Let’s Talk About Surrender

It’s been a wild couple of weeks.

John was excited to be hired to teach in the Newport News Public School system.  He’s been commuting an hour to an hour and a half back and forth to Great Bridge since we got married.  He’s been a great sport about it and he has LOVED Great Bridge High School…but 3 hours of commuting time + 6 kids + grad school + me for a wife + dogs, cats and rodents + yard work + home stuff + church + friends = whoa, man.  Those extra hours are going to be life changing.

NNPS assured John that he would have a high school position but…middle school kept calling.  Middle school is not his forte and frankly, no one’s favorite.

But John said this to the Lord, “I’m all in.  Whatever your plan for me is, I’m all in.  If it’s middle school, Lord, I will go and teach middle school.”  He may have even prayed this prayer with fear and trembling.

And then he put action to his words and accepted an interview at a middle school.

He went to the interview and he liked the principal and he liked the building and he totally surreneded.  “Okay, Lord.  I’m ready to go where you send me.”

On the way home, he, with a grateful and fairly happy heart, prayed again, “Lord, where you send me, I will go.  I surrender to your will.”

The phone LITERALLY rang that moment and he got an interview at Denbigh High School.  It’s 15 minutes from our house and he doesn’t even have to travel down 17.  (Anyone who is local knows the importance of this.)  It’s the place he most wanted to be.  The interview went great and the job is his.

On June 11th, I posted this:  Peace In Disappointment, all about our surrender of our big dream of international adoption.

We had been wrestling with it, literally, for more than a year.

I could not reconcile this great desire for this Biblically recommended thing and the simple facts that the doors were not opening.  It caused so much angst (I hate that word, but it fits) in my soul.  Foster agencies didn’t like that we had a house full of people and would work with us when some of our older kids moved out.  Another agency discouraged us from the beginning because we really wanted to choose a waiting child, and they kept pressuring us to get all the finances done first.  That same agency was inconsistent with their advice and just left us uneasy.  No peace and God’s plans have a supernatural peace all over them.

So, we laid it down.

Then.  BOOM.

I read a blog (or a Facebook article or maybe just a post?) about a disabled mom in a wheelchair.  She and her husband had adopted several times from overseas and every time, only her husband traveled.  Truly, our main issue with the whole thing was both of us being away from the littles for so long and my health.  I simply can’t manage international travel right now.

But wait. Only ONE parent needs to travel?

I confirmed it with an agency and tentatively asked about this little beauty I’d seen on Reeces Rainbow.

The agency cheerfully said, “YES!  One parent is FINE and we would love to tell you more about ‘Shyla’.”

I told them all about us, how busy our house is, how full it is and how I have fibromyalgia.  “Okay!” she said, brightly, “Here’s all the info and the paperwork to get you started!”

We sent it in.  She sent us COMMITMENT PAPERS specific to ‘Shyla’ so that she would be our daughter and we would need to hustle to get all of our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed.

She told us her name- Sylvia…and the fact that she goes exclusively by Sissy.  Oh my heart.  This is OUR daughter.   She showed us a video and I don’t speak Bulgarian but I caught one word- musika…She likes music. And in the photo, behind Sissy’s are big pink poodles, just like Lila had all over her nursery as an infant.  She turns three in August…wouldn’t it be amazing if we could celebrate her fourth birthday with her at home?

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We love her.  The kids love her. They’ve been praying for the past year that God would “help the orphans find families and please God, let one find OUR family.”

We are honored that God is trusting us with this.

There are fees galore and lots of red tape to come.  We will rely fully on fundraising and grants but we trust God to provide.

We have named her Sylvia the name her first parents gave her when they gave her life Grace because the grace of God is covering her and us and this whole thing Virginia after a beloved member of John’s family, his great aunt Carter the name we give her as she comes into her second life.

Help us bring Sissy home here.   There is no amount too small or too large.  If money is left over, it’ll be donated to Reece’s Rainbow to help other families bring their children home.  If our adoption fails and our place in Sissy’s life was just to love her and pray for her from here, the money raised will go towards her adoption still.  We can give specifically to her through our agency.

Every penny of these funds will go to the orphan crisis one way or another.

The cost is high, though not as high as adoption from some countries and not as high as through other agencies.  We see it like this- it’s a ransom for our daughter’s life.

She has no future in Bulgaria.  She has some special needs.  We expect she will flourish with therapies and quality medical treatment here with us.  But in Bulgaria, she will just decline.  There are not the resources to get her what she needs there.  She will stay in foster care until she is “too old” then she will move to a children’s home.  When she ages out of there, it’s off to pass the rest of her life in an institution.

I believe God has better things for her.

Being in this place of surrender feels right and it feels peaceful.  I know that this is God’s plan and God’s course for our life and we are going, full speed ahead until, she is home.

Help us make this miracle happen!

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Sylvia Grace Virginia Carter

A Filter of Grace

Twenty one weeks today and that means more than halfway done but not yet to viability.

And while I know that things are better and that Nora’s chances are much, much, much higher than they were before, I still sometimes feel afraid.  A cramp here, a twinge there, a moment of spotting can send me into a panic.

Between those stressors and other stressors and just the physical strain of pregnancy at the door of forty…sometimes I have to fight to keep depression out.  Sometimes though, God gives me a little, “Hey, pay attention!” and things like this happen and I just have to laugh…just as often.

It comes down to this:  What am I looking for?  Things to be sad, angry, hurt, disappointed or irritated by?  Or am I looking for the gifts- gifts in a laughing almost two year old as she steals my coffee.  Gifts in a five year old bounding off of the school bus and saying, “That day flew by!”  Gifts in growing up girls who are brimming with life and zeal and enthusiasm, in love with God and life and their friends.

There is so much good.

And I was thinking about my friend Jen who was with her son at CHKD this week and how she finds the beauty and grace in every day.  How she finds the beauty and grace in her suffering, in her son’s suffering.  How she just knows that God is holding her and her family.  She wakes up each day, clothed with strength and dignity, she goes looking for those new mercies every morning and even though it’s sometimes hard…she refuses to believe that God is anything less than good.

She’s not afraid to say that life is sometimes so hard but God is always so good. She’s not afraid to say that no matter what, when He gives or takes away, HE IS GOOD.  And some days, I think Jen must have to look pretty hard because her day is filled with caring for a little boy who suffers.  And he was once a little boy filled with boundless energy who was into everything and brimming with personality.  (He is still brimming with personality, but he’s different now.)  I think she must have to really seek the Lord, His presence and His gifts but because she seeks them…she finds them.

She does not view her life through a filter of grief, but a filter of grace.   I love her.  I love Silas.  They are world changers.

I want to change my filter.  Not a filter of fear and worry, but a filter of grace.

If you want to learn more about Silas and Jen, please go to Caring Bridge and type in Silas Cameron.

The Sacrifice of Praise

I think we know in our heads and even in some places of our hearts that God knows best.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell Him what to do.  I often get His plan “figured out” and then I try to make it happen.  Yes, you read right.   I try to make it happen.

This is, of course, fruitless.

I think of Abraham and Sarah and how they tried to make God’s promises come to pass.

It began with this- a Holy visitation and a word from the Lord.  “I will make you a father of many nations.  I will give you and Sarah a son.”

And the two of them wanted that son a lot…Sarah grew impatient and decided they would need a surrogate.  She supplied her servant Hagar to her husband in order to get this son.  But it wasn’t a good thing…and it wasn’t really what Sarah wanted because this is not what God had in mind.

Genesis 21:12 says, “For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
The New Living translation says, “…This happened just at the time God said it would.”

God’s timing.  He sets the times and none of our striving can change that.  It’ll happen at the time God said it would.

Last night, I made oven baked chicken with a ritz cracker crust.  It was really good but man, it was spicy.  I couldn’t figure out what was making it so spicy.  Paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, onion powder.  Why were we all on fire?

John suggested, “Maybe you mixed up the paprika and the cayenne?”  And sure enough I had.  We all agreed that it was better this way and it made me think about God.

Sometimes we think we’ve figured out His plan. Sometimes we think we know best but the truth is…

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans for a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

And only He knows when and how and all of that.  And it’s like the chicken.  Sometimes the unexpected is the most flavorful.  Sometimes we can’t imagine what His best really is, we can only see our best.  And how can we even know what the best is?  God can see the end of the story and we can’t.

I’m in a season of surrender.  I’m in a season of placing all that I try to control and manage and worry about on the altar.  To make my life a sacrifice of praise.  It’s a choice I must go back to day in and day out.  Laying down my plans for my family, my plans for my future, my dreams (this one hurts) for all of us on the altar and giving all to Him.

I want my heart to beat with His.  I want my steps to be in sync with His.  I want to walk the paths He has for me.  It’s scary to lay it all down and surrender my own will.  It’s hard.  But I don’t want to miss His best for me.  Thirty nine years in this life has taught me one thing- I am nothing without Him.  And His best is what I want.  There is joy in the laying it down.  There’s something about emptying ourselves out and letting Him fill us back up.  There’s something powerful in surrender.

He never holds His best back from us.  He gives it with no strings attached and with open hands.  But we have to be willing to release control and take it.