Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Footprints In The Sand"

"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you"

Have you ever felt like God has gone AWOL?  Absent without leave....Absent without discussing it with feel something like:  "Hey God, do you even remember that you promised you would never leave me?....Hello?....God?"  

The angry beast of abandonment, with all of its lies and cunning, has officially stormed into Natalie's life and has wrapped it's talons tightly around her.  I don't know any other way to describe it.  Three months of intensive therapy appears to have fed the beast...and has mounted up the lies...the intentional grip of the enemy is tighter than ever.  Mocking us.  Pushing us away.  Threatening to destroy.

Several years ago, I read a book that was written by a man who served as a missionary in a remote part of the world that still practiced cannibalism.  In an effort to reach those tribal people, he would hold tent meetings in the middle of the jungle.  Sometimes the meetings would go on for days at a time.  People desperate to hear truth would hear of this man and would travel on foot for miles to listen to his words about a Savior who loved them.  And at the close of each service, he would invite these people to come forward and be prayed over.  He witnessed many miracles in those days.

On one particular occasion, a woman who was blind came forward at the end of the service.  She prayed to be healed, but was not healed.  The missionary recounted how he feared her not being healed would cause others in the meeting to doubt the Word of God.  She came to meeting after meeting, and each time would pray with her whole heart for the God of the Universe to heal her eyes and give her vision again....and night after night she went away blind.

The missionary would get down on his knees at night before sleeping and ask God to heal this woman so that others would not doubt God's word but would believe....but each time, she was not healed.  It got to a point where this man would literally hope the woman would not walk down the aisle for healing.  But faithfully, she would come....night after night....begging her new found Savior to heal her.

And it happened.  One night, she was healed.

The man spent many years trying to understand why God did not heal the woman the first time she had prayed....often asking the Lord why it took Him so long.  And in His old age, God granted the man the answer to his prayer through a dream.

In the dream, the man went back in time to see the woman at the tent meeting....walking down the aisle.  But this time, he saw what looked like tentacles that were alive and covering her face and eyes.  He saw himself praying over her, and watched as one tentacle fell from her face.  Then God allowed him to see another night....and another night....and still another.  Each night he watched as yet another tentacle dropped from the woman's face when he had prayed over her.  

And finally, on that last night....the night of her miracle healing....he saw it all.  The woman walked forward as she had the other nights with complete faith for healing....but this time he saw the one tentacle still covering her eyes.  And he also noted his face of dread on that night as he had not expected the woman to be healed.  But in this dream/vision, he understood.  And as he watched himself pray over her, he saw the last tentacle drop and the look of elation on both his face and the woman's as she was healed...set free!  And at that moment, his eyes were open too.  Open to a whole new truth. 

When I read this story 10 years ago,  it grabbed my attention.  I remember thinking about the labor of prayer and faith that was required for this woman to receive her healing....and I considered the enemy's far-reaching ploys and gamesmanship.  The woman's prayer was answered the first time she walked down the aisle to accept healing, but her requirement was to continue in faith regardless of what most would consider an unanswered prayer....a God who had gone AWOL.  

That is Natalie's test....isn't it really a test for each of us?  As family members in the body of Christ, we do not give up laboring for one another in prayer.  We may doubt God from time to time, but in obedience, we continue to pray.  That is WHO He made us to be.   A people who don't give up.  

Sometimes we wander in the wilderness, yes.  Looking for the cloud by day and the fire by night, definitely.  At times we are like dear old Abraham standing over Isaac....hoping to hear God's voice of direction.  Other times we are Joseph in jail....waiting for Him to set us free.  But we never give up.  And we choose to believe that in the times when God seems to have gone AWOL....and when we are only seeing one set of footprints in the sand....that He is indeed lovingly carrying us through.

Thank you for joining my family in prayer for this miracle!  We believe:  "Greater is He that is in us....than he that is in the world."

(An update on Lydia:  She is holding fast to her fundraising efforts to save 5 orphans who have special needs....if anything, this trial with Natalie has only served to make our family more serious about the dire need for orphans to have forever families.  If you want to be a part of this project, click here:  )    

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Musical Journey

It never ceases to amaze me how God allows His light to shine through darkness.  It reminds me of a big shade tree, and how in the shadow of the tree, rays of light outline the intricate pattern of the tree's limbs and leaves upon the surface of the ground.  One can learn a lot about the tree from the shadow.  The shadow's pattern depicts limbs that are barren and fighting for re-growth, some that haven't achieved fullness like the others, and still many that are bursting forth with life.  In the same way, God is shining His light through our family's tree.  And though His light is casting many unique shadows as it radiates through our lives, something quite magnificent is springing forth through our daughter, Lydia.  And it all began with a simple song.

Lydia and I wrote a song:  "All For You" about Hope and Charlie last summer.  Our goal was to capture our love for them and the impact they have had on our lives with lyric.  And with the help of a dear friend and his wife, we recently released a music video of the song.    

If you'll recall, a few years ago, Lydia raised $26,000.00 that went toward saving two incredible little orphaned girls who have Down syndrome.  One came from Russia, the other from the Ukraine.  Both girls are thriving with their forever families in the United lives only minutes away from us.

Because Lydia's life passion is to advocate for the special needs community, she decided to use this new music video to attempt to raise funds for 5 orphans who have special needs.  Her goal?  $50,000.00.  

It will not surprise you to learn most people have told Lydia she is nuts....and that her goal is an impossible one.  But that is exactly what was said the year she raised the $26,000.00.  Good thing for us, we know that Lydia was never responsible for raising those funds three years ago....and she won't be responsible for raising the money this time either.  We believe with whole hearts that "All Things Are Possible With God!"  And so, if it is HIS will.....this will happen.  And all glory will go to Him!

By simply watching the video link below, you can be a part of saving the lives of 5 orphans who have special needs.  It only costs your time. 

View the video here:  

View pictures of the 5 precious children here:

We are calling this the "RESCUE 5 PROJECT" and have created tshirts with all proceeds going toward this effort:   

(Update on Natalie----we had a tremendous break-thru last week during a joint counseling session and are beyond thankful for all of your prayers.  Prayer really does change things!  It's all about the baby steps....simply placing one foot in front of the other and continuing in the right direction.  Bless you all!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Crossroad

This picture was taken in September....just 2 months before our lives were to turn upside down.  Since so many have been asking  "Where in the world is Natalie?", I feel compelled to offer an explanation, even though this will possibly be the most difficult post I've ever written.  

Natalie is hurting.  She is carrying the whole weight of the world on her shoulders as she stands at a major crossroad in her life.  The truth is, Nat is standing at a place where she must choose one of two paths.  One will lead her to life and the other will not.  

Most of you know we adopted Nat from Russia when she had just turned three.  Her orphanage was a terrible place that used electric shocks on the children as a means of control.  In addition to being abused, she was also severely neglected in Russia.

As I am quickly learning, our brains have a way of protecting us from information we are unable to process.  Our traumatic memories stay in storage until we are mature enough to deal with them.  Well, the week before Thanksgiving, Natalie's brain decided it was time for her to remember.  And with that recollection, most of which is still an unconscious memory since she was so young when the abuse occurred in Russia, came a wave of despair and depression like I have never witnessed in my life.  Nat went from a functioning teenager to a child screaming in complete desperation for help.  

We appreciate your prayers as you think of Natalie.  She is making progress, but it is in the form of baby steps.  We were hoping for big giant steps.  As for me, I have gone through every single emotion you can imagine.  I have re-lived the last 11 years to re-examine my relationship with Nat, I have questioned a million times whether I  parented her the correct way or if there is something different I could have done, and I have wished to go back in time and have a re-do.....but most of all, naturally, I have felt like a failure.  

But through this journey, God keeps showing up for me in remarkable ways....with little incidents that are too extraordinary to be mere coincidence.  And I hang onto those moments with white knuckles....making a choice to believe that He is Sovereign even in a situation that seems so out of control....choosing to believe that He is bigger than any mistakes I may have made in the last eleven years as I have parented Nat.....and believing He will lovingly provide her with complete healing if she'll only be brave enough to reach out and take it.  If she'll choose to take that step at the crossroad toward LIFE!   

Just one week after Natalie was admitted to a local hospital, I took Lydia shopping.  It was to be our day to get out and really talk about what was going on.  As we entered a store, we quickly noticed a girl who we know to be a teenager Caleb's age....someone who we both know by name and both recognized, but one who does not know us.  As it turned out, she was an employee of the store and came to ask us if we needed help.  We told her we were just looking around, but then she asked me:  "You have beautiful hair, can I touch it?"  

Before Natalie's breakdown, I probably would have let this girl touch my hair....but I wouldn't have had near the compassion I had on that day.  I turned to her immediately and said:  "Of course you may touch my hair."  And for a couple of minutes, she stood there with my hair in her hands.  And in silence, I just met her eyes and smiled.  Next, she turned to Lydia and asked:  "Can I touch yours?"  Lydia, following my lead, said:  "Sure!" 

Just as the girl turned to walk away, she told us how she wished she was beautiful and how she longed for pretty hair.  We offered her sincere encouragement, told her how beautiful she is to us and to God. And when the girl walked away, Lydia just looked at me with huge questions in her eyes.  I shrugged and said:  "She's hurting, Lydia...just like Natalie...let's just pray for her."  

A couple of weeks later, when visiting Natalie in the hospital, that same girl was whisked down the hall.  I caught a glimpse of her through the door and gasped.  And in that brief blip of time, my faith exploded into something tangible that I could grasp.    

As a believer in the Almighty, I am to literally be Him to others.....laying my life down in order to love others exactly where they are....even if that means allowing another precious human to stand in the middle of a store and pet my hair....and even if it means giving my daughter permission to stand at this crossroads with God....loving her no matter what....and continuing to pray without ceasing that she will make the decision to LIVE!

"Every adopted child at some point in his development, has been deprived of this primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child......For the adopted child, the second set of parents are obviously the unknown lost real parents. His normal ambivalence will make use of this reality situation to focus his love impulses on one set of parents and his hate impulses on another. He finds an easy escape from the frustrations inherent in his home education by assuming the attitude that these, his adoptive parents, are his bad and wicked persecutors, whereas his dimly remembered own or foster parents, from whom he was 'stolen' are represented in his fantasy as the good parents to whom he owes his love and allegiance".  (Florence Clothier)

"Schechter reports we could see how the idea of adoption had woven itself into the framework of the (adopted) child's personality configuration. It certainly had an effect in later development, giving the stamp of antisocial behaviour and that of a paranoidal system. He summarises by stating " The patients in this paper do not have a fantasy about being adopted, they were adopted. Their daydream, which cannot be combated by denial, is the connection with their real parents. Who were they? What were they? Why did they give me up? Do I have any living relatives? What was my name, etc?"  (Marshall D. Schechter)

Kaplan.S.; Silverstein. D.:

  1. Loss: Adoption is created through loss. Without loss there can be no adoption.
  2. Rejection: One way people deal with loss is to figure out what they did was wrong so they can keep from having other losses. In doing this, people may conclude they suffered losses because they were unworthy of having whatever was lost. As a result they feel they were rejected.
  3. Guilt and shame: When people personalize a loss to the extent that they feel there is something intrinsically wrong with themselves that caused the loss, they often feel guilt that they did something wrong or feel shame that others may know. (Silverstein).
  4. Grief: Because adoption is seen as a problem solving event in which everyone gains, rather than an event in which loss is integral, it is difficult for adoptees, adoptive parents, and birthparents to grieve. There are no rituals to bury unborn children, roles, dead dreams and disconnected families.
  5. Identity: A person's identity is derived from who he is and what he is not. Adoption threatens a persons knowing of who he is, where he came from, and where he is going.
  6. Intimacy: People who are confused about their identity have difficulty getting close to anyone, Kaplan says. And people who have had significant loss in their lives may fear getting close to others because of the risk of experiencing loss again.
  7. Control: All those involved with adoption have been "forced to give up control" said Silverstein. Adoption is a second choice. There is a crisis who's resolution is adoption.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hope Through The Struggles

"Hope Through The Struggles" is the title I would give my life story.  And the girl pictured above is the inspiration.  Because of her, I 'see' different than most, 'hear' different than most, and 'feel' different than most.  I no longer look at life through my eyes, but through hers.

This week, one of my children was punished because of that little girl pictured above.  This isn't the first time something like this has happened, but it still hurts just as bad.  On most days it seems the typical world won't slow down for the special families.  It won't change it's routine or it's rules.  In an effort to provide a 'forum of fairness', the typical world often doesn't bend.  And sometimes, the unbending is backed up by scripture and thrown into faces to express God's way.  The orderly way.  The Sovereign way.  The right way.  Such was our experience this week.

Through wiping tears and trying to pick up pieces from a broken heart, I noted how our little Hope never changed.  Unable to understand what all of the excitement was about, she remained the same happy go lucky soul as always.  She never had an inkling that her disability and all of her needs is what kept her big sister from being able to meet the long list of rules that had been required of her.

I also noticed how Hope's needs didn't change either.  She still needed the constant care and supervision as always.  Unchanging.  Unflinching.  Unrelenting.  No matter the situation, Hope is always 100% herself.  Just Hope.  Her disability was the reason behind her big sister being kicked off the team, but she marched on without a clue. 

Then I looked around at the rest of us.  We were all a mess.  Stuck in the unfairness of a world still cold and calloused toward the disabled and their families.  So desperate for those called the "typicals" to stop and err on the side of bend and show simply love the imperfect (sometimes unable to meet a formal schedule) kind of family we have become because of that little girl pictured above.  And oh, how I wanted to scream and pound the ground because of the sheer hurt and pain that had been brought upon my innocent daughter because of something so completely out of her control.  And in my search for justice, I found the Savior.

Just when I was at my worst, God met me and briefly opened my heart to allow me to see:

"It is one thing to follow God's way of service if you are regarded as a hero.....But are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket---to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted---not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?" (Oswald Chambers)

Philippians 2:17: 'If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.'  

And that was His lesson.

Hope is not even a mere drop in the bucket to the world.  In fact, to most "typicals" that little girl pictured above is the most insignificant of the insignificant.  Yet, she still is the same person every single day.  She never sways back and forth depending on the winds of the "typical" world.  She is always....simply Hope.    

And we are to be like her.  Poured out.  Totally insignificant.  The filth of this world.  A doormat.  Expecting nothing.   

Then, and only then, will we begin to understand the message of Jesus and the significance of the cross.