A Little Pool-side Theology

We love the pool.  Well, THEY love the pool, I actually kind of hate it...in this stage of life at least.  First there's the sunscreen.  OH the sunscreen.  Don't use the aerosol stuff, they say, because your precious children will inhale it and basically - you're killing them.  But I have to cover FOUR BODIES with the stuff every time we venture out to the pool.  So do I spend half an hour rubbing lotion in?  Or tell them to hold their breath and then spray them down in a fraction of the time while the disapproving glances from fellow pool moms burn into the back of my head?  And then there's the fact that I'm exhausting myself just to keep them alive.  Emi throws a FIT if I put her in the float.  But she'll aspirate water (and most certainly drown) if I left her to her own devices.  Luke has waaaaaay too much faith in his swimming abilities - and in everything else he does.  Caleb, while actually a decent swimmer, looks much like a drowning cat in the water which causes the lifeguards so much anxiety that I have to stay within arm's reach.  And then there's Jenna - the one who gives me hope that one day I will enjoy the pool again.  Maybe within the next decade...

But believe it or not, our pool experiences this summer have been very insightful, and God has used them to reveal truths to me that transcend the exhausting task of pool-side parenting.  Early in the summer, Caleb's fear of the water was paralyzing.  Donning a coast-guard approved life-jacket AND water wings, he clung to the side of the pool like his life depended on it.  And then there was this one time where he slipped in the water (or he might have been pushed...the jury's still out on that one) sans flotation device.  As I turned in response to his blood-curdling scream, I quickly realized he was in 3 feet of water.  Caleb is almost 4 feet tall.  Yep.  So instead of jumping in to rescue him, I try to calmly tell him the solution to his predicament.  "Put your feet down, son," I tell him.  The screaming continues.  I'm watching his feet and arms going every which way in the water below as he struggles to keep the head on his horizontal body from going under.  "Put your feet down!  You can touch!" I say.  Much louder this time and with increasing frustration at the panic that has completely incapacitated him.  "Stand UP, Caleb!!"  By now it's more like a yell.  I was watching my son drown himself in 3 feet of water.  And those anti-spray-sunscreen moms are now about to report me to CPS.  So I reach in, grab him and pull him up on the side.  Please know that I do have a heart for my kids and their fears, no matter how irrational.  But it tests every ounce of my patience to deal with a child that doesn't trust my words.  It hurts, to be honest.  I know what's best for them.  I'm above the water, so to speak, always watching out for them.  I can see the big picture.  And I'd give my LIFE before I'd let anything happen to my babies.  But in those moments of panic when they allow that fear to take them over, they don't listen and they don't trust.  

So I dry him off and hug him tight, and as I hold him in my lap, my mind races with parallels.  The pang of rejection I felt when he didn't trust me - his own MOM - echoed the sadness God must have felt in the Garden when Eve first doubted His love for her.  And I find myself doing that very thing to Him every.single.day.  The fact that Caleb was fully equipped to handle his situation (with legs long enough to touch the bottom of the pool) and was self-destructing in front of my eyes painfully reminded me of the times over the past year when I felt like I was floundering, wondering when God was going to jump in and rescue me, when He had already given me everything I needed to stand up and keep my head above the water.  And just like I would have jumped in, hair and makeup and clothes and ALL, had Caleb truly been drowning, why for a moment would I doubt that my perfect heavenly Father would do the same for me?  

Because I listen to the wrong voice.  

I choose to believe the great deceiver that whispers the lies that cause us to doubt and to question and to rely on our own insufficient strength instead of listening to the quiet voice at the side of the pool saying, "Put your feet down, child.  I'm right here next to you and I've completely equipped you to handle this very moment.  You were born for this.  Just trust Me and stand up."

 

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We're Going Back to Taiwan!

No, we're not adopting this time :).  I am so excited to be traveling back to Taiwan in January on a short-term mission trip with The Summit Church.  I am blessed to be going with a group of amazing ladies!  We will be volunteering in an orphanage and working with local missionaries to create a sponsorship program for a group of orphans known in Taiwan as "stateless, abandoned children".  Due to certain circumstances, these children are unadoptable and will spend the rest of their childhood as part of the social system never knowing the love of a family.  But God is moving mountains already!!  We've been approved to start the sponsorship program, but I believe that is just the beginning.  Please pray for us as we prepare to go.  We have a lot of money to raise and many things to accomplish before we travel. 

Being an all-female group gives us another unique ministry opportunity.  We will also be serving and ministering to a Bible Study group of Taiwanese women led by our Summit church planters in Taipei. Some are new believers, a few are non-believers, and all come from families that do not know Christ.  We are already corresponding with these ladies through email in hopes of building relationships before we meet face-to-face.  We will be praying for them over the next few months and expect God to do great things through these new friendships.

We have a few fundraisers coming up to help pay for the trip.  If you love Zaxby's (or even just like it a little bit :)) and you live near Holly Springs, come out and eat next Tuesday evening May 13th any time from 5-8pm.  Zaxby's will be donating 15% of total sales during those hours to our trip!!  Don't want to come in?  Drive-thru counts, too.  So skip Taco Tuesday and make it Zaxby's :)

Another fundraiser event that we are SUPER excited about is our Parent's Night Out!  It will be Saturday, June 14th from 5pm-9pm at Scotts Mill Clubhouse in Apex.  It is conveniently located right off I-540 and 2 miles from downtown Apex.  So whether you want to have a night out in Raleigh, Cary, or Apex, you will be within minutes of it all!  We will be staffed with several Summit Kids volunteers and medical personnel will be on site just for peace of mind.  Space is limited, so sign up here!  Cost will be $35/child and $25/sibling.  Cash is preferred, but we will also be accepting checks made out to The Summit Church with 'Taiwan 2' written in the notes section. We will love on your kids and provide dinner (pizza, drink & dessert), crafts, games, fun on the playground and more (maybe a rated G movie and popcorn if the weather isn't great)!  ALL profits will help fund our trip AND you get a kid-free night out.  It's a win-win :)

I'm working on a donation button for my blog, so hopefully I'll have that up and running soon for anyone who would like to donate online for our trip.  But more than anything, I covet your prayers.  Satan does not want us to fight for these invisible children.  He does not want us encouraging these women in their new faith nor speaking the Truth into the lives of non-believers.  But we KNOW God answers prayers.  He already has answered so many!!  So PLEASE pray for us.  Pray for these women and these orphans.  Pray for the hearts of government officials that have the power to grant these children citizenship that would make them adoptable!  God answers prayers - we have no reason to doubt He will hear and answer us.  So let's join together and lay our requests before Him!!

"Have faith in God.  Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.  Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them and they will be granted you."  Matthew 11:22b-24

A Long-Awaited Answer to Prayer

I was actually doing pretty well this morning as we packed up and headed to Duke.  But by the time we checked in and talked to the doctor, I think my hands were noticeably trembling.  Chris insisted he was cool as a cucumber.  I let him think I believed him :)  

THIS IS CHRIS NOT BEING ANXIOUS :)

THIS IS CHRIS NOT BEING ANXIOUS :)

When they took her out of my arms, I felt nauseous.  Not because I was worried about her - I knew she was in good hands - but because I honestly expected more bad news.  The odds were not in her favor.  The past 11 months of discouraging results and (what seemed to be) unanswered prayers had not laid a foundation of hope leading up to this moment.  And now I was handing her over, painfully aware of my inability to save her or do anything to change the impending outcome.  No matter how much we willed things to be different, all we could do was wait for the results. 

And so we waited.  

Two and a half hours passed, and when the cardiologist walked through that waiting room door, I was prepared for the news - armed with waterproof mascara and tissues in hand.  Dr. H had seen me cry so many times that I wasn't even going to try to hold back the tears in order to save us all from an awkward moment.  He seemed to move in slow motion to that chair facing us.  Inside I was screaming, 'GET IT OVER WITH ALREADY!'  Based on this inner dialogue, you can imagine my surprise when I heard these words:

"There was significant improvement in Emi's heart and lung pressures.  (Significant!!!)  I see no reason why she won't be able to live a long, healthy, normal life."  

I didn't even know how to respond!  I looked at Chris and he was grinning from ear to ear.  I think I even heard a sigh of relief from the man who wasn't the least bit worried ;).  A few months ago we were told if she continues down the path of 'no improvement', she would have only a 50% chance of making it to her 10th birthday.  And NOW we're hearing that our daughter might need medication for the next few decades, but she will live a LONG, HEALTHY, and NORMAL life.

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It's been a rough year - one that has greatly tested my faith.  In my darkest hours I doubted God's goodness and questioned His love for me.  But He never stopped sustaining me.  He didn't punish me for my moments of unbelief.  And despite my doubt and waning hope, the God of all creation has proven His power and delivered me.

"O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever? How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?  TURN and ANSWER ME, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!"  Don't let them rejoice in my downfall.  But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me." Psalm 13

I've never understood God's unconditional grace more clearly than I do at this moment as I'm watching Emi sleep so peacefully - completely unaware of the mountains God has moved for her.  She may never be able to cognitively grasp His sacrifice nor give Him the praise He deserves.  But He chose her.  He rescued her - not for what she could do for Him, but because of what He could display through her.  And I know this is just the beginning.

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"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but fulfilled desire is a tree of life." Prov. 13:12

Myth Busters: Special Needs Adoption Edition

If there's one thing I have a love-hate relationship with these days, it's the term 'special needs'.  In the adoption world, it can mean anything from a birth mark to severe mental and physical handicaps.  A child can even be labeled 'special needs' just because they are over 18 months old or in a sibling group.  All these little ones get lumped together under one term, making them even less likely to be adopted.  But I'll save you from my personal soap box rant about this issue because if there's one thing that I actually dislike even more, it's a blog used as a platform.  Instead, I'd rather shed some light on the truth (as I see it) about adopting one of these kids by debunking some common myths surrounding special needs adoption.     

1. You need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.

I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES I heard this statement.  It came in many different packages, but it always conveyed the same message - before you make a decision to adopt an older child or one with extra needs, you need to be okay with the idea that things might turn out very badly.  This could not be further from the truth.  Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't be educated on the possibilities that you are facing, nor that you should forgo prayerfully examining your intentions before you commit to a child with significant needs.  But I know FROM EXPERIENCE how fear of the unknown and hypothetical scenarios can paralyze you and keep you from doing what God is calling you to do.  And who is ever prepared for the worst?  Who would honestly be okay when their child gets a life-altering diagnosis - expected or not?  Deciding to love an 'imperfect' child should not be dependent on ourselves and our abilities.  It should be rooted in our faith in Someone bigger than any 'worst case scenario'.  God rarely calls the equipped, but he is always faithful to equip the called.

2. Special needs adoption is only for 'special people'.

If by 'special' you mean broken and imperfect, then yes, it is.  If you think such a calling is reserved for the super-Christian or civil rights activist, then you are mistaken.  And my prayer is that I never misrepresent special needs adoption in a way that leads people to believe the lie that you have to have it all together - have everything figured out - before welcoming one of these precious kids into your life. Our inadequacies do not disqualify us from doing great things for the Kingdom.  They are the prerequisite for doing great things (stolen from Rupert Leary's sermon on 8-3-13).  Because God's power is made perfect in our weakness.  And it's only through God's power that we are able to love beyond the bounds of biology.  I assure you I am no more special than anyone else.  I struggle (and chronically fail) to keep my house clean and maintain order.  I battle with pride and insecurity.  I am often impatient with my kids.  I am severely flawed - much more so than I'm willing to admit (See?  There's that pride again...).  But an understanding of the gospel ignited a desire in my heart I could not ignore, and God gave me a husband in whom He grew the same passion in His timing.  And that's it.  The we just jumped in feet first and had to trust Him, not having a clue what the future held.

3. By taking a step of faith and adopting a child with special needs, you've earned God's healing hand.

This myth is one that you can buy into without even realizing it.  But it's a slippery slope to a works-based faith.  There's a fine line between expecting a miracle from an Almighty God and feeling entitled to one.  It's our nature to feel we deserve some sort of reward for our good deeds.  And well-meaning people may even tell you they are certain God's favor will rest on you in the form of healing, or protection from pain and suffering.  All you have to do is be faintly familiar with the great stories of the Bible, and you'll realize this is MANY TIMES not the case.  God allows a lot of suffering - even for those who live 100% sold out for Him.  Taking a step into the unknown should be viewed as making room for God to move, not as a way of manipulating Him to move in the way WE feel He should (JD Greear, 8-11-13).  And believe it or not, this could mean He calls us to something that will cause physical and emotional turmoil to test our faith and develop perseverance for our benefit.  One thing is for sure - adopting a child with significant special needs will teach you what it means to suffer well - a painful, but invaluable lesson that I am only beginning to learn.        

4.  Adopting a child with special needs will most certainly have a negative affect on your biological/other typical children.

This is the myth that caused me the most anxiety and fear in the beginning of the adoption process.  And I can't even put into words how much God has blown me away in His provisions for our family in this area.  My kids have thrived since Emi has been home.  There are adjustments we've all had to deal with  - as is the case with any new addition (I think I've actually had the hardest time of them all!).  But the way they love Emi is one of God's greatest elements of grace in my life.  When I lose sight of the big picture and start to see Emi as a devastating diagnosis, or a laundry list of medications - I see Jenna holding her hands and cheering her on as she takes her first steps.  And I hear Caleb proudly proclaim, "She's MY sister!" to anyone who asks.  They love her with a love that challenges and convicts me daily.  It's the kind of love that looks at her through innocent eyes and accepts her just as she is - as their sister.  And their awareness and compassion for kids with special needs is flourishing.  They may have suffered a little - and I expect they will 'suffer' (by the world's standards) more as a result of our choice to bring Emi into our lives.  But just as I mentioned earlier, I believe learning to suffer well is something many kids miss out on these days.  They grow up so indulged that they do not develop the skills to handle disappointment.  It's so easy to raise ungrateful, entitled children in our culture.  And I would much rather my kids encounter some uncomfortable lessons than have them grow up missing the joy that comes from a true understanding of the gospel - one that extends to all races, ethnicities, and abilities.  So we try to focus our efforts on the spiritual lessons with eternal value, and resist the temptation to serve our kids a cushy life on a silver platter.  We want what's best for them - just like every parent.  But the best road is not always the easy one.

 

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I know this blog does not represent the opinions of everyone who has adopted a waiting child with special needs.  I also understand that some of these myths do have some truth to them in certain cases.  And NO, I don't think you need to seek out suffering in order to effectively teach your kids to have grateful hearts that grasp the gospel.  Obedience and faithfulness to God's calling in our lives - whatever that may be - will be the example of love and sacrifice they so desperately need to see.  So please know my intentions for sharing this are not rooted in a desire for debate nor a personal agenda.  Of course, I'd love to see more people step up and parent these kids who have been waiting so long for a family, and if God can use me to bring awareness to His people, then great!  But I'm writing about this because I know that there is someone out there struggling with the same things I struggled with - hearing horror stories about worst case scenarios and feeling torn by fear concerning a decision to adopt a waiting child.  And I hope to give an honest, first-hand, and PERSONAL account of how I've seen things come out on the other end of that decision.  Some good, some not so good.  But so far, even the 'not so good' has taught me about the character of God and made me more dependent on Him than ever.  And I believe whole-heartedly that His plan for Emi had as much to do with saving me from my complacency as it did with rescuing her.  So in a nut shell - choosing to parent a special needs child might be the hardest thing we'll ever do, but it is so worth it.