A Lesson from Rehab & Ms. Liz

lightstock_77447_xsmall_laura_beth_.jpg

I held her right hand with both of mine carefully positioning her fingers so I could keep removing the lavender nail polish that was beginning to wear off the ends of carefully tended fingernails.  All around the two of us people were coming and going.  Talking but not listening.  But not Ms. Liz and I.  We could talk without talking, which is a good thing, considering her stroke ten days ago had impaired her speech something awful.  She could talk, mind you, but I felt like her translator when the nursing staff started asking questions.   Not that I minded, I just kind of felt like folks should slow down a bit and listen.  Ms.  Liz always had things to say and I had the feeling the stroke hadn’t changed that much, just the way it was going to happen.  She still couldn’t say my name but that was fine with me too. She would try and eventually settle on calling me baby.  I would take that over my given name any day.

I discover if you want to confuse people really good, just be a middle aged white lady hanging out with an older black lady for no obvious reason.  Folks can’t figure that one out at first glance, and bless their hearts they try.  You should see their faces as they fight back the urge not to ask who you are and why you’re there.  Eventually, they just can’t help themselves.  Curiosity gets the better of them.  I get a bit weary of trying to explain that I’m her pharmacist and she’s also my friend but really there’s a whole lot more to it than that.  I’m relieved when one of her sons interrupts me after the fifth explanation and tells the room his momma refers to me as her daughter.  That fits just fine on me.

The social worker stops by and starts doing an assessment to see if Ms. Liz is depressed.  All of the questions are arranged as simple yes and no answers so that patients who are struggling with physical limitations can answer easily.  I keep my head tucked low to my chest, eyes on her hand, not wanting to embarrass her with my presence.  I try with all my might to make myself invisible and unseen as she peels off the layers of Ms. Liz’s emotional state.  I try not to hear but that’s just impossible given the smallness of the room and the closeness of my task.  I work the emery board around the next fingernail gently shaping it, trying my best not to snag the delicate cuticle skin.  Her hands are beautiful with long, elegant fingers that I know have rocked baby boys and nursed her own mother to the Father.  Ms. Liz has prayed me through all three of my babies.  She has loved me through thirteen years of life and has been a faithful woman of God.  I have seen her ill, I have seen her exhausted, I have seen her broken, but I have never seen her like this.  The stroke has left her with little function on her left side and swallowing has become an almost impossible task.  And now I am witness to her most private moments.  I find I am holding my breath as each answer is given.

And there as the social worker smiles and makes her way through the list I unexpectedly find myself with a front row seat to the Master at work.

“I’m sorry Ms. Liz, I have to continue asking these questions, but we are almost done.  Would you say you feel alone now since the stroke?”

I stop breathing altogether and tilt my head up slightly to catch a glimpse of Ms. Liz’s lovely face.  Of all the questions she has asked I think this one must be the one that I will lose my composure over.  But not Ms. Liz.  And for the first time in ten days I hear her speak an entire sentence as clear and bright as the pink polish she chose for her fingernails,

“God is always with me.”

And I am all kinds of undone.

Because right here in the middle of rehab sits a woman who cannot do one thing for herself when last week she could do everything and still she believes.  Here sits one of God’s mightiest warriors physically grounded but spiritually not one bit moved from the foot of the cross.

I push back hot tears as I turn back to work her nails and I think,

“God give me a heart that loves you like that.  Give me a heart that loses everything that makes me, me and still knows you are there.  Tear out everything in my life that blinds me from your presence and your work until all I see is you.

And do it over and over and over.”

 

*To maintain patient confidentiality identifying information has been changed.*

Love & Refrigerators


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Dear Little One, 
There will times in your life when you feel unloved.  It's possible that you will even remember times before you lived with us when you felt that way.  Maybe you will even think we don't love you sometimes too, especially when we discipline you or tell you "no" about something.  Or perhaps there is going to be an event in your life that dad & I can't protect you from that will make you question the very humanity of people.  That happens everyday all around us.  Bad things do happen to the greatest people, I wish that weren't true, but dear one, it is.  As long as we wait for Christ to return Satan will wage his war against God's beloved.  And truthfully, the fact that you are even a member of our family is a testament to this.  There will be some reasons your family could not keep you and they will be valid but the facts can never diminish the loss you have already suffered.  And there may be a part of you that will wonder if you are loved.  Please listen to your momma when I tell you what love can be for you.

It looks like over thirty families giving us items for a huge yard sale so we could start your adoption OVER with a new adoption agency when our first one could no longer help us.  
It resembles your momma's last piece of pride being scraped away as she asks her girlfriends for fundraising help. (don't worry, momma doesn't miss her pride)

Love looks like a refrigerator that a friend delivered for your sale from over an hour away. (it was the first thing we sold:) 

It smells like ladies baking cookies, pies, cakes, brownies, and bread for our bake sale.  And then people paying triple the marked prices to help cover your fees.  And when we ran out, then went back in their kitchens and made more for our second day.

It looks like kids cleaning out toy chests and giving away their own things so the "baby" could come home.

Love looks like yours sisters giving up new clothes, Friday lunches, and family movie dates and depositing that money in your adoption account and not because we asked them to, because they wanted to.

It looks like a young man & his family dropping off items on his way out of town to his grandfather's funeral.

It's pregnant ladies working all day and then going home exhausted yet still pushing through and sorting out closets so they could donate to your sale.

Love feels like a vacation day someone took just to work your fundraiser because they knew we were shorthanded.

It is our local radio announcers talking about your fundraiser on air everyday to help us get the word out to our community and then coming by to spend some money themselves.

It looks like friends showing up at 6am with smiles, messy hair and coffee cups in hand to set up over 1500 square feet of goods. And not just on one day, but two.

It acts like a young married couple celebrating their anniversary by running around in the pouring rain to pick up tables, bags, and merchandise for your fundraiser.

Love for you is grandparents cooking for volunteers, picking up your siblings while we worked, baking for your sale, and praying for it's success.

Love sometimes looked like a check and sometimes it felt like a hug.   People blessed you through us.  Do not doubt that.

Love is seeing random strangers handing us $5 bills when they found out our fundraiser was for you.  People we had never met gave us money just for you.

Love looks like friends organizing hundreds of pieces of clothing and bargaining over knick knacks knowing that every dollar was one more closer to you.

Love sounds like people laughing.  We laughed together so much over those two days.  We have the most wonderful stories to tell you about.

Love is people continuing to bring us items to sell, even into our second day,  so that we always had something to put out.

Love for you is people rounding up their sales total and paying extra, just because they wanted to.

Love is people praying for you all the time because they want you to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Love is people working the sale together and helping each other and no one complaining about anything for two solid days.  Nothing.  They just reached in and did whatever needed to be done.

Love for you is a whole community of people coming together to help mom & dad do something they could never have done themselves.  We just couldn't do it alone.  We really thought we could but God has taught us better than that.  We can never do it without him.  And he's using his people to show us that his love can look a lot like his children.

Little one, sometimes people think love is just a feeling.  It is not.  Love is a choice.  And all these people have chosen to love you.  They have chosen to live out 1 Corinthians in the choices they have made regarding you.  There is no glory in sorting used clothing or bartering with people over prices.  There is no trophy they got for participating.    Those who blessed you with their love chose to do so of their own free will.  They are doing their very best to get you home as fast as they can.  They gave their money, their time, their skills, and their own personal possessions up just for you.  Mom can never give back to these people what they have given up for you and they don't expect her to.  That's how real love works.  

You are loved immeasurably by a whole community of people over 8,147 miles away from your homeland.  That says a lot about the people who will surround you as you grow up.

But there is someone who loves you more than they do.  A man who loves you more than mom & dad do too.  And his love looks different than anyone else's has or ever will.  On those very tough days this world throws at you remember Christ also chose to love you.  But his love was so BIG that he gave his life to protect yours eternally.  You were so precious to him that he chose to die on Calvary rather than let you face this life without hope of being with him in the next one.  

So when Satan tries to convince you that no one cares and that you are unloved remember that's not true.  

Love is a choice. Christ chose to love you.  

And God is sending his people to surround you & love you too.

*To our family and friends in our Hope, AR community thank you is not a big enough set of words.  There aren't words big enough for what has occurred during our fundraiser.   We believe Paul says it better:
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  
1 Thessalonians 1:2,3


God Hasn't Given Up

I'm lying on my left side with hand tucked under my ear and the other covering my face from the bright overhead light in our bedroom.  I could get up and turn it off but I've lost the strength to care right this minute.  I should be up and in that kitchen cooking supper but I've already been on my feet 12 hours and I just need three minutes.

Three minutes.

The phone rings.  I do not move.   Three and half years into our adoption journey and we are not one moment closer to our son.  Thanks to large amounts of international pressure and money Ethiopia has slowed adoptions to a grinding pace.  The agency we've been with emailed us four months ago and told us to expect another four to six year wait.

Four to six years.

That would be a total of 7-10 years since we started.  In our hearts we know our family can't wait that long.  We must start over.  We must look at the places who will accept us and figure out a way to make this work before we are too old for the guidelines and our patience evaporates in the August heat of Arkansas.  I've already talked to so many case workers and agencies I have to look at notes to remember who said what.   I lie here smelling Luke's honey shampoo that I just bathed him with on my hands and start to tear up.  

Where is our son?

I wonder to God, why would you lead us here?

And in my heart I feel the answer, so you will see what He can do.

I won't deny I feel somewhat betrayed (i am human) because I trusted him to take care of us, and I don't feel very taken care of at this moment.    I feel exposed and exhausted.  Of all the valleys we have been through I don't even recognize this landscape.  It's totally foreign.  I can't begin to think how we will walk it, but I feel comforted when I think of what Christ shared with his disciples,

"...in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I will overcome the world."   
John 16:33 

He doesn't say to accept trouble he says to expect it.  I'm so ready for Him to overcome it.  Any moment.  Even so Lord Jesus. Overcome it. Forgive me for ever thinking I could handle one step of this on my own.

At my weakest moments and on my worst days this small, quiet nagging voice in my head wonders if I could ever forget He asked us for this but I know I cannot.  Once God opened the eyes of my heart I no longer had the luxury of ignorance.  The images of these kids are burned into the folds of my memory.  When I'm hungry before mealtimes I can't help but wonder if my son has eaten yet that day.  I pray he has.  It's hard to breathe thinking he hasn't.  I pray wherever he is that God's hand is mercifully covering him with protection.  I carry that boy with me wherever I go.

Wherever I go.

 I know other people don't understand it.  I'm not asking them to anymore.  It's not necessary for them to.  I know some think it's crazy.  I have no problem with crazy anymore.  Or pride. Or self-sufficiency.  I do not have the time or energy to maintain them.  God has seen to that.  Every ounce of who I am is focused on the obedience He requires at this very minute.  I can no longer worry about whether others approve of our parenting skills or adoption decisions anymore.  I just have to continue doing what God has asked me to do.  It is not theirs to carry.  

This is my son.  He will look different than me.  He will speak a different language than me.  He may very well have a disability.  He may have called someone else momma first.  But he will be my son because God has made it so.  So I will keep filling out every form, researching every country, and just saying yes, Lord until He says I'm done.

Someone I love beyond words asked me last night, "Why does adoption have to be so hard?  I don't understand.  All we're trying to do is give a child a home."

And for a few precious moments I just pondered that thought.  My response was something like this, "Satan will do anything to prevent these kids from knowing family.  If he can take their hope, our hope, then he's already won.  He knows that God has great plans for these children or he wouldn't bother causing all sorts of problems in their lives.  They wouldn't be in orphanages or foster care to start with.  He's making it harder for us to care for these kids because he wants people to stop caring.  He wants us to give up on them, but we can't give up on them because God hasn't given up on them.  God hasn't given up on us."

It is my belief that Satan wants to prevent kids from knowing the love of family here on earth the same way he tries to prevent us from knowing God's great love for us.  When children know the love of family they are better able to grasp the concept of God's immeasurable love for them.  When we are separated from this love we are without hope.  And there is no worse state of being in which to exist.  Those without hope are vulnerable to the enemy.  They are easy prey.  Satan loves easy prey.  And he will tell any lie, he will orchestrate any situation, he will devastate any life he needs to in order to lay waste to our souls.

Some of you reading this may not really believe Satan is interested in you or you may not believe in him at all, but he believes in you and he believes in me.  And he believes in the future and the plans that God has for these children and these families and he will stop at nothing to destroy them.  The bible is clear that this guy is serious about the business of being a destroyer.  (John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy....)  If you don't believe it spend five minutes googling the children stuck in the Congo or Russia!  

The truth is this; these children have within them the capability to change the world for the better.  They have the ability to be Christ's greatest witnesses and humanitarians because that is what He has designed them for.  "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Eph 2:10  If we, their parents, give up on them then what does that say about us?  Are we capable of  standing our ground and letting God fight for us?  If Ethiopia shuts down, what will we do?  This family will pray about it and then follow whatever path God sends us down.
  
It occurred to me as I was writing this that our adoption into God's family was so much harder.  All God wanted to do was graft us into His family.  And think of the sacrifice it required.  Satan spent thousands of years creating a mess within God's people.  We were absolutely without hope.  We could no more have joined God's family before Christ than my child could find me from Ethiopia on his own.  It was impossible.  Then Christ appeared and became our redeemer.  He stepped in and silenced Satan forever.  Through Christ's crucifixion our sin debt has already been paid.  And it was paid because our Father loved us enough to surrender himself.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16. 

It never ceases to amaze me how God continues to teach me about His family while building mine.  And Satan still tries to destroy us.  Everyday he tries.  But it is our choice.  We get to choose life and hope if we want it.  And I want it.  I choose faith.  Understand this.  Though I try, I never get it right.  But thankfully God has so much grace and mercy He just pours it out like a hurricane every time I cover my eyes because I'm too weak to turn off the light.  

And I want that for my son.  I want that for all my children.  I want that for for you.  I want that for your children.  I want them to be brave enough to choose God & His family.  I want them to see that choosing Christ is never easy but it brings life.  "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...." (Galatians 3:26)  

And I cannot leave him behind.  

No matter what

I just cannot.

.