The Yes On The Table

It started with a yes.

We were at Next Level church and this was long before Next Level was our church.  We were there only because one of our absolute favorites was there too, speaking and meeting people.  Even us!

Jen Hatmaker

Jen had come to speak and we had come to hear.  It was a holy moment because at the end, Jen said, “Just put your yes on the table.  Give Him your yes.”  And we did.

And it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

But it was.  Because a very short time later, we saw this photo.

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And we heard a whisper.  “This is your daughter.”  and we began the process.

19 months later and we thought the hard part was over.  She was home, she was safe, we had our seventh child in our midst.

But we didn’t know what hard was then.

We didn’t know that when we put our yes on the table and we said yes to Him, the One that holds all things together, that he was going to do more than just bring a little girl home.

He brought a little girl home but he also changed us.

And it kind of makes me want to say to God, “I see what you did there.” because I thought the whole point was bringing Sisi home.  And for sure that was one of the whole points.  The Bible says it clearly.  “Care for the widows and orphans in their distress.” and “He sets the lonely in families.” and “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God.” and “the Lord sustains the fatherless.” and “defend the weak and the fatherless” and “love one another as I have loved you” and that was all very clear.  Bringing Sisi home was the work of God.

But there was more to unpack in this “yes”.

Parenting a child from trauma meant that all of our ugliness was forced to the surface.  The stress of working our daughter through her grief and through her stress has changed us.  Because adoption is so beautiful, yes, but it is born of loss.  And Sisi has faced the loss of her birth family and then the loss of her foster family.

And as our characters were being refined, we found that what was being pushed to the surface was stuff we didn’t like.  Stuff we were ashamed of.

And that is where the YES that we gave comes in all over again.

We were also saying yes to refinement.

God has never promised easy.  He has promised presence, He has promised endurance, He has promised faithfulness.  He has never promised that if we name it we can claim it but he has promised that all things work together for our good.  He has never promised that this was an easy road, in fact he promised that in this world there will be trouble.

He promised us His peace.  Peace that is not like the world gives.  There is a peace, even in the midst of trouble, that comes from knowing you are where he wants you to be.   His presence in my struggles, in my selfishness, it is the healing gift that I need most.

He has promised us love and I have learned much about love in my 45 years.  What some people call love is not love at all because it is conditional, it is fleeting.  The love of God is permanent and nothing can take it from me.  It is not based on my performance but based on the one who is Love.  It is a love that lasts, that endures, that shapes and that transforms.

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And he is transforming us.

Our yes is still on the table and we don’t know where it will lead us next.

But we know the One who does.  And we start with this.

Do small things with great love.

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We go from here, with our yes on the table ready to go wherever that takes us.

 

 

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MayDay!

When you give birth to a baby, you see their first moments.  The baby is born, she is placed on your chest, you nurse her or feed her.  You hold her and marvel.  Your breath catches.  You realize your dreams and your imaginings of what she would be like are nothing compared to who she really is.

You breathe her in.  These are holy moments.

These are those moments with my daughter, Lila.

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When you adopt a child, it is different.  The first moment I saw Sisi, I was in a car in a foreign country.  She was standing in the window of her foster home and I could see her jumping up and down saying, “Mama Chris!  Daddy John!”

The first time I held her was in her home and she was big and beautiful and excitement was all around us.  It was different, but still holy.

Sisi became my daughter in an office.  We hugged her close and marveled.

It has been two months since we stepped off that airplane onto American soil with our newest daughter.

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It’s been a wild ride.

But here we are.  I love Sisi as wholeheartedly and as fully as I love my other six children.  I love her fiercely.  I have crossed oceans for her, I have walked through fire day by day.

She is beautiful, she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is wild, filled with Great Big Feelings- love, rage, laughter, mischief.  It’s amazing to watch her learning English at the speed of light.  It’s amazing to watch her interact with her sisters and her brother.  I love how much she loves her brother in law and her dear friend, Chichco Musica.  I love watching her at Busch Gardens or going down  a slide.  I love watching her figure out English words and I love how she tells us Bulgarian words.

I love her wild hair and her long eyelashes.  I love her ferocity and tenacity.

It’s been hard but every day, it gets a little easier.

I think to myself, what if we didn’t answer the call?

We could have missed this.

On March 11, 2015, we went to Next Level Church to hear Jen Hatmaker speak.  It was the most amazing talk.  When it was winding down, she challenged all who were present to “put their yes on the table” for God.  John and I stood there with our palms uplifted and we put our yes on the table.

We put our “yes” on the table.

A short time later, we saw this photo on Reece’s Rainbow.

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And it was time to put action to our “yes”.

It took 19 months.  19 months of paperwork and jumping through hoops and panic over missed deadlines and So Much Fundraising.

19 months to bring this child into our family.

And now we are two months into her being home.  And I have no regrets.  My yes is still on the table.  And I still say, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

I have a challenge for you.  And I’m not saying you have to adopt, but would you go to Reece’s Rainbow or Rainbow Kids or Adopt Us Kids, choose a child’s profile.  Print it off and pray.  Pray for that child like you would if they were yours. Do it everyday.  Put your “yes” on the table and see where it takes you.

Don’t miss what God has for you.

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He Sets the Lonely in Families

There are two things people say most often about adoption.

  1.  You can’t save them all.
  2. Do you really need another kid?

And I agree.  We can’t save them all.  And adopting one out of 154 million feels like a drop in the bucket.  But here is what I know.

It would only take 7% of the Christian population to solve the orphan/foster care crisis.  Only 7%.

Imagine if that 7% were empowered to bring these ones into their homes.  Imagine if the other 93% rallied around that 7%.

No, I can’t save them all.  But the body of Christ can.

And frankly, no.  I don’t need another kid.  (I sometimes wonder if I need the ones I have, hardy-har-har.)

This is not about me.  Or us.  Or our family.

This is about a child that God called us to rescue.  This is about a little girl who needs us. This is about giving God our yes.  This is the overflow of our redemption.  The overflow of how very loved we are.

This is about being a family for Sissy, not getting a kid for our family.  Our family already has a ton of kids.

From now until Easter, I’m going to share Reece’s Rainbow kids…I am asking you to pray over their profiles.  Give God your yes and see where it leads.  There are so many things that we can actively DO.

  1.  We can pray.
  2. We can give.
  3. We can show up for adoptive/foster families, helping with fundraising and meals and moral support.
  4. We can adopt.

This is Curtis

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Pray for Curtis today.  He is a person of eternal significance, created in the image of God.  Ask God what your part in these lonely ones’ lives is.

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My Beloved Speaks and Says to Me, Arise

Remember that time I almost died bringing Nora into the world?  Remember how she was super premature and all kind of terrifying things happened?

That was easier than adoption.

Adoption requires much.

You must first prove yourself to your home study agency.  You must then prove yourself to the country you’ve chosen.  You must then prove yourself to grant agencies.  Who also want tax documents for the past 75 years…at minimum.

Through it all, you have to hustle for funds because redemption is so, so costly.  Fundraisers, yard sales (I HATE yard sales), crafts, asking, asking, asking.  And it’s so beautiful to see your village rally, it’s so beautiful to see people come together to be part of a story of redemption.  But you wonder if they are sick to death of you asking…

Then you travel across the world to meet a child you would die for that you’ve never ever met.  You come with your heart in your hands and you savor the beauty of it all…and the heartbreak too.  Because with adoption comes so much loss.  You will take the child from the world she knows, from the only ones she knows…to a place that looks, sounds, smells and tastes different.  To a language she’s never heard, into a family that has spent a year preparing for her but that she is just not prepared for.

You do the hard work of figuring out just what her “moderate to severe special needs” look like, what it means.  You figure out what she needs.  You batten down the hatches and stay close…parenting in a new way, because what she needs is to know that she can trust you.  That she can let her guard down.  That there will be enough food, that she has a place.  That she is cherished.

God has done such a work in me through all of this.  I’ve had to lean hard into Him.  When fear threatened to steal my breath (and threatens to steal my breath), I lean hard.  When things look like they are unraveling or when issues arise or when it’s looking impossible…I just have to remember…

He called us to this.

He loves Sissy.  She is His.

And He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  He changes the hearts of kings.  He is One who finishes what He’s started.

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And so I will.  Arise.  Freeze my hand to the sword, just like Eleazar and fight the fight until Sissy is home safe and sound.

You can help.

Donate directly to our agency atPure Charity  This is an amazing way to help us out!  $20 donations also automatically enter you to win a housecleaning by my friend Mabel.

Donate to our FSP at Reece’s Rainbow.  These funds will cover travel expenses.

Donate to our fund at Go Fund Me.  This is where we raise money for ALL costs.  (The two above our tax deductible.

Any amount helps, from $1 to $1000.

Donate items you make, items you sell, services your provide or gently used items with tons of life left in them from your home.  We have a HUGE auction coming up and we need your participation!

Come to our bake sale Saturday morning.  We will have TONS of goodies to tempt your tastebuds!

Peace In Disappointment

I don’t like feeling disappointed.

I really don’t.

And I know, I know, I know that no one does.  But today, I am bogged down in disappointment and discouragement and I am sad.

I have long held a dream close to my heart.  A dream of adoption.  I have felt a stirring for it ever since I was very young.  I specifically remember a couple of families from high school that had large families full of kids of all kinds- special needs, neurotypical, adopted, bio, foster.  I was always so fascinated by the whole thing.

I met my friends the Tiefenbacks and got to know their beautiful daughters from India and my friend Dianna and her beautiful three.  This dream, it has waxed and waned over the years but it has never, ever gone completely away.

It was set ablaze all over again in knowing and loving our sweet  Aila.  In watching several Facebook friends go through growing their families through adoption and fostering.  In standing with my sister of the heart Kristin and her husband Drew as they began the foster parent journey.  Watching another family I just love adopt their second daughter domestically.

I looked around one day and I realized that I know so many people who have a heart for adoption. I realized that even my current heroes in the faith (Sara Hagerty, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton, Ann Voskamp) all also have Big Hearts for adoption, for protecting and serving children in crisis.  It’s all around me.  And God does not do coincidences.  Everything is purposeful, everything has meaning.

In my first marriage, adoption was not something my husband wanted to do, so that dream had to be surrendered.  And that was okay, because sometimes life is like that.

In my second marriage, it is something my husband very much wants to do.  Our heartbeats on this are very much in sync…and so somehow, now having to surrender it because of my health is just so much more painful.  It’s as though it was in my grasp and then was snatched away.

We fell in love with a three year old in Hong Kong last year, while my fibro was under control.  We tentatively asked if he was an option for us.  The answer?  He was already in process with another family.  Yay! That’s what you want.  For kids to get adopted.  No worries, there are 147 million children in need in this world.  Surely there would be one for us.

We fell in love with several sibling groups in Bulgaria but were warned by the adoption agency not to go that route because of how many young daughters we had still at home.     The situation for orphans in Bulgaria is heart wrenching.  You can learn more here:  

Okay, so we paused to regroup and pray for a while and see where God was leading us.  We had some goals in our personal lives to meet with our finances and John was in grad school and Nora was still so young.  It felt like the door was closing for just a little while longer.

Now, we are prayer warriors for four special little ones on Reece’s Rainbow.  And these four are just so precious and deserve a family so much.  And we would gladly adopt any and all of them.

Shyla

When I saw her face…she just looks like one of us.  Her name would be Lydia if she was ours.

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Brayden

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I just believe he would flourish in a family of his own.

Rubin

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This sweet love.  Is he beautiful or WHAT?!

And finally this guy who is about to age out of the orphanage, with the same name as my own son.

Charles

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These are just four of 147 million and my mothers’ heart longs to go and swoop them up, bring them home and love, love, love them.

But I have this disease that steals my days.  This disease that makes an hour long car ride into an excruciating ordeal.  This disease that makes travel to another country almost impossible.

The costs of adoption are entirely overwhelming but can be overcome.  This I know for a fact. I  saw the body of Christ come together and bring sweet Aila home.

But my health.

This fibro thing has been out of control since about January and nothing I have done seems to be bringing it back in line.

So…time to lay down the international adoption dream again.  It’s disappointing.  It’s heartbreaking.

But what I know is this:
1. God gave me the dream of international adoption.  And He is not going to ignore a dream He placed in me that falls right in line with His word:  “Pure and undefiled religion is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” Why would he set our hearts on fire for this and then render us inactive? He wouldn’t! That’s not who He is. He will show us our path, in His timing.
2. God loves these four I’ve posted here and all 146,999,996 others more than can even be imagined.  More than I ever could, even if I adopted all four of them.  They are of eternal significance to Him.  Precious, fearfully and wonderfully made.  Treasured and cherished by the God of the Universe.  He is their Abba Father, Emmanuel, God with us.
3. I can help in so many other ways, not just as an adopter.  There is much I can do for these four. I can pray every time they come to mind.  I can teach my children to pray for them, to have their hearts open to the needs of others.  I can raise funds to help them on their journey.  I can advocate for and speak for them.  I can be their voice, stateside.
4.  There is beauty in surrender.  God can turn my mourning into dancing.  He can rescue me in my sorrow and distress.  He meets us in our hurt places.  He walks with us.  He is the Great Healer, of all pain- physical, emotional, spiritual.

I don’t know where the adoption journey will take us.  There are about a million different ways it could go.

What I do know is that the crisis is epic.  Forget my sad little heart for a second and just consider the magnitude of the orphan crisis.  I type and I delete and I type and I delete because there is nothing I can say that can even come close to describing it.  Just research it for yourself.  Read up on foster care needs in your own town, scroll through the kids on Reece’s Rainbow, watch the documentary I linked to above.  Go to Show HopeThese 400Amazima and countless other websites.  Check it out for yourself.

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This is my prayer over these precious ones.

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Please pray about the orphan crisis and please share your experiences with me and with my readers.  We are not all called to adopt, we are not even all called to give financially…but I believe that God does call us all to action one way or another.

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And that is where I am today.  This morning.  I feel peace about it, sad but peaceful.  I am just going to be still and wait on Him to give me the next step.  I’m going to advocate and pray for these four He has laid on my heart and I’m going to keep praying this fibromalgia away.

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If you want to help financially, you can donate to Reece’s Rainbow or to one of the four I’ve linked to specifically by clicking any link above.

OR, if you want to help through shopping, from now on, my retail profits from DoTerra and Norwex will go to these four kiddos’ adoption grants.  (You can read more about the adoption grants and how they work on the Reece’s Rainbow webpage.)

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And, stay tuned, because I’m opening my Etsy store soon.  It’s called CartestersonINK and it’ll be filled with art from our family.  20% of all profits will go towards our little RR friends’ adoption grants or to other organizations that are designed to help end the orphan crisis globally.

Faithful readers, I am thankful for you.