"to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faithin me." Acts 26:18

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Recap on our time in Oregon

27 days in Oregon

14 visits to churches in the PNW & Canada
9 dinner-dates with friends
6 lunch-dates with friends
5 other visits with friends
11 miles hiked in state parks
4 visits to the library
5 Kilometers run in a race
48 Kilometers run around the neighborhood (that would be two more than I planned since I got lost one day...oops!)
1 visit to the Kroc Center
and 1 visit to the Ocean.

I think we pretty much squeezed every possible minute out of our stay here.  It's been a busy time, but a beautiful time.  We have been given so much grace!  We are so thankful to our Oregon friends who so warmly welcomed us and who took such good care of us while we were there.  We were also so grateful for fellow believers who moved their whole vacation so that we could have their house to stay in while we were in Salem.  What generosity!  Such a huge blessing!  Here is a *few* photos from our time there.

A rare quiet evening with Daddy reading.

Playing the game "Pie Face" with friends.

We spent one beautiful day on the coast.  There aren't very many other coast lines that compare in beauty to Oregon's.  I may be biased though.  Just a little.

We spent a few days at the library.  Salem's library is particularly impressive, but all the more so to my international children who have never seen a library.  When we walked in, they immediately asked, "How much does it cost to take a book?" When I told them it was free, their eyes got huge.

We left with 43 books that day.  :-)

A few of the kids and I spent a day hiking at Silver Creek Falls.  We thought the hike would be about 7 miles and it would have been except that we took a few detours to see a few more falls and the total ended up being about 9 miles.  We kept this kid going by feeding him Nutter Butters.  haha...whenever he started to complain, we just gave him another pack and he just munched his way along.

We visited a lot of friends.  What a blessing to rekindle these friendships.  This particular picture is taken at a friends dairy.

Another family had something like 25 puppies..."enough hound to go all around" as the Madeline story goes... More than enough for each kid to have one to hold.  And dress up.

This picture was taken at the end of the road where we used to live one morning when I was out for a run.  I couldn't get a good picture of it, but off to the other side, there was a beautiful rainbow resting right over our old home.  What a beautiful reminder of how God has taken care of us and been so faithful to us these past 4 years.  And not only has he taken care of us, but he has taken such good care of all those that we love in Oregon and beyond.  He truly is a faithful God.

I also had the opportunity to run a 5K trail race in Oregon.  One thing that I dearly miss while we are in Uganda is well organized races.  This particular race was so much fun...okay, maybe not the first half that was mostly up hill, but the second have was a blast.

After the race, we went to the Lava Tubes near Mount Saint Helen.

And hiked around the area, including this crazy suspension bridge.  I'm a wimp.  I couldn't look down.

More hiking...can't you tell my kids love it when I stop to take pictures?  haha!

We left Oregon with full hearts and many tears and looking forward all the more eagerly to heaven and no more goodbyes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

National Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  I'm so thankful that America uses a month to highlight the beautiful institution of adoption and the need for adoption.  I thought I would join in by offering a meager list of things that I've learned about adoption over the years.  This comes from my experience as an adoptee as well as an adoptive parent.  Each situation is, of course, different.  But hopefully this will be a blessing to someone who is (or is thinking about becoming) in the trenches.

...Waiting is hard.  A lot of time is spent waiting when you are trying to adopt.  And it can be downright agonizing at times.  Imagine the last week or two of pregnancy times six months? a year? two years?  Waiting on papers, waiting on government officials, court dates...the list seems endless... God seems to delight to use the waiting though, so it's never wasted.  When we wait on government officials to do their jobs in assuring that our child isn't being trafficked, it is an opportunity to love others like we love ourselves. (We wouldn't want our children to be trafficked if it was us living in poverty, so we don't want others treated that way either!)  God also uses the waiting to dig a fertile ground for attachment, to give us a mama-bear tendency to fight for our child, and to give us the good gifts of more trust in God to move mountains, and more patience and hope...which are always good qualities for one's soul to possess more of.

Finally the waiting was over!  They were in our arms and it felt so so good!

...Attachment may take a very long time.
 For some reason this surprised me with our first adoption.  I thought that after a year had passed with not much attachment to show for it, that I had failed.  I thought that it would never happen.  Turns out it just took a lot longer than the timeline I had in my head...as in three years or so (and going).  Adoptive moms, let's throw out our ideas of a nice neat timeline and go with God's.  It's so much more beautiful that way.

Those first smiles were very hard to come by, but this was a precious one that encouraged me during those months.
...Attachment is worth fighting for.  When it begins to happen, it is stunningly gorgeous.  That first hug where your child melts into you, that first note that she brings to you, the first time you put your hand on his back and he doesn't tense up but rather looks to you and smiles... it's worth it.  Don't give up.  And never doubt God's ability to make it happen in his time.  Remember those mountains he moved while you were waiting?  Same God.  He can move mountains in hearts too.

This girl, now my darling daughter, has a whole history, but we are still trusting God as he weaves our stories together.
...Attachment goes both ways.  This surprised me to.  Parents, and I would guess mamas in particular, need to work at attaching to their child.  For some it comes naturally, so I've heard.  For many, it doesn't.  Learn how much God loves you and be a funnel of that love to your child.  Make it your goal that no matter what, your child will know how much he or she is loved and valued by the God of the universe.  Your heart will eventually follow to it's fullest.  No need to fear, but just keep working on it and praying for it.

That smile was weak because of the wind and because of how stinkin hard it was.
...Appreciate diversity.  Diversity on the surface is easy to appreciate.  I love the different skin tones, hair types and accents.  But diversity really happens at a much deeper level.  A biologically related family has the blessing of, well, biology!  Being genetically the same material means that you can often see yourself in your kids and have a small idea of what's going on and what they are doing.  I know, not always...but still, it's in there...sayings like "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" don't come from nowhere, right?  When suddenly there is a different flavored apple from another tree thrown in, it's easy to not know where thought patterns and preferences come from and therefore subconsciously despise them or be kind of annoyed by them.  But those apples are still so sweet and delicious...just a different kind of delicious!  We must learn to appreciate that deeper diversity.  I love seeing how my kids enjoy things differently, relate to God in different ways, and do things differently.  Appreciating the deeper aspects of diversity has also given my biological kids more courage to be themselves, knowing they will be appreciated.  They know they don't have to be carbon copies of each other or us.  This is also, by the way, a blessing of adopting more than once...it further diversifies your family into a beautiful picture.  (Fruit basket?  haha...just kidding...we won't go too far with the analogies...ahem...)

I love it that these guys love to cook!  That didn't come from our apple tree! Haha!
...Adoption is a covenant.  I'm very well aware that adoptive families disagree here.  If that is you, know that I love you and I know that you have faced very very deep trials and did not make your decision lightly.  While we believe that we can take general truths from the Bible here, we also know that the Bible is silent on this very specific issue.  So I'm not here to condemn you or put you down, but I still want to say what we believe.  When we adopted our children we made a covenant with them, not unlike a marriage covenant.  Just like we believe that divorce is wrong, we also believe that disruption is wrong.  Disruption is the name used for placing a child for adoption again, after he has been adopted once.  Just like we would never place our biological children for adoption no matter what they did, we will never place our adopted children for adoption again.  Yes, there might be circumstances that would dictate a child finding another place to live for a time (I've seen that in biological children too), but we won't ever break the promise that we made to them before a God ordained judge...that we will love them and treat them "as if they were one in the same as if they had been born out of [our] bodies."  This level of commitment has been a blessing through the hard times and given a solid ground to land on both for us and for our children.  

Celebrating the finish line in Uganda.  Celebrations don't last, but this commitment? It's forever.
...Adoption is beautiful and worth being involved in.  It is a beautiful reflection of our adoption in Christ.  Through adoption our families can become a beautiful picture of what the diversity of heaven will be like.  Learning to love and the opportunity to take care of "the least of these." is amazing.  I encourage everyone to take this month to prayerfully consider how you can be involved in the world of adoption and foster care.  Should your family adopt?  Should you donate money towards another family trying to adopt?  What about foster care? Respite care for those in the trenches?  Maybe just commit to praying for a family who is struggling through an adoption!  All of these are greatly beneficial to this important institution.

Adoption is as beautiful as this girl's smile. 
I know I've only just begun with this list.  What about you?  If you have adopted, what has God taught you?  What other ways can Christians rise up to take care of orphans?  How about churches?  What a blessing we can be when we step out in faith!