Thursday, April 11, 2013

Court Details!!!

     Lastnight our new friend Natasha came to visit and to pray with us.  She brought homemade goodies for us and we had precious fellowship time talking about the anguish of heart God gives to us for hurting people and for the lost.  It's the greatest gift of God that you can travel across the world, have all kinds of differences and yet when you share Jesus EVERYTHING else melts away.  I dreaded saying goodbye but I knew the Lord had placed her with us in preparation and for refreshment.

     This morning we woke early and learned the confirmation that our nurse would not be able to travel to help bring the kids home.  While we don't have the answer just yet, we have no question in our mind that whatever ends up happening, the kids will be cared for and it will be good.  So we made the two hour drive to court all the while reading the Bible - eating it quite literally.  The Words of His sovereignty, His perfect plans, His power, His justice made us even wince as we thought of life before Him when we lived in our own ideas.   So our first praise was just to thank Him for saving us from ourselves!  What a good and faithful God we serve.

     Court was super official- the most official we've ever had.  Two officials from each district, the judge, prosecutor, secretary and two locals to ask questions if they wished.  I try to be official.  I mean I want to be honoring and respectful.  It truly is my goal but I often begin hugging or smiling or crying or.......  So I just prayed and asked God not to let me do anything in my ignorance and to only let Him speak through me and Randy.  As I sat there looking at the Ukraine emblem over the bench, I made it to be the Cross and I reminded myself of who rules the court.

      One minute in, George's musical ring tone LOUDLY goes off while he is at the microphone and session had started.  I didn't want to start digging through his things and it was quite obviously a distraction so I did what I thought best and took my coat off and threw it over his stuff then quickly grabbed Randy's coat from him and threw it over mine... Layers, you know, help.  Hello!  That thing kept singing forever.  I think I already had them giggling by that point watching me try to stop that thing.  Official Ukraine court - not so many smiles run around there.

(On a side note- I think I am learning I will never get to be one of those really put together looking ladies.  Or if I am I have to hold some sort of Lucille Ball air sort of class.  Are any of you mom's like that?  It would really make me feel better if you would come out of the closet and join me. Thanks.)

     So with that, I was SO thankful they called on Randy first.  And he got the first "Why do you want to adopt invalids?"  He expressed seeing all of his children as gifts and being able to watch Maxim transform in the last two years made him excited to see what is in store for Cephas and Lucia.  He told the judge that he just couldn't wait to get them home and to begin caring for them as they need.  He was bold and gentle at the same time.

     When they called me to stand up and speak I was asked similarly.  I tried to talk but that huge thing that shows up in the back of your throat came first.  LONG pause....and as I am praying for His word to come out, I say "I'm really trying not to cry." (Awesome Tina!)  And so fighting through tears I explained to him that it's really amazing to hear about gifted children and how they succeed with high grades, go to college and maybe even become a judge.  But - we also think its pretty amazing when children who were born without those abilities and were not given any chances to learn and grow, suddenly begin to see themselves in family and able to try new things, and see themselves as successful. I told him, "I will be honored to call Cephas and Lucia mom." 

The representative of the prosecutors office asked one question but for the most part it was the judge who had about 50.  The funniest question was, "What does 3 1/2 bathrooms mean? How do you have half a bathroom?"  The whole place laughed out loud and for the next several minutes his secretary couldn't pull it together.  That just hit her funny bone.  Guess its a goofy American thing.

 "Well it seems that caring for these children takes great work Tina.  Isn't it so, that for a woman this is quite a lot?"   I thought for a moment, looked at him and just said, "Yes." I wasn't going to get focused on the whole woman part.  I got  raised eyebrows with my short answer.  I think he expected me to lay out the list of how incredible I am.  He smiled though.  I think he might have found that answer refreshing.  It was he who quickly followed up with, "Surely your husband helps with the children some?"  And to this, I gushed over how amazing my husband is and told him what an amazing baker he is too.  "Even knows how to correctly fold fitted bed sheets!"  No joke, I said that.  It's on audio filed with officials in Ukraine.  (So for those waiting for the amazing speech of the century, might want to pass on this one.)

    But what amazed us was what happened when the representatives of the districts and orphanages stood up to speak.  Each of them shared stories and personal perspectives that brought tears not only to us but to the secretary and witnesses and  soft eyes from the judge.   One of the inspectors fears when we showed up was that we wouldn't know all that was wrong with Lucia but then we came armed with questions more than they even imagined we could know to ask. They were so surprised that we would know so many problems, be planning for them, and STILL wanted to do this. 

     The orphanage representative shared about how she went to Lucia before our arrival and to explain that some guests were coming shortly to see her about the possibility of adopting her.  She became visibly upset and said no.  The lady told her she didn't have to be adopted if she didn't want to but that when they rolled her in to see us and she saw,  Lucia's face lit up immediately.  Lucia explained to her that she thought "guests" meant strangers but that she knew we were her parents and she had been waiting for us to come a long time. She just didn't want anyone else to take her before we got there.  Yeah, that pulled on some hearts BIG!  So the judge said, "She understands?"  "Oh yes she understands everything. I saw them meet.  It was love right away between Tina and Lucia." He was very surprised that someone in her physical condition could express all of these thoughts and feelings.  So she elaborated.... "And when I go to see her she has three dolls holding hands next to her bed and she named them, Mama Tina, Papa Randy and Lucia."
"She wants to be their daughter."  HOLY SPIRIT CHILLS - Oh did I feel the power of God in those words.

And so when it came to Cephas the judge inquired about his medical condition and if it was true.  "Yes.  It's true."  The judge was just amazed at how severe they were and that they were still expressing themselves.  "Yes Cephas wants to go to America and he calls them Mama and Papa."

There wasn't anyone contesting but a true interest in trying to understand us.  "Between you, who decided to start adopting children with special needs?"   I couldn't help but giggle inside as I told the story of  how we were told Grace was healthy and that when we met her we learned of her special needs.  Grace started it all. God started it all.   

It was a long day but a good day..... turned into a time of story telling, reflection, a TESTIMONY to the goodness of God.  With all our flaws, all of our tears and blubbers and blunders....it was perfect because God is.  Doesn't really matter if Randy and I shined today, God does.  And what He just did today will never be forgotten.

We were able to run by to see Cephas to deliver the good news.... This is what he thought about it!

 

“I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
19 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
20 At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes[e]
before your very eyes,”
says the Lord.


Zephaniah 3:18-20

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Washing Our Hearts - Our Prayer

Our hearts are heavy today.  Not in the sort of way that needs fixing but the way that let's us know we will never be the same again.  It's a good ache.  An ache of truth the arises bright faces; the irony of walking with our Father God.

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

How much do you love me?  Oh God, we love you!

(The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:17)

5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:5-10

God,
Give us grace to trust you.   Hold tight to us as we walk into places we have not traveled before.  Give us more of your love to see rightly.

   
 Build up forgiveness in us like floodwaters to pour out readily and generously for the words we hear, for misunderstanding, for judgment, for cruelty.  Equip us to display what you would have us in your mercy that those looking in would be drawn to you more.


    In suffering, you brought forth salvation.  In the rejection of Jesus by man, man would be rescued.  So it is our blessing when the world does not understand the beauty you have brought us through adoption.  May Jesus be close to our hearts that the victory of heaven be the first words on our lips.
                                
    Reveal your wisdom through ways unknown to man.  Blow open the doors of steel called LIES that keep your children from hearing your voice.  Wreck the views that have been placed there through tradition and then held there in FEAR. We thank you for the kiss of comfort from the Holy Spirit to teach us an honest and honoring way to respond that will bring peace and glory to your Holy name.
 
And may your name ever be the banner upon our hearts as the one and only God who is good and is faithful and who brings justice in mercy with perfect love.  We praise you that our time here is precious and holy to be carefully contemplated, gently tended and marked as eternal remembrances of a grace beyond compare.
 
Amen.....   
 

Held by a perfect love,

 

Tina and Randy

 
 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Awaken Your Faith and Move in Spirit

I was led to 1 Corinthians 15 to meditate as it relates to this journey with Christ we are on.
 
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
 
We took a few days to travel to Crimea to see what the Lord might have for us.  We so enjoyed the beauty of southern Ukraine.


How do we see?  This is what I heard in my spirit....  When we walk in our lives as followers of Christ, do we stop to peer into the lives around us?  What would happen if we did?  What would we learn?  What if we used the life-giving spirit inside of us?
 
Meet Vladimir.  He is 72 years old and spends several days a week along the waterfront of the Black Sea playing his accordion.  I looked closer as we came near.  Hearing his music, I knew he loved the sound....he enjoyed what he was doing.  I couldn't find the cannister to collect monies although I was sure there must be one. 
 
 I was compelled to meet him and so I asked my friends to translate for me.  I learned that he once traveled to the US in his early days and had even spent time at Carnegie.  He was a music teacher for many years after studying in school.  He expressed that no one cares for his music and was surprised to receive our small gift for his musical blessing.
 
How did Vladimir come here?  He hadn't washed for a very long time, it was apparent.  While his face showed a beautiful smile, my own heart ached as I felt his.  I had to ask.  Vladimir, what happened to your leg? His response, "When you walk outside of God this happens to you." He never would explain what happened to lose his leg but  he quoted some of what Paul says in scripture.
 “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
Romans 3:11-12
 
I was surprised to hear him quote from scripture and then he said, "It is too late for me."

I asked if I could pray for him and if he would mind if I touched him.  I imagined it had been a long while since someone had embraced him warmly.  He agreed and my friend translated my words of blessing over him.  I prayed for reconciliation in his broken relationships to which he is estranged with his daughter.  I prayed for him to return in hopeful desire to God's plan for him.
Vladimir became my friend that day.  Forever imprinted in my heart, with prayer attached.


     This is the power God has given to us.  That we would not walk anywhere ever again without looking into the hearts of those around us. That we might deliver the precious life giving spirit of Jesus Christ to those who have lost hope or never known hope.  My time with Vladimir was short and I don't know what tomorrow will look like for him but for today I can say without doubt, Love touched him. His glistening eyes spoke thankfulness.  The touch of love in prayer holds the POWER of the Cross!
 
53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
     Where, O death, is your sting?”  
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
    When we take time out of our lives for the heart of another, we cannot imagine what God will do with that!  Nine years ago (almost exactly) Randy and I were in Simferopol, Crimea adopting for the first time.  We knew so very little about Ukraine and we were on our own one day to call for a taxi.  God sent us a most adorable young man named Pavel (meaning Paul) out of no where to aid us.  With his little English and our little Russian, he helped us.
    In that tiny moment, Pavel was knit in our hearts too. He had been working at the orphanage and we took photos together over the time of our stay.  I still have it on the refrigerator in the kitchen to be a frequent remembrance of how the Lord answers our every detailed need in His perfect timing.
 
    So two days after we met Vladimir, we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Pavel - nine years since our last meeting!  As we pulled up to the orphanage and I saw him standing there waiting, I felt a rush in my heart and leaped out of the car to hug him.  How does this happen?  How does God do this love thing?  How can he make our hearts love so richly?  Because we pray....and when we pray blessings over those we meet God enlarges our hearts to love even more. 
 
It's the encouragement he has gifted us to give to another.
 
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
 
And so it just wouldn't be right to stop this post without sharing this darling woman:
One night we were walking back to our hotel from the pizza place we use internet at and passed by a church.  Not looking like a usual church, I asked George about it, when a woman who was walking ahead of us turned around and admonished us NOT to go there because they baptized different than the Orthodox church.
 
Perfect! I couldn't wait to go!
 
So on the Sunday afterwards we walked in without a translator and just smiled and I said, "I love Jesus."  They smiled and as graciously as they could tried to rush to find an English speaker and then appeared, Natasha!  The next day she showed us around the town, shared with me her heart for India and for the deaf.  After her studies with YWAM in England a few months ago she is studying Hindu and readying to travel later in August this year.    This is LOVE- this is how we allow the Lord to move in us and around us.  And how blessed are we to learn that the pastors wife works at the orphanage here in the town and they have offered the use of their minibus should we need it!!
 
There is no such thing as CHANCE with Jesus Christ!  Awaken your faith today to let the spirit of God within you to lead you into your destiny with Him.  His plan is perfect for you and no matter the challenges that come to you, His grace is blissfully secured to bring you through in FULLNESS!
 
Glimpses of the ways He has refreshed us while on our three day adventure to Crimea:
This man is the photographer of all of the work behind me.  When he heard the story of Lucia and Cephas he presented us with this beautiful piece of the Black Sea with a Cross on the rock in the background of the picture.
 
And to the right, two of the best traveling mates! We were so richly loved on by them. Sweet Mary Malone and Jamie Hejl (from Lincoln, Nebraska!) brought us to Balaklava and on the submarine station tour and to the Khersones Ruins.  I think we may have given them a few laughs too.

God knows I love kitties so He provided about a bazillion of them for me to photograph.  Here's one!
 

 

 

13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.   1 Corinthians 16:13-14