Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Lied and You Believed Me

Dear Esther,
I have been doing a lot of crying lately, and many of my tears are for you.  I am writing this letter to you as a way to soothe my soul, wishing I could somehow see your sweet face and tell you myself.

Esther, please forgive me.  I lied to you.  I lied when I agreed to sponsor you.  I lied when I said my sponsorship of you was an expression of God's love.  I lied about all that.  I thought it was "the right thing" to do.  And I did it so I could convince myself I was doing something for kids like you, who have so little when I have so much.  I did it so I could put your picture on my refrigerator and my friends would all see what a good person I am. (a refrigerator is something we have in our kitchen, where we keep the food and it remains cold).

But then a few years ago, after I had been writing to you for a while, things got hard for me and my family.  We had a lot less money.  My husband was out of work and I was scared.  (You can read about that here:  http://www.matthew185.blogspot.com/2013/01/50-and-broke.html)

I should have trusted God.  I should have known He would get us through - He did!  I should have known that the small amount I was sending you would not make much of a difference in our overall problems.  But I let fear get the best of me.  And I cancelled my sponsorship of you.  I know you have to believe in God EVERY DAY for what you need, and I am so ashamed that I did not have as much courage as you do.

My heart is truly broken now to realize what I did.  And the only reason I am realizing it now, is because some people here in America got in an argument and it made them cancel their sponsorships of thousands of other kids.  I know that sounds terrible.  It is.  I wonder now how they told you I wouldn't be writing to you any more.  What did they say?  I am realizing now that because you live in a country where so many people die young, you might even think that I died!  How did they explain it?  I pray with all my heart that you do not think it had anything to do with you.

Your letters were awesome.  You are so strong and so brave.  I know a lot more now about what it means to you to have a sponsor.  See, now I have four kids that I adopted from an orphanage.  They have told me about how having a sponsor kept them from being too sad.  They told me that having JUST ONE person care about them in the whole world gave them the courage to keep going.  They didn't care about having an extra meal or a Christmas present as much as they cared about knowing that someone knew their name, thought about them, prayed for them.

Precious Esther, I am so sorry that I failed you.  I am sorry that I was not that person for you.  After my husband got a job again I started sponsoring another little girl.  Here she is:
I felt like it didn't matter that it was a different girl, but now I know that I was wrong.  I know that I am real to you too.  That you think about me when you lie in your bed at night.  That you wonder what I am doing, what I am eating, what my house looks like.  I know you pray for me.  I know sometimes you even wrote my name as your last name on your school papers.  

My new girl writes me sweet letters just like yours.
She even sent me a copy of her report card so I could see how well she is doing in school.  
She told me that she tries so much harder in school now because she wants me to be proud of her, and she knows I believe in her because I pay for her to go to school.

Esther, I pray there is some way, any way I can find you one day and tell you how great you are.  But most importantly, I want you to know that even though I lied to you, even though lots of people lied to lots of kids that they have stopped sponsoring, Jesus will never lie to you.  Grown-ups are sinners.  We do bad things and we make lots of mistakes.  Please don't let the way I acted make you think that the love of Jesus is not real.  Because He really, really, will not give up on you.  His love is not like my human love.  His love is so much better.  His love does not change.  He does not get afraid.  He does not get in arguments.  He does not leave you no matter what you say about Him, or what you do that is wrong.  His love is pure.  He will ALWAYS be there for you.  Not like a sponsor…He is so, so much better.

I love you Esther

·      Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:4-6

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Noticing Jesus

Last weekend one of our young pastors gave an amazing sermon, and he pointed out something I have not been able to get out of my mind.  When Jesus was born, out of all the people on Earth at that time, only a handful noticed the miracle.  As recorded in Luke and other gospels, the Savior of the World was noticed by three foreigners and a few migrant workers (shepherds), and two old people in the temple.

I can't stop thinking about that...what was it about these particular people that they noticed the Messiah had arrived?  It grieves me to know I would not have been on that list...I would have been one of the thousands of who had the great miracle right before me, and missed it entirely.  I would not have been gazing at the stars and noticing their shifts.  I would not have been in the temple praying night and day.  I barrel ahead in life, focused on the day's tasks and my own agenda.  I am definitely more of a "Martha" than a "Mary" (Luke 10:38-42).  How many times is He right there and I miss Him?

So this Christmas, I have tried really hard to notice Jesus.  He tells me he is with me always, but do I really notice that? This Advent season, I am blessed to say I am noticing him everywhere...

I am noticing Jesus in the faithfulness of my husband, who is always there for me, ever present, ever loyal, ever supportive, ever loving.



I am noticing Jesus in our new son and his great love for his parents, his selflessness, his humility.



I am noticing Jesus in the way our children love each other and serve each other.


I am noticing Jesus in my parents faithfulness to our family despite the many choices we have made that they would have never expected.



I am noticing Jesus in the incredible banquet of friends that I can feast on any day at any hour.



I am noticing Jesus in the way my church family shows up for each other.



I am noticing Jesus in the faith of precious friends living with cancer this Christmas.



I am noticing Jesus in the little things, the sweet things, the every day gifts.


Lord, help me to slow down this Advent and notice you.  And let me keep these eyes of seeing you all the year through.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  Psalm 73:22-24


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Free Gift

You know when you buy a package of make-up or perfume and you get the free gift? You over-pay for that package of cosmetics, because you want that extra special something that comes with it.  I keep telling people that this is how I feel about my son Fred.  He is in every way my "free gift" of a lifetime.

In 2009,  Jerry and I committed to adopting three kids from Uganda.  We didn't know anything about anything at that time, and we foolishly funded those adoptions through debt.  And we "paid" handsomely over the next few years for this poor choice, but we were always thrilled to have the "package" of those three kids.  

What we didn't know, but God knew, is that this package came with a free gift named Fred.

Here is the first photo I took of my son.  This was in 2009 on a hot night in Uganda when he was helping Agnes and Ruth wash dishes at the orphanage guest house.  (Mackenzie was with me on that trip and is on the right).  He was 11 at the time, wearing the yellow shirt.


When I look at this photo, I think of all the times in life that we don't understand what God has planned.  The moments we miss...the things we overlook.  The people we pass on the street who we need to meet.  If only we could see with supernatural eyes.

I did not know on that day that this boy was the biological brother of Agnes and the cousin of Ruth.  No one told us, and he never spoke a word to me. He just silently floated in and out of the room like a voiceless ghost.  I thought he was a cute, shy boy who was their friend.  That night, he slept next to Nathan on a cot on the porch, but when morning came he was gone. Or so I thought.

Three years later when we knew the truth and had found him again, I was handed a cell phone with him on the other end, now sounding very much like a man.  The first words he spoke to me that day and in his life were:  "When are you coming for me Mum?"

I met him again on February 14th, 2013.  Valentines Day...yeah, lots of "free gift" promotions.  Here is my handsome Valentine, almost unable to contain his joy that he was getting parents, new siblings, and being reunited with his family.



If you haven't seen the video clip of his arrival home to his long lost sister, eat your heart out...

Fred's Homecoming Moment

Over the last four months, I have been astonished, amazed and completely overwhelmed with the depth to which this boy has enriched our lives.  I am struggling to find a way to explain the intelligence, love and giftings contained in this young man.  So let me just tell you a few facts to paint the picture.  

Since he got to America two months ago:

1.  He has read all my old college text books, and most other books in this house.  He spent two weeks memorizing the Rand McNaly World Atlas.
2.  He has learned to swim all the strokes "except butterfly Mum."
3.  He has taught himself to vacuum, run the washing machine, empty the dishwasher, clean my car, mow the lawn, use a cell phone, take online classes, excel at pingpong and basketball, repair a bicycle, flip on a trampoline, rent movies, cultivate a garden.
4.  He has tried more foods than I have, and will literally eat anything he encounters.  Yesterday he discovered he loves Blue Cheese dressing, and he spent the day experimenting with how it tasted on various foods.
5.  He entered high school with only six weeks left in the term, and came home with all A's.  (oh, and he skipped a grade but don't tell anybody).
6.  He takes care of his younger brother, tells me when it's the day to put out the garbage, reminds me to return my library books on time, protects his sisters.
7.  Did I mention he has made lots of new friends already?  Nice-looking teen boys are suddenly found hanging out in my garage.  (Olivia stumbled out there yesterday morning in her pajamas to discover half our neighborhood and ran back inside in embarrassment...we are not used to having all these big boys around!)
8.  He has ridden up to 24 miles (in one day) on the bike trails in town.  Oh, and he gets up at 6:00 am to jog too.

I think you are getting the picture.  This kid is INCREDIBLE.  Everyone has been asking me about his transition.  All I keep saying is...it's like he has always been here.  But better.

Brothers

Happy Mother's Day to Me

Finally, the perennial bed I have always wanted.

Here is what JOY looks like...his first day home.

video

Last week we lost him temporarily.  We found in a tree, reading a Chemistry textbook.

His intelligence is his calling card.  You talk to this kid for three minutes and you know he is SMART. His curiosity and attention to detail amaze. Nothing mechanical in this house has escaped his examination.  He loves science.  He loves to explore.  For a summer job, he wants to work in a laboratory and do research.  Did I mention he is only fifteen?...FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!  Who is this kid???  And what does God intend for him to cure, discover, change, improve?  I can't wait to find out.

Oh, and he really was "free".  When we stepped out in faith to locate and adopt him, we had not one penny to do it with.  God provided every cent for this adoption through the generosity of others.  Letting other people be part of our journey was one of the lessons we learned.  We get it now.

This scripture rings in my head every day: "For my son was lost but now he is found" Luke 15:24

What if we didn't find him? What if we didn't pursue him?  What if I never knew him? What if all I had of him was that photo washing dishes?

If you are reading this and you have considered adoption, don't miss out.  

Thank you God for helping us find our lost son.  I can't get over Your love for me, so full of free gifts.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

50 and Broke

I started my 50th year FLAT BROKE.

Like, really, really broke.  Jerry and I found ourselves on New Year's Day of 2012 literally crying over our situation - brought on by a perfect storm of our choices and economic circumstances beyond our control. (my husband is a Realtor, I think you get it).

We were the kind of broke that CAN'T BUY GROCERIES.  One day I absentmindedly prayed "God, I just need someone to show up on my doorstep every week with a box of produce."  Three days later, a neighbor rang my doorbell.  He was holding a huge box of produce.  I stood there stunned.

He said:  "Hey, my wife and I are involved in a food ministry and we have extra each week, so we thought we could bless your family."  What, seriously?  And so it began.  Every week, I kept getting boxes that looked like this.


And they kept coming, every week.  But then, they started having meat in them...and bread.


And it kept coming, until my freezer looked like this...(this is the garage freezer cause the indoor freezer was full ALSO)


We had too much food and we started giving it away to other adopted families from our church. We were all eating like KINGS.  Here's Thanksgiving...yeah, all free. 


Then, the car drama began.  Some of you might have followed the demise of both our autos on Facebook, but suffice it to say, we ended up with NO CAR.  


Here's the thing.  When the first car was gone, I started praying SPECIFICALLY for God to give me a mini-van.  Not just any van...I needed 8 seats.  I needed a HONDA ODYSSEY.   I even told our pastor "If someone gives a van to the church, it's for me."  (I can't believe I did that).  

The day the second car died, the kindest lady ever gave us her 15-year-old little station wagon.  We didn't exactly all fit in it, but at least we had transportation...the kids would squish and sit in the way back like the old days (Sorry if you are in law-enforcement.  We repent.)


But I just kept praying.  All summer, we drove around like clowns in the tiny clown car, and my sainted husband drove me to and from work every day.  But I KEPT PRAYING.  I BELIEVED GOD WAS GOING TO GIVE ME A HONDA ODYSSEY.  

One hot day, my old best friend from college found me on Facebook after 30 years!  For some reason, I bawled my eyes out to her and told her all about our brokeness and how we were eating donated food and didn't have a car.  So she calls me back and says that a lady in her church (several states away) is going to donate a van to us.  It was, of course, a HONDA ODYSSEY (and no, I hadn't told her that part).  


YES, GOD GAVE US TWO FREE CARS WHILE WE WERE BROKE.

So, in case you think this is all just a coincidence, and that people are super generous to adoptive families (they are), I had very personal, private needs that you would NEVER guess.  For one thing, my teeth were falling apart.  I was very embarrassed by them.  My teeth were damaged as a child and the front ones are all cosmetic, but they were decades old and worn out.

There was no way I could afford to fix them.  Jerry started praying for God to give me teeth. It's written in his prayer book day after day in 2012.  "Lord, give my wife new teeth."  Well, by now you know where this is going.  One day a sassy older dentist I had never met saw me and said "I feel like I am supposed to bless you."  Voila...$7,000 of free dental work.  Yeah, that's right.  My God is that specific.  Here I am rockin the new pearly whites...ain't they pretty?


Next, my laptop got stolen and I cried (yes, I still lacked faith, right??).  A week later I got a brand new one sent to me...A MAC BOOK PRO!  Much better one than the one that the thief took.

It got almost crazy.  I needed sweatpants, prayed for some, and a neighbor came by with some that didn't fit her.

This goes on and on, but I won't make you read forever.  You get the idea.

On July 14th, right in the middle of it all, we decided to "just go" and pursue another adoption. We were still pretty BROKE at this point.  We surely did not have one penny for an adoption.  Guess what?  Next week, we leave for Uganda to complete this adoption...fully funded,  at $14,000.  Every penny we need was donated from places we never, ever could have seen.

For my whole 50th year, God just kept showing me OVER AND OVER AND OVER that HE would meet my every need, I just had to WAIT and TRUST and BELIEVE He would do it.

Today is my birthday.  I am 51.  We are no longer broke.  Our business is thriving and we are paying our bills.  I am not sharing all this to brag.  I am not good, I am not worthy.  I don't know why He has blessed me.  But I do know my God is awesome beyond all understanding.  He is REAL, and I would be remiss if I did not let you know ALL He can do.  God loves you and He is LAVISH.

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.  Isaiah 30:19

Friday, December 7, 2012

God's Gift

In this season of so many wonderful gifts, I keep thinking about our son Nathan.  All of my children are unique gifts.  In fact, every one of my children would not be mine if it were not for the incredible love and sacrificial giving of many people, some strangers to me.  None of my children came to me through the usual means...each one is a unique gift from a unique place.

When we learned we had an future son named Nathan, I was so full of joy.  I had never had a son, and I felt this was a special gift from God to me.  His name means "gift from God"...how perfect could that be?


Here is the first picture I ever took of my son on the day I met him at the orphanage.  He didn't say much that day, but his smile and eyes had me swooning.



But now that I have had the incredible privilege of raising Nathan for the last two years, I realize that I was thinking much too small in assuming he is God's gift to me.  Because, no one I know loves God more than Nathan.  From his first sentences in English, to this day, Nathan has talked to us each and every day about how much he loves God and wants to follow Him.  He prays every day, he reads his Bible intently, he talks to his friends about Jesus and he wants to see angels.  If you are in need of deep theological conversation, just stop over and strike up a conversation with our son about God.  You will be astonished at the things he has pondered.

One of the joys of this year was watching Nathan being baptized.  He asked our pastor to baptize him and our pastor kindly obliged.  The satisfied smile on his face tells the whole story.



Nathan made this act with great intention, and even chose two worship songs for the occasion.  The first you probably know, "I Will Follow You" by Chris Tomlin.  The second we did not know, but you will enjoy finding it on YouTube: "Jesus, You are My Superhero."  Yes, that is right. Nathan had us all singing "You are better than Batman, you are better than Superman"...the kid always keeps us smiling.

Speaking of smiling, he seems to make everyone else around him smile as well, not only his blessed family.  He is greatly loved by his teachers, coaches and friends.  Our neighbor calls him "Mr. Happy Legs" in recognition of his truly incredible athletic ability and seemingly endless energy.  He is the first one up in our house seven days a week, and he never wears out of enthusiasm.  Eventually, we force him to go to bed, but he won't rest before saying his nightly prayers, which include a sweet prayer from Uganda that he says every day:



Look at me, Oh God
As my heart all,

To you all I turn

For the sins I have committed

I pray to be forgiven
.
In all that I have been good

I pray to be encouraged
.
For under your guidance Oh God

Where all is peace I'll be led
,
Not to sob but to rejoice,

As my hand in yours lies.

I realize now that this little boy is much more than a gift to me.  He is a gift to all who know him.  And, he is a gift from God unto Himself.  Nathan wants to be a pastor one day, and I know his love and charisma will bring many to the joy of the Lord.  He has already started writing a "book about God", which essentially is a treatise (in 9-year-old prose) on why God loves you and why you should love Him in return.  Here's an excerpt:  

"Jesus is your God and the Holy Ghost is your father.  He will always be there for you even when you are alone.  God promises that he will never ever forget you.  When you see a rainbow, it reminds you that God will never leave you. God has the power to defeat Satan and you do too."

Yes, these are the writings of my tiny son. (He also sings, dances, flips, scores, sweeps, folds, builds and draws...to name a few).



I can't even imagine my life now without this funny, smart, kind, honest, compassionate, talented, annointed little man.  I can never thank God enough for this gift of all gifts.