Monday, June 8, 2015

What is He asking you?

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” 
“No,” they answered. 
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
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. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”   Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:1-17)



                Shortly after Easter, about a month before we felt God was calling us to pursue adopting Thomas Joseph, the above scripture would come to mind frequently when I prayed.  I felt like I was in Peter's place; in the boat, fishing all night and not recognizing Jesus when He asked me to cast my nets again.  I doubt, just as I am sure Peter did.  Why? Who are you to tell me what to do?  I have been fishing all night and caught nothing?  I begrudgingly throw my nets in the water.  And they are filled.  And then I see. It is the  Lord.

And then, just like Peter, I am beside Christ at the fire.  I can smell the burning wood. hear the crackling fire.  And Jesus asks me a question, but a different one than Peter's . . .

"Katie, do you TRUST Me?"

And, I admit, that I stammer in my answer.  My answer is somewhat timid.

"Yes"

I mean, of course I trust Him.  But I am asked again.

"Do you trust Me?"

Don't we all trust Him?  But, I search my own heart in prayer and my trust is not really complete.  I live a somewhat safe life.  Even Felicity's adoption, which took much trust in Him, was still fairly safe as far as adoption goes.  He is asking of me total abandonment.  To walk blindly in faith in the direction He is calling.  And TRUST.

And through this time, He has reminded me that He is trustworthy. I mean, total, abandon all to Him, trustworthy.

"He is not here, for He has risen JUST AS HE SAID." Matthew 28:6

This Easter I was reminded, in a deeper way, that His words are true.  Gosh, I type this and it seems so simplistic.  Of course, He is trustworthy. Of course His words are true.  But, have I really been living with total trust and dependence on Him?

And that is why I am asked again . . .

"Katie, do you trust Me?"

And through this happening so many times during prayer, I realize something.  I do trust Him. Totally.  And I do not want to live a safe life anymore.  I want to abandon all for Him.

So, when we put Thomas Joseph's file on hold and there were signs along the way to show that this is God's will, I knew why God was questioning my trust.  This adoption had far more questions, than answers supplied.  On paper, it does not make sense. How is TJ's heart really?  How will Felicity adjust? How in the world will we be able to fund this adoption?  Will our boys adjust well with another adoption; another year of craziness and upheaval?

Jesus does not call us to live safe, to live the comfortable.  He calls us to trust and walk with Him for His glory and for our benefit.

And so I answer Him.

Yes, Lord.  I trust you because your are worthy of my trust.  You have shown us again and again through scripture that your words are true.  You rose from the dead.  Why shouldn't we be willing to abandon the safe and the comfortable for you?

"Follow me."

And in the moment, I wish I could say that I am holier than the first Pope, but I am just like him.

I look behind me . . . "What about them Lord?"  And I compare,  If You are calling us to this, what is their calling?  (Because it sure better be just as difficult.)

Jesus redirects me. It isn't about what others are doing or not doing and what their callings are.  This is about us.  Our family and following Him. That is it.

The question Christ asked me was about trust, but I think He asks each of us a different question.  What is the one thing that holds you back from following him with abandon, leaving fear behind? The answer lies in the question He asks each one of us.

What is He asking you?





Thursday, June 4, 2015

His name (and a picture too)!

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post called "Her name (and a picture too)!"  If someone would have told me that I would be writing a similar post in a year, I would have laughed at them.  It is all too fitting that my morning devotional started with the She Reads Truth Bible Study: Women in the Bible and I read about Sarah.  Oh, how we all often laugh in disbelief at God's promises.

It took us a while to figure out a name for our little guy.  Here we had pictures, videos and the certainty that God was calling us to adopt him, but we had no name. No idea of a name.  He was born right around the Feast of Pope St. John Paul.  A great man, and amazing saint.  But, everyone has a John Paul and as much as I love the saint, I was not too thrilled about naming one of my children after him (it is a character flaw, I rarely like to do what "everyone else is doing").  He was found on the Feat of All Saints (November 1st), an incredible feast day and one of our signs that God was saying yes, he is your son, but it does not really help in the naming process when it opens you up to the whole Communion of Saints! So, we procrastinated and just called him "little boy" for a while.

We had settled on a middle name fairly easily.  Joseph.  My mom had mentioned it in a phone conversation.  It is a family name.  My grandfather was a Joseph, and it is my father's and Pete's middle names.  But a first name eluded us. So I do what I do best, I pulled out a boy's saint name book and started calling out names one Saturday afternoon.  I read name after name and we would pause at a few.  We got to Thomas.  Pete, claimed his love for the name.  I wanted a biblical name, so it fit what I was looking for.  Plus, Thomas the Apostle and Thomas Beckett, two great Saints, were martyrs, so it would match Felicity's name.  I immediately identified with Thomas' doubt and through this adoption discernment, I doubted, but God was calling me to complete trust.  And then I turned to the page Thomas was on to look up the meaning of the name (I am really big into meanings).  It means  . . .

Twin

 . . . and I laughed!

At that moment I knew that he was meant to be a Thomas and he was meant to be ours.  He was meant to be Felicity's brother . . . because, so often, I said "it will be like having twins."  And I wanted twins.  Ever since a friend mentioned these twins at an orphanage in Papua New Guinea years ago.  Many of you may remember I wanted to adopt precious boy twins that were cared for by Little Flower Projects.  I prayed to adopt twins.

And a few days before we found his name, I was talking to a good friend. She said, "Well, Katie, you always wanted twins.  This is God's way of giving them to you."

So, yes Thomas Joseph is so fitting for our son.  Felicity's "twin".

We are beyond excited to bring him home.

May I introduce you to, Thomas Joseph . . .


Monday, April 27, 2015

God is a much better writer than I am


These next few days mark big dates in our home. 

One year ago tomorrow we got the call that all adoptive families wait for and a few minutes within that call, we saw a picture of Felicity for the first time.

6 Months ago today, she was placed in our arms. Forever.




And today she is a thriving, happy little girl whom we all love.  In the book of our adoption, this is a perfect place to end the story.  To say “and they all lived happily ever after.”  After all, most fairy tales end before the nitty gritty of life begins.

But, God has a few more chapters He is writing in this story.  Chapters that began 6 months ago, on the day of the visit to Felicity’s orphanage.  A chapter that had a major plot twist today.  One He set in motion months ago.  Today we will send in our LOI (Letter of Intent).  Today we began the journey to bring home our son.  It is almost surreal typing that sentence, so soon after bringing home Felicity.  Only God could have brought this about. 

On a Thursday in China, 6 months ago.  Just days after Felicity was brought into the room and we were joined as a family, we went back to the orphanage to tour it.  It is a time for Felicity to say good bye, and for us to see where she spent the first 20 months of her life.  The children of the infant room were in a play area.  We were ushered in and asked to take off our shoes.  Children and staff were scattered throughout the room.  I walked up to a little boy, in light blue, playing with a little toy.  I began talking to him and smiling at him.  He smiled back, a big huge smile.  He was so cute, I thought.  I tickled him.  And shortly after that, the staff gathered all the infants in the room together for a picture and we moved on.  I thought little of that boy from that day.  I was busy with my own little girl that this boy remained in my memory, but not in my thoughts.

But, two months ago, he came back.  I was on our agency’s China page on Facebook There were several new posts of children newly listed for adoption.  As I was scrolling through, I stopped.  I saw the picture, and though it was a boy months older than I remembered, I knew it was him.  The little boy from Felicity’s orphanage that I played with.  I immediately contacted our social worker to look at his file.  I called Pete.  I was ready to put him on hold that day.  But, my more rational husband, said let’s pray and wait.  We read over his file.  He is a heart baby.  And truthfully, although he had surgery in China, his file seemed scary.  We decided there were too many unknowns and it was way too soon to start again, so we did not pursue him.

But God has a funny way of gently nudging us.  Over the following weeks, I could not get that little boy out of my mind.  I would pray that his family would step forward.  I would email our social worker to see if any family had chosen him yet.  He still waited.  He was not even on hold.  Why wasn’t his family stepping forward?


Two weeks ago, he was posted, once again, in an advocacy group I belong to.  It just tore at my heart, knowing that that cute little boy with the sweet, sweet smile was still waiting.  I emailed our social worker again.  He was still not chosen.  At this point, Pete and I talked.  We needed to have his file reviewed by a doctor.  Then, at least we would know, and at least, if he was not for us, I could advocate for him and help find his family.


I called the doctor who reviewed Felicity’s file.  She said she would review it and have one of the pediatric cardiologists also review.  The phone call was set for Divine Mercy hour, Friday at 3 PM.  I was anxious before the call, and as I lay Felicity down to nap, I prayed a Divine Mercy chaplet.  Make it clear Lord; close the door if it needs to be closed.  The call went much more favorably than I thought.  The doctor suggested that we request more information on him, including a video to have reviewed.  We put him on hold that afternoon, and our social worker requested the information. 

Over the last week, we have had him on hold, we have prayed, and just waited for the information from the orphanage.  And the more the week drew on, the more cemented in my heart this little boy became.  One morning, I simply started crying at the thought of NOT bringing him home, into our family.  We had a second pediatric cardiologist review his file . . . . once again we were told his heart looked great.  During the Divine Mercy hour this past Friday, we received the emails, containing all of the information we requested from the orphanage.  The doors, we prayed would close if this was not His will, were flung open wide.  The doctor reviewed the updated information. And we knew this was our son.

Over the weekend, I have thought and prayed a lot about this.  This is totally wild and crazy.  WE have only been home 6 months.  He is only 7 months younger than Felicity.  It will be like having twins.  Yet, it was those God ordained moments in the orphanage, 6 months ago,  that made this all possible, all probable.

If I hadn’t played with him, hadn’t seen his smile, I would have scrolled right by him when I saw him listed for adoption.


If I hadn’t seen his smile, I would have allowed the “soon-ness” of it all stop us.


If I had not seen his smile, I would have allowed myself to ignore this heart warrior’s file.

If I had not seen his smile, I would have not checked to see if any family had stepped forward or had doctors review his file.

If I had not seen his smile, he might still be waiting.


But, God knew.  God wrote that moment, months ago, into our story.  He writes such beautiful stories with our lives.  So, so much better than I could have written myself.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Wrecked

     Felicity has been with us for 5 months.  5 months as a family of 6. 5 months of having a daughter. In those 5 months we have travelled to the other side of the world, just my husband and I.  We experienced a different culture.  We saw one of the Wonders of the World.  We ate GREAT Chinese food.  We toured Little Flower Projects, where some of the most medically needy orphans are cared for and thriving.  We travelled to our daughter's Province.  She was placed in our arms.  We toured her orphanage.  We travelled to another city and spent time with some amazing adoptive families.  We journeyed home.

The trip was incredible.  Life changing.

But, not as life changing as what was to come after we came home.

I always thought I had a heart for orphans.  I have organized a small fundraiser for the last three years for Little Flower Projects.  My heart breaks when I see photos of orphans and when I hear stories of children being abandoned.   I have hung photos of orphans on our refrigerator to pray for them. Yet, my heart was not broken open and wrecked until now.

Not even visiting Felicity's orphanage was that life changing.

Seeing rows of cribs and beds, knowing that they are filled with orphans . . .




Not even being in a room with so many of the younger ones playing, knowing they are all orphans (except for two :-).


No, not even that.

The change did not come until we were home.  Until our daughter, an orphan no more, walked among us.  Smiled at us.  Until I cuddled her to sleep.  Until she woke up smiling at me each morning. Until she shared meals with us.

Until we called her daughter.

Then. Then I was wrecked for the orphan.

It started as a gentle whisper.  I would hold Felicity and rock her to sleep.

I want to do this again.

I laughed it off at first.  I have been in a sleep deprived state since we have gotten home.  Surely, some of this is just sleep-deprived delirium.

Yet, it has persisted.  This overwhelming feeling.  We need to do this again. 

Something changed, profoundly, when we accepted the call and invited an orphan into our family.  She is no longer an orphan. She is one of us.  The depth of the blessing that she is to our family is indescribable.  I often wonder if the amazement and awe I feel when I look at her of all that God has done will wear off.  I am sure it may some day, but until then, each day I look at Felicity and I am utterly blown away by God's goodness.  I often wonder why us?  Why did He bless us with asking us to adopt? 

And what if we said no?  What if we did not answer the call?

Oh, Felicity would have been adopted.  That I am sure.  But, why should she, why should any orphan have to wait even one day longer than necessary to be called by name; to be a daughter, son, sister or brother.  There are others.  Waiting. 

Why shouldn't we adopt again?

The night Pete and I saw the pre-screening of The Drop Box, we were walking to our car and talking. 

"We are going to adopt again," Pete said.  Half question, but more statement.

I laughed.

Oh, yes, I thought, we will . . .

Honestly, we do not know if we really will adopt again.  We talk about it often.  We pray about it.  Now, we wait on God and His leading and timing. 

But, what I do know is that this adoption has wrecked me.  Things, life, seem just a little different.  Maybe when the dust settles from all the change, life will go back to normal and the way I view the world will go back to the way it was.  But, I hope not.  I hope I stay wrecked.  For a long time . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How we did it (adopt without debt)

A few weeks after we came home from China, I was sitting down to finalize our adoption expenses spread sheet.  I added the last of the expenses from our time in China and I hit the sum button.  I was a little bit shocked, well, amazed at God's goodness is a better way to describe it . . .

The grand total: $33,773.21

That number includes every check written to our home study and placement agencies, airline tickets, finger prints, visas, etc, etc: even every express envelope mailed with very important documents.

And that amount was paid if full, without any debt. While the total amount seems daunting, and it was to me, we did it.  We adopted without debt and here is how we did it.

 (A disclaimer before you read the list:  Pete and I work really hard to follow Dave Ramsey and live without debt.  Pete has worked for the Church for the last 11 years and we had to learn early on in our marriage to live within a tight budget, save, and, go without what the "Joneses" may have had down the street. )




- Savings for adoption.  Before we even started the process, we began putting away $100 a month for the (possible) adoption.  This was me being hopeful, but we did it with the knowledge that we *might* need the money for that very special purpose someday.  This did not amount to much. By the time we started the process we had about $1,600 in the account, which was gone when our first check was written to our home study agency.  But, it was a good start.

- We worked. A lot.  Dave Ramsey touts taking side jobs when you are working to get rid of debt, and we applied that principle to this situation.  I had personal training clients that I met with 2-3 times a week.  I got a job working a few race expos with a great running t-shirt company.  Pete got side jobs too.  It meant we were busy.  I often sacrificed sleep and my own workout to meet a client early in the morning. The boys' homeschooling days would get interrupted. We had less family time together.  But we knew it was a season and that the end result, less financial worries, was worth it.

- Fundraisers.  We held two different fundraisers.  We held an online auction and had a total of 4 days worth of yard sales over two summers.  All items were donated.  A location for the second (two day yard sale) was even "donated."  I went through all the items donated for the yard sales and sold the nicer items on eBay, Craigslist or an online yard sale site because I knew I could get more money for them that way than at the yard sale.

- Selling anything that wasn't nailed down. I write that in jest (somewhat).  I went through EVERYTHING we owned and sold LOTS of items.  Random items, homeschool curriculum, old cameras, furniture. It all got sold on eBay or Craigslist.  Anytime I got sentimental about an item, I would remind myself that there was a child in China that needed a family a lot more than I needed ______ and it got sold.

- Donations.  We did send out a fundraising letter to friends and family who did not live close by. 
We had set up an AdoptTogether site that people could give a tax-deductible donation and then we were able to get that money via a grant through AdoptTogether.  Some people just sent us checks, others gave money here and there.  A stranger even handed me a $100 bill when he found out what we were doing. 

- Grants.  We applied for one grant and got a grant through Show Hope.  We had researched a lot of grants and did want to apply for more, but many grants only allow you to apply for one grant every two years and since we had already thought about adopting again, and we figured we would need more grants for the second adoption, we decided to wait to apply to those foundations until adoption #2.

- Our savings account.  The majority of our in-country expenses (the final fees, etc that are paid in China and due before travel), came from our savings.

We had really wanted this trip to be a family trip, but once we got Travel Approval and began looking at the hard numbers in front of us, we knew we could not take the boys.  The stress on us, financially, would have been too great and I knew that I did not want to have a great time in China for two weeks with everyone, but stress for months (or years) about finances after we came home; especially knowing Felicity would have upcoming surgeries.  We had even discussed me going by myself, but thankfully, due to a donation we got the day after we received Travel Approval, we did not need to consider that as an option and Pete and I were able to go together.

While I did not give specific numbers in this post, I wrote this post more to show that adopting without debt is doable.  I was amazed at how God showed up through the generosity of so many people around us. Friends, family, and strangers gave items for yard sales, hours of working at the yard sales, items for our online auction.  I am forever grateful to those people who helped us adopt Felicity.

I want to encourage anyone reading this.  If God places adoption on your hearts, do not let the cost of the adoption stop you.  God will provide when you are following His will and trusting in Him.