Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not exactly what I had in mind...

I often wonder if the Lord gets a kick out of us making plans. I almost don't think we can help ourselves. We plot and scheme, sketch out timelines, imagine our future homes, families, jobs, lives. Oh yes, we come up with some grand plans. And the older I get, the more I realize that what we plan to happen, rarely does. Well, at least that is what I am realizing in my own little life. When I look at where Adam and I are right now, it does not look a whole lot like what I thought it would. For example:

I never thought we would live in Birmingham. Honestly, there was time when I was adamantly opposed to Birmingham. "Anywhere but Birmingham!" I had declared. I was resolved in this. And then Adam got accepted to the PT program at UAB. Of course. And in the middle of a teaching year for me, no less! I thought to myself, "Ummm...Lord. This is not exactly what I had in mind." In fact, I had specifically asked to go anywhere but Birmingham. But, as usual, the Lord had different plans for us. So we moved here. And much to my chagrin relief, I LOVE it here.

Now that we are on the other side of the decision to take up residence in the Ham, I can see that God was so clearly orchestrating what would become the next beautiful chapter of our life together. We immediately got plugged in to our incredible church , which just so happened to be less than a mile from where we were living at the time. Through our church, we got connected with our small group. This group of people has been one of the single most outstanding blessings the Lord has ever given us. I realize now that the Lord placed us with this group of people to teach us, in a very real way, that family can be more than just people you are related to by blood. I think this has resonated so powerfully for me because my biological family is so far away from where we live, and I do not get to see them nearly as often as I would like. This is hard for me, because I love my parents and my sister and her husband very much. And even though I know that the Lord has us in Birmingham right now, it hurts me to be the one who lives far away. And so the Lord provided for me. He surrounded us with a faith family, people who are brothers and sisters in Christ, people who have come alongside us in so many different ways and at so many different times to support us and love us. God knew I would need this in my life, and He was (and continues to be) faithful to provide it. God answered my, "Lord, this is not exactly what I had in mind," with His own, "Oh, I know. But isn't what I planned much, much better?" And it is.

This continues to be the pattern in my life. I never thought it would take this long for us to become parents. We are working on our sixth year of marriage, and it seems like we are long way off from having the pitter patter of little feet in our house. For me, this is a MUCH bigger, "Lord, this is not exactly what I had in mind." You see, I want a herd of kids. And I feel like time is just zipping on by and we are standing still. It gets pretty unsettling. It is so hard to wait. But it is in these moments that the Lord points to all He has orchestrated in our lives so far and reminds me that I have no reason whatsoever not to trust Him. God has proven Himself faithful time and time again, even when I have rebelled against Him or thought I would be better off without Him. Through all of that, He never lets me go. And I am so grateful for that.

I feel pretty certain that I am not alone in this. I imagine that there are a lot of people out there who are looking at their lives thinking, "Not exactly what I had in mind." I do it all the time. Still, right in the middle of that, I hope this encourages you. You are not alone. I think that the Lord must look at our plans and just shake His head. Our minds are far too limited to even dream about the incredible things He is planning for us. So when we look around and realize that life is not even close to what we originally planned, maybe we can experience a measure of relief instead of frustration. When I look back now and think about what life would be like if everything worked out according to my original plan, I literally shudder to think where we would be. Our lives would not be nearly as full as they are, we would not know the Lord the way we do and we would not be on path He created for us to follow. I think sometimes we are willing to settle for less simply because it is familiar. C.S. Lewis said it very well:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased. 

God offers us so much more than what we can see. We need to stop being content with what the world is offering us, this idea of "normal." We need to move on to extraordinary, to the life God has called us to lead. It is not easy. I struggle with it way more than a true daughter of the Most High should. There are days when I feel like I just want a "normal life," because I think it would be easier. But I know that in my heart of heart's, the heart that listens to and knows the Lord, I know in that place that I do not want a normal life. I want a life that makes no sense, a life that could only have been designed by God. And so we are waiting. Waiting to bring a precious child home from Ethiopia, a child I already love so much that there are moments when I feel like my heart is actually going to pop. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I am not doing this on my own. Oh no. My sinful self shrinks away from this, believing that I could somehow be perfectly content with what the world is offering me. It is Christ alone who gives me the strength to follow this path. So often, I want to pursue a different path, a path that doesn't ask as much of me. Jesus Christ keeps me from doing so. My trust is in Him.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him." Psalm 28:7


P.S. New number coming your way tomorrow!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Festival 2012

So this post is not exactly adoption related, but oh well. Since Adam and I have lived in our current home, we (with the help of our incredible small group) have had a Fall Festival at our house each year for the kiddos in our neighborhood. It is a great time for us to reconnect with neighbors, spend time with friends, invest in our community and eat an insane amount of candy. :) Every year I plan to take pictures to document the event, and every year I get to caught up in running around and completely forget. Well, this year a managed to snap a few pictures, so here they are!
 Rachel, one of our resident artists, heading up the candy bag decorating table.
 Love these two guys! 
 You are looking at four of approximately nine cookies this young lady both decorated and ate. :) 
 Josh and Amy (new adoption friends!) manning our most popular booth...cookie decorating! 
 Keith, Betty, Rachel and Jim
 More decorating!
And the aftermath...

Thank you so much to all of our sweet friends who came and helped us make this day a success! So much of our ministry hinges on you guys, and we appreciate you more than you know! 

We are still praying about our new number, coming your way this week. We heard about another referral going out today, and we always love to hear about sweet babies getting matched up with their moms and dads! 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Adoption Tees Around the U.S.: Post #3

We haven't had a t-shirt post lately, so here we go! Today I get to give a shout out to some of my very people. Meet the Collins Family! As a side note, you will notice the prominently displayed University of Florida plate and Nicole's (although adorable) Gator orange shoes. They just couldn't bear to leave it out...even though our beloved Auburn Tigers have crushed the Gators for the last few years. Fortunately, we love them enough to post the pictures anyway! :)
Scott, Nicole and Leslie 
And from the back!
I cannot begin to tell you how much this wonderful family means to us. Leslie was my Bible study leader from 7th grade through 11th grade and has been an endless source of love, support and encouragement over the years. So much of who I am as a Christian can be attributed to this incredible woman of faith. Love you, Les! Her son, Scott, and his wife, Nicole, are dear friends of ours, as well. They have been to Honduras with us, celebrated weddings and holidays with us and supported us through our adoption in so many ways. We are so very excited to be able to tell our little bebecito that these incredible, God-fearing people had a hand in making our family complete. Thank you for being a part of our life! 

As the month of October begins to draw to a close, we are starting to look toward getting our next waiting list number. I have not heard much in the way of referrals other than the two last week. Still, we are praying that the Lord will continue to move. Above all, we know that all of this is in His beautiful and capable hands. 

For Scott, Nicole and Leslie (and Tim and Julie, too!!!!): 

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3


Sunday, October 21, 2012

He Refreshes My Soul

God is always good, but sometimes He just outdoes Himself. In my last post I talked about trusting and relying on the goodness of God's character to get me through tough days. There is such rest and assurance in knowing that God is only ever perfectly good. Still, there are days (lots of them, really), when God takes it one step further and demonstrates His undying, unyielding, unwavering love for me. Today was such a day.

Last year, one of my very closest friends moved away from Birmingham, and I have missed her dearly since then. She and her husband were a part of our small group here, and through that avenue, God really grew our friendship. She is someone whose advice and counsel I value and often seek out. And it has been hard not having her around. BUT, she was in Birmingham this weekend, and we were able to meet for brunch (that sounds so fancy) this morning. Our brunch ended up lasting over two hours as we talked and caught up with each other. I was able to fill her in on the adoption, and she was able to talk about preparations for their sweet baby boy who will be here in March (yay!). The Lord refreshed my soul through my sweet friend, Jamie Grace, this morning, and I am so thankful to Him for that. I love that God will use people we love to speak truth and comfort and peace into our lives. Jamie Grace is one of the most encouraging people I know, and so I know it was no coincidence that the Lord had her in town this weekend. She has been a rock for me to lean on during the rough days and is always reminding me that God is in control of every detail of this process. I am pretty sure the Lord knew I needed to be encouraged and refreshed this morning, and He provided in a BIG way.
Love you, sweet friend! 
On top of all that, we found out this weekend that two Ethiopia families received referrals this past week. In other words, two children have been matched with their forever families. Such a blessing! We are keeping our ears open for any other news on the referral front as we get into the home stretch of October. We are praying to be in the 70s on November 1! 

"He refreshes my soul." Psalm 23:3


Friday, October 19, 2012

Because I Know His Character

As our adoption process/journey rolls along, I realize more and more that while this whole thing will ultimately lead us to our precious bebecito (as Adam calls our little one), God is also using this time to do some serious work on my heart. I can be incredibly stubborn, and I really, really, really like to do things my way and on my schedule. Probably why I became a teacher. Adoption, however, does not happen on any human being's schedule. If you are like me, then the whole thing probably just doesn't even make sense to you. I mean, I know that there are over five million orphans in Ethiopia ALONE. And I know that we are number 86 on a waiting list. Five million? Eighty six? Ummm...why do we have to wait AT ALL? It can be so unbelievably frustrating. So the question then becomes: How do I not go absolutely insane while we wait? It is a valid question, I think. And here is the answer (or at least what God has revealed to me so far).

God is good. Sounds annoying simple, right? It is one of those things that church folk say all the time, and, if we let it, it can become a cliche in our minds. HOWEVER, God is using this time in our lives to remind me that He is good. And in a way that is far deeper than just a catch phrase. God is teaching me who He is and how He operates. Think about the person you respect and admire most in the world, someone who is just a good person. Someone whose judgment you absolutely trust. Someone who you can depend on in crisis. Someone who celebrates life's victories with you. Someone who mourns life's losses right alongside you. Got someone in mind? I do. What God has been teaching me is that the person I have in mind is a fraction of what He is. What I mean is that God's character is wholly and purely good. He only does good things. That does not mean that we have to understand them right away, or even ever. But it does mean that if we trust God's character, then we can trust His plan for our lives.

This wonderful truth is the only thing that keeps me from going absolutely nuts when I think about how our adoption might play out. How can I wait months and months to bring our child home? Because I know God's character. How can I live with the fact that our sweet little one will spend the first months of his or her life in an orphanage half way around the world? Because I know God's character? How can I keep from going crazy when I sometimes feel like motherhood is just passing me by? Because I know God's character.

Don't get me wrong. I am not singing my own praises here. There are a LOT of days when I am frustrated and sad and angry. BUT through all of this, the Lord is teaching me more and more each day that I can trust in what He is doing, because I know His character. And it has gotten easier over the last few weeks. Not all the time. But more than months past.

So, I hope you know Him. I hope you know or are getting to know His character. He and His love are wider and deeper than we will ever be able to understand, but the good news there is that He will always have more love and grace to pour out on His children. And if you are like me, then you need all the love and grace you can get! Give Him your trust; He will NOT disappoint you.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." Psalm 20:7


Monday, October 15, 2012

Treasure in the Mail!

I got a wonderful surprise in the mail today! Well, the actual thing wasn't a surprise, but getting it today certainly was! A few weeks ago, Adam and I ordered a necklace for me to wear. I had been searching for something to have with me each day to remind me to pray for our sweet little one throughout the day, and a little while ago, I found the perfect thing on Etsy. So here it is:

My heart is in Ethiopia!

I absolutely love it! And the coolest part? The vendor is an Africa adoptive mom! She lives in Spain and adopted her sweet babies from Africa. How awesome is that? And to top it off, she is super sweet. The name of her store is African Dreamland, and so much of her stuff (virtually all of it) is adoption related. Yay! You can check out her store here. She will customize your selection (stamping the heart wherever you are adopting from, for example) and mail it to you in a cute little bag. She even sent us a free Africa bracelet with our purchase.

My plan is to wear this pretty much everyday and allow it to serve as a reminder to pray for this precious child whom the Lord has entrusted to us. Already love you so much, little one!

"For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him." 1 Samuel 1:27


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Six Months

Six months ago today, Adam and I began our adoption journey. It is crazy to think how much has happened in just half a year.

We have:

-Been interviewed four times
-Written our autobiographies
-Read a ton of information on attachment
-Learned a lot about Ethiopia
-Completed our home study
-Finished HOURS of education
-Signed our names a countless number of times on a countless number of forms
-Been fingerprinted (and approved) twice
-Been billed by FedEx WAY too many times
-Collected evidence of our entire life on paper
-Made roughly one million copies (of everything)
-Had a yard sale
-Sold 155 t-shirts
-Received our first waiting list number
-Gotten six months closer to our little one
-Met some incredible people who share the spirit and call of adoption
-Grown together as husband and wife in ways we could not have under any other circumstances
-Cried out to God for guidance and strength more than we ever have before in our lives
-Learned that our God is absolutely greater than anything this world can throw at us

So, yeah, a whole lot can happen in just six months.

More than anything else, I think the last six months have taught us that our God is great and faithful and able. We have learned, in a very up close and personal way, that the Lord is absolutely sovereign over every single aspect of our lives. Nothing that happens to us or around us is outside of His control. I think that has been the thing that has kept us (or more accurately, kept me) from losing our minds. So much of the adoption process is confusing. Why do we have to be fingerprinted twice? Why does is take so long to be matched if there are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone? But because we know God, we know that all of this is part of His great and glorious plan for our lives. Is everything going exactly the way I want it to go? But it is going the way God wants it to go. And that is way better than what would be happening if I was in charge.

Thank you so much for following our journey. It is so incredible to know that we have people praying for us through this process. One thing that I have recently learned is that the court system in Ethiopia shuts down for the rainy season (mid-September to early October). That means that no adoptions are processed during that time. Well, the courts have just opened back up, so right now we are praying for a major gush of referrals for the month of October. We would loooove to get our November update and be in the 70s. Please pray with us!

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip--He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watched over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you--the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm--He will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121: 1-8


Saturday, October 6, 2012

A High View of God

I have been working on this post for about a week, which is quite uncharacteristic of me. Typically, I write each post in one sitting, but I have struggled to get my thoughts together. I am going to do my best to articulate what the Lord has been teaching me lately, so please pardon me if it feels like I am just stumbling around the dark, reaching for a coherent thought. In times like these I am reminded about how much higher God's thoughts and ways are than mine. So please bear with me.

For the last week or so, the Lord has made my heart very uncomfortable; He usually does this when He is trying to get my attention to teach me something new. I have often felt through this adoption season (in combination with a lot of other things going on in our life), that the Lord is really stretching me. It hurts. It is uncomfortable. And through it all, I am having to come face to face with my own sin. Not a fun process. What I have realized is that I have been placing far too much importance and value on my plans, what I want. In reality, I should be focusing on is what God has planned for me, for us.

God put words to what I had been feeling through our pastor's sermon this past Sunday. We have been studying the Book of Revelation, and on Sunday we looked at how we worship God in His wrath (the judgment that will come one day). Revelation paints a pretty terrifying picture of what God's judgment will be like. And I think our initial reaction is often something like, "That is awful! No one deserves that!" But we have to remember who we have sinned against. A holy and righteous God. The Lord and Creator of the whole universe. His point was that when we think we don't "deserve" God's holy judgment, then we are living with a high view of man and low view of God. This is a big problem. In reality, we should always, every single day, be living with a low view of man and high view of God. We have to esteem God and His holiness above ourselves.

And if we are completely honest, sometimes that is difficult to do. If you are anything like me, you might find it easy to live with a high view of yourself. All too often I catch myself comparing my life, my actions to the people around me when I should really be holding myself to the standard set by Christ and trusting in what He has planned for my life rather than I what I think is best. I fall into the trap of putting myself above God, and in doing so, I deprive Him of His glory. So our pastor was saying that we can worship God in His wrath by recognizing that He is supremely holy and so His wrath is completely justified.

After hearing this message, the Lord started pressing on my heart that the same is true of worshiping God in the midst of trials. There are so many days when I get angry with God for the way He is ordering my life, mainly because I feel like I have been waiting forever and a day to be a mother. I lash out and think that my way would be so much easier, so much better. I somehow think that my feeble, human plans will be better than the plans of my all-knowing, always-loving Heavenly Father. Pretty ridiculous, right? Still, there are days when I feel like that, and when I do, I am choosing to have a high view of myself and low view of God. So the Lord really used this message to reveal to me that I need to maintain a high view of Him. He is the One who is holy; He is the One who knows the end from the beginning. And He is the only One whose plans are perfect. He is worthy of my worship, my praise, and He is also worthy of my trust.

We have to stop fighting God over what we think is best and trust and believe that He knows what is best. He does, and that is what He wants for your life and for mine. I know it is hard to let go. Believe me, I struggle with it every single day of my life. I have wanted to be a mom for years, and we are still waiting. That is so hard, and it is hard every day. But I have to remember that the Lord knows who our children are, and if I try to forge ahead on my own timeline, then I will miss the precious little lives that God desires to entrust to me. And so I would encourage you to trust in the Lord with everything you have. If you are anything like me, then you will have to pray unceasingly about this. So much of my prayer life looks like this: "I trust you, Lord. I trust you, Jesus." I am stating the truth, but I am also reminding myself what I believe and Who I believe. So do that if you have to. Say it over and over again. Remind yourself that you can trust in the Lord. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son so that you and me and everyone else could be adopted into His family as His own children. A God who would make that kind of loving sacrifice certainly loves you and me enough to plan out the very best for our lives, even (and especially) when it doesn't feel like it.

So a question remains. Do you know Him? Have you trusted Him? He loves you, and longs to bring you into His family. He never promised that life as His child would be easy, but He promised to stay with you always, wherever you go and to give you life to the fullest.

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day."
2 Timothy 1:12


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