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Wow, it has been a long time. I would apologize and make empty promises about posting more, but if age has taught me anything about myself it is that I am doing the best I can, so I shouldn’t apologize for that, and I may or may not post again…ever. So if you have stumbled upon this, soak it up.

I have recently taken a break from Facebook for a while – at least from posting. I am not sure why except that I noticed that I was starting to think in Facebook posts about everything that happened to me. All of a sudden it hit me how egocentric I have become in the Facebook era – using that as a forum to whine about my circumstances and then seeking feedback from that, as if my self-worth was indistinguishable from my Facebook page.

Of course, just after I made this decision, I had an experience that tested my resolve. Staying true to my commitment caused me to think more deeply about the event and draw some lessons from it. These things are best shared on a blog, so here I sit. This is not to whine nor complain, but to share and hopefully encourage anyone bored enough to be reading past this point.

We went to St. Louis for Ashley’s birthday, and had a great experience on Friday night. We stayed at a hotel downtown which offered free dinner (if you consider a potato and hot dog and nacho bar dinner – which we did) and was within walking distance of the Arch. We took the kids swimming and then walked down to see the Arch up close. The next morning we slept in, ate breakfast, and took off to the Zoo. When we got there we rented a stroller and took off. Pretty soon we noticed that Will was not feeling well and when we picked him up he felt very warm. We went to the first aid station and found that he had a high fever and were advised to head home. We got him some overpriced medicine at the gift shop and gave it to him while we stopped to eat lunch. Will fell asleep, so I sat with him while Ashley and Hannah went to see a few more things. Will woke up and seemed to feel better, so we went to see the penguin exhibit, then met the girls and left.

The ride home was going fairly well. Will seemed better and was arguing with his sister. We made a couple of stops, and finally decided it was time to eat dinner. We pulled off to get McDonalds, and while waiting in the drive-through Will proceeded to…um…lose his lunch. We got out of line, parked the car, and started to clean him/us/the van up. I won’t go into detail, but I will tell you that it wasn’t fun or easy. An hour later we decided to try our luck and get back on the road.

About 20 miles later we got to a decent sized town and stopped again. This time it was to get gas and an air freshener. I won’t say which was the more important to us. As we pulled off the Interstate we heard a noise. You know the one. The noise that you think is a flat tire but you know it isn’t because you don’t want it to be, but when you get out and look you see that indeed it is a flat tire. We pulled into a truck stop to inspect the damage. Across the street was a Wal-Mart, and a quick call (thank you Google for iPhone) informed us that their tire center closed at 8:00. It was 7:55.

I won’t bore you with the sequence of events (flat spare, no comparable tires at the truck stop), but we eventually decided to stay overnight at a hotel around the corner. The hotel had a laundry facility (which we may have ruined) and a clean room, so it met our needs. We got cleaned up, got our tire fixed the next morning and made it home without incident.

It was tempting during this ordeal to feel sorry for ourselves or get overwhelmed with our misfortune. Instead, we were able to mainatain an attitude of thankfulness throughout. We were fortunate to be at McDonalds when Will got sick. We were more than fortunate to be at an exit in a town with a Wal-Mart and hotels when our tire blew instead of on a deserted stretch of Interstate with cornfields for miles with our flat spare. While it was not uneventful, it was managable and merely an inconvenience. It is simplistic to say “It could have been worse,” but that simple truth became our mantra.

As I work with families through the adoption process and experience life myself, I have often thought about the concept of a journey to best describe life. We make decisions about the direction we are headed and how that trip will go, but inevitably things happen that we don’t expect. Sometimes these things can be good, but it seems that more often they can be bad. It is during these times we feel that our entire journey is at risk, and we can react negatively to these things. I won’t get into a discussion here about what God is or is not responsible for, because I don’t pretend to know. What I do know is that no matter what happens to me on my journey, God is with me all the way. He may not have caused my flat tire, but He was there when I fixed it. He may or may not cause me to suffer or struggle or deal with difficult situations, but He will walk with me through those times. He may not even be specifically responsible for the great things that occur, but I know that He is there rejoicing with me when they do.

I don’t know why exactly I was able to maintain a proper perspective during our adventure, but I do pray that I am able to keep it when things happen in my life that are beyond my control.

Dear friend,

Five years ago today you made what must have been a difficult decision…one filled with much pain. I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t imagine what you experienced that night, and I don’t want to. There is no way that you could have known, as you wrapped up that little girl and prepared to take her to a place where she would be found and cared for, that God was preparing a place for her here – half a world away. We are thankful for her everyday, and I didn’t want this day to pass without pausing to honor you. Regardless of the reasons for your decision, we know that it was not a decision made lightly.

Just a quick update for you – Hannah is doing great. She is incredibly intelligent and terribly curious. She loves to figure out what things do and why they work. She loves to help, especially in the kitchen. She is learning so much, and always surprises us with words that she uses; words like “apparently” and “supposedly.” She has always, from the first moment we met her, dealt with new situations very well. She went to the dentist for the first time the other day, and she didn’t flinch when they cleaned her teeth. She was complimented at the doctor’s office the other day for her bravery during a strep test. She loves princesses and (recently) Barbies, and loves to sing and dance, especially with her brother and sister. She is very friendly and extremely confident.

In short, Hannah is loving and smart and considerate and wonderful. We couldn’t love her any more than we do, and we tell her often about how much you must have loved her to let her come here to be with us. I know that at some point there will be many difficult questions that we can’t answer in your absence, but for now it is enough to know that God picked her out of 5 billion people to come live with us. We are teaching her about God and Jesus, and she plans to be baptized in the Jordan River when she is ready. Hopefully we’ll find a river a little closer by then.

It is late and time to go, but I wanted to again thank you, wherever you are, for the choice you made five long years ago. I hope that if you are thinking of Hannah tonight, you will feel comfort knowing that she is loved dearly, and you will always be remembered with great honor for your decision and the impact it has made on our family.

When I look back at my childhood there are a few memories that stand out to me as those that played a big part in my development. One of those is about cooking with my mom. I remember pulling up a stool and standing at the counter to help her make lasagna (imagine my surprise when I found out it had cottage cheese in it), potato salad and, my favorite, chocolate chip cookies. I am convinced that these experiences not only gave me confidence in my ability to cook (some might say overconfidence) but also a close relationship with my mother.

Partly because of this modeling and partly out of necessity, I have tried to involve my children in cooking with me. We have made bread, muffins, pizza, cookies, cakes, casseroles – anything that can involve stirring, pouring and even a little measuring. Through this process my children have broken several things but learned many more. Hannah is four, but I am proud that she can recognize a butterfly cut in a chicken breast or pork chop.  She is only a few steps away from making homemade pizza all by herself and she can break eggs like a pro.

I don’t know if you have ever tried to cook with children, but there are a few guarantees if you do. First, you will make a huge mess. Flour, sugar, milk, red food coloring (yeah, that actually happened once – and I have the stained cabinets to prove it) – all will find their way to places other than the bowl for which they are intended. Things will be spilled, dropped, sloshed, and overfilled. Your kitchen will look as if the Pillsbury Dough Boy spontaneously combusted on your counter top – and all over your kids. This leads to the second guarantee: cooking with your kids will take much longer than cooking by yourself. Aside from the time spent cleaning up the mess mentioned above, you have to supervise each step one at a time. There is no multi-tasking when cooking with children, especially if there is more than one. You may step away from your work area to get something from the refrigerator once – but only once. You can’t leave the two-year-old stirring the cake batter while teaching the four-year-old to measure cinnamon.

The third guarantee is that your children will be very proud of themselves when they see (and taste) the finished product. Nothing makes a child beam like the announcement that they baked the cake for the potluck or that they made dinner for the family. And that is what makes the extra effort and time worthwhile. It doesn’t matter to them that they only did what you asked them to do and that you held their hand as they stirred or poured or mixed. It makes little difference to you that you actually did most of the work while they made your job harder. All that matters is that they were a part of creating something with you, and that sense of accomplishment becomes a part of who they are and who they will become.

Sometimes I get frustrated with God because He doesn’t work as quickly as I wish He would. I question His timing and His decision-making because He won’t act like I think He should. The God who parted the seas certainly can provide relief to disaster victims. The One who raised the dead could easily heal a cancer patient. Why does He allow conflict to go unresolved and threaten relationships between husbands and wives or church families when we all know He can do anything?

I certainly don’t want to oversimplify anything, and I don’t presume to know anything definitive on these topics. However, I wonder if He isn’t like the father who wants to teach his children to cook. God could do all those things, but His primary concern isn’t to create a painless existence. It would probably be easier for Him if it were. Rather, He is more focused on helping His children become more like Him, and that means teaching us to comfort those who are hurting, to bring aid in a disaster, and to be agents of peace in a world of conflict. He wants to teach us these things so we can be His hands and feet to the world. It will be much more messy if we work at it, and it will certainly take more time, but how much better off will we be when we can look back and see that, with God’s help, we were able to be involved in His work?

Throughout the Bible we find story after story about God choosing someone unlikely to do His work. He works with them over time to help them develop the faith they need, and then through them brings about His desired result. One of my favorites is Gideon, maybe because I can relate so well to Him. During a time that the Israelites are greatly oppressed by the people of Midian, an angel of God appears to a frightened, timid young man and calls him a “Mighty Warrior.” Judges 6:11-16 records this first conversation.

The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“But Lord, ” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Then, through a series of tests and proofs that God was going to be with him, Gideon finally believes and leads the Israelites to victory. However, as I read it I realize that Gideon didn’t actually do much to defeat the Midianites. God did all the work. He used Gideon to lead the group of 300 to go up against them, but God was the one who created confusion and caused the Midianites to kill themselves. I sometimes wonder why, if God was going to just kill the Midianites himself, why go to all the trouble of getting Gideon ready to lead? It leads me to the belief that, while God didn’t need Gideon, He obviously wanted him.

This account reinforces to me the belief that God’s primary concern is my development. He could easily fix all the things that are wrong all around me, but instead He wants to use me to help Him. He can heal a broken heart, but He wants me to develop the ability to give comfort. He could provide relief to those affected by disaster, but He wants me to develop a giving and compassionate heart. Yes, it will take more time and be more messy than if He were to work alone, and ultimately it is Him who will be doing all the work. But, it is important to Him to create within me a sense of accomplishment and a love of His work. He loves to see my excitement when I realize that we did something good together so that I will continue to seek out more opportunities to work with Him.

Of the many qualities necessary to be a stay at home parent, patience would have to top the list. There are obvious teaching points that require patience, like potty training, using glue and self-feeding (not necessarily in that order) that would drive an impatient person to a complete breakdown. But then there are the other things that make even a normally patient person like me want to climb to the top of the highest cliff and…(gulp)… look over the edge a few minutes, and then creep back down to safety while realizing that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

One of these things has to be the persistence of a child when they get it in their head that they want something. Whether it is something small, like a cookie, or something significantly larger, like a cell phone, children can easily become fixated on the one thing that they want, and nothing will stand in their way. They will ask, then whine, beg, bargain, plead and cry. They refuse to accept answers such as “No,” “Later,” “That’s inappropriate,”  “Absolutely not,” or “Put that down.” They won’t accept reason, logic or threat of punishment. They just persist.

As the parent, sometimes my answer is “No” because what the child is asking for is not good for them. Ice cream would be a big hit at the breakfast table if I’d allow it (and if we hadn’t eaten it all for dinner the night before). My kids would eat cookies and candy all afternoon, but I say no because it will hurt them in the long run. I know that, but they don’t get it yet. However, sometimes the answer is “No” because I know they don’t really want what they are asking for. My kids start asking for Christmas gifts late in the summer. After birthdays have passed, they see something they want or that their friends have and they start asking for it now. Sometimes I say no because I know that they are asking out of shallow desire to have everything they see. It isn’t that what they want is wrong or even bad for them. They just don’t really want it.

This is one of the many lessons I learned from my dad. This and the “If I can’t trust you” speech. Anyway, rather than simply saying “No” to me, he would encourage me to wait – whether so I could save money or see if it went on sale, etc. He knew that if I could avoid the initial impulse of getting something just because I wanted it, the impulse would go away and I wouldn’t want it anymore. This has saved me more than a few times in my adult life as I have waited to make a decision, knowing that if, after the initial feeling went away and I still wanted something, it was a good idea. Unfortunately, I haven’t always followed this principle, and have made impulse decisions that I have regretted (yes, cat, I’m talking about you).

As I look back on my life I see many times that I have asked God the Father for things because I wanted them. Sometimes I have asked fervently, but the answer was “No” because it wasn’t the right time or it wasn’t good for me. However, sometimes I think God was just letting me continue to ask because He knew that the thing I was praying for wasn’t what I really wanted. I was never a great journal-keeper, but I did have spurts when I wrote more than others. I recently found one and re-read it, and I found myself chuckling about the things I asked God for. Some things I wanted badly for a moment, but quickly began asking for something else. I wonder if God just didn’t answer because He knew that I was not really serious.

One of Jesus’ teachings that stumped me for a while is in Luke 18:1-8 – the parable of the persistent widow.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

This bothered me for a while because I thought that it was saying God is like the unjust judge. I finally figured out that it is saying that if the unjust judge will do the right thing because the widow was persistent, how much more will God, who is certainly just, do the right thing for His people who ask him. But this last time I read it I focused on the persistence part. The purpose of this parable, as Jesus told it, was to teach the disciples to keep praying and not give up. He wants us to be persistent. He wants me to ask, then beg, plead, cry and continue on until I get an answer. He doesn’t want me to ask once and then give up. If I do that, did I really want it in the first place?

I have to admit that I am too often guilty of asking once or twice and quitting, and by “too often” I mean “always.” I hear a sermon on Sunday about giving, so I ask God to help me become less selfish, and at the time I really mean it. But that is the last time I ask, and I could easily look back and say “God didn’t do that for me.” However, if I really wanted to be less selfish, wouldn’t I ask over and over until God gives that to me. As it is, the Godly traits and characteristics I hear about on Sundays are like toys in the Sears catalog that I see and want, but not enough to give up other things for.

(Excuse me while I tend to my sore toes, on which I have inadvertently stepped.)

Of course, I knew this already. I have read about the treasure that a man finds and sells everything to buy the field where it was found. I know about the pearl that a merchant found and sold all his possessions so he could purchase it. What I don’t know is why I don’t ask for God’s presence in my life with the same urgency and persistence that these people did. How does one cultivate that kind of desire, of passion for what is good and right? How can you develop the ability to value God enough to truly seek Him with the single-mindedness displayed by this widow and the merchant and the treasure hunter?

I am afraid of the answers to these questions, primarily because I think they have the words “difficult” and “trial” and “suffering” in them somehow. The widow sought justice because of the great injustice that was done to her. Throughout the Bible, and in my own experience, people draw closer to God and seek Him the most during times of difficulty and suffering. For example, read the book of Judges. Hardship results in greater pursuit of God, while times of peace typically end up in a gradual separation and some level of apathy about God. Of course, this usually causes hardship, which starts the cycle over again IF we choose to seek God to relieve our suffering.

So what is the end result of this rambling mess? I guess it is as simple/difficult as choosing to want the right things. I have said for some time now that as humans we will do what we want to do, so the key is to want to do the right things. The level of persistence exhibited in our prayer life will be a good indicator of what we want and how badly we want it.

One of the many challenges that all parents face is the issue of ownership. Children are very focused on what’s theirs and, by default, what is yours. The presence of additional children merely doubles (or triples) this concern, and much of the stay-at-home parent’s day is spent as a referee as you try to support each child in their quest to protect his property from the other children while teaching about the joys of sharing with others.

I have recently become fairly concerned that Will is growing up to have bully issues. Although he is the youngest, he is big enough to take what he wants – typically from Hannah – and strong enough to keep it. In fact, this behavior is almost so predictable that I sometimes put half of Will’s lunch on Hannah’s plate knowing that she will leave the table and he will eat it. He thinks that he is stealing her food, but I know that he is eating what he wouldn’t have eaten otherwise. I know this is reinforcing the negative behavior, but I am choosing my battles. The good news is that I will never have to send Will to school with lunch money.

At the same time I am trying to teach Will not to take whatever he wants, I am also working to teach Hannah the appropriate way to deal with adversity. I’ve tried to teach primary prevention (“Don’t leave your food lying on the coffee table.”), secondary prevention (“If you see your brother coming, pick your food up and keep it away from him.”) and crisis management (“If he takes your toy, ask for it back, and then come tell me.”). I’ve even tried reverse psychology (“If you act like you don’t care, he’ll stop playing with it and you can have it back.”). However, nothing seems to satisfy like a good blood-curdling scream when your brother is taking your stuff.

Often I will try to explain to Hannah the logic behind the situation, hoping to make her see that she is overreacting to a simple situation. For example, I often will give both children a small bowl of cereal for a snack. (Without milk, of course, because I am not a glutton for cleaning up messes.) Because Will is a faster, if not more focused, eater, he quickly finishes his and then goes to the next course, i.e. Hannah’s cereal. She screams, I come running (because I assume that she is mortally wounded), and she informs me not only that Will has taken her food but also that she is hungry, he is eating too much sugar for a little boy, and that he needs to be punished severely. It is at this time that I try to explain that there plenty of cereal, and that I will give her more. I reassure her that we will take care of her and won’t allow her to go hungry. If I’m feeling lucky I also try to reinforce that the cereal is actually mine because I bought it, and therefore belongs to all of us.

As a father I want my children to learn these lessons. I want them to be confident enough about the things we give them that they will willingly share them with each other. I want them to know that their needs will be met, and that if somebody takes their stuff we are more than capable of making it right. I don’t want them to be so afraid of losing their things that they begin to hoard them and refuse to help their siblings. I don’t want to raise children who are selfish and afraid, but children who are kind and generous.

So while I get frustrated with my children for their difficulty in grasping these concepts, I am embarrassed to realize my own failure as God the Father is trying to teach me the same things. There are so many times that I am afraid of losing what I have that I act like a child. I complain that others have more than I do. I refuse to share. I think of the things God has given me as my things rather than His. I am so focused on my stuff (or often my lack of it) that I become selfish and self-absorbed.

One of the Old Testament stories that challenges me every time I read it is the story of the widow at Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ ”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:7-16)

This woman woke up that morning, looked at her pantry, and realized that she had one more meal. She knew it had been coming for weeks. She had likely been rationing, and she and her son had probably been hungry for a long time, eating only what they needed to stay alive. Now it is over. Everything they have is used up. So she goes out with a heavy heart, maybe in tears, to gather the sticks she needs to make her last meal. Then some stranger asks for a loaf of bread like he is at the drive-thru at the local fast food place. Doesn’t he know? Doesn’t he care?

I don’t know if the woman was praying for deliverance. I don’t know if she expected God to help her. She evidently knew about God, but I don’t know what kind of relationship she had with Him. There must have been something there, however, since she responded to Elijah’s promise that He would provide for her. But the thing that strikes me is the woman’s complete selflessness. Despite her pain and grief, she trusted that by giving away the last of what she had she would be given all that she needed. She understood, or at least believed, that God has plenty for all His children, and it really isn’t ours to begin with.

So what would that look like in my life? I get so frustrated because I don’t have enough money saved up to get the things that I want/think I need. I don’t have the security I want in case my van breaks down or my air conditioner gives out. I am afraid of what will happen if there is a medical emergency that requires me to meet my deductible. So when I have five dollars in my pocket and a guy is standing on the side of the road holding a sign proclaiming his need, I speed up and pass by. Why? Because it is my money. It is all that I have left right now, and I don’t know what will happen next. I need to save it, protect it, hoard it. I don’t trust God, if you want to get right down to it. I can rationalize my decision all day long, but when it comes down to it it is because I don’t want to allow myself to be totally dependent on God.

If we want to take it a step further, Malachi records the words of God against the Israelites as He accuses them of robbing Him. They were robbing God when they refused their tithes and offerings, holding back for themselves. He offers them a challenge and asks them to test Him:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:10-12)

So when I am screaming about the inequality that exists or complaining that somebody is trying to take my stuff, my Father gently and patiently tries to explain, for the hundredth time, that it isn’t mine anyway. It is His, and He has plenty to go around. If I give up what He has given me for the good of another of His children, He will make sure that I have all that I need. In fact, He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

I had the following conversation with Hannah today on my way home from lunch. We were talking about Ashley’s friend who is coming to visit later today.

H: Maybe she speaks English.
L: She does.
H: I speak English sometimes. Sometimes I don’t.
L: What language do you speak when you don’t speak English?
H: Ummm…I speak shark…and whale.
L: You do?
H: Well, not shark. Just whale.

My life is too good.

P6270001Saturday was so hot, and Will got a new pool for his birthday, so I finally quit stalling and took the kids outside to play in the water. I have to admit that the prospect of going outside in the heat, setting up a pool and a slip-n-slide, and dealing with all of the clean-up had caused me to put this whole inevitable experience off for some time now. But we did it, and thanks to a little nice timing from Ashley, it all worked out well. Will had a great time in his pool once I added bath toys, but the lure of the slip-n-slide was too much. He kept going back and forth. Next time I’ll put them closer together.

Everybody wanted in on the froggy fun

Everybody wanted in on the froggy fun

"Hey, look at all that water!"

"Hey, look at all that water!"

Of course we all got popsicles

Of course we all got popsicles

Trying to figure it out.

Trying to figure it out.

Hannah playing peek-a-boo.

Hannah playing peek-a-boo.

Always used under close supervision.

Always used under close supervision.

We finally took the plunge and got Will’s hair cut for the first time. We went to a friend from church who is learning to be a hairstylist (otherwise I would have gone to a barber). He did really well – considering. We only had to bribe him with a few Vanilla Wafers to get him to sit relatively still. It is amazing how much a little trim makes a difference in his appearance. He looks so grown up now. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

Before

Before

Will got the cool cape.

Will got the cool cape.

Can you sense the action in this shot?

Can you sense the action in this shot?

Still friends with Miss Jenny

Still friends with Miss Jenny

The end result

The end result

This is a statement that I had prepared to read Sunday morning to our church family, but other things took precedence. I typed it instead, cleaned it up a bit, and decided to post it here as well. Just read it out loud, cry all the way through it, and it will be as if I had read it to you myself.
Love to you all,
Lee

Thursday we celebrated Will’s 1st birthday, and naturally we spent some time reflecting back over the events leading up to and following his birth, and through each part of that experience we see God working through you. Even as we take joy in knowing that things worked out the way we wanted, we are also thankful for the difficult times as well. It was in these times, when we didn’t think we could take the next step, that you carried us. We didn’t know how we would handle adversity, but now we know that God is more than able to sustain us, no matter the situation.

I want to take this opportunity first of all to thank you again for the tremendous gift you gave us, but I also want to take a minute to encourage you as well. Just as we were at a low point almost a year ago when Will’s birth parents took him back for a few days, there are members of our body who are at a low point now. I have always taken great comfort from the following words of Moses found in Deuteronomy 8.

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”

The Wilderness plays an important role throughout the history of God’s people, but maybe nowhere more prominently than in the story of the Exodus. I typically thought of the Wilderness as a punishment for disobedience, but now I am coming to understand that it was more than that. God doesn’t just punish His people, but disciplines them. Everything He does is to teach, to instruct, and to prepare His people for what is to come, and to maintain His relationship with them. The Israelites needed to learn to trust God, to obey Him because He knew what was best for them.

I believe that we are in the Wilderness – we have trusted God to lead us out of slavery, but we are still waiting for the Promised Land. And in the journey God wants to prepare us, to teach us to trust Him. Sometimes that means that we experience loss, heartache or broken relationships. Sometimes we have difficulty with our job or our finances. Sometimes we struggle through an illness, a habit or a sin – whether it is because of something I have done or something that someone has done to me, or even just a random occurrence, God is able to use any circumstance to teach me to trust Him more, knowing that the journey is only temporary, but the reward is eternal.

I was reading about this subject once, and learned more about the Wilderness. Whereas I used to think about the Wilderness as a desert, it seems actually to be full of vegetation and plant life, but only the kind that could sustain you for a short time. It was okay to pass through, but was not suitable for settling down. Knowing this helps me greatly, because I know that when I experience pain or sorrow, it reminds me that this world is not my home, that I haven’t settled down here, but I am on my way to a better place. God gives me all that I need to sustain me for the time that I am here, but there is something much better to come.

As we begin Will’s second year, we are thankful that for all of you who are on this journey with us. We know that no matter what happens, God has given us a family that will gladly share our burdens and our joys. We love you all so much, and just like our love for our children increases each day, so our love for you grows more and more. Thank you for loving us in the amazing way that you have, and know that when Will’s story is told, God will be glorified.

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June 11, 2008

As the day begins I want to take a few minutes to publicly celebrate not only Will’s birth, but also his addition to our family. It is difficult to remember, sitting here a year later, all of the emotions we experienced, and I suppose that is a blessing.

We had only known for a little more than a month that we were going to be adopting him, so there was a major rush to prepare not only our home, but also get all of our paperwork done. We began the process not knowing how we would pay for it, but God answered that particular prayer in a definitive way through our church family. We also weren’t totally sure it would all happen, and for a while it didn’t, but again our church family (up to and including our physical families) were up to the challenge.As I think more about it, that day was full of excitement and fear and joy and apprehension, and all of it had to be restrained. All of these emotions, and several more, were present, but none could be given full rein. We just had to sit and wait, and that was perhaps the hardest thing of all.

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Jaycie with her new brother - a few days old

I want to also pause and thank Will’s birth parents. Part of what made that day (and the following weeks) difficult is that we saw in their faces how much they loved him, and we could only imagine the battle that was raging within them. They had made a good but tough decision, but they weren’t prepared for the love that they felt when he was born. We could see them struggle, and to this day I continue to be amazed that they made the decision that they did. To admit that you are not prepared for a child and to know that no matter how much it hurts you, he will have a better life with another family has got to be one of the hardest things to do.

So to his birth parents, thank you for this gift. He has brought us all so much joy, from his first smile to his first steps, we have cherished each day. We love him as our own, and will continue to teach, nurture and guide him the best we can. And as we tell his story, he will always know that you love him.

One final gift we have been given in the last year is spiritual in nature. As we have experienced each step of this journey we have known true love. We have seen love like God has when Will’s birth parents gave him to us. We have felt some semblance of the love God has when they decided to take him back. We were completely crushed, yet we felt God wrapping his arms around us through the love of our Christian brothers and sisters.

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Just a few days old.

If the story had ended there, we would have had a great story to tell of God’s care and concern for us. But He saw fit to give our son back to us, and the love we have felt for Will helps remind us once again of the love God has to adopt us as His sons and daughters, no matter the cost or the pain or the heartache we cause Him. We have also been overwhelmed through each step of the way by the love we have felt from so many people who we haven’t seen in years, all over the country, who care so deeply about us and have lifted our family up in prayer. There are no words to express the great comfort we received from you.

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Hannah with her "buddy" - August

I am so thankful for each piece of this story – the good and the bad. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I know that if needed, we could do it because it is God who sustains us. He gives us what we need, and He knows best what that is better than I do.

Okay, enough stalling. I have a cake to bake. Enjoy these pictures of our “little” boy.

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Will in September

Adoption Day!

Adoption Day! October 22, 2008

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Jackson's Orchard - October

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December (Duh!)

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January 2009

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March - starting to cruise the furniture already

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Easter - the first picture when he looks all grown up

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June - walking all alone (not his sunglasses, btw)