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Friday, June 29, 2012

Go with His flow

Since control is an illusion anyway, days are more fun and peaceful when you go with God's flow and don't ask victim-like questions.  I don't want to write my own story.  God's plot twists and surprise endings are always so much cooler than my own ideas!  

You can have better conversations with God when you stop asking "Why?" and start asking"What?" "What are you doing Daddy?"  "Can I join you in any way?"  Think of a Father playing with His children who is "letting them win."  Yes, He is the cause and effect of everything, but He set life up so we get to play along.  And our victories become His and He is our victory.  It's all very family-like.  

I love these lyrics to "Everything You Do" by Jason Upton

Everything You do I want to do with You
Cause doing things with You it makes me happy
Everything You say I want to say it too
Cause even when I say it wrong we just start laughing
Merciful Father learning to trust You love me the way that I am
My simple desire to  help You means more to You than whether I really can

Every day is a new adventure with the adoption process.  Expect a little warfare with adoption!  The most blatant example of this was last week with the american couple thrown in prison in Ghana and their young biological and adopted children put in institutions on false charges of child trafficking.  They are freed now, but that was a fierce battle!  So proud of how this family stayed the course and handled it all with grace.  

If you want to read some of the best. books. ever. out loud to your children on the cost of redemption and the beautiful allegory of us all going from orphans to sons and daughters of the King (and make yourself's a joke at our house that Mommy can't get through a chapter of these without a box of kleenex close by) you must get:  The Tales of the Kingdom  Trilogoy by David and Karin Mains.  (Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, Tales of the Restoration)  

We were told we needed yet more photos of our family.  In color, larger, more of Esther alone, with us, etc.  This was a big task.  I don't know how to do much with technology, including pulling photos off our computer and printing them in color in Uganda.  And I had to take Esther to get more passport sized photos as well as larger images of her.  And when I did she had a massive seizure that was quite a commotion  (and I can be quite a commotion by my own self!)  

Normally I would of course lay a seizing child on the ground on their side, but it was a dirt floor and everyone was looking rather horrified at me and my screaming, flailing, drooling child.  And normally I am fairly immune to staring with my big old commotion family back in Iowa.  But I hesitated this time, not knowing social norms for this type of thing here, and I tried to contain her in my arms but she was heavy!  After taking her back to the driver's van, administering rescue medication, and much later getting the photos....I got a text saying, "Never mind. Don't need those after all."  "Why?" would not have been helpful.  "Curious about that Father..." was how we left it.  (and let's not discount the miracle that I found a young man at the photo place who saw my ineptitude at the computer and was trying to explain to me a flash drive until I handed him the lap top and suggested, "Maybe you could try this?" and he used his mad techno skillz and did it in 2 minutes for me)

But God redeems things!  We had favor at our medical appointment and were seen first out of a waiting room jammed with people.  And Esther barely whimpered when they stuck her with a needle for the TB test.  And on the way home she laid down because she was feeling kind of sleepy.....

But she discovered the joys of shoes (and hopefully toenails....)

And she kept shoes on her pretty little feet all the day long!  And after we had court postponed again last time for the oral ruling I asked God what divine delays He may have up His sleeve?  And He brought to my path a teenage girl who was suicidal, self-harming, and had an eating disorder.  Well let FREEDOM reign!  We had some prayer and her entire countenance was immediately different.  I was just hoping she would get out of bed, but she has engaged with life again and is fighting for someone else's life now!  It was pretty incredible to witness God move that quickly and powerfully.  

And then at court, as we waited and waited....a sweet family adopting an older child approached me about a situation with another child that needed immediate help, and my only role in this was to connect them with a person I had just met who could help her....and we all just marveled at God's ability to intersect lives at just the right moment.  

And when I saw the lawyer in the hall she told me there were multiple families waiting to get their oral rulings, and time was running out for the day. I said jokingly, "Well, maybe the judge could just call us all in and just say, "yes, yes, yes,...." and we could all be done!"  And THAT is what happened 10 minutes later!  Before I left the courtroom though I felt a prompting about those crazy pictures I still had in the back pack.  I asked to approach the judge and gave him the nice 5 by 7 photos of our family and Esther.  He said he was honored to receive them and thanked me.  I blessed him and who knows what harvest those seeds may produce.  My Father knows though!!

Sebastian and I learned more about Ugandan history.  Like their first recorded King had 84 wives and 126 children!  And they celebrate Martyrs Day in memory of the 42 Ugandans that were killed when they converted to Chrisitanity because King Mwanga was jealous about Jesus being called King of Kings and he wanted no competition for his kingdom.  

And I saw God at work again when I stuck my finger in the mouth of a child who has the HIV virus and I had multiple Americans ask me if I was afraid of getting AIDS and should I wash my hands?  That's Americans, the level of misinformation in Africa is far greater.  That's why I am SO grateful for Project Hopeful that is committed to spreading TRUTH.  Please vote for them TODAY to win a 50,000 grant to help the most vulnerable and overlooked orphans in the world find hope.  They are the ones who set up Esther's adoption fund, they are the ones who have gone to bat for my HIV positive girly who used to live with us, they are the ones who cast out fear with God's perfect love.  Scroll down to PROJECT HOPEFUL, click twice, and let's give this 100 percent volunteer based group (mostly adoptive mamas) some funds to work with!  Scroll down to "Advocating for Waiting Children Around the World" Project Hopeful 
Only one day left to vote!!!!

Let's pray for "no child left behind"

And let's start flowing with His river and not stagnating like a pond!  Your Father is GOOD and His mercies are new every morning.  Seizure-days, divine delays, breakthroughs, breakdowns, whatever....don't get stuck in one chapter.  He's turning pages and the central theme is:  redemption.  Look for what He is doing instead of focusing on the same old same old of the enemy.  (steal, kill, destroy ad nauseum)  God has endless ways to produce LIFE and life abundantly all around you when you have eyes to see!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Royal Subjects

Some parts of Esther's days are characterized by seizures and sleepiness.   Then there are the flows of giggles, smiles, "mama's" (she loves to say this during our gentle bath time routine) and bear hugs.  I had no preconceived ideas of a time table regarding attachment....but this girl was really ready for a Mom.  

And I learned she likes to be kissed on the nose, especially if it is preceded by lots of goofy kiss sounds first!

And I am bananas for my son in a banana leaf hat.  He has been incredible here, he is a toddler magnet, but Esther made it clear tonight that she really isn't keen on sharing him with others anymore.  This is HER brother thank you very much.  

This is how cute Brad and I looked the first time we went to court.  Today was the third time I went to court, but the judge didn't have there will be a fourth time on Friday.  So I am considering a cute matching pajama set to wear for this one, since a long wait and getting home close to bed time seems to be normative.  The birth certificate was temporarily lost today too, but King Jesus knew where it was at and it was found!

The youngest king in Africa came to visit the orphanage today.  He was 3 when he was crowned king.  He is 20 now and has lots of security around him.  I thought it was fitting that a King would come to visit my Queen Esther!  She knows she's a daughter of the King.  She can sing one song and someone translated it from Lugandan for me.  The lyrics are:  "JESUS IS HERE!  JESUS IS HERE!  MY JESUS IS HERE!"  The nannies say she even sings it in the night watch.  

When you know you are royalty you act differently than if you think you are an orphan.  

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
Psalm 68:5

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:18

When you really know who and WHOSE you are, you can help others find their true identity in Christ as well.  You won't feel the need to point out orphan-leftover behaviors in others but can see past all that to the true child of the King within a person.  You can give the gentle reminder that, "Hey, that's not who you are!  THIS is who you were created to be."  And you will see no one after the flesh.  You can call forth the things that are not yet as though they were.  Sometimes it takes just a little faith to see the Royalty in the orphan, but it's in there.  We tend to all be radically insecure apart from Christ and we are commanded to live as much loved children, without shame and condemnation.  

The orphan spirit struggles to make eye-contact, even in the presence of one who is loving them.  A much loved child feels safe to gaze straight into the eyes of LOVE and beam back at the Beloved.  Intimacy doesn't feel like being exposed but like being really known and loved.  

How awesome is it that the One who knows us the best is the One who made us and likes us the most! He is the King and there are no orphans in His Kingdom!
Monday, June 25, 2012

The upside down kingdom

We visited an orphanage for children with special needs called Ekisa and discovered:  there is no prenatal test to predict awesomeness.

Or the capacity for joy.

And we saw the Kingdom manifest where the least are the greatest.

And everyone has a name and not a number.

And just because you are in your early twenties and have no experience or funding doesn't mean you can't start a God-sized work.

And there's a fine line between teaching and learning.

And there is beauty and blessing in unexpected places.

And childlikeness is a core value.

And love is the foundation of everything.

And the hungry get fed.

And the naked get clothed.

And everyone gets hugged.

And the sick get healed.

Yesterday we went to a church in the slums.  The church is associated with a ministry in the states run by a big name pastor.  If I told you who it was half of you would tell me how much you love him and you probably quote him all the time.  Half of you would tell me how much you can't stand him and may have face booked articles that slam him.  But when I saw a man crawl in on his hands and knees because he was crippled and start to worship Jesus it all seemed so petty.  Can we give people the grace and space to love and serve Jesus however they are called, even if they are wrong about some things?  I've had enough paradigm shifts to know that I am not right about everything and will probably one day be embarrassed by some of the things I think now....but that doesn't mean God can't use me right now in all my incorrectness and imperfections.  

True to African form the place filled up as time went on and the service was much longer than a typical American one.

And instead of before church coffee they served after church tea!  (This is Colleen from Sixty Feet, the ministry that helps the boys in prison.  In addition to being an awesome wife and mom she does things like bathe the sore-filled, wound-filled, filthy bodies of little boys who don't belong where they are)  

Sebastian spent time with the pastor, talking some kind of man talk.  Sebastian really is the man around here now that Brad is gone.  He handles all the paperwork, money, and directions for me while I am discussing really important things like toenail polish colors with the ladies.

Got to visit with this precious guy who had been starved and forced to eat his own feces until he was rescued and brought to Redeemer House.  He has seizures and developmental delays.  Hey, that reminds me of another awesome child I love.....

He also loves to dance, which reminds me of a lot of my children!  Ugandan dancers are amazing!!!

We got stuck in a downpour and traffic, which made for a 5 hour car trip home.  At least we weren't on a boda boda.

May you experience the down pour of Christ's love for you and drink deeply of the fountain that never runs dry!  Live in the Light of His upside Kingdom where you die to live and lose to gain!
Saturday, June 23, 2012

Get some new lenses!!!

We spent yesterday with Daniel, the man of God who devoted years of his life to Esther's care just because Jesus gave him a heart to do it.  He is only 25 years old but he is my great-great-grandpa in the Spirit.  He has an entire journal of the miracles God worked in Esther's life.  When she was first found she was so traumatized she didn't move at all.  Everyone said she was "emotionally dead." If you put her in one position she would stay there all day long with not a single movement.  From there she progressed to curling up in fear in the fetal position whenever someone tried to touch her.  Daniel assembled any child old enough to string two syllables together at the orphanage to pray for Esther every night.  He came every day to care for her.  One day she surprised them all and when he walked away she crawled toward him!  He continued to pray for miracles and one day she actually stood up!  When she took her first steps (would have been around age 4) they cried tears of joy! 
His own story is a miracle.  Raised in the slums, abandoned by his father, but with a mother who loved Jesus and prayed for him and his sisters.....He is now an auditor (a job he said he was not even qualified for and a stadium full of people applied for this job.  He credits Esther's favor with granting him this job that allows him to care for many, many extended family members including his beloved mom and sisters) He is a passionate follower of Christ.  He is going to preach the Gospel in the mountains to people whose villages are currently inaccessible but he trusts God will make a way.  He wants to care for special needs orphans who are so outcast everywhere here.  He said he never felt released to go before because of Esther, but now that she has a family he is free to pursue the next call of God on his life.  He is the most humble person I have ever met.  He kept saying she taught him more about God than anything else.  He told us it was not okay for men to cry in his culture, but you could see just saying her name brought tears to his eyes.  The orphanage gave her the name Esther and they gave her a last name that means "Faith."  Everyone I meet who has met Daniel and seen how he poured his life into Esther gets tears in their eyes at the mention of his name too.

Daniel saw Esther through Jesus-lenses.  He talked about how his culture views those with disabilities so wrongly.  Many orphanages wouldn't even take Esther for fear they would "catch" what she had from her drool.  Our judge told us he saw a man have a seizure once and then no one would buy anything from his store.  He said he was concerned Esther's siblings would all laugh and make fun of her if they saw her having a seizure.  I told him exactly what would happen if someone has a seizure in our house.  Me or one of the older siblings would calmly walk to the medicine cabinet where we would draw up the intra-nasal versed and administer it and let the child take a 2 hour nap or so and then we might anticipate they would vomit for a bit.  Which is also not a big deal in our house, seeing as Blessing used to vomit frequently every single day for years.  And of course we would pray.  But fear......nope.  We don't live there.  We've seen too many "Christmas Miracles."  God's love and goodness eradicates fear.

Speaking of fear, the judge also went off about people who refuse to have biological children because they think it is better to adopt.  I think that is a false paradigm as well.  God isn't either/or, He is both/and.  He designed our biology and the world isn't a worse place because we embrace LIFE.  Ari, my 7th biological child, is a positive force in God's universe.  How do I know he won't change a neighborhood, a nation, adopt 20 kids, who knows?!  But again that scarcity mentality believes that there just isn't enough of anything. Jesus brings LIFE and LIFE abundantly!  The only negative thing the judge said to me is that I use the word "GREAT" a lot.  He asked if I expected people to feel sorry for my children.  "WHAT?!  They have a GREAT life!  They have a GREAT Dad!  We serve a GREAT GOD!  Are you kidding me?!  If someone is seriously going to feel pity for my kids because they are blessed to have a lot of siblings or have a few health issues....they need to get out more!"  I should have used better adjectives SUPER GREAT!

Brad left yesterday to fly home!  I am SO thrilled the children will have their Daddy back soon!  I get to keep man-child Sebastian who is pretty much an expert in dancing with little sisters.
Brad made a huge impact on many men here.  I had the following conversation with a young man who works here:
"So he doesn't have other women?"
"So he never hits you?"  
"He never pushes you?"
" fact, he has never raised his voice to me.  He never even criticizes me."  
"This is so......good," was the surprised response.
Brad has taught me through the years to see people through Jesus-colored glasses.  The lenses we use affect how we interpret the Word, how we view circumstances, how we see ourselves, others, everything!  The very morning we left for Uganda Blessing had a huge puke out.  Now I could have magnified that, and run a broken tape in my mind about "what if" when we were gone.  That would be called "worry."  OR.....I could think about WHO GOD IS over and over in my mind....which would be called "meditation."  So we quickly cleaned the puke, Blessing helped me cook breakfast, and we moved on.  And she hasn't puked since.  
She's a champ at seeing through JESUS GLASSES!  She once told me, "My scars remind me of all the times God has helped me!"

I didn't realize until recently that Princess needed glasses.  The look on her face the first time she put them on was priceless.  It was like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz going from black and white to technicolor OZ!  "Mom!  Everything is SO clear!"  I heard a pastor from Mozambique speak one time and he said the biggest breakthrough of his ministry was when he did the one simple thing God had been asking him to do for years:  "Stop criticizing your wife."  He started seeing her the way God did and it changed everything about his life and ministry.  I'm guessing not a lot of dudes read this blog, but for the women:  there is probably a child you could see through a different lens.  Or an extended family member.  Most definitely yourself.  Make sure you are agreeing with how God sees you.  He calls you a different name than the world does, and it is an upgrade.

Right before Brad left we had a young lady here come out of nowhere and sit down next to us and start crying about her disconnect from God.  That was really brave of her, seeing as she didn't know us.  When you know WHO God is and WHO He has called you to be....there is an atmosphere around your life that will let other people feel free to reveal their own heart's struggles and you will be used to help fit others for their "new lenses."

Bradcito is somewhere in the atmosphere right now flying home.  Knowing him, he is probably inspiring his entire section of the plane and encouraging them with TRUTH who is a PERSON, not a religion.
Friday, June 22, 2012

Esther Favor in the Court!

Esther was pretty stoked about Mommy's purse matching her outfit for court this morning.

And Mommy, anticipating a longer-ish day, decided flats were going to win out over heels, so a new color scheme was necessary.

We didn't quite anticipate 8 hours in a court house.....that got a little boring for Esther, but she knows how to rock a nap!  She took a big one in her stroller and then decided she wanted another one on my lap.

We took a lot of potty breaks while waiting thanks to my pea-sized bladder which gave Esther lots of times to practice "water is not scary!" 

But after it was all said and done....we were all grinning from ear to ear because God did some crazy miracles in the court!  Esther has such FAVOR on her life and it manifested today in ways that took our breath away.  We had heard many, many stories about this judge.  Many seemed to leave his court room crying.  And we prayed for him.  Like not "and God bless the judge amen" type prayers but pretty specific things.  And he started off refusing to listen to our case on account of our family size.  And we ended with him prophesying blessing, long life, and provision for our family.  

He grilled me (he only calls on the women to testify) for a very long time and it was like a Holy Spirit flow of stuff coming from my mouth.  I couldn't stop grinning through the whole thing, I was so aware of God at work.  At one point he stopped and looked at me for a long time and asked, "Who prepped you on how to answer these questions?" and I had no reply except "God!" Then this muslim man starts declaring that God has given us 80 years of full life already in our 37 but he was going to give us many, many more and that He was working through us and our family.  He said we were an example.  We were all laughing and grinning (I think he dragged out the trial simply because he was enjoying himself!)  and he said he never does this but he was going to give us the oral ruling this Wednesday instead of waiting longer like he usually does.  The social worker, the lawyer, the judge's helpers, all of us left the courtroom just about dancing.  It was a complete turn around, just like from the book of Esther.  

There are a lot of book of Esther similarities that have happened along the way with this adoption.  One more example was the divine delay of our FBI fingerprints.  It's a part of the homestudy that should get done as the same time as all the other back ground checks but "for some reason" ours got lost....for months! We couldn't mail our homestudy in until they were cleared.  But not mailing our homestudy in was a blessing in disguise.  (they miraculously "found" our prints just a few days before we flew out here to meet Esther the first time)  We were told to just bring it over in person.  We had told them we had experience parenting a child with seizures and one that was non-verbal, but we never revealed our number of children.  We didn't hide anything, it just never came up.  Kind of like Queen Esther didn't really reveal all until just the right time. 

 I now know that had we had our fingerprints done "on time" and our home study been mailed in we would have been outright rejected as suitable to adopt Esther.  But God, creative GENIUS that He is, had everyone meet us in person and judge us based on the content of our character and not the numerical nuttiness that is ours!  WOO HOO!!!  I think hearts are changing and people are seeing that a large family equals large amounts of experience.  And getting rid of that scarcity mentality that says there is never enough. (time, money, resources, etc)  God is into abundance!  To quote Mother Teresa, to say there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.  What we need is more people willing to parent more children.  

One question the judge had was how was it that I wasn't tired and worn out from so many children.  After all, the man just has to "donate the seed" and then moves on with his life.  I explained that with Brad, nothing could be further from the truth.  He was the most hands-on Dad I knew and came home from work every night looking for ways to bless and serve his wife and children.  As if to testify to the fact that she has a rock star Daddy.....Esther saved her biggest smile of the day for him!  

Psalm 68:3-6
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds---his name is the Lord--and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

When you throw a party

Esther has been known to have a lot of seizures around bath time.  However extreme changes in temperature and stress can also trigger seizures....which would characterize bath time at an orphanage.  I would see the frozen fear on her face whenever water started to run, so I turned the faucet on at the guest house and let her watch it for a while.  She usually plops on the floor, but she got curious enough to pull up to the sink and then very cautiously touch the water.  She flinched, pulled away, then tried touching it again.  Then she stuck both hands in and enjoyed this new sensory experience for a good long while. 

A new sensory experience for me has been listening to the chickens in the morning.  Thankfully I am already up because of the very loud 5 a.m. muslim call to prayer.  I have learned to sit up in bed and declare, "JEEEESSUUUUUUUUUS!!!!!" and redeem the hour.

I have to tell the story of this miraculous meeting today.  A group from Florida came to visit the orphanage for the day. And in this group there "just so happened" to be my cousin in Florida's BFF.  And tomorrow they "just so happen" to be visiting another orphanage out of town that has "the boy Esther" that I adore so much who I had been wanting to get some rescue medication to in case he has another status seizure.  They are going to hand deliver it for me!  And he is 10 and about the size of my 10 year old that had the tonic-clonic it's already pre-dosed perfectly.  Because GOD IS AWESOME SAUCE!

We had a bye-bye orphanage party for Esther, with real deal American Candy all the way from Sam's Club in Iowa.  Peanut Nut rolls for the nannies, Skittles for the kids.  I love throwing parties, and Jesus said it's the best when you throw them for the poor.  

This boy was running off to eat his own skittle stash in secret.

And every girl got their own bow headband.  This was the first time I realized some of them were girls as they are usually dressed in boy clothes and with the shaved heads....well, it can be hard to tell.

 There were balls for all the boys, but the girls seemed to get in on that action too!

And we brought a battery operated bubble machine which cranked bubbles out fast and furiously to the delight of the little people who never tired of it.  Maybe part of child-like faith is the ability to delight in simple things!

We got to give special honor to Esther's nanny God-mother who has taken special care of her all these years.  She hasn't stopped crying tears of joy since we've been here.  She prayed a blessing over us and Esther, and although it was in another language, my Spirit said Yes and Amen!

Esther was pretty sleepy during most of her party, so she dozed in her stroller with occasional visits from curious toddlers.

But all the nannies laughed when she would pop her eyes open during "her" special song that they sang for her.  

And I was so surprised when I checked Facebook tonight and saw that my friend from Project Hopeful Carolyn Twietmeyer had posted a photo of herself wearing this EXACT same shirt that I wore to bed last night and was planning on wearing to bed again tonight.  I think we need no further evidence that our HAAM commune will indeed become a reality......

And in other good news.....we have court tomorrow at noon!
Round 2 of the party!!!

Psalm 5:11-12 of The Message:
But you'll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you.  Let the party last all night!  Stand guard over our celebration.  You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.