Set My Heart on You

All my life I’ve wanted to be wise.

Wise and in love with Jesus; fully dependent on him and him alone. I’ve made strides to be that person, but I never felt like I made substantial progress. I wasn’t using this time on Earth well. I have been inefficient with the days God had given me. I had so much to learn, I still have so much to learn. The more I learn, the more I don’t know.

About 2 years ago, when we filed paperwork for our first adoption, when made a commitment, told our families, and fronted thousands of dollars, I knew I was in for it. I knew that I would be a different person at the end of this journey then I was at the beginning.

I was ok with it.

Over the past 2 years the lessons I have learned have been tremendous and good. I have watched as God provided strength, wisdom, people, encouragement, joy, love, laughter, perseverance, energy, and family. Did I mention support?

God has made himself known in so many ways that feel good. Everything I mentioned above – feels good, is life giving; uplifting.

But God makes himself known in hard ways as well.

Here, in the waiting, I have never felt a more constant ache; almost a gnawing. It’s like I am always hungry for my girls, hungry for their affection and laughter, hungry to have them home, hungry to love them, hungry to be complete. I am always hungry and never satisfied.

Yet I have never been closer to Jesus.

Hungry for his Word, aching to understand it; striving to hide it in my heart; turning to it for comfort, singing it for peace, holding onto its promises. Not that he will grant me my desires, but that He will be with all of us no matter what.

I know that there are reasons for the wait that I may never know or understand. I know there are excuses presented that I will never believe or accept. But I also know that

Dependency on my father, is more important than delivery of my children.       

This is hard to type, and harder to voice. I want Jesus close to me more then I want my girls close to me. If we have to wait, so I can draw nearer to God, then please let us wait. This waiting is bitter, but I have never found such sweetness in the Lord than right now.

No matter when and even if you bring them home, I am thankful for this time. It’s been you and me. Actually, it’s been you carrying me. You uphold me with joy, peace, and kindness. I will be satisfied in your love and trusting in your knowledge, your power and your grace. I have set my heart on you. I have set my heart on all that you are. Thank you for carrying me. I will cling to the promise that you will never let me go.

Set My Heart – Vertical Church Band https://youtu.be/A8pMqbDAEP0 @verticalchband

 

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Think about His Love

Sometimes I think about being on that boat.

An unapologetic scent of fish; seagulls flocking on the horizon. Mist of the water finding it’s way across the deck while the wind tangles my hair. Warmth from the sun, signs of life surround and hues of blue cascade on the open water.  It’s a beautiful thing, being a tiny speck on a grand ocean. It unlocks an appreciation for this beautiful world. Makes one feel small, almost a comfort of sorts.

Without proper warning a storm is upon me.  The wind has changed, demanding my respect and threatening my very breath. Sunlight has evaporated, and the blues turned dark, gray and cold. They thrash against the vessel in a tyranny of rage. Desperate to save myself but frozen in fright; I don’t know where to turn, what to do, or where to go. It seems that no one does. No one has answers. No one can help. Any attempts to salvage the ship and avoid ruin are in vain. A simple shore excursion has turned, without warning, into a violent and imminent death.

As fast as it came, it’s gone; without explanation; without effort; beyond my comprehension or understanding; not a moment too early or a moment too late. A calm has broken through the thunder and split the clouds. I can breath again. Surefooted, relived but alarmed, I squint in the unexpected glare.

And I’m reminded of his love.

Think about his love, Think about his goodness, Think about his grace, That’s brought us through. For as high as the Heavens above, So great is the measure of our Father’s love.

I can see his face, never threatened by the storm or alarmed by the winds. Instead he is kind, calm, and gentle, powerful and loving.

I know he knows better and bigger then I do. I know he loves better and bigger then I do. I know he does not see this as a challenge but instead an opportunity for him to be glorified. I know he is for my good.

When I take my eyes off of him, I fumble and fail. But when I look at him, and focus on him, I am reminded of his incomparable goodness. His perfect love. His unsurpassed knowledge. His limitless power. There is nothing I want more then to be focused on him, see him work in every detail and then give him all the glory.

So great is our God, that he allows no room for fear, doubt, or despair. He has gifted me with trust. He is sovereign and he is good.

God may I be totally satisified in you. Meditating on your grace, kindness, generosity and love. May this storm be a beacon for your glory. May this life be a platform for your name. May this family be a parallel to the Gospel.

May the name of Jesus be lifted up.

 

The Helplessness of Prayer

I’ve become aware of the difficulty of the English language. Our girls have often used words incorrectly that sound alike; like play and plate, high five and Wi-Fi. We’ve often stood staring, puzzled by what it was they were actually trying to communicate.

It’s interesting how hopeless and helpless sound so much alike. I want to be careful not to confuse them in my daily walk. They lead down different paths and have very different endings.

I’ve mentioned before, when we said yes to these adoptions we jumped in the deep end. I’ve also said how thankful we are that we did! Swimming in the deep end is stretching, but God is an incredible lifeguard. This is a lesson we’ve learned well; but like so many lessons, this lesson is multi-faceted.

Now we are learning about helpless prayer.

Helpless is exactly how I feel. I can do nothing from here. I can’t make governments step up, paperwork fly, and money appear. I am often heartsick and helpless to change.

Then I realize that’s exactly where God wants me.

It’s in our helplessness that he can move. It’s in our helplessness that we can be saved. When we are helpless, we have no choice but to fall into him.

If I didn’t I would be hopeless.

Hopeless is a scary word. It means emotional turmoil and devastating days. It means black. It means no future. It means finality; debilitation, despair. It means no hope.

Hopeless prayer isn’t really prayer at all. If you were hopeless, would you bother to pray? Would you have the strength? But helpless prayer; that’s when miracles show up.

Wine at the wedding. Water at the well. Health for a child. Strength for a paralytic. Food for the thousands. Sight for the blind. Life for the dead.

I don’t like being helpless. I seem to always have a gnawing hunger, a tension in my soul. I have to remind myself that God wants me to come to him broken. When we are broken, he is our strength.

During our fundraisers many friends encouraged me with Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…..”

I’ve appreciated it greatly and found comfort in this verse. But here, a few verses before the promise, have I found my strength for this season…

Paul praying for the church in Ephesus;

For this reason I kneel [pray] before the Father,  from whom every family [even mine] in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you [because I am weak] with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [his love for us] may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [for me and my family] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge [his love is greater than my knowledge]—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,  [bigger than me] according to his power that is at work within us, [yet through me] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21

It’s in this prayer of helplessness, that hopelessness is abolished and power in Christ is found.

This is the promise I will cling to. This is the prayer I will pray.

Helplessness is a weakness my Father can use. Hopelessness is a devestation of the soul.

Watch your English….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundays are Hard

Sundays, for as long as I can remember, have been hard long days.

With a Dad in the ministry, then attending a church 45 minutes away, Sundays were a long day. Dating a Pastor’s son didn’t shorten them. Sunday school, church, family lunch, then church again that night.

As a youth pastor’s wife, the same schedule exists. If there’s no Sunday night commitment, there’s usually a meeting, a lunch, or an event to prepare for. No wonder Mondays are for face plants on the couch.

Sundays got just a little bit harder this year.

Two things happen every Sunday.

I’m reminded of just how big God is.

I see hundreds of people who love my children.

Both of them are wonderful gifts I am given. I embrace them with all of my being. That means I usually just stand at my chair, coffee in hand, and cry through the worship.

I’ve become a complete mush over the past few years. I refuse to be ashamed of my tears.  I often think that if we truly understood the love God has for us we would be crying more often. In my case, everything relates to my kids.

This week wasted no time. Father to the fatherless, defender of the weak …

“Well, I’m done. I’m not even go to attempt to sing. There goes that.” I stood there and listened.

Our God is a STRONG GOD. There is NO ONE HIGHER. He is FAITHFUL to provide.

A thousand people surrounded me singing the lyrics,

Sing out                                                                                                                                                                         Lift your hands and shout out                                                                                                                      Awesome is our strong God                                                                                                                                          Mighty is our God.

I couldn’t sing, and there was no way I was going to be able to lift my hands. Not because I was sad, although I was, but because I was desperate. Desperate to cling to these promises. Desperate to have faith in this truth. Desperate to see God move again, here, in our lives, in our family, soon.

When I’m in this place of desperation and hope I often notice my little one’s friends. I see acquaintances who have written incredibly generous checks to help pay these enormous fees. Friends who have given so much time, love and support to us, I wonder how much more we can consume. Or how we will ever be able to repay them. I’m surrounded by people who love our kids. Who love us.

I am just so thankful, for all of it; the grief, the joy, the difficulty, the help, the opportunity to share; the ability to write this blog. This is so worth it. Any amount of hardship, amount of ache, any amount of long days. It’s all worth it.

I say that without any mental hesitation.

Not only because it’s allowed us to love our girls, but it’s broken us and grown us. We are wiser, kinder, gentler people. We are more dependent on The Father. We are more trusting. We are more content. We are more intentional. We are closer to Jesus because we have no other choice.

He IS a Strong God. There IS no one higher. He IS faithful to provide.

Living in these promises is a blessing beyond words.

Harder Sundays are better Sundays.

 

 

 

A Miscarriage

Several months ago a close friend told me she was pregnant. After years of difficulty trying to conceive, this news took me by surprised.  I was instantly filled with joy for her, and instantly filled with dread. I hated it, but I had a very real sense of fear. Her soon to be family seemed to be too good to be true. My first thought was,

“What?!!!? Are you sure?? Are you kidding??”

My second thought was, “Don’t. Move. A. Muscle.” 

This was a miracle. I wanted to see this little miracle be born at full term; pink, healthy and screaming. 

We have our own little miracle we’re working on. I don’t have a baby on the way; but I am tiptoeing on dangerous ground. I feel like I am coming to the end of a high risk pregnancy. I’ve been careful. I’ve followed Dr.’s orders. I’ve eaten plenty of leafy greens. I haven’t lifted over 5 pounds, and I’ve limited my coffee. (Now you know I’m joking here). All signs point to health. 

“Baby looks good.” as they say. If I can make it full term, I’ll have two boisterous girls lighting up my life with their laughter and love. 

I’m scared. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t like to be scared. I’d rather be strong and fearless. I’d rather have the valor of Jael, or the courage of Esther. But I’m just scared. I’m scared for me, for us, and for them. I’m scared of what may happen, what may NOT happen, and how long everything will take. I’m scared of things falling through, governments changing, or travel going awry. I’m scared because my family is hopelessly precious to me.

This winter hosting only deepened our love for our girls, and them for us. Summer hosting was superglue bonding. Winter hosting was the duct tape you wrap around for good measure. I’ve tasted this joy. I’ve felt the warmth of this goodness. I’ve embraced the tears as I’ve soaked up the laughter. I don’t want to see it fade. I don’t want it to slip out of my fingers into the darkness.

I’ve dreamed the dream and I’m aching for it to come true.

I have to choose to love instead of fear. I have to push onward instead of crumble to my knees. I need to breath deep, walk forward. I need to wait. I need to trust. I need to be strengthened. I need to grow.

I am choosing to be thankful for every moment I’ve been given. I am choosing to be thankful that my eyes were opened. I am choosing to be thankful that the world has needs I felt I should try to answer. I am hoping for good, but I know I have already been blessed beyond my worth.

As this fear and valor clash in my core; I have no choice but to run straight into the arms of my Daddy. He knows what we need. He is for my good. He is my comfort and calm. My only shelter from the chaos and source of contentment. He’s had this in his hands long before it was in my heart. He will see us through full term.

Top Ten Ways to Embrace the Calm During the Turbulence

keep-calm-and-host-367

These past few days have been a bit shaky. It’s easy to be over whelmed and undone. Here are a few suggestions to Keep Calm and Host.

1.Pray                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

I constantly have things on my heart that are almost too heavy to put into words. I believe God sees them. I believe He hears them. I believe He knows them long before I do. I believe in the power of prayer. I can see God’s hand in my life because of it.  Mostly changing me instead of giving me what I thought was best.

2.   Get Busy 

For me, it’s best if I just keep moving forward. Because I DO believe that things will happen and I’d rather be ready for them then not. But I’ll admit, getting ready is the best way I know how to love my kids in this situation. I’m working hard for them, whether they ever get to experience that or not. If it helps my keep my sanity, that’s just a bonus.

3. Talk or Not

Like many marriages, I lean on the “verbal processing side” and my husband the “not so verbal side.” I’ve learned a lot from him. His logic keeps me grounded and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for him. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to talk about. If there isn’t any new information, if there isn’t anything we can do, if there anyplace to move the situation; I don’t want to beat it to death. It’s better for everyone if we don’t relive it. Updates are welcome, good or bad. But you can’t dig yourself out the bottom of a hole.

4. Trust

In Youth Group we do this thing called a trust fall. Kids fall backwards, off a ledge into a group of people, trusting that they will catch them. We often like to think we have things figured out and in control. But let’s face it; we’ve got nothing. It’s moments like these that force us to come face to face with our frailty. As much as you hate it – you know it’s good for you. It’s an opportunity to trust and fall. It’s also an opportunity to be caught, embraced and held.

5. Be Thankful

No matter how things end in life, whether I get the big prize or not; I  have so much to be thankful for. There have been so many moments and memories that I will always treasure. They can never be taken away. I’ve changed too. I am extremely thankful for that. I see things I was blinded to before. I heart is bigger and softer. And I’ve found my mama bear growl. I am desperately thankful for each of these things a more.

6. Support the Troops

I know, you’re feeling defeating. I know you feel rundown and at a loss. Now think how others feel. People that chose this profession because it is their passion. People who have multiple families depending on them. Don’t underestimate what a message, text, or card can do. They are on the varsity. It’s our job to be the cheerleaders.

7. Create Memories

For months we weren’t sure we were going to be able to host a second time. It was devastating. Suddenly God got involved and a miracle happened that allowed us to. Since then I’ve allowed myself to create new memories. Meaning, I am so looking forward to times with them, I’ve played and replayed their reactions in my mind.  Keeping my expectations low, but knowing my girls will love our time together, gives me motivation to keep going.

8. Ask for Help

I realized it was time to pull out the big guns. I asked our friends and family, basically everyone who’s ever heard of or met our girls, to pray. I alerted them to the need, some of the overall issues, and how we were doing with all of it. I know many of them spend time thinking of us and sending us “warm thoughts” and “hugs”. Coffee, prayer and friendship is a power team. Don’t underestimate it.

9. Keep the End in Mind

Just like labor pains, once they are over, they’re over. Your pain is suddenly replaced with a joy that stretches your heart to full capacity. This process is long and difficult at times. It can be hills and valleys of emotion. But in the end, all the aches of the journey won’t compare to the joy of the destination. Non of this stuff actually matters.

10. Shake It Off                                                                                                                            

Sometimes you have to let go. After one of the most stressful weekends of my life years ago – I yelled at the top of my lungs once I got out of the parking lot. Then I blasted the radio and let the music beat the tension out of me. I encourage you to do the same. Music is powerful – embrace it. Dance it out. Taylor Swift never actually hurt anyone. I promise, you’ll feel better, and I won’t tell anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Ways to Prep for Hosting

Weeks into hosting two sisters ages 16 and 8,  I said,

“This has been so great!  We have the best kids.” My husband responded,

“We do have great kids, but don’t underestimate what an incredible job you did. You made this transition easy.”

I thought, “You know, he’s right!”

1. Make Space

I remember being in the car on the way home from the airport, smiling to myself as I recalled we had the next several days together as a family. My husband had taken off; we wiped our schedules clean. It’s funny. We are extremely busy people. When we hosted, we went MIA. We committed to nothing; because we had committed to everything.

2. Go Slow

We had a leisurely first day. In fact we had a leisurely first several days. Our first morning together we were all a little groggy and sheepish. But it didn’t last long. After a breakfast of pancakes, we strolled outside. We ended up in a shallow creek at the back of our yard skipping stones. Skipping stones. I don’t think a family has done that together since the 1920s. My husband eventually let a 2 pound rock plop into the water right next to our oldest girl; splashing her legs. She responded in kind; and we were off!

3. Limit the TV

As liberal as my husband and I are in hair color and piercings, we’re rather conservative with technology. We never had the TV on in the background or as mindless noise. We always used it as something we would do together as a family. Saturday mornings were for cereal and cartoons. Twice we watched Mary Poppins in Russian, as a family. Our first outing was to a local dinner theater to see it in English. It was extremely successful. We are still feeling the affects of this rule. Our personal TV habits changed permanently.

4. Add Variety

I acquired  bored games, card games, balls and bats; anything we could do together without speaking the same language. I also collected an assortment of craft supplies: colored pencils, crayons, coloring books, beads for jewelry, fuse beads, thread for friendship bracelets. I felt confident knowing I had these activities in my back pocket; for good reason. My entire kitchen is literally covered in pages we all colored together. (Most of these items were from second hand places. No one even noticed)

5. Get Dressed

Realizing that the girls would come with nothing, I asked for donations. By the time the girls came, our cellar was FULL of clothes for both of them. It looked like a garbage dump, but it was actually bags full of love in the shape of shoes, shirts, pants and dresses. I purchased new undies, socks and swimwear once the girls got here and I had a better idea of sizes. Eventually the girls went shopping with me and that was fun too.

* I did NOT set the girls loose these bags. I brought out what I knew they needed slowly; a few items at a time. They went through them, tried them on, and decided what they wanted.  It was only when we had a few bags left, 3 or 4 weeks in, that I let them at ’em.

6. Brush Your Teeth

My husband groaned when he realized how many shampoo bottles would be in the shower while living with 3 women (5 if you count the animals)! Nevertheless, I bought them each a new toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and loofa. Maybe they would hate showering, but I would at least tempt them bubbles and sweet smells.

7. Make the Bed

I put a lot of pressure on myself to decorate their bedroom for them. I thought it would be challenging because of their ages. It was a non-issue. I did have to start from square one, purchasing furniture, décor and bedding. I added my books from my childhood, some cute knick knacks, personalized frames, and stuffed animals. Our eldest one told us later,

“We knew you loved as soon as we saw our room. Only loving parents would have decorated the room so beautifully.”

It makes my heart swell even now typing it.

8. Make Dinner

The summer was exhausting. I’m not sure I noticed because I was having so much fun. However, there were a few days when I remembered dinner was in the freezer or crock pot waiting for us. I would have called my Mom to thank her for her work if had had the strength to pick up the phone. It was a great gift she gave us. Dinner; ready to go.

9. Walk the Dog

We have an adorable Siberian Husky puppy. She was very happy as an only child. She had no idea why we failed to walk her as much once the girls arrived. The longer we went, the more her behaviors let us know she needed to run. I made her a bit more of a priority, and asked a trusted friend to step in. Jady got her treks and would come back wet, muddy and exhausted. I was thrilled! No, I mean it. An exhausted puppy is no small feat. I was thrilled for it.

10. Pencil it in

As thrilled as I was to have several home activities planned, I was equally happy to have several community offerings at my fingertips. Our summer hosting was anchored with swimming. There were a few friends who opened their pools to us anytime. I knew strawberry picking and shortcake baking would be fun. We visited a few gardens and saw a free movie with family. This time around I scored day passes to a local rock-climbing facility, pickle ball is huge here, and we will definetly head out to Hershey Park’s Christmas Candylane, plus Holiday Cookies.

I encourage you to ask for help from friends, family, even local businesses. It’s not only life-giving to you and your family, but it brings others into your story. It’s a way to share the journey of hosting, the story of the orphan, and the hope of a family. I hate asking for help; but in our journey, I’ve come to depend on people who absolutely WANT to help and just need to be told HOW.

Having someone mow your lawn, fold laundry, or bring a meal are easy, simple, free and effective. We are all in this together – so be in it together. You might be surprised what you get.