Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You are wanted ...

"Why did she abandon me"?

These were the words uttered out of a small framed 6 year old little girl.  As her Daddy walked along side her on a sweet "pajama" walk, these words of his young girl took him off guard.   He had known there would be a day she would ask more questions.  He had known there would be a day that telling his little girl that "God grew her in another Mommy's tummy" would not be all she needed to hear ... would not be enough for her curious heart.  He had prepared for this moment and yet, still, it had hit him like a 100 bricks.  Gulp, the lump in the throat appeared.   Where in the world had she even heard the word "abandoned"?

  That girl ... is mine.

  These moments are ours.

Our almond eyed girl is full of questions.   It started around 5 when I found her in her room in tears.  When asked what she was crying about, she confided in me that she missed her "birth Mommy" and didn't know why.   The pain was real.  The ache was big and for me - I found no greater joy than sitting and holding her and telling her how thankful I was that she was "Chosen" for us.  I found no greater joy than validating her pain and sorrow.  I found no greater joy than letting her know that while I didn't understand her pain and sadness ... that if I let my mind imagine what that must feel like to not know your birth Mommy and to miss her so much - that the truth was, I think it would feel like too much to bare.  I also had the privilege of letting her know that she could always share her sadness with me and I would do whatever I could to share in it ... though I understood that I would never truly know the depths of it.  Her greatest loss in life was one of my greatest blessings.  There is such irony in the world of adoption.  Without trauma and tragedy - I wouldn't know this beautiful girl.  I am "thankful" and "Joyful" to be able to sit and share in these moments - the same moments that are a result of a trauma and loss that leaves my little girl's heart with gaping holes.   I "celebrate" referral days with sweet precious memories stored in my heart of how amazing it was to finally see her face.  We celebrate "Gotcha Days" with gusto - the day we finally held our baby girl... the same "Gotcha Day" that must have been the most terrifying and confusing day for that same baby girl.  The Gotcha Day that inflicted one more "Trauma" in her life is a sweet moment that we have hung as a canvas picture in our home.   UGH!

During the past two years, my girl has begun to question her identity and with irony, I will tell you that not only have we embraced that - but we have enjoyed it!  It's moments like these that take my breathe away.   It's these moments - when she opens up her little heart and tells us her greatest secrets and fears ... that let's me know that this girl will be alright.  What irony in that!

As we put her to bed one night, she began to cry.  Asking her what was the matter ... she confided that she was sad and thought a lot about her birth Mommy.  Together, the three of us sat in her bed - Mommy, Daddy and our beautiful girl.  She shared openly her heart and then she said "can I show you something ... can I tell you a secret"?  Getting up, she climbed out of her bed and opened her drawer full of socks.  Digging for a bit, she returned with a stack of papers and with a gleam in her eye - she began to open them, one by one.  She began to read to us the letters she had written and the pictures she had drawn for a birth Mommy she missed and longed to know.   Together, we sat and talked together about what it would be like if the Lord did allow us to meet her one day.  Together, we dreamed!

On that day she asked about being "abandoned", her Daddy told her about a government and the policies that might have led to her mother choosing to place her to be found.  A week later, my girl returned from school with a picture she had drawn.  Showing me her art, she began to explain the 4 people in the drawing ... her birth Daddy, her birth Mommy, she and a "brother or sister".  Turning over the drawing, she read aloud "Dear Mommy, is my sibling a boy or a girl"?  Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, she had come to the conclusion herself that if her birth Mommy had left her to be found - and that a "one child policy" might be the reason ... then she was the second and that meant she had a sibling.  WOW!

My girl longs to know "Who" her birth Mommy is.  We all do.  We might not ever know that information.   The likely hood that this will happen is very small.  And so ... often I take my girl to the scriptures from Psalm 139: 13-16 for comfort "For your created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, When I was woven together in the depths of the earth - your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  
I have done this a hundred times and yet one night ... it's as though those same scriptures truly began to come alive.
As we sat on the floor reading her kids bible, the story shared this same passage.  She had been asking lots of questions over the week about her birth mommy and us not knowing who she might be.  She had shared in that week that she wished and prayed that one day - the Lord would take her to China and let them meet.  I had always responded that the Lord knows her ... even if we do not.
On this night, As we read her story and this passage - she stopped me suddenly.  Looking over at her, her almond eyes had become as round as two quarters.  Clinching my arm she said "If he saw me and knew me when I was being made in my birth Mommy's tummy ... then he DOES know who she is"!!
It was as though in those moments that the scriptures we had read 100 times were being read for the first time.  In those moments, the Lord had opened her heart and her mind and they became the truth she needed to know.  She looked up over the pages of her story and said "I'm going to memorize that one" ... and she did!

In the past few weeks, I discovered a new song on the radio station I listen to - "You are wanted" is the title.  Each time it came on, it was as though the Lord would speak right into my ear and say "This one is for your girl".  The song begins with the lyrics;

From the day you were born and took your first breath
You opened your eyes and in came the light
He was watching you

But all of your life, you couldn't shake the lies in your head
Saying you're a mistake
Oh, but you were made

By a God who knows your name
He doesn't make mistakes

You were wanted ...

The song is awesome.  Be sure to listen to it.  Anyhooo.  One day, as the song came on, I turned to Maliah in the car and pointed at her "This is your song.  I want you to listen to every lyric ... God wants you to know these things".  Sheepishly she grinned trying to hide the delight she had in being made the center of attention.  She listened and didn't say much.  Each time we got in the car, that same song would come on (not so ironically).  Each time, I would point to her again and say "Here's your song".  
Days of this went by.  Then, on Monday morning as I drove to drop her off at day camp, it came on again.  This time, however, she pointed to me and said ...

"This song is for me.  It says you want me.  It says I'm not a mistake.  It says - God wanted me too"

Something about that moment.  Something about the confidence in her words.  The Lord is working on my girl's heart.   When He says in the bible that He'll make beauty from ashes, that He'll turn our sorrow to joy and mourning to dancing ... it's true ... IT. IS. TRUE.  

My girl is going to be o.k.  

You can hear the song "You are wanted" here.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Good Field

"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  The owners servants came to him and said "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the weeds come from?"  
"An enemy did this"  he replied.  The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"
No, he answered, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters; First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."  
Matthew 13: 24-29

As I sat on the front porch today overlooking our front yard, my mind drifted to this passage.  A year ago this week, we moved into our little hill country gem.  When we first closed and arrived here, we knew the home needed some work to make it the way we wanted it.  For one, the landscaping and yard had been greatly neglected.  There was no real grass to speak of.  Brown and burnt up from the hot July sun for certain - but more than that, we learned it really had never been watered in all the time the last family lived here.  The previous owners had laid a foundation of Burmuda grass - we could tell, but without the right care it hadn't survived or thrived.  The middle of the circle drive had actually been used to park a vehicle or two.   The land in the center was beaten down and quite compacted.  Anything that was growing there were weeds.

As I looked out on to this today ... my mind drifted into thinking how much that green grass resembled our lives.

Humor me while I try to describe the ramblings in my head ... 

First,  our spiritual life is so much like that grass.  Left unwatered and unattended, it dries up.  We can even lay the foundation of good grass (accepting Christ), but unless we fertilize, water and care for it - the runners of that grass will never sprout and we will never see the fruits of that foundation. If the  roots of that grass never deepen, we will be left with dry, brittle ground.  Once we do begin to water and care for the grass (time in the word and with the Lord) , a crazy thing begins to appear - weeds begin to appear first - or at the very least, become much more noticeable.  Our lives are the same.  As we grow into relationship with the Lord, we begin to realize how much sin has crept into our lives.  The behaviors and things we once thought were o.k. (because they are by the world's standards) all of a sudden begin to stand out.  It's not pretty ... why must the weeds appear first?   If a sin and stronghold has been allowed to sit on our grass (remember that parking spot), the land becomes even more dry and harder.  As does our hearts.  It takes quite a bit of water and time to even begin to see the runners from the grass around those spots to send out it's shoots and begin to fill in those spots.  It may also take outside help ...  dirt filled with extra nutrients and fertilizers creates a space filled with good soil for those runners to grow.  The process can be tedious and long.  It may seem like they will never fill in.  For us - a year later, we still have bare spots that lack grass.   Each night, we water.  We fertilize, we spray weed control and we tend to that grass.  It doesn't happen over night and to be honest, the process is costly - but worth it!   With time, as the grass begins to take root and grow deeper roots, the weeds in our lives (and that grass) begin to be choked out.  The healthier the grass is - the less weeds we begin to see.  Healthy grass and deep roots create even more runners and with time - those bare dirt spots begin to fill in.   The fruit of all that work is a beautiful and lush yard for all to enjoy.

As I sat staring at the green grass in front of me, I was reminded of the many weeds in my own life.  In college, I said YES to the Lord.  I accepted him into my heart.   Since that time, I have grown dry and brittle patches over various periods of time.  I have noticed that when I haven't watered, fertilized and tended to myself through time with God's word, through worship and community with others who share the same heart - not only has my grass grown dry and brittle, but big empty spots have appeared.

Another thought of that passage is that this parable that Jesus is teaching does not refer to unbelievers in the professing church but rather the field in his message is the world.  He is talking about the people of the Kingdom living side by side with the people of the non-believing world.  Although the Kingdom will seem to have an insignificant beginning, it will eventually spread throughout the world.  Although when we arrived a year ago, we could barely see small blades of the once planted Burmuda grass ... with a lot of attention, watering, nurturing and taking care of - that grass has grown deeper roots, spread it's runners and now, there are far less weeds and that lush green grass you see is slowly taking over.

 So the question is, as a Believer in this world, are you brittle grass that lacks proper care?  How are you caring for your roots?  If you aren't, the weeds will take over you ... and the area around you.  You won't be effective and there will be very little evidence that you exist.  But - if you tend to your grass properly, you might find that your grass will grow thick, the weeds will be smothered out and the Kingdom of heaven will expand all around you.

Get to fertilizing and watering!!  What are you waiting for?   Have some great ideas to make those roots grow deep - do share.  I'm always looking for new fertilizer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On a Mission ...

missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service ] The word "mission"  derived from the Latin missionem (nom. missio), meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send".[3] The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach in his name.

Today, I sent out a missionary and indeed, as the definition holds - he's heading out to to evangelize, minister in service and through his acts of love and kindness (and only use words when necessary) will preach Jesus's name.   This missionary is 13!  This missionary is my precious boy - Canyon.  

This isn't his first mission by any stretch of the imagination.  He first stepped into the field right here in San Antonio, Texas.  At the very young age of 7, Canyon began going with Doug and I each and every Tuesday night to spend time with a group of Somali Refugees that had been settled here in San Antonio.  We worked with a wonderful ministry under the leadership of some of the most amazing cross-cultural disciplers and teachers I know.  During those two years and with each teaching - each example, Canyon would soak in every single word.    Each week, we'd show up at an apartment complex that, if one didn't know better, you'd thought you'd been taken right into Somalia itself.   We loved it!  Canyon loved it!  Canyon would show up each week on the field and hit the ground running ... literally.  He'd play soccer until his legs could barely keep up, sing worship songs with a bunch of rambunctious kids and at the end of their "play" time, the boys group would sit around a tree and Doug would teach a lesson about our faith to our special friends.   We, followers of Jesus, had the awesome opportunity to share our faith with our Muslim friends and to learn of their faith/comparison to ours as we honored them during times of Ramadan etc.  

I will never forget one week during the summer when we were working hard to get school supplies gathered for all the kids.  As we prepared each bag, I asked Canyon "why are we doing this"?  He gave me the token  Sunday school answer "Jesus says so" .  I grinned - of course he was right ... but what did that mean?    Digging further I asked him, "But WHY does he say to do this"?  Canyon, whom has shown to have a faith far beyond his years from a very early age began to think a bit.  During his time on the soccer field he had befriended a precious boy named Hassan.  Hassan was older than Canyon but for some reason - had a true affection and affinity for him.   Most of the boys were much older and bigger than Canyon (though he could definitely hold his own on that field) and Hassan had seemingly taken to becoming Canyon's defender and protector each week.  They had created a special friendship very quick, one that held a special place in Canyon's heart.  
So ... as he began to think, I began ask questions of Canyon and his knowledge of scripture.   sharing with Canyon that Hassan was of a different faith, one that worshipped a God named "Allah",  I began to ask Canyon of  Jesus's response in John 14:6  and with eagerness he began to recite, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.    "Exactly," I told Canyon.  "And if this is so, what does this mean for your friend, Hassan, who worships another God"?   Canyon's eyes began to water and tear.  In that moment, the scriptures and truth came alive for him.   The words began to jump off the page and in that moment, my 7 year old son realized that it wasn't about a wrote "Sunday school answer" but about a life ... one that he had learn to love!   Canyon began to learn and understand that through his friendship with this young boy, that maybe - just maybe the Lord would give him a chance to use his words and tell him about the Jesus he knew.  But if he didn't, he also learned that that was o.k. ... because in the end, Canyon was being Jesus just by bringing HIM with him each and every time he stepped on to that field.  We prayed his friend would see a glimpse of him and we prayed some day, Canyon would have built enough foundation to walk him right over that bridge!   

Those years helped shaped Canyon greatly.  He had and still has a great appreciation for our friends who spoke into his heart about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and what it meant to be involved in cross-cultural discipleship.  
Those years, were also pivotal in his life as we moved from one international adoption to the next.  To Canyon, he began to see and understand that our obedience to adopt wasn't just about becoming a brother, gaining a daughter or a son - but about bringing the Nations right here into our home.  Canyon is on a mission - daily!  At 13, he is a missionary - right HERE!  

During our time of working to adopt Zebene, we had the awesome JOY of bringing both Canyon and his oldest sister with us to Ethiopia.  What a joy it was to see him step off of that bus each day and right back into the field he had come to love during those two years.  He was unintimidated and unhindered.  He played soccer with gusto ... just as he had done before.  He loved big and served big.  Canyon and Dakota would step into each orphanage and transitional home and not see an "orphan" or a 'need", or a "religion".  They saw people, of all faiths, and medical backgrounds for who they were.  They saw  - relationships - and other kids who just wanted to play and needed love.   Watching them was beautiful.  It was natural, honest, pure - and simply - Jesus in a small pair of tennis shoes.   As we were leaving Ethiopia and boarding our plane on our last night there, I turned to find Canyon's eyes filled with tears.  Taken back by his emotion, I asked if he was o.k.  Canyon quickly responded "I have never been to a place where the people have so little and yet - have so much JOY ... I don't want to leave".    At 11 years old, that kid had nailed it.  He saw JOY amidst places where the "world" would see sorrow or much need.  Canyon caught glimpses of what it truly meant to be content in the spirit and have joy amidst all things.   Canyon saw Jesus in their faces and he yearned to not let go.  

So, today, I sent that same boy off.  I've seen him on the field in San Antonio, Texas, in our home and in Ethiopia.  This time, however, I send him ALONE (well - not really - he's with one of the most amazing teams of youth leaders and parents I know)!  We won't accompany him this time.  This time, this trip ... it's all HIS!  As I send my boy out to be a disciple of Jesus, I rest in the peace that Jesus is the one guiding him and protecting him.   I also am giddy excited to think back to each experience before and see how much it has shaped Canyon.  I am certain that while Canyon and his team will bless the church and people they are working/partnering with .... that Canyon will come home even more blessed - maybe a little more refined, maybe a little changed by what the Lord will do in his heart.  

A missionary on a mission ... to Mission, Texas!  

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