Friday, May 24, 2013

The Next Great Leap.

After listing pretty much every thing we own in ads and writing "for sale" on our cars so many people began to ask "are you moving?" "where to?" "why?". Here is the post to answer all questions.

Moving is our plan. It is difficult for me to even type "Plan Move" because the public-ness of making this announcement means it is real. No turning back. Our whole world turned upside down.

So after the Summit Orphan Conference (last blog post) we got our notice that our adoption homestudy is expiring and we get one free renewal. We began our update of paperwork, the home visit, more than a dozen references and just have to get our physicals to make it complete. I began dreaming about our next child. We began praying for two 7 year old boys waiting in Hong Kong (Lifeline link). We even began praying for a beautiful sibling group of five in FL waiting for adoption (AdoptUsKids link). Our kiddos REALLY want more siblings, like a lot more, five more scares me half to death, literally gave me an anxiety attack when we began to consider it. I am human. I get scared. I think "not me" but I know if that is where God calls us I will walk obediently and He will strengthen me and open my heart wide to love more regardless of the difficulty.

What does adoption have to do with moving? Nothing. That is the scariest part of this Plan Move. Adoption will be put on hold. Although many women struggle with infertility and although I am currently barren I know God is the giver and taker of life. I have actually taken comfort in knowing that I have two doors open to receiving the blessing of children. God can give me children through adoption or open my womb. Plan Move scares me. It closes the one door that God has used to bless us. It leaves only the barren door open. It tests my trust in God.

Okay okay, get on with it, what is Plan Move!?! I have to continue with a little back story may want to go back to Pinterest if this is too wordy :)

Brian and I were your normal American dreamers. We were newly wed and both working full-time. We had our apartment and new car but seemed to just make ends meet. A year went by and our wealth grew, our pay raised and we bought a 2nd new car and moved into a nicer apartment. Another year and income is growing but our standard of living was growing faster. We bought a house. November 2006. We were finally there, after just two years. We sported the nice cars, beautiful, cozy, 3 bedroom house, perfect for our 2 planned children (one boy and one girl, of course!) in a very upscale neighborhood. We made it! But we didn't make it on our money. The payments began to pour in and we were sinking fast. The market crashed and we instantly lost any equity we ever hoped to have. Only a year into our perfect dream we were on the brink of foreclosure. Thankfully Brian heard Dave Ramsey on the radio and we became serious about staying afloat. We worked overtime, two, even three jobs to pay off the debt we had racked up so quickly. I dog sat, cleaned houses, Brian mowed lawns, we painted, built furniture, we did every odd job we could pick up. Finally in October 2008 we paid off $50,000, all that was left was the mortgage. The waters were lowering and we could swim again.

Then God captured our hearts. When our strength was spent and we were weary He adopted us into His family, His heritage, His inheritance. Our father quickly showed us in His word that we are to care for the least of these and we ran after that call by becoming foster parents (link to our fostercare/adoption timeline). We wanted to serve these children and their birth parents but God had other plans, He made us parents of five...QUICKLY! Now we are just a normal family but the door to serving through foster care has been what?

God has been convicting us to walk down a much more difficult path than adopting again. He is calling us to finish swimming in debt for good and walk again on dry ground. "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another;" Romans 13:8 "The borrower is slave to the lender" Proverbs 22:7. God speaks a lot on debt in His word (google can tell you). We have racked up $20k in debt since kiddos joined us and still have our very high mortgage payment. So this is Plan Move:

Sell everything
Sell house
Buy or rent small piece of land (or pay rent at RV park)
Move into RV 
Save up every dime of Brian's income for 2-3 years
Pay CASH for whatever house we want
Pray for a new plan (kids say adopt 20 more kids...hope that isn't God inspired)

So that is it. Plan Move. Simple yet terrifying. Living in a 320sqft RV for 2 years with 5 kids and 1 bathroom will be a walk of humility, patience and contentment, all are SUPER hard, scary lessons. I pray that through this God teaches us, strengthens us, and helps us leave a legacy for our children. That they would not seek an American dream but a God's will dream! Not a fleeting dream but a dream that walks down the hard roads for the long-lasting inheritance in an eternal kingdom.

***For anyone currently in our shoes when we were newly married or even before marriage. STOP! Take the shoes off and do not borrow money! Work, save up, live low now and build up so that you are not dragging your kids into the low life later to rebuild.***

Imagine the money you could give if it wasn't tied up in your mortgage!
Imagine the ways you could serve if those credit cards were cut up!
Imagine the time you could take off to love on your little ones if you drove a paid off car!

That is where our imagination is. The journey may be tough but the reward will be GREAT!

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pursue me.

There I stood in the hallway, hands tightly clasped behind my back and anger surging like fire through my veins. I stared back at the little girl with long brown hair framing a face reddened from screaming and narrowed, evil-scheming eyes. This is the orphan Jesus sent me to care for? I could feel the place she hit me still stinging and the filthy words she called me reeling through my head. This is it, one call, that is all it will take, one call, the state will take her away and this season of terror is over. One call and I can go back to my normal cozy life without case workers visiting, police officers over to chase run aways, weekly visits to the principal office, and constant fights to get her to eat, come when I call, go to bed, stay where I ask her to, listen to me or talk to me. I am exhausted, weary. I am just plain tired of pursuing her, tired of showing love (that I don’t feel) toward her. At the same time I was consumed with thoughts of the others in our home, her five year old sister I have watched her throw a dictionary at and tear down verbally with no remorse, her nine year old brother she bossed around like a beaten puppy, the five and ten month old infants I had to protect from any more abuse or neglect in their life. Here I am with five children, five lives that have so many needs, challenges and nurture and I hadn’t even been a parent for six months. Normal women have one infant at this stage in their parenting. “God, WHY ME!?! I have no idea what I am doing? I am weak, so weak. Please take this from me!” So I made that call, they came, they took her, and she was gone.

Hours after this little girl was gone God once again washed me clean with the gospel. As He promised, He strengthened me, took my burdens upon Himself. He woke me up, once again, to where I came from and where I was headed. He reminded me of my wretched, sin lavished, orphaned state He originally found me in. He reminded me of how dearly loved I was, how He made me His daughter, despite my behavior and unwillingness to conform to His will. I ran, He pursued me. I said vile things, He pursued me. I hated and in anger hurt others, He pursued me. While I was running, in my sinful state, He completed what was necessary to make me part of His family. He wanted me, a wretched sinner, who didn’t even like Him, as His daughter. He pursued my adoption despite my behavior. Even in my worthlessness He paid the price to adopt me as His own. He took His only, perfectly obedient, Son and put all my sin upon Him. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.

God showed me that adoption IS the gospel. Before God formed the sun with His hands or placed a single star in the sky He was planning and preparing for my adoption. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as HE CHOSE US in Him BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to ADOPTION as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6.
This hardhearted little girl joined us again, very unwillingly, the very next afternoon. It continued to be difficult, but God gave me strength to continue to pursue her. She continued to reject and run, but God gave me the compassion to continue to show her love. We filled out paperwork, filed fingerprints, had background checks, scheduled home study visits, planned and prepared her adoption, invited her into our family, and rescued her from her orphaned state. We pursued her adoption despite her behavior.
Then one day she found she could love. She allowed the overwhelming love she was shown to break her chains and bondage to sin and anger. She stopped running and yearned for our love, our family, our pursuit. She was now not just our daughter on paper but in her heart. She loved us because we loved her first. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”1 John 4:9-10

Summit 9 Overload

 During our experience the past two days at Summit9, a Christian Alliance for Orphans conference, we soaked in so much. We are driving home now and are about 4 hours away from our five, precious, different colored faces that we cannot wait to kiss and squeeze!

One speaker, Stephen Ucembe, who came from Kenya, spoke of his institutionalization in an orphanage from age 5 until he aged out. The only time he was told he was loved was from a note in a OCC shoebox. The only time he was provided clothing was from short term missionaries. He was provided what he needed to survive from sponsorship programs. But he made it clear that what he needed wasn’t a better institution, more food, clothing or toys but A FAMILY. When we say adoption isn’t our calling, we better be 100% sure God isn’t calling us to pursue a living gospel. Click here for an article about the myths of institutions, why Christians are called to adopt, not open an orphanage in another country.

Another speaker made it clear that compassion compels us to action! He took us through the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. After Jesus tells us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” a lawyer questions “who is our neighbor”. Jesus told of a man beaten and robbed on the side of the road, a priest and Levite walked by and saw the man’s need yet kept walking. A Samaritan had COMPASSION on the man and cared for him. A person is not compassionate when seeing needs but shows compassion when meeting needs. We tend to get too comfortable seeing and speaking on the needs of the orphans to be adopted but haven’t yet embraced our Father’s compassionate heart that compels us to ACTION! Click here for Luke 10:25-37 scripture

God showed me how although I thought my heart was broken for orphans everywhere, He shattered all those broken pieces even further leaving me desperately wanting to open our home again to the child(ren) He has for us. P.S. Hong Kong is on our hearts. Click here for a link to Lifeline's Hong Kong adoption program and waiting children.

The weak are certainly used to shame the strong. I have a new deep prayer that the churches in our nation would wake up to the ignored orphan plight. Bishop W.C. Martin spoke, “If our tiny church of 85 in Possum Trot, a town without a post office or streetlights, on the other side of Coonville, can adopt 73 kids then what is your excuse!?!” Click here for ABC News article about this church.

Most of all God used this conference to awaken my own heart again to the gospel, to adoption! Click here for a very funny audio from David Platt on adoption. Excerpt from David Platt’s book Follow Me:
     “Throughout scripture, God uses the picture of adoption to describe His relationship with His people. This picture became all the more poignant for my wife, Heather, and me when we chose to adopt our first son….
      The process of international adoption can be long and in many ways grueling. Some have described it as a paperwork pregnancy. You virtually have to demonstrate to two governments that you are the ideal family…
     With home studies, fingerprints, and physicals past us, we began the long, agonizing process of waiting. Every single day, we thought about our child, wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and longing for the day when we could hold that little one in our arms.
     Finally, about a year later, I received an e-mail. It was a picture of a boy. Nine months old. Abandoned at birth. In need of a home, a mom, and a dad. I printed out the picture and ran to show it to Heather. We laughed, we cried, we rejoiced, we prayed, and within two weeks, we were on a plane, headed to Kazakhstan….
     For the next four weeks, we visited Caleb in his orphanage. We held him, fed him, sang to him, laughed with him, and crawled all over the floor with him until the day finally came for us to adopt him….The judge pronounced , “I grant this application of adoption, and this child now belongs to David and Heather Platt.” We left the room with tears streaming from our eyes, ready to pick up Caleb from his orphanage for the last time.
     The parallels between Caleb’s story and the gospel story are many, but I want to point out one that is particularly significant. Adoption like this begins with a parent’s initiative, not a child’s idea. Before Caleb was even born in Kazakhstan, he had a mom and a dad working to adopt him. While Caleb was lying alone at night in an orphanage in Kazakhstan, he had a mom and a dad planning to adopt him. And one day when Caleb was placed in the arms of his mom and dad, he had no idea all that had been done, completely apart from any initiative in him, to bring him to that point. It seems obvious, but it is especially important: this precious ten-month-old boy did not invite us to come to him in Kazakhstan and bring him into our family; he didn’t even know to ask for such a thing. No, this orphaned child became our cherished son because of a love that was entirely beyond his imagination and completely outside of his control. He did not pursue us, for he was utterly unable to do so. Instead, we pursued him.
     This is the heart of Christianity, and we are prone to miss it when we describe becoming a follower of Jesus as inviting Him into our hearts. The reality of the gospel is that we do not become God’s children ultimately because of initiative in us, and he does not provide salvation primarily because of an invitation from us. Instead, before we were ever born, God was working to adopt us. While we were lying alone in the depth of our sin, God was planning to save us. And the only way we can become part of the family of God is through a love entirely beyond our imagination and completely out of our control. Christianity does not begin with our pursuit of Christ, but with Christ’s pursuit of us. Christianity does not start with an invitation we offer to Jesus, but with an invitation Jesus offers to us.”

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone