The Referral

or, Have You Lost Your Minds?!

Announcing that I am pregnant with triplets via Facebook during my first trimester is not something I would ever do.  [Please, let me be extremely clear that I am not pregnant with triplets.)

Which is why it feels kind of weird to announce here, in such a public forum, that after the seeking of godly counsel and much prayer, we committed to adopt three precious sisters, ages 3, 6, and 8, yesterday.

Most of you know that we felt called to adopt in the Summer of 2010 and then for various reasons dragged our feet:  both David Alan’s and my American, first-born sense of responsibility which says take care of yourself first and when that’s accomplished (and it never truly is), give to others, and a paralyzing fear of our own weaknesses, as spouses, parents, and followers of Jesus.

But over the next year and a half, the Holy Spirit worked in our lives in such an amazing way that we felt assurance that we must be obedient and that God would provide for all of our needs along the way, and he has.  In January of 2012, we submitted a second, updated application and began the long, exhaustive, home study process.  On August 20, 2012, our dossier landed on Ethiopian soil and we were placed on the waiting list at #71.  We were home study approved to adopt a sibling set of two, either gender, between the ages of zero and six.

Fast forward to February.  For a couple of months, we had noticed three healthy sisters on the waiting child list.  We tried to forget about them, we really did.  But we kept coming back to them.  We took into account the number of children, their ages, the fact that many couples [often understandably] want to adopt babies.  All of these things were working against the girls finding a forever family.  We took into account that between the two of us, we feel that some of our life experiences and the multi-cultural community that God has placed us in have been preparation “for such a time as this.”  And the story of the week leading up to this referral is pretty amazing, too.  (I will tell it separately, at some point).

So, on Wednesday, Feb. 13, we accepted the referral for three girls.

What Our Kids Think:

If you don’t know our kids Abigail, age 6, and Isaiah, age 4, you need to know that they are nuts—in the best way.  They’ve spent their entire lives in cross-cultural ministry to East African refugees in our current city.  Abby is extremely outgoing and loves to be in large groups of kids.  David Alan and I still can’t figure out how two introverts made an extrovert.  She is used to floating between cultures and once, quite seriously asked me, “Mama, what is the English word for ‘trash bag’?”

Our kids have been talking about “Africa babies” for years, now.  From day one, when we asked Abby what she thought about all of this, she placed her request for a “big girl,” to which I repeatedly responded, “That’s not happening.  There is no ‘big girl.’  You are the ‘big girl’ in our family.”  Famous last words.

Both Abby and Isaiah are excited that we are pursuing these sisters, although, I don’t think they have any clue what it means to have that many siblings, every day.   Well, maybe they have an inkling.

I asked Abby, “What will you do if you want to cuddle with me and I am already cuddling one of your sisters?”  She replied, “I guess I will just have to wait.”

Then, I asked just-turned-four Isaiah, “What will you do if you want your cup filled and I am already busy with one of your sisters?”

He responded, “I’ll probably throw a fit.”

“Do you think maybe you could wait patiently until I’m finished?”

Finger to his chin, eyes rolled back in head, “Eh, maybe.  But probably not.”  Yep, that’s our Yay.

What We Think:

I don’t doubt for a minute that this is going to be challenging.  In fact, I’m expecting it to be freaking hard.  I’m definitely both excited and nervous to meet the girls.  I can’t fathom what will go through the mind of an eight-year-old who will be making a drastic, life-altering move into a new family with different ways of doing things–a family who will have to learn entirely new ways of doing things, at that.

But I also know that God calls us to do hard things.  I keep going back to that story of Joshua, the one which gave me immense hope when we were just starting down this path.  This time, though, I am reminded of the twelve spies who went to scout out the land that God had promised to them—ten of whom returned too afraid of the giants who lived there, while only Joshua and Caleb trusted God.  As it turned out, of this group, only Joshua and Caleb were eventually allowed the blessing of entering the Promised Land.  Will we fear the giants?  We don’t even yet know what they are.  But we know who God is and that he promises to provide for all of our needs.

Of course, an additional referral costs an additional $5000.  We had nearly enough to accept two referrals, thanks to fundraising, donations, and a [surprise!] mutual fund that we were notified about.  We currently (as of 11:00 AM on 2.14.13) need around $3000 more by next week in order to accept all three referrals.  If you feel that God is leading you to donate financially, please click on the PayPal donate button at the right, or message me for a mailing address.

We beg for your prayers, though.  We do not take this lightly.  Even now, we need to pray that God is preparing the hearts of A., H., and S., to receive a new family, for healing from the loss of their birth family, and for Abigail and Isaiah to continue to grow in their understanding and acceptance of a life that will be different from what they now know.  Pray for DA and myself, that we will be faithful in our obedience, even though we can’t see much farther than the next step right now, and in the world of adoption, nothing is in our control and anything could change at any moment up until it is finalized.  Please love and support us by adding these requests to your church or small group prayer list.  It is God who “sets the lonely in families,” and “provide[s] for all of our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus,” which beyond this immediate financial need, includes the emotional needs that are sure to appear in time.  He is the only one who can ultimately heal such wounds and bind new families together.  As Isaiah is fond of exclaiming, [often loudly, in large crowds], “Our God is a good God and he is a healer, too!”

More Beautiful than Comfort

It was the converging of two worlds.  The service that led up to this moment was no different from any other, until the guest speaker took the pulpit.  And spoke.  In Spanish.  The congregation realized that we were in for something rare.  Throughout the sermon, we listened intently, as though we could actually understand each precious word he spoke.  Then, a translator humbly delivered his message to our eager ears.

Pastor Julio* introduced himself and explained that he had come to U.S. to visit his brother, but would return to Cuba by the end of the month.  He briefly summarized the persecution that Christians currently face in his country.  As most of us are aware, the leaders of the Communist government of Cuba do their best to squelch any growth of Christianity within the country’s borders.  However, they have been unsuccessful in their task.  Julio spoke specifically of the trials that members of his church face on a regular basis.  In their “top-down” persecution of the Church, the government makes it exceedingly difficult for believers to hold decent jobs and buy necessities.  He explained, “In Cuba, we must live by faith.”  He quickly added, lest anyone think that Christ expects any more out of these Cuban believers than those who enjoy greater freedom, “Christians must live by faith.”  This was the theme of the next half hour.

I won’t even attempt to recreate his sermon here, as I am working only from my memory and a few notes that I was able to take (this was not a predictable, three-point message).  I will however, write about the personal application I gained from his rich insights.  In light of our potential move, I thought about the recent, surprising fears I’ve experienced.  In Spanish, he read Hebrews 11:1-6:

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

It was then translated phrase by phrase into English, allowing plenty of time for my eyes to dwell on each word.  Each verse cut straight to my heart.

Among other things, Julio spoke about the heart wrenching experience Christian parents have in Cuba when their children reach the age that store-bought milk becomes a necessity.  He told of his own family’s need.  Then, he spoke of God’s provision for his babies: “God has done wonderful things in our lives and our children [have always] had milk to drink.”  This was true for all in his congregation, he stated.  God simply provided.

I know this.  Not that I have ever been in a situation where I could not afford the basic necessities of life, but I have had my own mountains that needed moving.  And God has provided, indeed.  It has become easier with experience to truly know deeply that God will come through and meet my need.  This is not the big-house, fancy-car, swollen-bank-account faith that television evangelists sell to the desperate.  This is the “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” faith of Philippians 4:19 that is God’s gift to the desperate.  It is so much sweeter in comparison. 

With that encouragement, given by a man who doesn’t even speak my language, I was able to sing the invitation hymn of the day with new words, “Lord, You are more precious than silver [friendships].  Lord, You are more costly than gold [security].  Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds [comfort], and nothing I desire compares with You!”  It didn’t have quite the same ring as the original, but it was the honest prayer of my heart.  I rejoiced as I let go of my fears and remembered the basic truth that Julio had repeated again and again throughout his message, that “God is good and Jesus is real!”  And because of this, He will always provide.

*Name changed

Not My Plan

The large, brown sofa and loveseat that dominate our living room are virtually impenetrable by stains, or so we were promised when we bought it five years ago and forked over the additional cost for the special stain-resistant treatment.  The salesman, who would later probably receive an award for his performance, persuaded me that it was only a matter of time before we would have an entire preschool class over to eat ravioli and finger-paint as they relaxed on our pristine, new couch.  Of course, as previously mentioned, the set is a deep, chocolate brown micro fiber, and no catastrophic, culinary event has ever transpired on its surface.  Still, a little nagging feeling convinced me that this would be a great investment, just in case . . .

My default mode is to plan.  And plan.  And plan again, just in case I missed something in my calculations.  You get the idea.  I try to anticipate problems before they have the opportunity to occur.  Maybe it’s the oldest child in me.  Or perhaps it is because I took a public relations class in college.  Quite possibly, it is the mom in me, always loading down my diaper bag/purse with any conceivable item my children may think that they need during our 15 minute outing—to the backyard.  It is a rare day when we forget someone’s sippy cup or backup paci.

My over-preparedness and constant planning would put an entire Boy Scout troop to shame.  However, it is also a symptom of a much deeper problem.  How can I “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart” and not “lean on [my] own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5) if I am constantly writing backup plans in the back of my mind?  Does God need me to come up with a Plan B?  A better question:  Does God need a Plan B?  Of course not!  At best, this planning on my part is only a diversion from the real issues at hand.  At worst, it is an irritating distraction drawing my attention away from Jesus.  Wherever he leads, my focus must remain on him.

As our lives continue to be consumed with a “hurry up and wait” mentality, in the midst of a possible life-altering move I often find myself planning each moment’s best case scenario.  This summer I imagined packing up and leaving town before school began and my husband had an actual class to teach.  That would have also been the perfect time to rent our current home to students, since many would be searching for housing before classes began and before they signed a contract with campus housing.  But, his ways are not our ways, and vice versa.  Deep down, I have a feeling (and a fear) that he will work this out in a seemingly messy, completely un-Lindsay-like way.  I envision what it might be like to almost flee town, with little time to tie up loose ends.  Honestly, it scares me. 

But, it also reminds me of some of the unconventional ways God has worked throughout history.  I think of Gideon leading the Israelites to victory with nothing more than a mere three hundred men armed only with trumpets, torches, and jars.  But, it was God’s plan and that was enough, no matter how ludicrous it seemed.  Why, when God could have used traditional means, did he deliver them in such an odd way?  “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her,” (Judges 7:2).  Ah, there’s the heart of the matter:  God gets the glory.  Not my plan, not the brilliant strategy that I so capably devised.  No, God, with his perfect perspective and his plan that has existed longer than time itself, has chosen not only the end, but also the means to accomplish it, and I will simply commit to follow his lead, giving him the glory all the way.

–Judges 7