Saturday, December 18, 2010

Living Above while Living Within

We've needed a few miracles, things I didn't share a prayer request on. Mainly because I didn't have access to the computer. And, I think, that's what God intended for me at the time. I think he wanted me to see these things unfold before my eyes without seeking man's prayer. Not that he doesn't want us to pray for eachother but I really sensed he was doing something in me, and these were events for me to go through with God alone.

First there were two birth dates reported and we had to have a separate court process to remedy. I shared that prayer with you all and at 11:59 God had it fixed in time for us to have court naming us the parents of Maxim.

Next, before you can get a passport you have to travel to the birth city and retrieve the birth certificate and have a new certificate made. All the day before I kept hearing in my spirit that there would be need for great faith today. I really sensed it was regarding our travels since it was heavy snow and very icy on rough roads and we had a 4 hour drive each way. While I was aware, I wasn't focused on trouble or expecting difficulties. I was expecting to see God do something. He placed upon me a peace that did not require courage or bravery. It was simply his gift he gave and all I did was go where I was supposed to go.

When we arrived to the ladies office who was going to tend to us I sensed she had a incredibly rare soft demeanor. As I sat and listened to her and George work out details I was becoming well aware that this was taking MUCH longer than it should be. They talked and talked and talked in Russian. Soon she began asking questions about our adoption and then confided that she herself had taken in a 3 year old boy and would like to take more but they barely make enough money to sustain their own family. She expressed the judgment and ridicule she faces to do something truly radical in her own country.
Then it came. The bad news. There were more problems with the abandonment papers for Maxim with dates not matching in the archives. To me, it seems not a big problem but George explained- no this was big. Here a discrepancy like that would take us back to court and another couple of weeks here. Then, the woman did something that George had never seen before. She made the changes herself and took on the responsibility should there be problems later.
She then went on to explain that she wasn't supposed to be the one in charge of this case but was called in last minute. She spent hours in her office and stayed after work to finish what we needed with no extra payment. If you know this culture- that just doesn't happen. Everything has a cost. Not only did she finish up our work but we were able to talk about God and his incredible love. We left in tears, hugging exchanging information and she introducing me to her husband. When God has something planned it is so far over our head. We don't see what He has coming at us nor will we EVER grasp the ramifications of what our agreement with him will do. But if we don't truly believe that God is a good God we become afraid and miss out. These opportunities are meant for us to REST in what He is doing.

Shortly after we breathed our sigh of relief and climbed in the car for the long journey home in the dark, the next adventure began. As we were driving in the country heading up a hill on the ice, the car slows more and more and I know that the tires are not able to keep traction on the road. Soon the backward slide happens before it stops. The driver keeps trying to start the car over and again and when he would get it started it didn't want to climb since we were on ice. Over in the other lane, oncoming traffic, there wasn't ice so he thought if he could get over into that lane we would have a chance at making it up the hill. With some more tries the engine starts and we crawl onto the other side when it dies again. So now I realize that I have no control. There is no place to go. No short walk to anyone around.
Before we made it over to the oncoming traffic, cars had been coming but not a one came during the several minutes we were stuck there. Quietly I prayed for God to do his thing and the car started and we made it up the hill and over to our lane again. Once we were over the hill, oncoming traffic began again. The trouble was, this car was running out of gas and going up a hill was a definite killer. We still have several miles to go before we could reach a gas station. I have seen lots of things but I have never seen a car with no gas drive- until now. It scooted us at 5-10 miles an hour. We had such excitement as we saw the gas station come into view.
Realizing now that no matter what, we could walk there we were certain our adventure was over. It's late and no one around we pull into the station only to find- there is no gas! They were all out of order. The driver was not familiar with the area so we weren't sure what to do next. A man comes out of nowhere and points in a direction of where we could find another station about 2 miles away - up a steep hill. :o) For the next quiet half hour we watched this car move- ever so slowly but ever so surely all the way there where we safely and with joy filled up.
Over the last days I have been talking to God and praying about that day he showed himself so beautifully and I realized that what I could have chosen to view as an awful day, a close call, etc.... I had been given the ability to see as God's work. That I can rest in the midst of the trouble's the world wants to hand me is a miracle. It's living above the world while living within that we are called to do.
Some people have "deal breakers." Those things they won't do because it's uncomfortable, challenging, difficult, and maybe means having some heart pain. I can tell you that has definitely been the case on this journey that we would hit roadblocks. How many times do we ourselves limit our unlimited God? How many times do we say, "Well that would never happen."

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 GOD has GIVEN you power. He gives you the strength when you have none yourself! He gives you the gift of love when you don't think you have enough. (Am I patient enough to do this? What about this... and what about that?)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
I've done so little on this trip but go and receive. It's true. All we did was say yes. Your yes to God hold's power. It releases into the heavens. Not that it is our will that we bestow upon God...oh no...that we already know it is God's will to rescue and release the captives in whatever capacity that might be that he has assigned to each of us. None of us are exempt. There are all kinds of precious jewels hidden in dark places through out this world. Will you go on a treasure hunt of the most divine kind? Will you allow God to WOO you with His works?

I will go before you and will level the mountains[a]; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:2-3

Oh and I love this....

The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How beautiful they will be! Zechariah 9:16-17

God is inviting us to participate in the works of heaven. Have you ever thought of it THAT way?

Sitting next me on my bed in Ukraine is a little jewel that is sparkling! Not only has his life been redeemed but only God knows what He has in store in His mighty power for Maxim's life. You may be a part of God's plan to bring home one child, but the results of that love may very well result in multitudes of others receiving their freedom!! You see God multiplies....He doesn't only just meet us but he overwhelms us. I'm really not in pursuit of the orphan. I am in pursuit of the releasing of the powers of Christ's love to invade and restore the generations to their heavenly Father. Don't let anything get in the way of the prepared path God has set for you. His gifts are just way too powerful to sit on a shelf.

With great love this Christmas, I'm bringing my boy HOME!


Monday, December 6, 2010

What do you see, God?

I have been asked a couple of times how I can go in to a place where there is a lot of sadness and pain and be able to "handle it." When we first arrived I was told by someone here that they had visited this institution before but could not ever go back. It made me sad to hear that but I knew what she was really trying to say. It is very difficult to see children who were hurting, living outside of the design God had for them within family.

If I went each day as Tina, one stand alone gal, with really nothing to offer I don't know that I could go. But God sends us to places not to feel "warm and fuzzy" or to walk in and transform and fix in our efforts. He sends us really for only one purpose and that is to bring His love.

Long ago I saw these children and places like this as sanctuaries, as holy places. If God speaks of orphans as he does in the Bible, than can you imagine the kind of seriously silly love abounding there? That many cannot see it isn't because God is not madly in love with each of these children. Oh he is! He's watching us to see our response. He's poured his love into us now what will we do? Will we care? If He is our first love, than we can't do anything else than care.

The question I ask each morning... What do you see God? Show me what you see! The world tells me lies, but you God, you tell the truth! Everything he has made is GOOD! What man has done is another thing. So if we wake up each day looking at what man is doing, there is no power and ya know what, not much grace. But when I ask the all knowing God to reveal hidden things, sweet and precious beauty that no one else will take the time to look for, He will show it. He wants us to take off the veil and to see Him here, in this orphanage, in your home, neighborhood, workplace.

Recently, it was brought to my attention as a concern that we will not be able to handle another child with special needs in our home. As I swallowed the heavy painful lump in my throat, they pointed to my unorganized kitchen, my almost 2 yr old, my "high maintenance" child with FAS, and the concern to keep my older boys focused on their school. I have prayed and prayed on this. It hurt.

This is the response I wish I could have said but usually I don't have a fast reply.
It's written with love and God was good to wipe the sting along the way.

I often find straggling socks without matches. My boys often have holes in their pants that I haven't had time to mend yet. Some of our schoolwork is done in the van on our way to therapy appointments. My white floors are usually a week behind in being cleaned. My counter tops are collections of art piles, books and misc. items that eventually make it back to their "home." The laundry is never "done" and most definitely the dishes are never finished. The bannister finds a mark as soon as I remove it. I can see hair from our cherished animals on the furniture. On several occasions I forgot to take my shower I had planned on. If you tour my house and judge me in this, you are welcome to, but you will miss much.

You might overlook our joyful pancake making that the kids learned how to do while you are busy looking at the mess it has made. You might not see that we come together in worship and devotion to God if you are distracted by the missing baseboard in the family room. You might miss the twinkles in my children's eyes as you observe the cat on the table licking out of the leftover milk in the cup. You might mistake my children's artwork as clutter. As you stare at the pantry that needs revamping once again, you might overlook the miracle that one of our family members learned how to eat in this house and might not be alive today if God did not bring her here. If you notice dust on my hanging light fixture, well, I might just be glad you are atleast looking UP!

But no matter how I reply, I am still guilty by the standards this person has held me to. Those standards, by the way, are none being taught to my children.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

As I prayed, I washed everything through Christ's eyes. I considered this other point of view for only a time and I found chains there. I lost the joy and peace and love that God promises when we seek Him alone.

As I sat amongst the orphans today I tried to imagine how I could ever convey to them the sorts of reasons laid before me not to come here and not to love them, help them. How would that go?

"Listen, sweetie, Jesus loves you but I have floors that never seem to get clean! I know you are hungry and lonely but God is a father to the fatherless! Let me wipe your tears honey. Surely you realize the importance of my children taking two vacations this year. We need to find rest and relaxation after our "crazy" sports schedules, Christmas shopping and church work. Keep trusting God sweetie! He loves you! He's blessed me with SO much and we are having a big party to celebrate. If he can do that for me, I know he will help you. I wish I could do more but I am getting out of I can save up for more fun things. Just know that I am praying for you sweet girl!"

Then I was reminded:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs of judgment.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go I wish you well; keep warm and and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:12-17

We hope we are teaching our children to see Jesus in everything they do, in every place they go and even to love the ones who do not reflect his love in their hearts. Our children know that God doesn't look at the outward appearances, he looks at what is inside. And even when he doesn't like what's inside of us, he still loves us. Our children have learned how to wait on God for their desires and see Him answer. Our children have learned that suffering happens, because they have seen it and some have experienced it. They also know that God saves because they have witnessed his grace. Our children are learning that sometimes, things don't go as we plan, but God is always good.

I hope that most of all, our children know they are never a burden to me and their father. They are hugged, kissed, and told they are loved everyday. They know what it's like to have parents pray over them. They know that Mom and Dad mess up but they also know parents who say "I am sorry." They get to see a Mom and Dad who are passionately devoted to eachother and to their family and to GOD!

There is great GRACE poured out on those who will say YES when Jesus calls your name and sends you. Your house maybe won't be spotless and you might find that there things you just didn't get done that you hoped to. But do not become enslaved by those who have not had their eyes opened to the greater works He has in store. The joy our family marinades in, well, I wouldn't trade it for anything. We will never trade Christ for anything else.

So keep asking, What do you see God? I want more of you JESUS! And when those painful words come at you like arrows questioning why and what and how you are doing what you do, just keep seeing Jesus' love poured out for YOU! You are the beautiful hands and feet of Jesus going places most of the world closes their eyes to! Praise God, you didn't!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 17: Taste and See that the Lord is GOOD!

I've got about a weeks worth of blog topics, but today I will stick with the little miracle of love! If you've been through much or maybe had everything taken from you, if you have loved and lost over again, if you have been betrayed by the ones who are supposed to care for you, if you have been left out if you weren't the fastest in line, on and on, it's quite humanly reasonable to not trust anymore.

Many many of the difficulties adoptive parents have experienced isn't children's behaviors, but the one's who hurt the children to begin with. And that can be a multitude of factors. So when you see a child who hoards, who steals, who lies, who lashes out first, it's not an evil child you are seeing. It's a child who has been neglected, who was stolen from, who was lied to and who was hurt. This really isn't the topic of today's post but it sets up for you why what I am about to share is a miracle.

Today Maxim didn't hover over his snack. Today Maxim drank his juice in sips and returned it to the table. Big deal! Yeah, actually, it is!

He trusted that there would more good to come. He trusted that he didn't have to shove it in or ELSE. He is learning to enjoy food with those he loves and TRUSTS! I made a little video so you could see him pace himself and for me to remember as a real triumph. You will have to see it on my FB page though.

While I was taping the video of Maxim and Artyom having their snack, I was able to catch footage of Artyom opening the snack and giving more to Maxim when he asked for it. The really awesome thing about that is Artyom not only is missing feet and has a cleft palate but his hands don't work like ours either. This kid I believe, has demonstrated more faith and determination to the others around him than he will ever know. The grace upon his life makes me want to cry, but then it just makes me want to be a better person. He has strengthened my faith.

Today I handed out more mirrors to children. I know very few words in Russian but because "Beautiful" says beautiful all the time, they know that word. :o) So as we held those mirrors and listened to worship music I spoke over each of them their beauty and preciousness in Christ Jesus. I point to heaven, hold their faces and smile.

By the way, some of the orphans I get to love on are in their 50's.

I'm amazed at how much God has been able to do with few words. Peace shows up, love abounds, and for our time together coloring, drawing, singing, SWEETNESS rests there. Ya know, it's pretty easy to love and show kindness for short periods of time when under pressure. You know that your time will be up soon so you "hold on." Well, what has amazed me is that there is an abundance of love stored up in hearts and they are looking for opportunities to pour it out. These "children" have seen only 3 adoptions now in the last 6 decades of this institution and yet, HOPE lives. If that isn't God, I don't know what is. The hope of freedom still thrives in many hearts here. Maxim's is being realized. Artyom, Beautiful and some other children are witnessing his miracle right before their very eyes and they are holding on to the hope that one day THEIRs will arrive.

Artyom took this photo as we were finishing up for the day:

For many children here, their hope is fading. Perhaps this has been the most painful part to see. They are beginning to shut off in their pain and sorrow and many are physically in great pain. If you can remember back to the post of the boy with the slippers. He needs medical help that isn't available here. I am praying for a family for him but even more I am praying that the body of Christ would be moved to financially support medical treatment for him. He has spent his entire life in "the splits." He has great joy and smiles everytime he sees me. "Priviet, what is your name?" he says. He asks me in English. He's a charmer.

I have seen the goodness of God here. I have been moved and touched in deeper ways than I knew. I love God more. My hunger and thirst for Him has grown and I taste and see that HE IS A GOOD GOD who has sent his son Jesus to demonstrate His great love for us that we might live our lives that reveals that GOODNESS to the world who has not yet met Him.

"You my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:13-15

"I the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:6-7

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 14: A "Beautiful" Kind of Day

There's no way around it, Beautiful has weaved her way into our hearts. She joined us again today to play with Maxim and Ira, a 25 year old girl. I can't call her a woman because in so many ways she seems about 15. She too has cerebral palsey. Her feet are twisted in and up and she has learned to walk on them that way. I met another miracle yesterday. Here's Ira.

And Beautiful with Ira

I better back up to say that this morning was a rough start. The neighbor of mine had the television blasting so I put my earplugs in and then slept through the alarm this morning. I woke about 20 minutes before I had to leave so I forgot to pack the juice and food treats that Maxim loves so much. I wondered how Maxim would take this disappointment and how I was going to convey to him how I forgot. I put my hands together next to my head like I was sleeping and then yawned and opened my eyes, looked at my watch then screamed "machina to Maxim, machina to maxim" Vroom! Vroom! Well, it worked. They all understood me and we had a good laugh at how silly Mama is. Perhaps my efforts to convey what happened was a good enough to forgive me quickly. I was surprised he never really showed disappointment at all. In fact he said, "Mama, okay."

I didn't post yesterday mostly because I was working through little bits of sorrow and leaning on God. It was good, just not a posting kind of day. I had spent a good amount of time praying with Beautiful and Ira. I learned quickly that they knew God in heaven. Without words, you can feel worship. Ira went from reclusive and downcast face, to radiance. In prayer, I began crying which I did not plan to do in front of these girls. I was truly overwhelmed with them and their love for God that it sent me to humility so deeply. With some thoughts of my kids back home and missing Randy, I guess I was ripe.

But what happened next just killed me. They leaned over to me and wiped MY tears. I recovered quickly but I learned that the capacity for love can still thrive. These girls are longing to GIVE love! Not just to receive love but they too want to live freely and to have families, to nurture. They aren't looking for clothes, food, toys and all of the extra's. They really want to be loved and to give love. They want to be seen for who they are. Not a number sewn on their clothes. Not a diagnosis made years ago that determined their life course. Can you imagine? Can you imagine on your worst and weakest day being judged and labeled and for the rest of your life you live according to that day?

So all of this was my yesterday....

Come today, I wasn't surprised to find Ira and Beautiful waiting for me again, hoping to spend these two hours in hugs and prayer and worship again. Maxim is very close to Beautiful so he likes having her around.

I was playing ball with Maxim for a long while when I noticed Beautiful and Ira sitting together whispering a distance away. They looked sad watching us. Perhaps the better word is longing. They looked longingly. I knew what they were talking about. I heard those clue words, Mama, America, dom (home), love. Maxim came over to me and hugged me and said Mama Tina and Beautiful's face had a million expressions on it. God, please grant her miracle! When it was nearing time to go she came over to me and she hugged me but it was a different kind of hug. It felt like a plea for mercy on her life. She knows she only has until April to be adopted.

I don't know if you have heard or not that Ukraine has said they are putting a moratorium on adoptions. What that means exactly isn't known yet, but more will be known Dec. 17th when the next meeting is set to discuss this. Will you please be in prayer for this day? This will have a big impact on the older kids like Beautiful. Their clocks are ticking.

May the growns of the prisoners come before you;by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die. Psalm 79:11 The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. Psalm 37:18

With love and thankfulness, I pray you are overwhelmed with your heavenly Father's love today and that these days leading up to Christmas would be filled with thoughts of that love and the precious gift you have of your family. You are free to be loved and to give love. Do it generously and with joy in your hearts and watch what happens.

Sweetly wrapped in grace,