Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrating His New Name

I'm lounging on the couch tonight, exhausted, legs stretched across the coffee table with a cup of hot ginger tea. I'm hoping it'll hold back the crazy indigestion I'm fighting after eating too much good food.

And strewn about in piles all around me is evidence of an evening filled with incredible, indescribable love. Congratulatory balloons and posters. Stacks of little-boy-diapers. Boy toys. (His first tractor!) A brilliantly designed name plaque for Tony's room. A stuffed dinosaur that I already know will be a favorite.

But even better than the gifts and the sentiments are the people who gave them. Who love us, who love him, and who pulled off my first ever surprise party! All to celebrate what God has done for us.

Yesterday, in a courtroom somewhere across the ocean, a judge ruled in our favor and now, one lost and lonely little boy has a new name. And I have a son. Sam, a brother.

After a hard year of fighting to bring him home, of grieving and striving, it felt good to finally celebrate. To celebrate the life of this little man whose life is so worth fighting for.

Praising God tonight for the gift of Tony to our little family. Thank you, God!

And praising Him also for the love of these amazing friends. You all are Jesus to us. Everyone should have friends like you.

Lots of love to all of you.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

All The Single Ladies (All The Single Ladies)

Put your hands up!

As a little girl playing house and making "soup" outside beneath Texas Oak Trees, eighteen sounded like the perfect age to get married. Maybe it was because my parents were married young. Or maybe because it seemed so far away at the time. For whatever reason, though, eighteen was the goal.

Oddly enough, I was never in a hurry to have kids. In fact, in my late teens and early twenties I went through a phase where I seriously questioned whether I was cut out to be a mom at all. Probably because I absolutely hated babysitting. But, I digress...

My best friend and I, at age 16, would page through bridal magazines for fun. We'd dog-ear all of the cakes and decorations we liked. I had my dream dress chosen, the page torn ever so carefully out of the magazine and the picture stashed away for safe-keeping.

As I headed off to a Christian college in the cornfields, I had little passion for obtaining a degree. Of course, I was very passionate about serving Jesus, diving headfirst into learning as much as I could about Him while I had the opportunity. But, I had a secret objective that outweighed the importance of my GPA. I had exactly four years to catch a husband in what seemed to be an endless proverbial pool of fish. Surrounded by young men training for ministry, I was optimistic that I would leave college the young wife of a godly Christian man.

Needless to say, it didn't happen.

Now, I should be clear that there truly were lots of godly young men on that campus. I should also be clear that I went on dates with plenty of them. Regardless of anything I may have said at the time, I was just not ready.

So, much to my chagrin, I began my adulthood as a single young woman in North Central California. No longer was there opportunity after opportunity to meet someone. It was hard enough to find girlfriends my age who loved the Lord, let alone mature Christian men. I wish I could say that I was content in Jesus (You know, the way Brio magazine and "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" said I should be. Ha!). But I wasn't. I spent several years looking for my husband out from the corner of my eye. And only the corner, lest anyone should think I was desperate. Had you asked me how I felt about the whole thing, I'd have happily fibbed and said I was fine. Or maybe I would have fed you some line about how I was trusting in God's perfect timing. The truth is, my life was passing me by. I needed a husband, I thought.

I wanted desperately, for many years, to go out onto the foreign mission field, but I subconsciously wanted to wait for my husband. Even though I didn't know him yet, I didn't want to move away and experience that kind of life-altering experience without the man I would spend my life with. And besides, that whole scenario made more sense in my head with a strong, godly hero right beside me.

Praise the Lord I didn't wait around forever!
I would have missed out on so much...
I wouldn't be who I am today, that's for dang sure.
And as for children...well, once I finally decided that maybe I wouldn't be the world's worst mother after all (Thank you, Kenya. You changed my heart forever.), I started thinking about adoption again, like I had when I was in pigtails, carrying around a brown-skinned baby doll. But the thought never, ever, ever occurred to me that I could parent on my own. Actually, my desire to adopt only fueled that ache in my gut to find a man who could help me do it.

(Well, okay, one time I did think about adopting on my own. Several years ago, after moving back to Nebraska, some friends of mine knew of a baby in foster care who needed a home and they *sort of* jokingly prodded me to think about it. My response was immediately defensive. "Are you serious? You want to turn me into a single mother? There's no way! I mean, you understand, right? Really though, you're not serious, are you?" I'm sure the real question on my mind was , "Will anyone ever want me if I take on that kind of responsibility?")


Fast forward to today.

It still hasn't happened. I'm single.

I'm also literally weeks away from completing my second assisted prison break adoption. What in the world happened to me?

Update! I should get a court date this week. Hold on, son. I'm coming!

Did I snap? All of a sudden go crazy?

Was I desperate? (You know, the whole eggs drying up thing...except, well, the adoption version.)

Did I lose all hope of finding the love and protection of a godly husband?

No! Really and truly, no to all of the above.

Do you want to know what really happened?

I realized, all at once as I was backpacking in the Colorado mountains with my family, that I didn't need to put my life on hold. God was calling me. He had been gently whispering to me for a long time, but I couldn't hear Him above the nagging voice in my own head warning me not to upset the order of things.

Don't we all subconsciously know how things are supposed to play out in our culture? Especially for good Christian girls. (Or boys. Or whatever that even means.) The goal is that one season will fade into the next, and into the next, and so on, in the following order.

  1. The School/Adventure-taking Season. This is your time to live it up. Want to travel the world? These are your 4 years to do it. Or if you so choose, add on a second major and buy yourself another year of fun and freedom.
  2. The Career/ Marriage Season. These two are interchangeable and may occupy the same space. Or at least until that glorious day when you no longer need to work. (See Phase 3) (Also insert optional continued education, which may also coincide with Phase 3.)
  3. The Childbearing Season. There is an ideal window in which this phase should happen. And that window is obviously when the vast majority of your peers are also procreating.

Now, there's nothing wrong with this picture, if it's how your life played out. It's a good life. It works for a lot of people. But what if it doesn't work out for you. What if any number of things throws you off track and keeps you from working your way through the sequence? What then?

The traditional response, from my observations and experience, is that we end up in a holding pattern. We wait it out with hopes that once we graduate seasons 1, 2, or 3, our life will begin. We'll be happy. We'll be able to do the things we know with all our hearts God is calling us to do. But this line of thinking can only tide a person over for so long before sadness, anger or bitterness take root. There has to be more to life than this. 

And that's, I think, what I'm learning as I follow the Lord as a single woman. I can serve the Lord as I am. I can answer Him when He calls. I can follow Him to the ends of the earth. Right now. No waiting required. 

That's at least what I'm trying to do. 

Do I sometimes still feel others eyes on me? Does it get old being the weirdo going against the grain? I dunno. Maybe, sometimes. I've had my share of comments. "You know this means you'll never get married, right?" "Are you sure these kids are going to be better off? They won't have a father!" (Don't get me started on that one...) But for the most part it just feels awesome. I feel free. And empowered. And like I'm right smack in the center of God's will. 

Could God still set a godly husband and father in our little family? Absolutely, He could. He very well may, and I will rejoice on that day. 

But I can rejoice in this day as well. This is the day the Lord has made for me. Today He is calling me to serve Him as a missionary, as a mom, as a friend, and in a thousand other small but significant ways. My life has purpose, with or without a man. 

And not only does it have purpose, but I actually love my life. You should know that I didn't give up all of my dreams to serve the Lord in misery and solitude. No, quite the opposite is true. God is growing and changing me constantly, and in doing so, He's giving me new dreams and desires for my life. And He's teaching me that He is enough. 

Can I tell you something, friends? Your life has purpose, too. No matter where you're at on the map. No matter which seasons of life you've been able to check off the list, or which seasons you'll ever see in your lifetime. He's calling you. 

Is it the desire of your heart to be married and you're not? Despite your best efforts and fervent prayers, do you remain alone? He's calling you.

Have you always dreamt of being a mom to a houseful of little ones? Is your heart broken because, like a barren woman, your arms remain empty? He's calling you.

Are you biding your time in a job you don't love, and going home to house that's quiet or lonely? He's calling you.

He may not be calling you to adopt. Or maybe He is. But without a doubt He is calling you. Are you listening? Are you able to hear Him above the noise of our culture's expectations or even above your own longings? He's calling you higher. Maybe even to embrace a new dream for the season you're in right now. And He's calling you to freedom from waiting. Because you know what? Any husband worth having is going to love your new dreams. He's going to be proud of the way you're following the Lord. He will admire your bravery and your heart. He's going to see the real you, right off the bat. Shining, and flourishing, and loving life. Not desperate. Not miserable. Not waiting around. But living. 

That's how I want to be found. Not just by a man, but by (capital "H") Him. 

By God's grace, may we forge ahead in the freedom that is ours in Christ. 

Living my new dream, and sending lots of love to all of you.