Goodbye Ordinary

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us. Isaiah 63:7

What is Trust? May 13, 2013

Filed under: Adoption,Faith,Parenting — Lori @ 1:02 pm

I just read this quote on Facebook.  It was posted by Empowered to Connect, a wonderful group/website that exists to help families parent children from hard places.

“Trust…it’s what we do when we finally believe that we are worth being loved.”
IMG_3821
 

I have been wrestling to understand why Levi cannot trust.  I have also been wrestling to understand what lesson it is that God wants to teach me through my struggles with Levi.  This may be a partial answer.

In her book, The Connected Child, Karyn Purvis talks about making connection with our child before we correct them.  Levi’s therapist has talked to me about letting Levi know that we love him no matter what he does.

It is very hard to do that!  Not that we do not love our kids when they misbehave.  But, we often go straight for the correction most of the time.  That is because when we are dealing with a kid we have raised from birth (or a child who is attached to us) we have a relationship built up with them that we are relying on.  That relationship is in place and is part of the interaction regarding the misbehavior. 

Levi is not attached to us.  He does not have anything built up in him from our relationship to draw on.  When we correct him I am pretty sure that most of the time he hears “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!”  Not super effective.  The thing is I have been a parent for so long I correct him on auto pilot. 

Kevin and I have talked about how hard it is for us to take an extra minute to stop and think before we move in to correct Levi.  It is not coming easily to us.  I am so thankful for one friend (Thank you L.H.) who has taken the time to give us a script that she uses with her kids from the hard places to interact with them regarding their misbehavior.  Now, if we can just get it in our head!

Now to the deeper issue.  Feeling worthy to be loved. 

I was reading Levi a devotion this morning and it was talking about Galatians 1 where Paul is writing to the believers in the church in Galatia.  They had been taught the gospel, but they were starting to listen to false teachers around them and be confused.  The gospel is simply the fact that we are dead in our sins and can do NOTHING in our own strength to save ourselves.

Ephesians 2:1-10 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are under the wrath (anger) of God because of our sin.  Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life in our place and then died to pay the price (satisfy God’s wrath) for our sins.  We do not need to add anything to this.  All we are told to do to accept this gift of God’s grace is to repent and believe.  How are we saved?  Repent of your sin and trust in Christ to save you from it.  That is the gospel.

It is so very human to think that we need to add something – some work of our own – to this gospel message.  It is so very human to think that we need to “do something” to make someone love us.  Even to make God love us.  Why is that?  I am so guilty of this thinking.  I don’t think I did anything to add to what Jesus did to provide salvation for me, but I think I have to obey God and do certain works in order to secure His love. 

2 Peter 1:3-9  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Am I really just forgetting that my sins have been taken care of?  Is that why I think I need to do certain things to make God happy? 

In Levi’s devotion book (God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation by Starr Meade) it said this:  “While God’s people love Him and wish to do His will as it is found in His Word, we do it because He has saved us, not so that He will save us.”

So, to bring this back to Levi – do I show him unconditional love or am I showing him that he has to behave in a certain way to gain my love?  Because, unfortunately, Levi does not accept that he is loved.  Kevin and I need to show him that we love him – no matter what.  We can’t just say this.  We have to live this.

It is Kevin’s and my desire to act in such a way with Levi so that he knows he is loved – as we correct him.  Empowered to Connect calls it “Connecting while Correcting“.  Click on that link to read articles in that topic.  This video is especially good on this topic.

~Lori

 

 

Give Your Life May 9, 2013

Filed under: Adoption,Faith — Lori @ 12:10 am
The trail to Mill Creek Falls

The trail to Mill Creek Falls

I have been conversing with a new friend, a gal who with her husband has adopted a special needs two year old.  I was trying to offer her perspective from someone a little further down the road and just let her know she isn’t alone.  She wrote about her daughter’s physical issues and the need for intense therapy and then she said:

“All of this physical therapy has had me thinking about what God is doing in my heart through this adoption.  When we do therapy with K, she cries a lot.  She hates it.  She hates being put into positions that she isn’t used to being in.  She hates stretching muscles that she isn’t accustomed to using.  It is uncomfortable and unnatural and I’m sure it hurts some times too.  Sometimes it is scary for her because she is learning to keep her balance for the first time and she thinks we are going to let her fall. She doesn’t understand why we are doing what we are doing.

We are sorry to cause her pain and discomfort and fear, but if we don’t, she is at risk of losing the use of some of her muscles forever. And she certainly wouldn’t  reach her full potential.  To let her remain in the positions she is most comfortable in, to let her keep doing what she has always done, would be harmful to her growth.  In the future it would hurt her more than the hurt she is experiencing in the right now of our sessions.  We would be pretty lousy parents if we let her take the easy road, wouldn’t we?  She doesn’t understand what is at stake, but we do.

Do you see what I’m getting at?  This adoption is stretching new muscles in my heart.  It is forcing me to exercise what I would let atrophy and die if I were left to my old comfortable habits.  I would rather stop growing and remain right where  I am.  I would rather not experience any of the stretching.  I would rather opt out of the scary, I’m going to fall feelings that come with leaning on God to keep my balance.  I fuss and cry about it just like K does.  I don’t understand what is at stake and I can’t see the point of experiencing the pain.   But God is a good father and He insists that I do the work that it will take to stretch beyond my old comfortable habits of selfishness and self pity and fear.  He knows that the hurts of my past are still affecting my ability to love others and He is going to make sure that I am healed from them.  Even if He has to very lovingly hurt me a little bit right now.

Some days when I get up in the morning, I ask myself,  “Are you going to cooperate with the therapy today, or are you going to fight it?”  It’s just a question, not a mantra that magically makes the day easier.  It’s just a way of reminding myself of Who it is exactly that I’m struggling against.  And yes, I do still struggle.  There are days when it is easier than others.  Like today.  There are days that are just awful.”

Wasn’t that profound?  I love that she can see how individually and pointedly the Lord is working in her life through the circumstance/trial/gift that He has placed in her life.

I could relate so much with what she said.    I don’t think I had ever made a correlation between what Levi struggles with and what I struggle with.

Actually!  Now that I think of it, my very sweet friend ML said something to me one time about Levi needing to learn to trust and my struggle to trust God at times.  Of course, that is just one of Levi’s issues, but it is a biggie!

So, I really want to evaluate my heart.  I am praying and asking God to open my eyes to what He is working on in me and then help me to be able to let it go – turn away from the sinful part of it – and turn towards what He wants of me.  Right now I am in the pitching a fit and feeling sorry for myself stage, so I am praying that goes away quickly! :-)

~Lori

 

Gifts in the Trials May 4, 2013

Filed under: Adoption,Faith,Grief — Lori @ 3:06 pm

IMG_0963I was asked to speak at a Mother/Daughter brunch today.  It was such a blessing for me to be able to spend time looking back and remembering as I prepared my talk.  I wanted to share the talk with you although I apologize that it is a bit long!  I hope that in some way it will encourage you to look beyond the trial and see the blessings that God is showering you with as you walk through it.

Gifts From God
May 4, 2013

My husband, Kevin, and I have learned many lessons through our marriage.  One lesson is that we take advantage of opportunities to share with others what God has done in our lives – that is one reason I am sharing with you today.

Jewell asked that I share my testimony, including some challenges along the way.  She also told me that the theme of this banquet is Gifts from God.

When we think of a gift, we usually think of a beautifully wrapped present given to us on a special holiday or birthday.  We do not know what is inside, but we know that someone who loves us took time and effort to shop for us and make a decision about what gift would both surprise and delight us.  Thought was given to what we might need – or perhaps – just something that would make us happy.  Jesus said this in Matthew 7:9-11about gifts: 

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 

God does give good gifts.  I have been given many gifts from God throughout my life.  Some of those gifts everyone would recognize as a great gift!  However, some of the things I see as gifts would not look that way to someone else. To be perfectly honest, at the time they were given to me I wasn’t sure I saw them as gifts either! 

God gives us what He knows we need and what He gives lasts for eternity. 

God gives different gifts to His children.  We need to be careful not to compare how God works in our lives with how He works in others’ lives.

There is a story that our family loves to retell and laugh about.  On a Christmas when our oldest kids were about 5 and 3, we gave our daughter Kelsey a bike.  She needed a bike because she had outgrown the small one she had.  Grant did not need a bike because his still fit him fine.  He had just watched his older sister receive her new bike and he was so excited as he tore into his large package and then…disappointment.  His gift was not a bike.  It was a kid size basketball hoop.  This was a gift that his Dad and I had spent time and effort picking out because we knew he would enjoy it.  We also knew what he did NOT need – a bike.  However, he kept repeating in this dejected little voice, “But I wanted a bike!” 

He didn’t really want a bike.  He wanted the same gift that his sister received.  Do you see the lesson there?  God gives you the gift that you need.  Don’t look at someone else and question why you didn’t get the same thing. 

God knows you individually.  He knows just what you need and He is never wrong.

I have learned that God has been in control of every event of my life and has had a purpose in all of it. 

How thankful I am that my Lord and Savior has given me gifts that have helped me grow in my knowledge and love for Him as well as prepared me for the next thing that He had for my life.

I was blessed to have been raised in church and at an early age came to an understanding that I was a sinner and that I desperately needed a Savior.  Ephesians 2:4-10 gives a beautiful picture of the gospel:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I am so thankful for God’s call on my life at an early age.  I am still a sinner, but now I am a sinner saved by grace.  I have made a lot of questionable decisions in my life, lived very selfishly at times and even purposefully disobeyed my Lord.  However, through all that His love for me has never wavered.  He has been my Good Shepherd and He has guided, disciplined, provided for, and taught me all along the way.  We don’t become perfect the day God saves us.  We do, however, begin the process of growing in holiness as we strive with His help to put off our old self and put on the new.

God gifted me with an amazing husband.  He is not perfect!  However, he is perfect for me.  We complement each other very well and make a great team.  We have been married for almost 27 years. 

God has gifted me with five children.  My husband and I were thrilled beyond words when our first child, Kelsey, came into our family.  I had fertility issues and so we did not take her birth for granted for one minute!  She was a very precious gift from the Lord. 

We were very thankful again when the Lord blessed us with another child two years later, our son Grant.  Our children gave us a lot of pleasure and although there were ups and downs, we were very happy with our life. 

When Grant was about a year old we decided to try to become pregnant again.  I once again went on fertility medication and month after month went by and no baby.  By the time Grant was five and we had still not conceived, we decided to give up.  What we had done to get pregnant before was not working this time and we did not have the resources to delve into what might be wrong.  I was distraught.  I didn’t understand why God was not giving us another child.  It was a very difficult time for me.  I prayed that God would take away the intense desire I had for more children because it was so painful. 

He did not choose to do that.

When it became apparent that I would have trouble conceiving before my first pregnancy Kevin and I had looked into adoption.  Kevin has an adopted sister and so was familiar with that way of growing a family.  I wanted to be a mom and I didn’t really care how it happened.  When we did conceive twice, the idea of adoption sort of drifted into the background.  We got involved in life – home schooling kept me very busy and then we moved from southern Oregon to the Portland area when Kelsey and Grant were 9 and 7.

Grant struggled with some learning disabilities that took a lot of my time and attention and Kelsey was very involved in gymnastics.  Kevin and I talked about it, but decided we were in a place where we were content with our family and where God had us.

Years went by and we had conquered the learning issues and everyone was doing well.  Kelsey was in high school and Grant was just about to start high school.  I was starting to think that I would have some free time to do some things that I really wanted to do.

Sometimes there are events in our lives that just hit us out of nowhere and stun us into reevaluating everything.  That happened to our family in the summer of 2006.  Our son, Grant, died suddenly in an accident.  He was fourteen years old.

Now most of you would not think that we could ever see the death of our son as a gift.  And, to tell you the truth we don’t see it that way either. 

It isn’t the trial that is the gift; the gift is what God works in our lives as a result. 

We do believe that ALL things that happen are under the control of our heavenly Father and not even a sparrow falls from the sky apart from Him.  The loss of our son shook us to our very core and caused us to question pretty much everything we had ever known or believed about God.  However, God promises in Romans 8:28-29: 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.   

Let me just say that it took awhile before my heart caught up to my head in regards to the truth in those verses.  How in the world was God bringing “good” to me through the death of my son?  But you see God’s idea of good for us is different than we may think of good.  Often, our idea of good is a happy carefree life with no problems.  That isn’t life – that is heaven!  In verse 29 it explains what God sees as good –

that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. 

God uses all kinds of circumstances in our lives to make our lives look more like Christ.  Why would he want to do that?  Well, one reason is that he loves us.  He also wants to prepare us – eventually for eternity spent serving and worshiping Him – but He prepares us for big things he wants us to do for him on earth.  He also wants us to reflect Who Christ is to the world.

In the death of our son, God showered many gifts on us.  They were actually gifts that we already had, but in that difficult circumstance we realized their value and were so very thankful for them. 

Isaiah 45:3  I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

God had guided us to our church several years before Grant died.  It is called Emmanuel Community Church and is a fairly small family of believers that had become both comfortable and challenging to us.  Because our church is small, under 100 people, we really are like a family.  The fellowship of believers and their willingness to minister to us at a very difficult time was priceless to us.

The other gift God had provided was good friends.  Not just friends.  Friends who are family.  Friends who were willing to sit with us, cry with us, and pray with us.   

One of those friends is here with me today – still supporting and encouraging me as she always has.  Without this family and their sacrificial friendship, our journey through the valley of the shadow of death would have been very lonely.  God used them in our lives in a very special way.

I want to encourage all of you if you are friends with someone going through a difficult time not to be afraid to be there for them.  Our friends would often say to us, “We have no idea what to do or say that would be helpful.  But we are here and we love you.”  That meant EVERYTHING to us.

The biggest gift that God gave us through our journey of dealing with our grief was Himself.  Kevin and I have had people ask us when they are struggling with a trial – did God ever show you why He might have allowed Grant’s death?  Our answer is no.  We do not know.  We haven’t seen anything happen that we could point to and say – That’s why! 

What we can say is that we know our Father God more intimately now than we ever have.  We have had glimpses into the character of the Lord and the roots of our faith have grown deeper and stronger. 

That is not the end of my story.  God had more gifts in store for me.  Less than six months after Grant died I approached Kevin about an idea that had been growing in my heart.  Adoption.  I asked if he would seek the Lord in prayer with me and ask His will for us regarding adoption.  Kevin agreed to pray.  Remember my painful longing for more children?  It turns out that that too was a gift from God.  He gave me that desire, but brought about the culmination of it in His time, and His way, not mine. 

After praying for about a month we had decided that adoption was something God wanted for us and we began the journey.  It was our intention to adopt siblings because there would be a pretty big age gap between Kelsey and the children so we didn’t want just one child.  We didn’t have a preference in regards to gender of the children.  We only knew that we wanted older kids, not babies.  We wanted to adopt kids that they have a harder time finding families for.

Since we had no idea what direction God wanted us to take in adoption – domestic or international, if international what country – we prayed that He would just drop something right in front of us.  He did.

A friend of mine who has adopted children and was doing some part time work for an adoption agency in town called me and told me that the agency she worked for was looking for families for some children and asked if we would be interested in considering a sibling group in India.  She knew we were interested in adoption because we had talked to her and her husband and asked questions about their adoption experience. 

There were two sibling groups, two sisters who were five and nine years old and another sibling group of six kids from ages 4 to 12.  That was an easy choice!  Kevin said he didn’t think the kids should outnumber us!

The agency sent us photos of the girls and we said we would pray.  I think I knew the moment I saw their sweet faces that they would be my daughters.  It was a long and complicated process, but in about a year and a half we were traveling to India to meet and bring home our daughters Kalindi and Kira.  These cute and spunky girls – who spoke about five words of English – were ours! 

Our first night with the girls in our hotel room in New Delhi I said to Kevin, “I don’t think we can do this!”  He said, “Yes we can.”  It was overwhelming!

Our Indian daughters have been such a wonderful gift from God.  When we are struggling, when a task is difficult and we don’t see any way that we are equipped or able to do the job, we are really good at staying in touch with our Heavenly Father, aren’t we?  There were difficult times as our family adjusted to bringing our daughters home and yet the Lord has blessed our lives in so many ways through it.

God did such a beautiful work of grace in our lives through the adoption of the girls that it gave us the ability to say yes to another child a couple of years later.  I was on an email list for our adoption agency and this list came with waiting children and their information and some photos.  I saw Levi’s smile and just knew.  Once again I asked my husband to pray with me and seek the Lord’s will in adopting another child.

I mentioned before that God uses the trials (or gifts) in our lives to prepare and equip us for some future assignment.  Well, we certainly saw that God had prepared us for issues we faced with the girls and as it happens, he was using the lessons we learned with the girls to prepare us for an even more difficult gift – our son Levi.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Isn’t that a beautiful progression?  We rejoice in our sufferings not for the pain or the event that is difficult.  But, we rejoice in the outcome – how God will use them in our lives.  In these verses He promises that the suffering will produce endurance – the ability to stand up under pressure.  Our endurance produces character – Christ like character.  That character produces hope – a sure knowledge that God’s promises are true and He will accomplish them.  Hope in the Lord is sure and solid.  Verse 5 says “hope does not put us to shame” or as it says in another version “hope does not disappoint” because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”!  How can we not rejoice in that hope?

Our newest child, Levi, is eight years old.  He spent the first six and a half years of his life in an orphanage.  Levi has learned through that experience that he needs to watch out for himself because someone else may not do it.  It is hard to unlearn that.  Levi has been with our family for two years and we continue to struggle with his adjustment and attachment.

Although there is daily frustration and struggle, we are confident that this is the plan and purpose that God has for our lives.  Our struggles with Levi are a gift.

We look back and see how the Lord has orchestrated lessons – gifts – and opportunities to grow in our faith – gifts – and placing in us a heart that longs for eternity – a big gift!

I want to talk to you about one more thing.  It is much easier to look back and see the good that God has worked in our lives through a trial than to see and appreciate it while we are in the midst of difficulty.  If you are in the middle of a hard time you may feel you are on the verge of losing hope.  You may feel like you have been abandoned by God.  You might be finding it very hard to trust that God is in control and that He loves you.  I have felt all those things.  Sometimes, it is very hard to hold onto the promises in scripture.

Know that God understands.  He can take your grief and pain.  Just keep talking to Him.  Keep reminding yourself of what you know to be true.  Stay in the Word.  I remember so many times when I would say I believe this in my head, but my heart is just not there.  It is okay.  You will not stay there forever. 

A portion of scripture that has become precious to us since our son died is 1 Peter 1:3-9.  I leave you with these truths to rejoice in:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


 

Still here – Still Struggling April 29, 2013

Filed under: Adoption,Faith — Lori @ 11:05 am

I have not written here for months!  It is not that I haven’t had anything to say.  I just haven’t had the energy to put it down on paper.  I really ought to make more of an effort because no matter if anyone ever reads what I write, it is cathartic for me to do it.

I have been thinking a lot about suffering lately.  There are many ways we can suffer in life.  The death of someone you love, losing a job, dealing with a severe illness, depression, etc.  And then there are problems with your adopted kid who is not attaching to you.  Yeah, that’s the one I am suffering with.  It stinks.

I read this blog post recently that made me think about some things.  The title was “Has God Left You in the Fire?”  It resonated with me because I do feel like I have been left in the fire – several times – in my life.  I feel like I am in the fire right now.  It is not fun.  In the blog post (which you should take the time to read – it is very good) he asks the question, “Christian, do you ever feel like God has left you in the fire too long?”  Well, yes I do.  Is that a correct assumption on my part?  This really got me to pondering.

I have been asked to speak at a Mother/Daughter brunch at a local church and was told to use my testimony – how God has worked in my life – as my topic.  The theme of the brunch is “Gifts from God”.  I have been working on that talk for about a month.  As you go back through events in your life it helps you to gain perspective.  I also realized that at specific times in my life when I was in the midst of a trial my perspective was not very good.  All I could focus on was what was going on around me.

Isaiah 43:2-3: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Do I believe that verse?  If I am perfectly honest, sometimes.  But not always.  Why is that?  Is God with me sometimes and not with me at other times?  No – His presence is the same.  Perhaps it is how I understand what this verse means?  Does this verse say that I will never go through trials?  No.  It specifically states that I will – “When you pass through the waters”.

The verse states that, “when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you”.  And yet, we often feel that we have been burned.  Some of our trials leave scars.  We can more readily believe the part that says, “and the flame shall not consume you” because this seems to talk about ultimate destruction and as a believer I know that even though my body may die, my soul is safe.

The conclusion I came to is perspective.  When we are in the midst of a dark valley – a trial – we do not see things very clearly.  We are overwhelmed with the emotions or pain we are dealing with.  Randy Alcorn wrote a Facebook status recently about how we look at situations and how God sees them.  It said:

“Ever been to a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field? They look great from up in the stands. But have you ever thought about what they look like from the sidelines? Pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless. We see life from the sidelines. God sees it from the stands. As we gain perspective, we leave the sidelines and start working our way up.”

Photo: Ever been to a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field? They look great from up in the stands. But have you ever thought about what they look like from the sidelines? Pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless. We see life from the sidelines. God sees it from the stands. As we gain perspective, we leave the sidelines and start working our way up.

That is how I think we see our trials when we are in the midst of them – pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless.  When, however, we can look back after the fog has cleared and our emotions are not clouding our thinking we see how God worked and all that He provided and after awhile we even see good that the Lord worked in us or others through that trial.

I need some perspective.  I need to remember that although things look very confusing and painful right now, they will not always be this way.  I need to remind myself of all that God has done for me and reassure myself that He is the same God today as He was seven years ago and I can trust Him.

I am not saying this is easy.  I am sure that it will be a daily, if not minute by minute,  task for me to remind myself of the truth that I know about Who God is.  I am tired and worn out though.  I feel as though I have no answers – no understanding of how to walk forward.  Trust and obey.  Take one step and ask God which step I should take next.  That is all I can do.

Lamentations 3

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

 

Crying out to God October 23, 2012

Filed under: Faith,Grief — Lori @ 11:09 am

Psalm 88

English Standard Version

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

I have observed an interesting phenomenon in my Christian life.  When I have been in really hard places and suffering through a trial, I have spoken my questions, my pain, my fight for trust – and it seems to really disturb some people.  I am an honest and forthright person.  I don’t hide a whole lot about what I am thinking or feeling.  I have tried to learn to measure my words and only share those words at the right times and with the right people, but when our son died, I was in so much pain and felt so alone that I couldn’t keep from sharing my pain.  I find myself in a similar place of despair, although not nearly as deep and dark,  now with the issues with Levi.

What I think disturbs people is that they automatically assume that you are losing your faith in God.  They don’t think you should be speaking about doubt.  But the psalmists didn’t worry about that.  They shared their hearts with God – their doubts, their pain, how they felt alone and without comfort.  Does that seem like they are challenging or questioning God?  In a way, maybe they were.  But, the point is they KNEW they could say those things and they bothered to say them in the first place, because they did have complete faith that God was listening and in control.

Psalm 88 is a psalm that is completely a lament.  There is no praise, there is no resolution (as in most psalms).  He does state in verse 1 that God is his salvation.  There is trust as he speaks even though he does not see a resolution to his problems.

Our church read through the Psalms for worship and on the day we read Psalm 88 I was tempted to skip it.  However, I read some commentaries and came to understand the place that this psalm has in our Christian lives.  In James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Psalms, he writes:

“It is good to have a psalm like this, but it is also good that we have only one.  It reminds us that life is filled with trouble, even to the point of despair, even for mature believers.  Psalm 88 is an inspired writer, after all.  He is identified as Heman the Ezrahite, one of the “Sons of Korah”.

In speaking of Christian literature and why there is so little outstanding Christian literature he concluded, “..that is because we are not enough true to life.  Christians feel that in order to be Christian a composition has to work out right in the end and that there has to be a clear lesson or moral.  Psalm 88 is a reminder that life is not always like that.  There may be a perfectly good moral from God’s point of view; I believe that all life does have a divine purpose.  But that does not necessarily mean that we can see it or that it will ever become clear in our lifetimes.”

I am reading a book entitled, “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp.  They include a chapter that mentions Psalm 88 and its purpose.  They also remind the reader that this psalm is inspired by God.  They ask if it bothers you that there is no resolution in the psalm and wonder if you can think of any good you can get from reading it.  They list five things we can gain from it, but I will include my favorite three:

God understands the full range of human experience, from supreme joy to crushing sorrow.

God’s honesty about these experiences invites me to be honest about the things I face.  Biblical Christianity is never blind or stoic in its reaction to life.

Going to God with my despair, doubt, and fear is an act of faith.  Psalm 88 reminds me to run to God in desperate moments, not away from him.

I have often thought that because Kevin and I have been through such a tremendously dark and painful time in our life that we have a different perspective than many Christians who have not dealt with something that rocks you to your core.  You are able to look back and see that even in the times when you felt the most alone and forsaken – that was not the case.  That was precisely the time that the Lord was carrying you and providing for you the most.  There is a nearness you feel to the Lord through dark and troubling trials that is not experienced in everyday life.  However, we didn’t always recognize it at the time.  Your pain can cloud your perception while you are in it.

So, if you have a believing friend who is speaking their doubts, fears, confusion, sorrow, and helplessness and yet crying out to God – do not worry about them.  You can encourage them and pray for them and remind them, as a special friend did for me, that Jesus is our Great High Priest and understands our pain and is praying for us.  But, be careful not to judge them or assume they have lost faith in God.

Life is not neat and tidy.  Every trial does not have a good resolution.  Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn and ways that the Lord wants to grow us that can only happen through these difficulties.  My prayer is always that I would have eyes to see the Lord’s work on this earth, ears to hear what the Lord wants to teach me and most importantly that He would be glorified through it.

 

Hope and Healing October 20, 2012

Filed under: Adoption,Faith — Lori @ 10:47 am

I consistently read a blog called, One Thankful Mom.  I appreciate her honesty in sharing about her struggles with her adopted kids and I also find a lot of practical ideas in dealing with similar issues.

Lisa, the writer of One Thankful Mom has a feature that she often runs on Tuesdays called Tuesday Topics and she has invited readers to email her with questions and she will post the question and let her readers comment.  About a month and a half after we came home from India with Levi (April 2011) I emailed her a question.  Here is that email:

“Have you ever dealt with an adopted child who hurts themselves?  Our son has been home for about six weeks and I have been disturbed by some behavior.  He hits himself in the face, he will pick something on his finger until it bleeds, he bangs his head against his forearm (it has left a bruise on his arm that has been there from the beginning), he put soap in his eye, he is completely reckless on a scooter, and the list goes on.

I am trying to balance the fact that he is a boy and I know they are more physical, but something about his behavior troubles me.  He is six years old and has been in an orphanage his entire life.  He had medical treatment (tests and surgery) around the age of two that could have been traumatic.  I have no way of knowing all that he has dealt with in his first six years of life.”

Back when I wrote that question we were looking at some of Levi’s behavior and we weren’t sure what to make of it.  We knew something wasn’t right, but we didn’t know what it meant.

Levi has been in our family now for a year and a half.  Lisa had set my email aside and didn’t get to it and so when she emailed me this week to ask about using the question it took me back to those early days and how puzzled we were – just not knowing what was wrong.  However, we aren’t in the dark anymore.  We have some idea what is going on and we are working on it.

I commented on the post and since she moderates before comments are posted, she emailed and asked me if I would rather write a complete post and give an update on where we are with Levi.  I appreciate her giving me that opportunity.  Below is that post:

I have been thankful for Lisa’s blog and all that I learn here from her personal writing, the things she shares from other sources, and the ability she has given us as readers to ask a question and get feedback from lots of moms who are dealing with similar issues.  What a blessing this little corner of the web has been!

I had emailed Lisa with a question quite some time ago which she recently posted as a Tuesday Topic.  She feels horrible about how long ago it actually was, but nothing is ever a coincidence.  I think the timing was perfect.

As stated in the question she posted, I had written her in April of 2011 – six weeks or so after our son came home with us from India.  He was six and a half years old.  To say that we were completely overwhelmed by the arrival of our son would be an understatement.  It was apparent that he had issues that we had not dealt with in our adopted daughters who were ten and six years old in 2008 when we brought them home.

The experience was day and night in many ways.  Our girls spoke almost no English.  That was both hilarious and scary!  My husband and I laugh about our unique attempts at communication.  The girls went into a rebellious pushing back against us after a few weeks – exactly what you would expect.  We moved through working on their behavior and attachment and things progressed in a positive way – of course with setbacks along the way.  It was not easy by any means, but we always saw improvement and never had a reason to doubt they were attaching to us and we were moving in a positive direction.  It went well enough that we decided to embark on another adoption.

Our son arrived three years later in March 2011.  He had been learning English and was very accomplished using it.  We thought this was wonderful because we were able to communicate right away.  He cried the first night for the ladies at the orphanage which we thought was a great sign that he was grieving for them.  After that, he really never seemed to look back.  He was happy, outgoing, and inquisitive.  We enjoyed our time with him in India.  At home, the girls welcomed him with open arms and showered him with love and attention.  Things at home seemed odd.  There was very little conflict with us.  We did see concerning behaviors like the self hurting, and complete lack of impulse control, but he really tried his best to “be good”.   The warning bells should have been sounding.

They did begin to sound about six months after he came home.  We weren’t really sure how to put our finger on what was bothering us.  He was a busy guy and in some ways I think we focused on the wrong behaviors as signs of what was going on.  We realized that he showed very little emotion and when he did, it was off the scales.  By about eight months home we realized it was serious.  My husband and I talked with each other and both expressed our feeling that our son treated us like we were orphanage workers.   I wrote a pleading email to a therapist I had seen in the past.  I knew she had professional experience with adopted kids, but she also grew up in a home with older internationally adopted siblings.  I laid out all the issues that we were experiencing with our son and asked, “Do I need help, or does he need help?”

The list of behaviors that concerned us was pretty long.  The therapist mentioned attachment issues and said we should have him evaluated and tested and gave me a recommendation of a psychiatrist to see.  I ran and grabbed my copy of “Attaching in Adoption” by Deborah Gray and read Foster Cline, M.D.’s list on page 81, “Checklist for Symptoms of Attachment Disorder”.  I could check almost every one of the items on that list.  What was interesting to me is that we saw the behavior, but we did not see the root of the problem.  We immediately took her advice and made the appointment.

There is a feeling of helplessness that comes over you when you realize that the issues your child is dealing with are so far beyond your experience and knowledge it isn’t even measurable.  Why wouldn’t you go to a professional, who has been trained and has experience in dealing with issues that you cannot even label?  We needed someone to tell us what was going on and how to deal with it.  Our faith has always been an integral part of our decision process.  God designed and created the brain in all its intricacies and beauty.  Unfortunately, sin has polluted our world and things happen to change and distort the creation.  How many times have you sat and pondered how the circumstances in your children’s lives have shaped them in negative ways?  It is heart breaking.

God has also given people different talents and abilities.  We don’t do surgery on ourselves when we have appendicitis.  We learn to find the right help at the right time for each situation and, of course, we consider the advice, pray about it, seek second opinions and ultimately try to make the best decision we can for our children.

When my husband and I sat and listened to the diagnosis of our son, we were floored.  Not because we heard something we had not already suspected.  But, hearing it all laid out is so overwhelming.  I am a person who likes to have a plan.  I can tackle pretty much anything if I can research it, read about it, talk with people who have experience with it, and I have a list in front of me that tells me what to do.  Sometimes life is just not that cut and dried.  Bummer!

Having a diagnosis does not declare a sentence on your child.  That doctor may have a lot of knowledge and experience, but they do not control the universe.  We serve a Sovereign God Who does though.  That is such a comfort.  When you hear that diagnosis and the recommendations for treatment you take a deep breath and you talk with your spouse every second you can possibly spare and you pray like your life depends on it and then you put one foot in front of the other.  You do your best to listen to what you are told and to filter that through what you know about your child – because let’s face it – no one knows your child better than you do.  You take each step with help from the professionals, your own conscience, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and you pray.  Ultimately, healing for your child will come through God’s intervention.

I recall a conversation with one of my kids about obeying God.  They said they had been praying that they would obey, but were still sinning.  I reminded them that we pray for God’s help and strength to resist temptation and obey, but we still make a choice in how we live.  God does the work in us through His grace with our cooperation.  That is how I see us moving forward with our child’s care.   The Lord is in complete control of the outcome and we see His hand guiding us as we make decisions and we do our best.  This verse describes the tension in that statement perfectly:  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Philippians 2:12-13

We are working with a therapist and trying to address our son’s attachment and anxiety issues.  At times the well that is his past life experiences which have contributed to who he is today seems very deep and dark.  Trauma has changed his brain and we will do all we can to help bring healing to him and give him a future and hope.

We have seen some tiny glimmers of hope that things are changing with our son.  I often tell families who are just embarking on their adoption journey that they need to think of their work with their child in terms of a marathon and not a sprint.  You also have to prepare yourself that things may not turn out the way you had hoped they would.  My husband and I remind ourselves all the time that we adopted our children for their sake and not for ours.  We also remind ourselves that it is our job to obey what the Lord is leading us to do (in this case adopting a child) and remember that the outcome is not in our hands.  We may plant, water, and nurture a seed, but we do not make it grow.  I actually find that very comforting.

If you are interested in reading the comments in reply to my original question, you can find that here.  If you want to see what her readers are saying in regards to the post of my update on where things are with Levi, you can find that here.

 

Psalm 102 September 7, 2012

Filed under: Faith — Lori @ 9:13 am

I have a CD with several psalms written as hymns and today I was humming this one because I was thinking about and praying for a friend who is going through a very difficult trial.  It is a psalm of grief, but grief anchored by hope and trust.  I really like it and I think I will sing this song in my head all day!

Psalm 102

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl[a] of the waste places;
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the Lord builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27     but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.

 

 
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