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's like he has always been here.  But better.


Happy Mother's Day to Me

Finally, the perennial bed I have always wanted.

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

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).  


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