to grow merciful, or joyful, or fearful of our God, Or a hundred other pushes and pulls that make me who I want to be.

They are usually never pleasant, often I wish there was a gentler way. But, in the pain I find rest and remembrance. Through the ache I learn. Taking comfort in the fact that my prayers are being heard and answered. That I am loved and I am learning.

Better get going, I hear that train comin’. It’s rolling round the ben

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Crazy Nervous

I was crazy nervous.

I attempted to swallow my nerves, but they got caught in my throat and pounded in my head.

The day we determined she was in South Africa was the day of our first official announcement.

We had planned weeks earlier that we would gather my family and tell them the news. But I was worried. Worried they would say things you don’t want to hear as an adoptive mom. They are not mean people, but I was fragile at this moment.

 Thankful for a Yocco’s doggie pack.

 After we devoured a basic meal tasting of our home town and enjoyed light conversation, everyone gathered in the living room. As if they knew there was something to be said. There were frequent moments of lull in the conversation, perfect for jumping in and making announcements. But I sat there mute. Even my husband texted me. Go.

 Eventually I did. I just spilled it out, I shed a few tears of joy and kept my expectations low. I wasn’t expecting cartwheels. I wasn’t expecting fireworks. But sincere excitement and joy would be nice. I would be great if it felt a bit real to them. I wasn’t sure it would. It barely felt real to me. We had come so far but had so much more to do.

Their reactions were subtle first.

I think they had to process this. I had certainly taken them of of guard. After 15 years of marriage without kids, people assume you can’t have or don’t want kids. I tried to make it clear that this was not a second choice for us. This had been a hope since I was a child. That my busy life and selfish heart had held us back.

I could see this felt more like an idea to them then a child.

 This was new territory for them after all. No one close to us had grown their family in this way. Don’t we all hesitate when we are walking down an unknown path? As the news settled with them, their faces lite up and smiles grew. There would another little girl to love. We received affectionate hugs, and words of affirmation.

 My Dad was taken back to his many mission trips. He saw the poverty, he experienced the tragedy. He was immediately passionate about this idea. His heart resonated with mine. Mom stayed up late with me after everyone left. We suddenly had more in common then being mother and daughter. We were now both moms. Or at least, I was on my way to being one.

My brothers reacted as I thought they would.

It felt a bit distant but joy filled. They chuckled in happiness as men do. They told us they loved us, would pray for us and waited for an update. I smiled and thought “Just wait till you guys meet her. I’m going to have to pry her out of your arms.” The responses from the kids were as varied as their ages. But all what I expected. They would learn in this. And that was ok with me.

The cat was out of the bag.

One more thing done. One step closer to reality. I had no reason to be nervous. It’s silly I allowed myself to get so worked up. All you want in life is your family’s support and love. I had it. On to the next part of this journey.

We’re coming baby girl.

The Effects

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“The effects of the mission trip continue.”

This was said recently when we announced that we would be adopting a daughter from South Africa. Earlier this year we took 16 of our youth group kids to South Africa. We spent two weeks at a primary school. Loving kids who have literally nothing. Their joy and affection touched our hearts. The people who run this school are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. As we came home I was grieved. It was true. It had affected us both greatly.

Months later, we agreed on an international adoption.

My husband and I met with our case worker to discuss country specifics and get clarification. We were able to pursue Hong Kong, Albania, Bulgaria, China and South Africa. My hands throbbed as we sat down. I am not very good at waiting quietly. With each decision, we felt closer and closer to her. And I was ready to take another leap of love. Our caseworker confirmed some countries were out, we did not meet their requirements. She wouldn’t be from China, or Albania. Hong Kong and Bulgaria were not an option. These two countries required things we weren’t comfortable with presently.

South Africa was staring me in the face.

I looked at the paperwork – our caseworker answered our very detailed questions. She clarified her answers, then answered them again. I wanted to make sure this was a fit. I didn’t want to make it fit simply because all other countries were out of reach. With each answer another blossom of hope grew. It was reasonable to hope for fairly healthy. It was reasonable to hope for under four. It was reasonable to wait 1-2 years.

My husband confirmed it.

Before we left that meeting, without talking to me in private, he said “Well, I guess it’s South Africa!” It was South Africa! I joined in easily and confirmed with all my heart that she was in South Africa! We would join the South Africa program. Another choice made. Another step closer. Another bit about her known to us. So much joy!

God is SO in the details.

Isn’t our God great? Our caseworker started to wrap up out meeting. It had been successful on all fronts. I smiled and said “God is in the details. Because we already love those kids. Our hearts are already there!” We serve a Father who loves to give gifts to his children.

I hugged my husband in the parking lot.
More like I threw myself at him. I felt like I had just gotten engaged. We had a plan. We were pushing forward. We decided to go out for lunch before we split for the day. I got a massive cappuccino which was stupid at best because I was already jittery from my excitement. I just wanted to revel in the joy of knowing this. She’s in South Africa somewhere.

So God choose our country for us.

He is telling us to run to South Africa. The effects of the trip? Yes. For sure. I was broken by the trip. I stopped thinking of impoverished children as someone else’s responsibility. My heart was torn out and stitched back in while we were there. But did we choose South Africa because of our trip? No. That was just God tossing an additional blessing our way.

The Spark

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It started with a spark.

Adoption was on my heart since I was a child. Back then life was simple, logical. These kids needed families, and food, and love, I had all of those, so I planned on sharing it with them. But as life took over, it became a distant dream. It became something that I saw myself doing, but never now, not this year, not yet. Always later. I wasn’t ready yet. I thought things, and felt things and hated the part of me that spoke the honest but hurtful pains in my heart. I didn’t know how to resolve them. So I didn’t.

Then I got an email.

My husband and I had attended a screening of Find Me, a documentary on adoption featuring a family that attended our church. People I barely knew but respected from a distance. They were some of those uber-Christians. They had memorized the entire Bible. Backwards. I was pretty sure of it. The mom of this clan offered me an opportunity to ask questions, in what she promised would be a safe environment. I cautiously replied and we met a few days later.

We talked for hours.

I’m not sure I can remember what was even said. I know I feared not loving enough. I know I voiced my concerns, and my frustrations in lacking the ability shed them. I told her that I had recently come to see children differently. They were no longer distant strangers, but instead innocents who needed help. How could I turn away? Still I struggled with, what if I couldn’t love? What if my heart wasn’t big enough? What if it was hard? What if a child messed up our marriage, our ministry? I was so busy already. How was I supposed to fit a child in the mix?

At the same time, My heart ached for these lost kids. Kids without families, security, hope, love. I wanted to help them. I knew we would have whatever it took, I just wasn’t sure if I was willing to give it. I know now that so much of my fear was really ignorance. Ignorance to the process. Ignorance of a Great God. A lack of trust. A cord of disobedience. She said many things that hit my heart, but one that I will never forget,

“If you feel called to this journey then there is most likely a child waiting for you                                                                                                                                               at the end of the paperwork.”

 Oh. My daughter. She’s waiting for me.

 She waiting for us. She’s anxious for us. She looking for us. She’s hoping for us. How can I abandon her?

After hours of talking I pulled my coat around my shoulders, threw my head back, hands in pockets and groaned. “Ahhhh I think we’re going to do it.” Over the next few days the burden was lifted, my selfish desires fell away.

The spark was reignited. Life became simple again. Logical. That distant dream has become a real purpose. She’s out there waiting. We have to go get her.

I found joy in obedience.

Since that night my joy has multiplied a hundredfold. And I don’t even know her name….