Category Archives: Love Boldly

This was not my plan – Part 2. (This is where you can write your part of the story)

(You can read part 1 here)

Two weeks ago or so I watched an almost 15 year old blow out candles on his cake. It was supposed to be a celebration but instead it carried the weight of finality with it. A last “adoptable” birthday, a marker of time passing, a milestone for sure, but not one for celebration. I sadly didn’t realize this until the candles were lit. And while we smiled and sang, reality washed over my heart, and I came to see how one so young can fail to be strong on days like today.

What did you so seriously and intently wish? Someday I will ask you.

Today I carry in my heart two pictures, the beautiful smile that most of the time so readily appears and the boy whom hope has left behind.

I struggle with whether to even share this much as I want to tuck our story away, protect it as ours, hide it from the harsh judgment of the bright light of day, but in it there is a reality that we all must face. Within it is a call to love that will break our hearts.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deut 31:6

Last night we received word that we have been granted an audience and an ear in front of key decision makers within two different governments beginning on Monday.  As the weekend closes in around us please be praying that hearts thousands of miles away will be aligned with God’s will, that He will go before us and move this mountain, and that He will bring this sweet boy home as our son. I am awestruck by what God has done thus far, to be standing at this place. Adoption has been closed between our countries for 10 years. We stand in a position to possibly make history and it’s humbling to be playing even the tiniest part in this enormous story by just making ourselves available. Please, please will you be part of it too? Can we storm the gates of heaven with prayers over the next four days, prayers that God will do the impossible and officially and legally make us his family? He has already transformed our hearts to recognize it. We need the courts recognize it as well.

“Are you going to be ok if this doesn’t happen?” my husband asked me last night.

“I guess I’ll have to be.”

“That’s not really an answer,” he said.

This was never my idea in the first place so if God has turned my heart from fear of opening our home to the terror of a homecoming never realized I have to trust that He will heal my heart from that prayer left unanswered as well. This is not about me at all any more if in fact it ever was. This is about a boy who is hurting. This is about a boy for whom God must have a mighty plan. I am finding that the weeping hot mess of a woman from February and March has been fortified, is filled with passion, fiercely strong and ready to fight.

Wouldn’t this make a magnificent, holy, 15th birthday present from his Father. The knowledge that he is no longer alone in this world. The Day, this Tuesday, is circled on the calendar. I know He’s able. I know He can. Will you join us in praying that He will? Our son needs brought home.

To be continued…again

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.””

Exodus 14:14 NLT

“Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.”

Joshua 23:8 NLT

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Jeremiah 32:27 NLT

“Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him!”

Zechariah 4:6 NLT

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Ephesians 3:20 NLT

““But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

This was not my plan

Nineteen months ago, I got on a plane with my 14 year old and we headed south to Guatemala…the great unknown, an adventure, following a dream and a calling.

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By Wednesday, day 5 of our trip, I was pretty sure we would write this off as a “learning experience.” An amazing time but I was ready to be back home, back to my comfort zone, back to my own language. I wasn’t sure we would be back. And then this happened…

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Sponsorship…and this…something so much bigger…

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I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good! I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart in the span of seconds. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken. (excerpt from An aching heart)

And then we were home and time passed, and normal-ish resumed it’s dominion. We wrote letters, mailed gifts, and sent prayers heavenward. We nurtured and fostered a relationship despite the miles and language barriers. We were also smack in the middle of navigating having a senior and a freshman, our lives full of wonderful teenage fueled chaos. And then, because God has a sense of humor we moved for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The sight of moving boxes now causes PTSD and I am pretending our storage unit full of I don’t even know what doesn’t exist.)  Smack in the middle of state playoff football, and just weeks before Christmas I was offered an empty spot to go back…

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“I’ll go.” “No, I can’t go.” “Ok, I will go.” “No, it’s just not going to work.” This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala. I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Guatemala with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy. (excerpt from On Again, Off Again, On Again)

Wheels downs in Guatemala just one year after my first visit…and my number one priority was sitting at the top of the hill. My reason for returning.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me. Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks. God is doing a mighty work within the walls of The orphanage and the walls of my heart. I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it. This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like. (excerpt from How Was It?)

And then a door opened, an opportunity to do what I love, a chance to advocate for all of the children living within the walls of the orphanage, a new job, a new adventure, and another trip south only 3 mo after my last visit. God had been busy in that short span of time. Working overtime on the hearts in our household, moving mountains, opening doors before we even had a chance to knock, doing the things that He does best, and the things that only He can do. And of course, my heart almost bust, when once again I laid eyes on this smile.

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Nineteen months ago adoption could not have been further from our radar. Today, it is a constant request laid before the Lord. We would love nothing more than to make this “official,” to bring this sweet boy home, to be a forever family in one place, to share his dreams, his fears, to struggle together, share the monotony, the hard days, and celebrate on the good ones. Right now this is still an impossibility as adoption remains closed and my heart is grieved beyond measure.

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I see this sweet little face, just after he arrived at the orphanage, and wonder why he has had to wait all these years only to face red-tape and the declaration of “impossible”and I am frustrated and at the same time amazed at what God has been weaving together for the past 15 years, all that He has done to get us to this point in time, standing at the threshold of the unknown, unimagined, unplanned,  that we might play a small part in this God-sized story.

We stand confident that we don’t live under the banner of impossible with God, and that is where we are placing our hope, our faith, and we know that this is not impossible but the clock is ticking ever more loudly these days. I am sharing this today because we need prayer. The only way this will happen is through God’s hand and in His timing and we seem to have hit the wall.  Would you join us in prayer?

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one. You will love more passionately, hurt more deeply, grieve more bitterly and celebrate more joyously throughout the process of caring for vulnerable children than you ever thought imaginable. This is the hard reality of where orphan care begins, where it takes you, what it requires of you and how it will break you. We must be willing to walk down this path, for their sake. As we do, our embracing of their brokenness paints a vivid picture of how Jesus embraced ours. ~ Jason Johnson

No matter what, we are family and in two short days, for the first time we will all be together in one place. I am not sure my heart will survive.

To be continued…

How was it?

I am home. I have been for over a week now. The suitcases are empty.  The coffee has all been delivered.  The laundry is (almost) caught up. The house is (almost) back in order. The pictures have all been printed, photo-journaled, and the photo album on its new coffee table home, a display and a reminder. And yet here I sit, still trying to figure out what happened 10 days and 1900 miles ago.  I was not even going to go on this trip and now, as it was last year, I am afraid that life won’t ever be the same again.  Then again, I am even more afraid that it will.  Does that even make sense?

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“How was it?” A question so easily asked, but the weight of the explanation that it compels me to give is so large.  A full emotional explanation would be impossible. The far reaching effects and implications of this week are continuing to unfold and make themselves just barely visible. Whisps of smoke and hope that slip through clenched fingers just when you think you are able to begin to make sense of them.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks.  God is doing a mighty work within the walls of Casa Bernabe and the walls of my heart.  I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine.  Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it.

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This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like.

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The pride of having his sponsorship publicly recognized at our “thank you” night.

This was a hard trip.  It was both emotionally and physically draining. My body and my heart would hurt at the end of the day.  As a team we accomplished much, crossing many items off of a “to do” list and yet barley scratching the surface. We spent a day hauling metal roofing up the hill towards the clinic, being able to take part in a double blessing as Casa Samuel got a new roof and the old roofing was to be given away to families outside the orphanage who could use it.   Painting the art room and offices were a welcome change of project after the roofing. Paintbrushes and rollers aren’t nearly as heavy as sheet metal. The monotony of a wall preferable to the monotony of a hill.

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In addition, throughout the week, members of our team took turns traveling two hours away to build a 10 x 10 block structure so that three children from Casa Bernabe could be reunited with their family. These days were tough, filled with manual labor that our bodies and minds were not accustomed to.  On my day, concrete day, I hauled countless buckets of sand and gravel down a steep and twisty path and then pulled buckets of water, necessary for the concrete, up from the well until my muscles protested and ached. As I walked the hill throughout the day, I watched young girls wash laundry by hand, young boys carry back breaking loads of wood to sell, old women cook over fires on the ground, and at the end of the day I walked away carrying the weight of their reality.  There is so much about this day that my heart continues to struggle though reconciling. And yet, there is the certain knowledge that God’s love was evident in every bucket of sand and water we hauled.

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As hard as some days were though the trip was filled with the lightness of laughter, the sheer unbridled joy from the kids that is so contagious.  It was hard, but we had fun. Be it through a mouth full of marshmallows while playing chubby-bunny with the kids on the basketball court, pitting team against team during an afternoon of paintball with a group of teenage boys, sharing a meal of a Big Mac and fries, coloring a picture, kicking a soccer ball, or celebrating the week with an ice cream party and some whip cream antics, we had fun! New relationships were built and others were grown.  The language barrier disappears in these situations – laughter is universal! Love trumps all!

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Chubby-Bunny

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It’s universal, of course the whip cream is supposed to go right into your mouth!

The highlight of my week though was not some big, sparkly, grand gesture moment. My highlight was being, not just invited, but welcomed, into a home close to my heart, given space on the couch to sit shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by family, to do something as simple as watch a movie.  As I sat there, the awkward, visiting American, who has a tendency to just smile and nod dumbly was gone. God worked this beautiful moment (with a little help from English movie subtitles) that touched the deepest part of my heart where we were sharing life, normal, everyday, life and I didn’t want it to end. This moment wasn’t planned or staged or organized and for that I am so grateful. Come in friend and share life.

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The boys with their new towels.  Thank you Love Runners community!
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I love this kid!
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Thanks to the Love Runners community for their generous giving that made this television (and so many more donations this week) a possibility!

I wasn’t going on this trip. The timing, financing, and lack of preparation were all wrong.  Saying no to this last minute opportunity to fill a vacant spot, just 3 weeks after the holidays, in the midst of moving our family of 4 and living in the mess of major home renovations, was certainly understandable. But I went and now I am home and I know that these few paragraphs and strung together words can’t do justice to what God is (and has been) doing.  The picture is so big.

More than anything, here is what I want to convey to you from this trip. I don’t want to be Jonah. Traveling in the belly of a whale, while more spacious than economy class, is not preferable to being available and obedient to God. “No” is many times the easy answer.  “No” may even be the answer that makes the most sense in our orderly lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer. Two questions that He has asked me in my past have been resurrected and keep cycling through my head.  First, “If not you, then who?” and “Do you trust me?” Seriously God?   This wasn’t new information, just a much-needed reminder.

Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I gave more of myself during this trip than I would have imagined possible, but you just do it.  You keep moving, hauling one more piece of roofing up the hill or one more bucket of sand down, you keep saying “Yes” to what God asks you to do.  You give until it hurts, love until you think your heart will break, and God makes it possible to just keep going, giving, moving, serving and loving.  In the exhaustion, physical and emotional,  you begin to see more of Him and less of you.

God needs you. It’s ok to be wary, be cautious, be scared. Just make yourself available.

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Take me where love is needed.