Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup...
Psalm 16:5

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sweet Surprises

Two summers ago we took our girls to visit my Grandpa Bill at his home in Tinley Park, a suburb on Chicago's South Side.  He and my grandma raised their family in the same Tinely home.  We timed things so we would be there with my dad during his annual visit. The girls had a ball.  They chased fireflies with their grandpa outside his childhood home, explored the Northern Illinois prairie surrounding my aunt and uncle's home in Marengo, and braved a heatwave that hit the Midwest that same week.  Reports put the heat at over 130 degrees coming off the downtown pavement.  Even Paul had to bow out of a Cubs game after just a few innings.

Neither one of our girls had ever had the opportunity to meet my grandpa.  His last visit to Portland was  before Ella was born.  It was fun to be able to introduce the three of them (along with my adopted grandma, Marion).  Most of the time, between offers of hard candy and dinners at the Cracker Barrel, Grandpa Bill just sat and watched the girls play, eyes shining.  It was a sweet, sweet visit.  We pretty much knew that would be it.  Grandpa was old and frail, and aside from his morning jaunts to McDonald's for coffee with the guys, he pretty much stuck close to home.

Then, just this past fall, we heard he was moving West.  Before the holidays.  Just like that.  My dad and aunt found him an assisted living place within fifteen minutes of our house.  And so, before the frost had a chance to sneak up on his Illinois sidewalk, he flew out to his new home.  We were worried about him, worried that he would miss his home and his town of over sixty years.  But he didn't.  He was SO happy.  He made friends, introduced himself to anyone who came by, announced to the entire cafeteria that his name was Bill, and that he was going to live there for a long time, he hoped.

God had other plans, though.  We knew his last days would be spent here, we just didn't know how soon those days would come.  Six weeks seemed too short.  Just six weeks?  But God knew.  He knew that he wanted to give my sweet Grandpa Bill six weeks of visits from his beloved family, six weeks of hugs and kisses from his great-granddaughters, six weeks of football games on the couch right next to his son, six weeks to celebrate Emilie's birthday and to have a certain little witch and her puppy dog side kick trick-or-treat at his door.

I so much wanted those weeks to stretch to months or even years.  In that short time, though, God demonstrated his kindness overflowing in ways I never would have imagined.  "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works."  Psalm 145:8-9

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Three Years Old!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday Dear Emilie,

Happy Birthday to You!

And many more...

Had to squeeze one in with sis!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Car Conversation

This is what transpired during our eight minute drive to Ella's school today:

Emilie:  Mom, why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

Me:  (Sigh) That is a big question, Ems.  It is because of sin.

Ella:  (Emphatically) And Satan.  It is Satan's fault.

Emilie:  Who is sin?

Me:  Sin isn't a person (although yes, Satan did tempt Eve).  Sin is all the yuck and bad and ickieness in  our world.

Ella:  You know, like when you bite me or pinch me or hit me.  That is YOUR sin.

Me:  Yes, we all sin, a lot.  And because God is so good and perfect and wonderful, he can't be around sin.

Ella:  So that is why Jesus died.

Me:  Jesus had to die to take all the sin away.  His dying was like taking all the sin and throwing it in the garbage so we could be close to God.

Emilie:  Sometimes my sin comes out of the garbage.  It comes out of the garbage and I bite Ella.

Me:  Yes, we don't stop sinning because Jesus died, but he took care of all of it, even the sin we haven't done yet.  That is why we are so thankful and grateful.  We can only be close to God because of what Jesus did.

With that, we pulled into the school parking lot.  Sheesh.  Funny and hard and deep and I hope I say the right things when my two-year-old busts out with stuff like that.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Now?

After the several not-so-coincidental prompts to pursue a relationship with All God's Children and Ethiopia, the next big question for us was, when?  Originally we figured we'd just have our baby and then adopt.  It seemed to make such sense at the time.  Then came the reality of new parenthood...parenthood involving a baby who cried a lot, and who slept only during the day (or so it seemed), and who wouldn't take a bottle (or a binkie).  Did I mention she cried a lot?  I can remember sitting at a booth at Rose's drinking coffee and having breakfast when Ella was probably five weeks old.  Paul just shook his head and told me he didn't think we could have any more kids.  I pretty much agreed.  There went adoption.

We eventually (like after two years) stopped feeling like we would die from lack of sleep and raw nerves.  However, adding more children to our family still didn't sound like a super great idea.  God works things out, though, in his way.  And when our really challenging babe had turned into a beautiful, vibrant, articulate, and creative three year old, he gave us Emilie.  She melded seamlessly into our family, so we figured by the time she turned two we'd apply to adopt.  However, we never really considered that our easy breezy newborn would turn into a fiery, daring, clever, and hysterical two year old.  Kinda a handful.

Was it really wise to attempt a third child?  Most days mothering two was quite enough, thank you.

And yet, just when we were wondering if this really was something we should do, at least while our kids were little, God provided another set of not-so-coincidental events to get us moving.

First of all, international adoption is not cheap, and even though we had been saving for a while, we didn't have the $30,000 needed to cover the costs.  Not to mention that we still were living life and had expenses along the way.  One of these was a computer.  Our computer was our first major purchase as a married couple (over TEN years ago).  Clearly it was past its prime.  We needed a new one.

One Wednesday in May, as we were talking again about when and how we would ever adopt, a friend from Paul's work told him he had dropped his MacBook Pro and it wouldn't close anymore.  So, he got a new one.  And, would we want his old, perfectly fine, just won't close all the way computer?  Ummm, yes.  This may sound crazy, but I honestly believe God gave us that computer.  It was as if he was saying, "Watch how I will remove the obstacles you think are in the way of your action."

Friday of that week, God used a couple of other circumstances to make the timing abundantly clear.  Paul had been looking for a new job for over a year.  He had interviewed a few different places, but nothing ended up working.  That afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with my friend Joy.  Paul called to let me know that Kaiser had called him to interview for a job.  A job he had not even applied for.  A job that was not even posted.  WHAT?  It was crazy and wonderful and just the encouragement he needed at a challenging time professionally.  We didn't know at the time that he would be hired for the very job after a few weeks of interviewing.  Regardless, it was such a reminder of how not-in-control we are.

That same afternoon between Paul's phone call and his arrival at home, my phone bleeped with an incoming email from AGCI.  In honor of Mother's Day, they were reducing their initial fees by $1500.  Again, WHAT?  I laughed out loud and screamed and performed a nice freak-out show for my girls.  I didn't say a word to Paul when he walked in the door.  I just showed him the email.  He said, "I guess we should do it."  This was from the guy who one month prior had sat through an adoption seminar and announced that we would definitely NOT be applying to adopt this summer.  We didn't have the money.

Now, as we await our home visits and submission of our dossier, I am so very thankful I can look back and consider what God has already done.  I know that this is our next little step in obedience.  When I get frustrated because the wait time for a referral is over two years, and because the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in international adoption is obscene, I know that our baby step was made just when it was supposed to be.  The rest is not my deal.  It is my Savior's.  He is the one who died for me, the one who knows our sweet baby's name, the one who holds this very planet in the palm of his hand.  I'm shaking my head in disbelief that he would invite me to be a part of his work.      

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer Fun

 I really tried to limit myself to ten pics.  I just couldn't do it.  So, here are fifteen favorites.

Making peach pie for Daddy's birthday.
4th of July!
Ems easily ate her weight in watermelon during July and August.
Swinging with Nana.
Riding bikes in Sunriver.
This was the summer of independent reading for Ella.
First day of First Grade.
Artwork...clothing optional.
Backyard campout.
Rag curls.
Cannon Beach.
This girl used to be my baby.

First kite fly.
Thank you Jesus!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Ethiopia?

After feeling like God really opened our eyes to the needs of children without families, and knowing it wasn't the right time for us to adopt, we spent a whole lot of time praying and researching and praying and waiting.  We figured that since this nudge to adopt had occurred while we were already expecting a baby, we'd just begin the adoption process as soon as ours was born.  But we didn't know...domestic or international, private or foster care?  Throughout the time I was pregnant with Ella, we prayed for two babies, the one who was growing my mid-section beyond recognition, along with the sweet babe we planned to adopt shortly there after.  Our timing was grossly miscalculated (another post for that one).

As we prayed, he directed us toward this beautiful country and the agency we would use to pursue our child.  At first, the research about orphans and adoption just depressed me.  The statistics were shocking and the stories horrifying.  I was frozen.  What was I supposed to do with all of this.  We are one family.  Didn't God know this?  What the heck!

The end of this fog began with Invisible Children.  I watched and was distraught beyond belief.  However, God definitely used it to stir in our hearts a burden for Africa.  So, I bought merchandise that supported groups helping people in Africa like this one, www.joinred.com , and prayed for the people dying of AIDS and malaria and starvation and other preventable and/or treatable ailments.  I shared with people around me my struggle with the scope of the need, all the while praying.  And, wouldn't you know it, stuff started happening.

First, Rebecca, the Children's Director at our church, who knew we were researching adoption, came to me with a story.  She worked a second part-time job at a local elementary school.  One day some high-school students came to perform a puppet show for the little kids.  They did a great job, so she pulled one of the girls aside to complement her.  The girl thanked Rebecca, and told her how easy it was for her to do stuff like that since she and her family traveled to Romania every year to perform similar shows and activities for orphans there.  You see, she herself had been adopted from Romania.  As a result, her parents began an adoption agency, All God's Children International, to help other families do the same.  She gave Rebecca the website who in turn passed it to me.  I looked it up, sent for the information packet, and didn't do much more.

In the midst of this our lives turned upside down by the arrival of our Ella-girl.  All self-motiviated adoption/orphan care pursuits were halted.  In an effort to stay sane, I spent a lot of mornings over at a friend's house.  She was a slightly more experienced new mom who understood the craziness of new parenthood.  Wouldn't you know it, she and her husband likewise shared a burden for orphans, and it was through this relationship God continued his direction.

On the way home from a weekend away, this friend, Angie, and her family stopped at a rest area to let the kids play.  Another family was doing the same.  They got to talking, and not so coincidentally the conversation turned to adoption.  This mom shared with Angie about her family's own heart for adoption, so much so that her parents adopted a baby from Romania and began an adoption agency.  As soon as she told me all of this, we immediately scanned the All God's Children website only to find this same couple serving as directors of the agency.  We couldn't believe it.  We immediately called them up, spoke to the then Executive Director (Angie knew him as the dad from the rest stop).  In a face to face meeting the next day we inquired what the local church could do to support their efforts globally.  We had no idea how to start or what to do.  We both had small babies and knew something corporate was all we could do.  He happened to be leaving for Ethiopia to establish a new program there with a new Ethiopian born, American educated in-country director.  That seemed to be a great place to fit in.  We could be a part of the program from the beginning.

It made sense, first the burden for orphans, then Africa, then this direction toward Ethiopia specifically. We felt smack in the middle of God's work.  And, because God is just so, so, so good to encourage us when we take even baby steps of faith, he provided an additional piece of confirmation.

Later that week, I called my college pal, Sarah, in Boston to tell her all about everything that had been going on.  She was so excited with me but just kept saying how she was sure I had told her all of this before.  Since our meeting at AGCI was just that week, I knew I couldn't have.  Then, she paused and said "Lisa, I know Almaz."  Who was Almaz?  I didn't know what she was talking about.  She continued to explain that the woman AGCI hired to be their in-country Ethiopia director had been living in Boston, attending my college roommate's very own church.

We were both dumb-founded.  You can't make this stuff up.

This began a relationship with an agency, a country, and countless orphans world-wide.  Now, almost six years later, God has used our church to serve orphans during two trips to Ethiopia, two to Haiti, provided clean water to a community without, and hand-held one little family of four through almost all of their home study paperwork to bring one precious child home.

Praise God for his faithfulness.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Adopt?

Now that we are smack in the middle of home study paperwork, this whole adoption business seems to come up more and more in conversation, with the bank notary, the police department receptionist, the friends and neighbors we've pestered to write recommendations, you name it.  And inevitably, people ask us what made us want to adopt (we have such beautiful children, after all;).  Generally, I take a deep breath and let them know it is a very long story.  I'll say something like, because God wants us to, or because it's the right thing for our family to do, or that it's our family's way of living out what the Bible says about loving our neighbor and caring for the least.  This is all well and good.  And true.  But just like most anything else big-ish (or small-ish for that matter) that requires obedience, even when you are scared spitless to proceed, it is really the weaving together of God's greater story.  This is why it takes so, so long to explain.  Which is why I have a blog :).

So, here goes, the first of several installments of why the heck we're crazy enough to do this:

Sometime in November 2005, friends of ours invited us to a benefit dinner for a local adoption agency.  They had two extra seats at their table and figured we wouldn't turn down a free meal for a good cause.  We had just found out we were pregnant but weren't telling anyone.  So even though all I wanted to do was stay at home in sweats, I squeezed into something half-way decent and went.  (Coincidentally, this dinner was located in the very ballroom our wedding reception took place almost five years prior.  It wasn't until recently that I really considered that connection to be pretty cool.  Same place.  Same Paul and Lisa.  Same life-changing kind of stuff.  And, likely the same chicken dish which the second time around made me want to barf, given my newly pregnant self.)

We sat and ate (sort of) and listened (sort of) to the many testimonials so beautifully shared.  The evening was filled with the heart-wrenching stories of forty-somethings who tried for years to become pregnant to no avail, only to feel God's leading toward adoption.  I felt so glad that this had happened for these people, but honestly, I couldn't relate.  I was twenty-six, pregnant with our first child, and had NEVER considered adoption.  NEVER.  That is, however, until the final couple came to share.  Paul and I both tuned back in when they walked up to the mic.  They looked just like us, for real.  They were probably in their late twenties, she was a fifth-grade teacher (I had spent most of my teaching years in sixth-grade), he was some business guy, like Paul.  Really, it was pretty weird.  Also weird, some might call it crazy, was the story they shared of their lives, their adoption, and most of all the way they did what God told them to.

To abbriviate, they adopted one of the wife's students and the girl's sister(s?) the summer they got married, as in, the girls were in their wedding, her parents watched them while they were on their honeymoon, and they arrived home from their honeymoon with tween daughters.  YIKES.  Everyone warned them not to, especially church people.  Guard their marriage, they said.  Wait at least a year.  But, when it was time to make the choice, they felt so overwhelmingly like God had this for them.  They couldn't say no.

Oh, then, they had a surprise pregnancy shortly thereafter.  DOUBLE YIKES.  As she sat rocking her crying newborn back to sleep one night, mourning the quite most moms of newborns can on occasion claim, she felt like God whispered to her that he never promised it would be easy or fun or restful.  But he would sustain her, and her offering was obedience.

After hearing their story and then being sucker-punched by the slide show of foster children waiting to be adopted in Oregon, we knew God was leading us down a new path of obedience.  The timing was unexpected, for sure.  Poor, I think, was the term we used.  But that night, in that hotel lobby, we agreed (still shaking our disbelieving heads) that we would walk down this path, hoping we'd trust enough to obey.