Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Do You Know?

We are in chilly Minneapolis this morning attending the first day of the Christian Alliance for Orphans Conference. So far: incredible! We were able to hear Tom Davis speak at the opening session and he was part of the session I attended on engaging "Youth and College Age Students in Orphan Ministry". If you're unfamiliar with Tom, a great place to start is his book Fields of the Fatherless. God used this book to help focus my vision for orphan ministry many years ago. Robert attended a session on church ministry and 501c3 organization and leadership structure.

The problem with conferences like this is there are 8-10 topic choices in each breakout session. I will have highlighted no less than four, yet I can't be in four places at one time. Thankfully the sessions are being recorded and will be available for sale. I'm sitting in the optional lunch session "International Adoption 2010: Challenges, Changes, and Difficult Questions" with a netbook perched precariously on my knees attempting to soak in and record as much as possible for our own adoption as well as the church that sent us.

Walking through the vendor tables this morning, I heard my name called and looked up to find Colleen Stats, board member of Frontier Horizon, Facebook friend, and fellow Ukraine adopter. It's amazing to meet people who you have only known in cyberspace. I know there are many others here who I know from the blog world and I hope to cross paths with before the close of the conference.

Robert and I are about the split up to attend the second breakout session. Robert will go to "Fundraising for Orphan Ministry" (which I'm sure will have a huge turnout) and I am headed to hear Traci Heim with Project Hopeful who will address "Adoption of HIV Positive Orphans and Other Special Need Orphans".

So much has been said this morning that strikes us deeply. The most provoking quote I would share is this question posed to a group of nearly 1300 individuals who call themselves servants of the King, "There are over 147 million orphans around the world today. Most Christians can't name 5. Why is that?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Love Hurts

We are making (very) slow progress, but determinedly moving forward with baby steps. We had our medicals done a few weeks ago. Poor Robert, the nurse had to stick him several times before she got a vein that would give up the juice. Fingerprints and background checks are officially done and in hand. The homestudy is a matter of one meeting and a big check, so we're holding off on that for now. In my time frame, I calculated having all the paperwork done by the end of school and (fingers crossed) a travel date by late summer. But things don't seem to be working out that way and I have to trust that God is behind the timing of all things.

A few weeks ago we were discouraged by well meaning individuals who told us we needed to put the adoption on hold until our finances were all in place. If we had followed this advice, Kristina would still be languishing in an orphanage on the other side of the world. Yet, we want to be sensitive to wise counsel and humble to hearing those around us so we are moving slowly in the hopes that God will provide in a big way.

We learned this week that Sasha has been approved to travel in the same hosting program Kristina came with three years ago. The thought of having him here for the entire summer and lavishing love on him is almost too much to bear, but we simply cannot afford the hosting fee and will have to learn patience in the process.

Please continue to pray for wisdom on our part and for God's provision. Pray for Sasha and Vitalik too!

Running Here, Running There

Another blissfully busy weekend! Nate and I ran in the Run for the Trees 5K race in Winter Park, Florida early this morning. It was a harder run than I anticipated and I finished three minutes later than my last run, but it was a great experience nonetheless. The race path wound through beautiful Winter Park, around lakes, and eventually led to an off road wilderness path through private land that is only open to the public once a year during this race. We ran beneath a canopy of ancient trees and through orange groves as brilliantly colored wild peacocks eyed us from a few yards off. We received the traditional race shirt and goody bag, but we also were presented with two lovely Magnolia tree saplings at the end of the race. Nate has already scoped out the yard and found where he wants to plant his.

Signing up for my second race has kept me motivated to put my running shoes on several times each week and hit the pavement. You see, I'm not a runner, but I am trying! You would be surprised by the spectrum of ages and shapes of people who participate in these runs. While there's the traditional gazelle types who mark their places at the starting line, no one raises an eyebrow when I make my way into the middle of the sea of runners and wait for the starting horn. At one point in today's race, a speed walker actually passed us and Nate and I had to laugh at the humbling episode. We caught and passed him later, but I'm sure there's a spiritual application there somewhere! And I am reaping the benefits of the exercise. I've lost 7 pounds thus far and I feel great. We've decided to sign up for the US Secret Service 5K Road Race later next month, so that's where our focus will be in the coming weeks.

Sam and Nate have been running with me throughout the week and that has afforded us unique bonding time. Have I mentioned how much I love having teenagers? I keep waiting for this horrible phase known as the "Teenage Years" and it has yet to show it's ugly face. Listen, I work with teenagers for a living, I know that phase first hand. Yet the boys and I continue to grow closer and closer. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but I am loving this time with my guys.

Private First Class Sam had a JROTC competition this morning or he would have participated in our run. He has really found his niche in this group and loves every minute of it. His Exhibition Rifle Drill team took first place today and he will be receiving a special commendation for his participation.

Hannah is our resident artist. When she was a little girl, she would sit at the kitchen table with blank paper and colored pencils and draw to her heart's content. She signed up for an acrylic art class at Leu Gardens a few weeks ago to learn the medium. The melodies of Billie Holiday floated down the hallway where I found her in class today, chatting away with an artist in her 60's, and working on this piece of a Camellia she had plucked from the gardens earlier this morning. She is the only youth in a group of older, more experienced artists, but the instructor makes a point of telling me what a wonderful student Hannah is and how much they've enjoyed having her youthful energy in class.

Kristina joined a friend and her youth group for a camp out at the beach last night. They awoke early this morning and participated in a clean up project along the shoreline. I'd give you more information, but she collapsed into bed shortly after returning home this afternoon and I have yet to hear the details other than, "fun, it was fun," murmured as I kissed her forehead as she pulled the covers up under her chin.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blessed Assurance

I've received many emails and been stopped quite a few times by coworkers, friends, and family who want to know my take on the little boy whose adoptive mother put him on a plane and sent him back to Russia recently. No one knows the details of the situation, and we may never know them, but I believe those details really aren't relevant to the question at hand.

I posted this almost two years ago on Kristina's adoption blog and I think it reminds us of what our roles are in the Christian family, particularly when dealing with difficult situations:

I hate confronting sin. Its an ugly, unpleasant task. Dealing with my own shortcomings has always keep me busy enough, but as a mom I have to deal with the sin nature of five other little people. Its my job to call them on the carpet when they make wrong choices. In that role, I try to emulate the Father as much as possible: confronting sin plainly, offering forgiveness freely, and reassuring love unconditionally.

A situation arose with Kristina this week in which God called me to do all of these things. I learned she had done something and I was beyond disappointed. I dreaded the coming conversation in which I would have to confront her and hope that she would confess what I already knew.

This afternoon I took up my usual position in the Adirondack chairs under the tree in the front yard. I attempted to focus on the book on my lap, but found myself straining to listen for the school bus. Eventually the sound of their chatter drifted towards me as they made their way down the street. Skipping up the drive in her customized sneakers, she plopped her book bag at my feet and fell into the empty chair next to me. I waited until the other children wandered off to begin their homework before I broached the dreaded conversation.

I wish I could lead into a sweet anecdote about how she readily confessed the transgression, but that just isn't what happened. I asked. She denied. I asked again. She lied. I revealed the proof and she became speechless. Her eyes grew round and large and she seemed to shrink within the space of her chair. Once it was out in the open I explained that her choice was not one that we approved of and we were disappointed with her actions. It was clear she knew how serious the situation was as she glanced over her shoulder to the closed front door of the house and then back to me. I had never seen her look that way before. There was something about her face that made my heart sink before she even spoke the words. "Are you sending me back to Ukraine?" She sat motionless waiting for my answer as tears slipped silently down her cheeks.

It was an unfathomable question. "There is nothing you could ever do that would separate you from this family. There is no lie you could ever tell that would make us love you any less. You are one of us and you will always be one of us." Her chest heaved a sigh as if she had been holding her breath. Her face softened as the terrified look melted away. She believed me.

As she hugged me, I contemplated what would cause her to think such a thing. Obviously, her past. She had been forsaken for a lot less. Those she has counted on to love and protect her have abused and abandoned her. We discussed the consequences for her decision and she gathered her things from the lawn. She has spent the remainder of the afternoon grounded in her room. I swear I've never seen a happier punished kid in my life!

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him
-Psalm 103:8-13

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wounded Warrior 5K

Sam and I have been exercising together for the last few weeks. He's getting in shape for PT as part of his JROTC program and I'm . . . well . . . I'm just trying to get in shape. So Sam and I walk/jog together several days a week. It's humbling to have him jog backwards and carry on a conversation as I shuffle away. He says he's my trainer and takes great pride in this role!

After three weeks we decided to test our stuff and signed up for the Wounded Warrior 5k at Lake Baldwin Park. The race was sponsored by the Navy League and had a great turn out. About 550 runners gathered under perfect blue skies. There was a huge turnout of military personnel representing their divisions and friends who have fallen in battle. Many of the soldiers ran with their field backpacks which I know must have added at least 50 pounds.

Nate decided to join us at the last minute and because he hadn't been training with us, commented several times how hard the course was. I looked like I was running with body guards with the twins flanking me! I'm really proud we were able to do the run and so glad the boys came with me. We finished the course in 35 minutes and 30 seconds. We didn't break any records, but I did prove someone wrong who said I couldn't do it!