Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Blessing

Last Sunday morning, Zion and I sat outside the church after a rough morning chatting about God, life and choices.  We created this soft scene on the hard cement while God softened the hard places in us.

Shall we reach across the minutes and miles to pause and greet each other amidst these holy days of celebration, as we welcome the Christ Child?  Let us lay down our sorrows, fear, hopelessness and hard heartedness.  With humble hearts fueled by confession and forgiveness, let us free ourselves and the people we love from dependence on  humanity and earth to fulfill our deepest longings, and trust the God of the Universe to rejuvenate our spirits through grace.  The loving arms of Jesus are held steady and strong, wide open in ready embrace.  For He knows our intimate struggles, every need and burden and loves us to the core of our being.

Come brothers and sisters, with hands held in kindred spirit desire, let us kneel in faith and lift our eyes in the belief, that He holds us and this precious earth on which we dwell in sovereign love and compassion.  As the days gather quickly to finish the year in which they were designed to serve, let us not linger in what has been, but rejoice in what is to come!  God is still creating!  We do not know all that is to be, but we know the Author of Life, who did not spare His only Son, but gave Him in ransom for our wickedness and the sins of all.

As 2015 calls us to a fresh year, let it be one in which our unity, love and the outpouring of the light of Jesus into this dark world raises up the broken and reaches the lost.  We are here with a purpose, fueled by His love, and equipped to serve for the "role-call of eternity"!

I am thankful for each of you, your willingness to read my words and the lives you lead beyond this page.  May God bless you and keep you as His face shines upon you and may Joy be your companion as you walk the path set before you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

# Love

I searched through scripture to find a strong verse for Malachi's project, one that would represent our family.  I suggested Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (NIV)  Malachi furrowed his brow, 'Oh no Mommy, it must be the love verse, because no matter what, it's always about love, that's how our family is.'

I was struck by his answer.  As the oldest of the youngest five, it is clear that the rambunctious, challenging, wild siblings often drive Malachi crazy, as he does to them as well!  Yet, denying none of the chaos and conflict, or difficult days, Malachi knows that LOVE is our center.

In the midst of our racial conflict currently causing great upheaval in many cities in the U.S. I wonder what words fuel our passions.  Perhaps a few of them are vindication, justice, and revenge.

Walk with me Friends, hear what I hear, see what I see.  As a Caucasian mother of Hispanic, Bi-racial, African and Caucasian children, you would be amazed at the responses I am given from all races at some time or another, ranging from kind to cruel. The hurtful words and mean spirited attitudes often stem from a bad experience, ignorance or fear.  My response can bless the speaker or add to their preconceived ideas, causing disunity and separation.  I refuse to give into the Enemy's plans to destroy the human race with his seeds of hatred.  I must kindly address hurtful attitudes, to uproot the weeds of racism, and then I must fill that gaping hole with a seed of love.  My words must be spoken to heal not to widen the crevice we create with our suspicious, self-protecting taking of sides against another.

Jesus said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."  And by them he meant me and you.  Forgiveness is the beginning of love and love is the seed of healing.

Malachi was also asked to use a picture for his project to represent his family tree.  Under the picture below, he wrote, "With adoption, our family tree is a forest!"  One tree, standing alone, cannot endure the storms of life quite so well as a forest!  To blend adoption with diversity under God's incredible gift of family is to walk first hand into the beautiful garden in which he intended us to bloom.  Drought and pestilence, seasons and pruning are all part of our earthly lives, and they are difficult to endure.  Our country is under a weighty struggle now.  But we, these trees that we are, rooted and grounded in love, can survive hard things together, not with weapons of divisive words, but through cultivating all that love represents. And we know well, that we are an exquisite landscape because of our unique characteristics and differences.

Do not allow anyone to tempt you to believe that one race is against another!  We have one enemy and he is the enemy of love.  Racism is not a tool unique to any race.  It is a knife hurled from the hand of the one who would seek to destroy us all, by separation and wounding.

It is the love verse, Malachi's wise choice, that will heal and guide us through these treacherous days. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not LOVE, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have faith that can move mountains, but have not LOVE, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not LOVE, I have nothing.  LOVE is patient, LOVE is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  LOVE does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  LOVE never fails."
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a (NIV)


Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The yelp from the old dog, Hope, awakened me from a sound sleep at 2:29 a.m.   She heaved her tired body up from the rug, gazed at me from mostly blind eyes and steadied herself for the weary walk to the porch.  I twisted the knob of the front door and braced myself as a gust of wind shoved it against me.   Hope found her footing down the steps while I huddled by the railing, shivering in my flimsy nightgown.  Below the last step, the fall leaves, which only days before had swayed and danced in the breeze, displaying their fiery cloaks of color, lay in a huddled heap.  In brittle, broken pieces they crackled under the icy wind, humbled and spent.  The bitter gusts and black sky seeped into my being and bleakness overcame my groggy mind.

I crawled under the warm covers of our bed and sleeplessness invited thoughts, swirling as if to mimic the treacherous wind outside.  In home schooling our focus in these last two weeks has been on the former USSR.  An upbeat jingle for Geography has enlightened our minds to each country along the Southern border of Russia.  In History we've read of the people, their traditions, customs, religions and livelihood.  And we have read of poverty, struggle, and endurance.  The sharp sting of winter crouching at our own front door reminded me especially of the people of the Ukraine.  I felt guilty over the blessings I have and grieved over their persecution.

Each school day, for the last five years (since Hepatitis shook our lives), twenty-two-year-old Olena, our faithful helper, has worked alongside me from 9 to 3 to run the house and assist in schooling.  She is a treasure to our family and sometimes knows what I'm thinking before the words form.  She is Ukranian.  I often hear of the tumult in her land and hardships through which the Easterners suffer.  This morning I asked for the latest news and if perhaps I could gather coats to send before the icy winter consumes the lives of some who are only barely surviving.  

Olena spoke in her gentle, stoic manner, 'Yes, coats would be a blessing, but we can get them to our people.  We have a Christian organization that will send whatever you have.  Many in the Western Ukraine are also helping and yesterday I heard of a woman who has almost nothing, giving what she had, out of compassion.  Also, an old building was quickly transformed to house many homeless families.'

'We could have given in long ago and our cities and people would have fared far better, but we are not willing to give our country away.  We believe in the community we have, though our cities are poor, they are beautiful.  Things have changed so much, but we love our country.  Though churches in the East are destroyed, we believe and trust God, and have His help.  Though we struggle, He is mighty.  Here in my Ukrainian church we have grown from 600 to 800 members. The Evil that would try to destroy us cannot destroy our hearts, it is building up our faith in Christ.  Just this morning, the cold sweep in my country relented and at least for now, since it has not hit freezing, many are still alive who have very little and are underground.  We are thankful.'

The school day is long over, and my frigid feelings and stark, sad emotions of the early morning have given way to Hope.  Sometimes it is another's hope and faith that draw us back to realignment with the truth we know.  The pots outside, on the back deck, standing sturdy yet exposed, in this late afternoon light, give a different view of the fading fall.  There is new growth amidst the change and even a few flowers that seem more beautiful because of the environment in which they choose to bloom.  I needed Olena's perspective to open my eyes to the good.

Feeling bleak and overwhelmed will never fuel action or inspire courage.  When we give our hearts over to hopelessness our very souls are easily captivated by the dimming under which we succumb.  Then we are of no use.  But God is alive and He has missed nothing!  It is in Him our weakness is made strong.  When Paul proclaimed the gospel under persecution he asked his people to pray for the lost, the weak, to care well for each other and to pray for him.  "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  Ephesians 6:18-20

Paul ends the chapter with the blessings of peace, faith, grace and Christ's undying love.  As David Crowder sings, "There is no hurt that heaven can't heal!"  Bleakness is not God's way, He gives hope for tomorrow and encouragement for today.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Community in Moments

In the sea of carnival enthusiasts and dust, it was difficult to know where to begin.  I held tightly to the hands of Salomé, Ezra and Emmaus whose eyes shown in a mix of excitement and apprehension.  Music blared over the multitudes who screamed ecstatically amidst the dips and dives of roller coasters, claiming to terrify and winning this bet over the less courageous.  Time and again, to my relief, the height limit for certain rides excluded our two Littles.  Salomé carefully chose a few conservative rides to which Magdalene and her close friend Taylor led us with savvy enthusiasm and cheerful strides.  I was the reluctant parent, who could not hold my guard long, as cotton candy and giggly chatter overtook the youngest two, who followed willingly in the teenagers footsteps.

Within two hours Salomé, Emmaus and Ezra needed food and I wished for calm.  The massive dining facility, alive with neon lights implored every possible craving of our appetites to rule and choose their wares.  The setting promised indulgence but not satisfaction or peace.  Salomé noticed a young mother and her baby to whom she tried to direct my eyes, but I was not attentive to anything but finishing our food and stepping out of the massive feeding trough!

Finally, we stood beyond the three sets of double doors outside the mess hall waiting for Magdalene and Taylor when the disheveled mother appeared, wearily pushing her stroller.  "Look Mommy, she actually has two babies!" cried Salomé.

Sure enough, the stroller, laid flat, contained two little sets of feet nearly touching each other.  Two beanie-clad, sleeping babies, one in pink and one in blue, drew our intention in whispers.  I smiled up at the mother whose right arm lay motionless in a sling.  She wore pink sweat pants, a white hoodie and a pink, knitted beanie, which matched her children's, over her blonde tendrils.  She gazed at me through half closed eyes and hid her cigarette.

"They are beautiful," I commented, as Salomè and I peeked at the newborns.  I then looked toward the cigarette, "...don't worry about that, I understand."  She stared at the glowing embers and shrugged her shoulders, but tossed it to the dirt anyway and ground it under a canvas slippered foot.

"It's a bad habit, but I'm 'sposed to die anyway.  I got 20% chance with radiation after my brain tumor.  Had medical care in California, but I'm back up North now 'cause I need more help and me and my boyfriend get more here.  He left with the fifteen-month-old and my other two kids."

"Left?" I stammered, with my eyes fixed on the 8 and 9 pound babes dozing innocently.

"The fair...just left the fair...he's home at the 'partment, my ride's comin' soon too.  She's in church, but she'll be here."

I clutched Salomé's hand, while Magdalene and Taylor patiently entertained Ezra and Emmaus, at a polite distance from the evolving conversation.  We learned the babies' names, Miracle and Jared.  They were tiny, born three weeks before their due date, yet they appeared healthy with perfect features.  I commended her good mothering and a hint of a smile softened her care-worn face.  We said goodbye, then walked in opposite directions.  The glaring lights felt more oppressive than I'd recalled before our meal.  I felt sick and helpless as I watched the mother disappear from view.  Was someone really coming to get her?

Half an hour later, a smily, blonde gal in a light jacket, sweat pants and well used tennis shoes, tapped me on the shoulder.  Beside her stood the young mother who explained, "See...there she is, the lady I told you 'bout, the one who was worried about me..."

"I'm Jocelyn's ride, I was at name's Never.  Thanks for caring for her before I got here." I hugged Never who asked me my name.  "Of course," she laughed, "Grace, that's an excellent name!"

I watched them go.  Never pushed the stroller in pace with Jocelyn, engaging her in conversation, wrapping her fragile friend in kindness.  She embodied compassion, clothed in gentleness, generosity and humility.  I felt rooted to the ground, undeserving of the compliment of caring.  What had I done to show it?

It is difficult to understand and accept the limitations placed on our lives in fleeting moments when others are in need and we feel helpless.  If it were up to humans alone to roll up our sleeves and save the world, would we?  Perhaps pride hisses such fanciful possibilities into our minds in order to trap us in guilt and render us useless in the tiny areas in which we really can make a difference.  If we take the sorrows and sufferings of our globe, as lone stewards of mercy, the burden crushes us and we stumble over ourselves in ineffective hopelessness.  Perhaps if we speak life into each moment, over every person, on the dusty road of our earthly journey, the lightening of the burdens collectively will weave a web of hope.  And maybe if we pause to be the comma in a hard chapter in someone's life we've given them just the breather they need.  I don't know exactly, but that evening at the fair, I saw two women who inspired me to talk with you about mercy and friendship.  Perhaps because of them we will be ready to do a small thing, with courage, the next time it is requested of us.  Then boldly, we will receive and release the baton of loving each-other well, in community.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In This Present

Magdalene sipped her peppermint tea as she leaned against the counter, "Mom, I love that you are present with us kids."  Her words struck me in the moment and have remained with me all week, as encouragement to my internal battle of seeing beyond the encroaching bleakness and evil on the global horizon and fixing my eyes on Hope.  Even as I write, the view from our family room window is marred by fog and the morning light is eerie rather than cheerful.  Does this mean the beautiful forest beyond our back fence no longer exists?  Have our neighbors disappeared because the space between us is obscured?  Of course not, but fear of future events, when the signs of the times look dark, seeks to snuff out the truth we know.  Here and now is where we are, and inside our soul, belief must stand sturdy, not swayed by circumstances.

My coffee sits on the floor, beside my slippered feet as I type with half an ear on the litter of new kittens.  Their delicate frames and blind eyes keep them solely dependent on Mama Cat Agnes, who just took a morning saunter around the house, stretching her legs and relieving her tired body, before returning to her needy brood.  Kittens, precious and new, are a stark contrast in their very existence, to the battles against good currently raging throughout our world.

As I picked up my Bible and computer from the dining room table, to prepare for reading and chatting with you, a plastic warrior fell at my feet.  Below the chair, swept by the corner of the tablecloth, a war against dragons had been raging all night and I didn't even know!

These are days when courage and compassion must be our constant companions.  As we speak and act in the arenas of our lives in which we have authority, being present is our privilege.  The people with whom each of us will interact today are immortal not ordinary.  The perpetrators of evil and promotors of good are humans, the war over their and our actions is spiritual.  There is power on both sides of the spectrum, but we know the Enemy has no ability to create followers from dust.  As Bishop R. C. Trench writes, from his book, The Parables of Our Lord, from1860, "Satan cannot create children of darkness, he can only spoil children of light."

We are children of light, and light shines in darkness!  Eugene Petersen writes in The Message translation of the Bible of Jesus in John 1:5 "The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness, the darkness couldn't put it out."  Beloveds, this is a time in History where darkness is seeking its final overpowering of light.  It will not win!  Yet while it is allowed to exist, it seeks to destroy our faith, hope, joy, compassion, dreams, visions, and commitment to honoring the sanctity of life.  Jesus is the strength to which we must cling!  God has not turned his face, he has missed nothing, but in this very time and space...between kittens and war, we exist purposefully.  We must engage in this present day as lovers of the truth we know and doers of the righteous acts for which we have been created.  Shine, Beloved, blaze with all that is in you.  My favorite author of our times is Frank Peretti, one of his books is titled, "Piercing the Darkness".  It is our joy and responsibility to do this, in this very day, until all is made right, we are the light of the world!

"Comfort, oh comfort my people...Thunder in the desert!  Prepare for God's arrival...Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it.  Yes.  Just as God has said."  Isaiah 40   

Sunday, October 5, 2014

These Days We Dance

On Friday, a tomato from the garden rolled off the cutting board but stopped short with a wobble against the side of the bowl.  Emmaus leaned his head on his folded arms, as he watched it from his barstool perch.  I cranked up the volume of my favorite song, ignoring the meandering salad preparations, clasped his hands and we twirled across the kitchen for a few stanzas.  The smile that enveloped his face invited the late afternoon sun to shine a little brighter through the window.  Suddenly he stopped, drew his hands over his eyes, and spoke the muffled words, "This is so sad!"  I knelt beside him, placed my hands on his and peered into his face, asking why.  "Because someday you'll die, and I'll remember this happy time and I'll be so sad, that's why my eyes are all wet now."
I held him and said, "Someday isn't today, so you don't have to be sad...for now we can be so happy and dance together!"

Morning of first day home from Ethiopia, October 3rd, five years ago 
This analytical, brilliant mind understands more painful things than I could imagine at the age of seven, but I also know that the joys since his years in the orphanage have been many!   And each joy, each sorrow and each prayer is held in the heart of God, for all eternity.  In God's economy nothing is wasted.  In these earthbound lives, we live in the balance of moments, trusting God on the mountain peaks and with us in the valleys.

These fragile bodies made of dust are designed to dance on these dirt floors.  Under packed soil, seeds sprout, roots deepen and family trees become forests.  In sorrow and suffering, through tears of sadness and joy, when all is well or when we grieve, we raise our hands in the hope of eternity.  We love well, while there is still time, hands clasping and reaching through compassion in action, those who've forgotten life's melody of love.  How is this possible you ask, in this dark world?

Jesus...Beloved, He is the answer.  In Him, by Him, through Him, songs formed from the depth of His sacrifice reverberate throughout time and creation.  Until the day we die, when our souls are released to twirl into eternity, we needn't fear.  We dance to the song we're given.  It is what Love does...and love, not death, is the most powerful force on earth!

photo of Malachi by Uncle Edward 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Foot, Two...

"Is Mommy a woman of her word?"
They answered, "Yes."
My question and their response rang out into the thick of the battle between angry siblings in the car on the way to church.  "If we cannot be ladies and gentlemen, speaking life to each other, then we will walk home!"  The words escaped my mouth, fully aware of their power, challenging me to the core.  I lamented wearing high heels!

Sure enough, my favorite two hours of the week, spent in church, were not to be.  One of our precious crew, who refused to be kind, held onto his anger, and reacted in violence, watched my actions as I handed the car keys to my girlfriend, clasped his hand and together we left the building!

We trekked up the steep hill from the parking lot where the wide, sloping road met our eyes.
"Wow," he exclaimed, hoisting a stick into the air like a knight ready to charge, "this is going to be fun!"  He leapt ahead, teetering on the raised asphalt divider, along the embankment.  He asked for photos of everything, posing for a few to send to Daddy, on a weekend trip with Malachi, and big brothers Gabriel and Elias (who remember a similar, though much shorter walk in their younger days, when no one could think of a reason to be thankful).  In a two sentence summary titled, Why are we here?, I made sure my adventuresome counterpart knew this was his 'consequence'.  He nodded enthusiastically!

After the first hour, several good friends and strangers, driving back from the service, or on their way elsewhere, asked if we were well, broken down or needed help.  My pretty purse, pencil skirt and patent leather shoes must have indicated something was amiss.  When a sweet friend offered to swap shoes, holding her Toms to the window, I realized the pain of the high heels was necessary, strange as this may sound.  Our delighted boy's hand, holding tightly to mine, became sweaty.  We stopped several times to shake stray gravel bits from our shoes.  Finally he looked up at me, though I'd made no other mention of our reason for walking, and asked, "Why did I choose to be so naughty?"  I smiled at him wearily, and we kept walking.

Around 100 meters from the house, he dropped my hand and took off running to tell his siblings, who'd passed us in the car on the way, all about our two hour journey.  I hobbled in the door to the tender reception of my girlfriend Andrea, who always wrestles adventures in life well, and Magdalene, who compassionately poured me coffee.

I peeled off my pumps, examined my feet and related the conclusion I needed to voice.  I hope our boy will remember this lesson, but even if he doesn't, I will.  As we walked, I'd thought of struggling brothers and sisters in other countries, fleeing their homes, walking for days, unsure of where their road will lead.  In my pain, after the first hour and a half, I also thought of the road Jesus walked for me.  I imagined His suffering along the way to Golgotha and His sacrifice on the cross and of course, his guiding hand of grace.  Yet all I was doing was walking out simple consequences with our feisty child!  On this sometimes rocky road of parenting and living in general, whether the rough terrain is due to my own choices or someone else's, and in the wider, far more serious torment of fellow citizens on the streets of our planet, I know the Truth; God will never leave us or forsake us.  He is with me, our boy and you.  These daily lessons keep me grounded, encourage my prayers and draw my eyes up to the goal, far from this temporal journey.  For now, hand in hand, its one foot in front of the other!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Elias joined Joy, our beloved director of Adoption Ministry YWAM, on her excursion to Ethiopia, four months after our adoption of Emmaus and Ezra.  Joy invited him then, because she and he knew that the events surrounding the meeting of and departing from his siblings' birthmothers, would rip his heart to threads, yet he too, longed to see their country.  As became evident, during his adventures with Joy, preserving any piece of the fragile heart of a compassionate lover of people is impossible.  The heart of man, when brimming with love for those whom Jesus asks us to care, will be crushed and strewn, as seeds on fertile soil, to produce an eternal harvest of joy.  The crushing is brutal, but the light of love shines from the follower who sacrifices self.

Transporting babies, visiting orphanages and meeting the brave men and women who step into the gap for vulnerable children, moved Elias deeply.  One of many miracles during his travels was the saving of a newborn found in a jungle area, alone and helpless, still attached to the placenta.  How they and we grieved for the mother, who must have believed this was the only way out of her hopeless situation.  (That baby boy was eventually adopted!  Hope overcame.)

One of the most significant interactions of the two weeks of Elias' journey took place in a coffee shop.  Elias met David, a Sudanese man with a smile as bright as the morning sun.  His invitation to chat could not be refused and his mesmerizing life story, will never be forgotten by any of us.  Elias related to us that the machete marks across David's arms, back and face were profound.  David described the day his wife and family were killed brutally through genocide.  He explained that his escape was miraculous.  When Elias asked if David would ever marry again, the jovial man laughed, 'My wife is with Jesus in heaven, and someday it will be my greatest joy to meet them there, but until then, I wait, as her husband on earth.'  To find such commitment, delight and freedom in one who'd suffered so much, can only be described as otherworldly, and is a product of his faith and trust in the Sovereign God.

When I consider our brothers and sisters in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and throughout the Middle East today, who are facing genocide, I feel paralyzed.  The spreading of the Ebola virus in many countries in Africa overwhelms me.  When I think of many of you, living in countries where the fragile balance between good and evil seems to be tipping dangerously towards ultimate destruction for all humanity, I anguish.  It is then that I remember David, whose name means Beloved.

When our close friend Pastor Paul Schroeder threw a ball of yarn across the church, asking each member to hold a fingertip of thread, then continue tossing, an intricate web quickly formed.  Beloveds, that is who we are, an intricate community, designed to love sacrificially, united under our mighty Savior.  We are light bearers, connected across the globe.  With many threads of story and life woven between us, we call with a united voice to the One who Is the Great I Am!  He is here, He is willing and He asks us to turn our hearts and lives to Him.  No man can rescue us from ourselves, man's inhumanity to man is sourced from Satan himself, but the battle is the Lord's.  Come Lord Jesus...and while we wait, we love with hearts surrendered, pray without ceasing, encourage the faint of heart and love fearlessly, as brothers and sisters do!  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Team NWB

Her jet black hair, swept into a french twist, framed her lovely, chiseled face. She wore pencil jeans, a loose navy sweater and ripped canvas shoes.  Three of her four children sprawled across the cement walkway, playing a game.  Her cardboard sign read:
I lost my job
4 kids
need money for rent
God Bless You.

Salomé pleaded with her big, brown eyes.  "Shall we buy her groceries?" I asked, in answer to her silent question.  "Yes!" came her exuberant response.

We borrowed an hour for the errand, one I didn't think we could spare, until the sign drew us from our tasks.  As we approached the foursome, I held one bulging paper sack in each hand, while Salomé carried steaming coffee and sandwich wraps.  I lifted each bag as a sign of offering and her youngest boy ran to us.  He struggled to lug a bag to his siblings.  I gave her a hug and said, "I'm so sorry for your hardship, I'm Grace...I love God, and you'd probably do the same thing for me if we switched places.  Caring for children is tough...we have eight. We'll pray for you..."  I turned to the boys and thanked them for being obedient to their mother.  She smiled and introduced herself, then said, "God Bless you!"

Back in the car, Salomé asked from what country she'd originally come.  I was unsure, but her accent reminded me of a Pakistani friend I once knew.  "Does she mean God Bless You or Allah Bless You?" Salomé wondered, in reference to our home school studies of the Middle East/Asia and Islam.  Our conversation on the way home was packed.  Most importantly, I expressed that though we knew very little about the woman, it didn't matter.  She communicated a need and we had the opportunity to help her along the way, as a result of Salomé's kind-hearted look!  Whatever circumstances drew her to stand on the street corner, the details were not ours to pursue.  But serving her?  That we could do!

In our mailbox, late this afternoon, we found a mailing from Doctors Without Borders, containing a marvelous map strewn with pinpoint circles of all the places in which they minister.  It is a perfect example of what we hope our crew understands.  In their young lives, we begin teaching them to love people by attempting to be Neighbors Without Borders.

Yesterday,  Emmaus said, "God made each of us able to do different things, so that we could have teamwork!"  Exactly!  When he asked to be in this picture, I remembered his words.  Between us, our crew, you and yours, we are an excellent team of N.W.Bs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Love Does This

Good Morning!  The sun is rising somewhere on his own perfect schedule.  Soon he will arrive here and infuse this day with illumination, but I seek awakening in my spirit from the source of his Creator first.  The sunshine alone hasn't the strength to fuel this day.  Prayer and the Word are the bright lights we need.

In these fleeting morning moments, it refreshes my spirit to also think of you.  Sometimes I battle the thought that my words are jabber, released into a noisy planet that wishes I'd cease my incessant interrupting.  Yet, then I notice that you have read this.  Ours is a fascinating world in which our dwellings do not limit our building of community and ability to draw encouragement from the network our likemindedness of spirit provides.  The scripture I just read is from Psalm 36: 5-9 (NIV),
"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
 your faithfulness to the skies.
 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drinks from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light."

In this broken world where we must cling to the hope in our souls and trust that joy follows sorrow after the Lord himself finally wipes our tears, we have fellowship.  We are loved by our mighty God and we have each other!  The grip of compassion rooted in the love Jesus Christ poured forth on us through his death, resurrection and forgiveness provides strength for this very day to change the world!  We can do it, with our Savior in the lead, equipping us to love with action.  Love changes everything Dear One, and it is in you to lavish in unending supply over and into this precious globe we share!  It is what love does!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Round Table of Mercy

A Middle Little and a Little decided to make dinner.  A delicious smell of scrambled eggs and toast drew the rest of us from the schoolroom to the table, set with all the necessities including the remnants of last night's salad.  A lone voice broke through the thankful murmerings, "I hate eggs!  I don't like toast!  I'm not eating that for dinner!"

I yanked the arm of the hollering Little and called to the others, "Start without us, we'll be on a walk!"  I felt furious and stalked ahead calling back for him to grab his sneakers and catch-up!  We talked of all the things mothers say to children who refuse to eat or display an entitled spirit of ungratefulness.  It is ironic in our house to talk of starving children in Africa, since some actually were, at one time.

When we returned home, the boy ran ahead to humbly apologize for his screeching and unthankfulness.  Salomé graciously handed him his plate, but before his first bite, I swiped it out from under him.  I had decided during our vigorous conversation around the neighborhood, while he continued to fire back defiant words, that he would not be eating dinner, but nor would I, since solidarity sometimes softens what hard hearts might feel are unfair consequences.  All four siblings stopped mid-fork, wide eyed at my choice of the natural result of his naughtiness.  They seemed to feel the weight of justice.  Their eyes begged me to reconsider as the jury sat on the edge of their seats.  I gave them the floor.  "I see you wish to give your brother mercy.  If you can defend the reasons why he deserves it, I will allow him to eat."  And so the round table began with each offering their reasonable argument for mercy.  By then, my stern outward demeanor served only to hide my softened heart over the grace displayed through thoughtful words of kindness for their brother.

I handed down my verdict by replacing the plate in front of the boy.  He looked around with his head slightly bowed, like a gentled colt.  "Thank you," he voiced, quietly, then began to shovel in the cold eggs and toast.

By the time I could finally begin eating, the crew was focused on a game beside the table, their own version of Bananagrams, where each spelled the words they knew.  I asked a stragglier at the table to pass me the salt.  Twelve year old Malachi slipped four tiles on the table beside my plate.  The word read SALT.  I laughed.  What a perfect ending to our rough evening!  Jesus asks us to be salt and light to our world.  At our own table, our round table of mercy, the children displayed the rich addition of the most powerful seasoning in our lives, grace.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Question to You

From my inside-out...
I wrestle with words, tangled again and again in their grip of rebellion. When the sentence finally submits to me it is nothing like the thing with which I first battled. In truce it is so much more. I believe I have mastered each word, but the danger of becoming captivated by their willfulness and sucked into their universe of expression is ever present. In uninhibited spilling, they fall, float or fly as I fight to hold my ground amidst their multitude. They believe it is I who must be subdued, for in the end I wield the power for which they vie. Once released by tongue or hand, it is I who must ultimately bear the consequence of their voiced opinions. Have I spoken life or death? The crowd of Webster's subjects do not care, they only want to say something. Have I welcomed those of noble definition to lead? Are they my gift to you or my weapon? This is for you alone to decide. With a deep breath and a fresh sheet of possibility, the dual for the next sentence begins.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Dub You

Yesterday, Ezra asked, "May I dub you?"  I knelt down beside her and she laid a tiny stick on my shoulder, then lifted it over to the other, "I dub you Sir Mommy Princess."  I smiled wondering where her imagination might take us.  "Mommy, did you know princesses can fight?  If the King asks them to."  She smiled back at me, then raced away to rejoin her brothers on bikes.

In my hand I held a Decision Magazine published by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which I had been reading while watching our children play.  I'd just been immersed in a heart breaking article on the torture of innocent people whose cruel enemies treated their own followers violently.   I'd been thinking of those who currently wield power using fear and murder to seek to satisfy their hunger under evil's influence. This is not God's way.  I'd let my mind wander from the picture of two perpetrators to imagine those two men as newborns. I asked myself, What happened to them between that first day of their lives, as precious babies, to this one, where killing is what they choose to do?  Were they ever loved?

I read that many of the followers have come from the edges of society throughout the globe where they were frustrated or angry and now suddenly they are strong!  The power of violence has gripped them in its drunken rage of destruction.  And who suffers from mans' inhumanity to man?  The weakest always feel the brunt of the blow!  The fragile, the sick, the old and the children; those who can't defend themselves are often Satan's target and we who are strong wring our hands and wonder what to do?  Where is God?

Late in the evening, I couldn't shake my hopeless feeling.  I'd finished the first step in a lengthy rewrite of a fictional novel I'm working on called The Color of God.  I lamented over the idea of writing a book when the world is falling apart around us.  "Who cares about a fictional story of an unwilling florist and a dying Christian woman, when real disasters and death are everywhere!"  I asked my sweet husband.

"If you can say that," he answered, "then who cares about heart surgery?  I help dying people become well.  If everything is hopeless why bother?  You do the thing God has equipped you to do with excellence and to His glory.  We need each other and whatever we've been given to do, we do!  You must write and I need to operate and together we will raise this crew."

My husband is wise.  We are here to serve in the spaces in which we dwell or along the path on which we are led, God is with us and love is stronger than hate.  There is a job to do and a face in front of each of us to love.  God gives us the powerful weapon of prayer.  As King, He asks His children to care for the widows and orphans, our brothers and our sisters.  Do you know what dub means?  Dub is defined as: to invest with any name, character, dignity, or title; style; name; call.  Perhaps revival is waiting for us to live in the way Jesus asks, following His call to care for the least of these, and to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness. We are to love sacrificially those who are persecuted and those on the edge of choosing evil.  We represent King Jesus!  He is the way, the truth and the life, those who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  We fight for souls of humanity by the power of His love.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


The troops flood the breakfast remnants ever-ready for defense of the coveted sugar cubes.
"Who is who?  Is someone winning?" I ask six-year-old General Zion who steadies a trembling plastic private.
"Not yet Mommy," he answers, "first I have to finish getting everybody ready for battle!"

I know you know that our house is sometimes its own battlefield.  With our combination of strong wills, driven leadership instincts (all adopted babes are first borns from their maternal biological families), and rebellious hearts like mine; conflict resolution takes creative strategy! Yet I often find myself in the midst of chaos before I have a plan!  I cling to the hope of peace and flourishing lives submitted to selfless choices, but sometimes these parenting desires feel far out of reach.

I am happily awed by the consistent lessons our children teach me through their straight forward outlook in the moment.  My own heart must prepare for success in the battles we all face!  Between their words and through a peek into the garden, I hope to offer some encouragement for the day!

Come check on my experimental idea on the sunny side of the house.  I planted tomato shoots early in the summer amidst the roses.  Initially, it looked industrious and savvy but by this first week of September, the roses seem weary and the entangled mess appears to be a failed experiment.  I lift the branches as something red catches my eye.  Low and behold, fruit glances up at me; a merry party of healthy tomatoes dangle, delighted to have their secret existence discovered!  There is fruit from hard work, not because I am the best gardener, no, not at all.  The fruit exists because the Master, who planted the idea in the first place, has poured His grace over my endeavor.  And so we focus back to the most important subject, the humans.  God's precious children placed into our lives are His!  The tedious labors of the day inside and outside might look like a mess, but God's love and sovereign plans are good and overflowing, up from the soil, in the deepest places.  Seeds planted from the love of God produce beautiful fruit from His merciful hand.

The only real strategy I've got is to walk closely with God.  When battles rage or the view before you looks like a mess of your own making, God is creating something beautiful through you, His precious Him for the outcome!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Ezra awakens with a frown pressing down on her usual bright countenance. She sinks to the second step from the landing and leans her elbows heavily on her knees.  She looks at me solemnly.  Everything is wrong.

"Perhaps you are hungry?" I suggest, as I try to take her hand.  She denies me the privilege and shrugs, then slogs down the stairs as if her feet are sticking to mud.  "Perhaps you should go back to bed?" I wonder out-loud anticipating the flat glance I receive in silent reply.

Ezra sets her own breakfast place with graham crackers and my mom's homemade jam.  Her favorite striped glass usually reflects her cheerful mood. Today, however, she doesn't care.  The two graham crackers break in the center.  She is mad.  I carefully remove two sheets from the snug brown paper, with a dramatic flare, and place them on her plate, "Taadaa!"  She runs from the table, back upstairs, pulls the blanket over her head and begins to sob!
I stroke her back as she hides from sight.  I am reminded of the early days, when she was fifteen months old and had only just arrived from Ethiopia.  There was a morning similar to this one, not in outward mood, but in the strength of character and independence revealed.  The crib blanket could barely cover her. When I attempted to help, she kicked at the parts I'd smoothed, then would try in vain to pull all corners flat.  Her tiny foot always appeared as soon as she'd gotten the edge up to her neck.  Again and again she attempted to care for herself in this ironic display of using a flimsy blanket without success.  And yet in her stubbornness, she refused to allow the one who loved her to help.  I recall feeling heartsick watching her reject my care, while the lesson prodded my inward independent spirit.  How often I'd tried to control my life without surrendering the most vulnerable places to God, as if His help were only for designated bigger things, outer struggles or life involving the world beyond. Without God, my futile attempts were as vivd as my tiny baby's refusal for help...then.  But time is the great differentiator when trial and error prove our foolishness and independence fails us enough, need invites humility to gently enter the scene and everything changes.

I kiss the blanket-clad head and explain, "When you are ready, I will teach you to remove the graham crackers, unbroken...then you can do it yourself." Several minutes pass before the willingness can take affect.  Ezra joins me in the kitchen downstairs and climbs into her chair.  Her plate is empty because I have already shimmied the crackers back into their tight space.  I show her the careful way.  Her first attempt fails.  I remove the broken ones and the next one she takes slips out perfectly!  She "jams it" (as Zion would say) and almost smiles.  Then she asks for orange juice.  With a sigh I admit, "The only way for juice today is if you make it yourself, but you must let Mommy help you."
Ezra eats quietly, taking time to decide.  Then she asks for help.  I give it. Together we make a wonderful team.  I am thankful for her reminder of deeper things.  I am also thankful that the rare morning storm of bad mood has rumbled away, leaving clear eyes and calm skies ahead.  I wish to shoo the storm out the door once and for all, but we know it will return on a different day or hour, to attack another.  When it does, I hope I'll be patient enough to learn the next lesson!

Friday, August 22, 2014

For Now

Do current events tempt us to give up our belief in the power of good over evil?  Do we wonder, How can this end well, as despair paralyzes the hope we hold dear?  If it were up to our reflection in the mirror, our dejected nods to self would seal the isolated despairing yes, without even bothering to consider the possibility of a happy ending.  But as global brothers and sisters of our loving God, we mustn't forget that in solidarity of faith and boundless belief in miracles, our steady, humble prayers, reach ears in-tune and a heart willing to unleash the ultimate joy.  The eternal joy that follows suffering is offered freely from the One who daily gives the dawn that follows the darkest night.

I have found an illustration which reminds me that this human dwelling place is not our ultimate home:

The most spectacular moments of delight or seconds of terrible suffering known at the train station stop, are still only experiences along the pause in our journey onward.  No station break will be a lengthy halt on our trip to our ultimate destination.  The pangs of travel, as we bear our baggage loads of chosen items we hope will equip us, or feel forced to carry, are temporary.  With that in mind we choose to endure the struggles we encounter in passing.

Each time our connected cars stop, we do not plan to stay behind.  We trust the train and know the tracks will guide us to our final goal.  The stations along life's way were never meant to be more than the necessary stops.  Do not lose heart, do not lose hope!  Fix your eyes on the destination as we slip through dark tunnels or are borne up mountains steep. Side-by-side, as devoted travel companions, we care for one another and strengthen the weak of heart, as we place our belief in the eternal power of the Conductor.  He will carry his passengers safely home.  He is vigilant and leads faithfully.
The power of good fuels our trustworthy locomotive.  With each passing day, we approach the end and anticipate joy!  For now, while there is still time, we speak the truth in love to fellow travelers and thrust out sturdy hands to grip and guide all who wish to come aboard with hearts surrendered.  In anticipation of our glorious destination and surrounded by our compassionate community, we find courage to press on.

And at the joyful culmination of the journey, we will embrace the loved ones waiting there and tell of all that we experienced, exhausting but worth it when we have finally arrive.  That day will be good, so good and nothing bad will linger to steal our communion of joy!

For now, we must be faithful travel companions! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


The closer I walk with God,
the less the opinions others hold 
of me, matter.
The less their opinions of me matter,
the more God's opinion of them,
matters to me. 
As I place my hope in Christ and pursue his way, 
seeking other's best frees me from myself,
displacing the influence of destructive assumptions and insecurities. 
Through the lens of his love, I see the answer to the daily question,
How then shall we live?
Walk closely and love well, Dear One.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Amidst Miracles

Sometimes searching for miracles requires retracing our steps.  Salomé says I can share her own special story of God's provision in the eleventh hour.

Newborn Salomé awakened on the morning of her 29th day of life with a fever. Within a few hours we found ourselves in the hospital surrounded by pediatricians, nurses and an infectious disease doctor, as she underwent multiple tests revealing nothing.

For six days I sat beside her bed, vigilaint, hardly sleeping or eating, reading my Bible and praying as our preciouis baby became grey and listless.  There were no answers as to why our healthy child should suddenly decline at such an alarming rate.  Dennis and my mom kept the rest of the household going, but everyone felt helpless.  Friends spoke encouragement saying, "Why would God take a four week old baby who's already been through so much?  She will get well!"  I responded strongly, "Who are we to know the mind of God?  If Salomé's life is fulfilled in 29 days, then we must accept that.  She is God's, and we will celebrate the days he allows us to have her!"

On the sixth day of Salomé's illness I heard from the Lord, "It is finished."  In Texas, our adoption social worker Carol, heard the same three words.  Neither of us shared them, as we both believed Salomé would die. When the darkness seemed to consume the hospital room, on the night of that sixth day, two nurses entered.  One was round and bossomy, the other, who called herself the apprentice, was tall and thin.  They were rough and kind and I'd never seen them before that night (or since).  "Come," said the mentor, "Give me that baby and we will pray her back to life!"  She placed the fragile body on her ample chest and she began patting, praying and singing.  After several hours, Salomé began to move, the greyness disappeared and she drank hungrily from her bottle.  The women were gone before morning rounds. When the staff saw Salomé, they were speechless and every test incicated that her boby was completely healed.  We praised God!

Years later, Kelly, a friend of ours did her pediatrics rotation through that same hospital.  The first story she heard on her tour of the pediactric ward was of "The Crazy God Lady and her baby that lived..."

Just before stealing this writing moment, I was given a reminder that not only must we remember miracles, but we must look for God's quiet messages of hope in everyday things.  This clockface from a tower in Vienna ca. 1850 fills the dining room wall.  We have set it at the eleventh hour, because Jesus is coming!  It is obvious that the second hand is formed in the shape of an angel, but Today I realized that the minute hand is in the form of a harp.  Once the harp reaches the angel, in God's perfect timing, the Angels will Sing!  Until then, let's keep searching and praying for miracles in our own lives and over others, throughout the globe.  Joy abounds in time and space from the healing hand of God...encouragement from One Crazy God Lady and a Beautiful you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anticipating Joy

The air in the schoolroom felt stifling as Littles sprawled on pillows, the couch, the floor and me.  On the computer screen the late night movie, Hook, enthralled their spirits with adventure and fantasy, while I watched in celebration of Robin Williams' talent and in sadness over his death.

At just after midnight I carried Emmaus and Ezra, the sleepers, down to the twin blowup mattress I'd prepared in the basement and the others climbed into the big bed in the guest room (Gabriel's room when he is home).  The rumble of a pending storm outside startled me a bit as I slipped under the light covers beside Zion.  Dennis' 4:45 a.m. alarm would be the only thing awakening him upstairs as the Littles slept soundly in the coolness of the bottom floor.

At 3 a.m. Zion gruffly spoke, "Bloody nose Mommy..."  I pulled off my night-gown (the things we mothers do!)  and held it to his face as we navigated passed the mattress and coffee table attempting to not bloody the bed and floor on our way to the bathroom.  The light over the mirror revealed my night-gown still held to his nose, full of blood, and myself, almost naked and feeling vulnerable, as I soothed him.  Surrounded by darkness, as I held our boy, I thought of the Iraqi mothers holding their bloody children, watching earthly death steal from them their hopes and dreams of a new day for their families and future and I cried.

This morning, to my astonishment, the sheets of the guest bed were white as snow, still beautiful and appearing freshly laundered as they'd been before the night.  The day shone clear through the window where there was no trace of blood on the floor either.  Only my night-gown, soaking in the sink, bore the evidence of Zion's struggle.  Yet even the cloth of my gown no longer held the blood, the water had taken the stain into itself.

The jarring of the night led me to my Bible.  Psalms, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Ephesians, the places in which I have found solace lately, did not draw me in.  So I started at the beginning and read from Genesis 1:1-4 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.  And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."

Beloveds, if this earth were it, the beginning and the end of us...if we were but physical beings thrown as dice, dependent on the luck of the spot on which we dwelt, despair could consume us.  The sacrifices and selfless choices poured into each day would be for nought.  But it is not!  Our time on this amazing earth is only a small part of the real adventure.  This current planet home which sometimes drains us deeply with sorrow and struggle is really just the guest room, preparing our hearts for home.

And we can be sure that joy comes after long nights because we know who made the morning and our hope is restored as we daily learn to trust God more.  Death does not win,  Jesus' love has overcome it through his blood.  My acronym for HOPE today is this:  Heaven's Offering Promising Eternity.  There will be a time when blood, storms, sweat and tears are no more, that day is coming soon.   Together we anticipate joy in the light of Jesus' love and promises.


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Way

                     (Emmaus and our friend's dog Lido, three years ago)

Do you remember the disciples referring to the Gospel in the book of Acts as The Way?  What shall we do?  Which way shall we go?  This way...The Way.  Isn't it refreshing to know that God's way is always the right one, and the exact direction of our lives, to be lived in love, is displayed in God's Word through the life of Jesus.

Almost five years ago, on the 2nd of October, Ezra and Emmaus arrived home from Ethiopia, accompanied by Dennis, Gabriel and Magdalene.   At the age of two-and-a-half, Emmaus could speak fluent Amharic, which none of us could understand, except for the simple words meaning coffee and dog.  On his first night home, instead of sleeping, he screamed.  I held him and wept.

In the beginning of our adoption paperwork, when the process appeared almost impossible, Amara, our sweet friend and I saw a photo of Emmaus'  beautiful, solemn face.  The name on the email said Kidron, which means of darkness, sadness and obscure.

For years the name Emmaus had beckoned our hearts to the thought of another boy, even when we were in the process of adopting Zion, whose birthmother, Anna, chose us before he was born.  And while we prayed over a baby girl named Ezra.  (Zion is 9 months younger than Emmaus and Ezra is 6 months younger than Zion.)  Each name came to our minds more than nine months before the three Littles were born.  (No, there are no more names, in case you are wondering, though there was one...but that is a good story for another day.)

The road to Emmaus is the way on which Jesus walked, after his resurrection.  There was no more darkness, sadness or obscurity.  Jesus had risen and His followers could walk in forgiveness and the joy of transformation!  It was simply the definition of each name, Kidron to Emmaus, which gave us clarity in our adoption.  God would transform this toddler's life, as He had ours, and we would be given the privilege of becoming his parents.

Now, as a seven-year-old, Emmaus has written us a letter.  He first slipped it into my hand asking that no one else but Daddy be allowed to read it.  I have since been given permission to share it.
"oooooooooooo [hugs] I love you more than tv and Pie and cooking and friends.  I love you when you cook and when you bless me and our family and dad you bless me too and i love you'  you are my favorite mom and dad love Emmaus"

I share this today because God loves Emmaus, you, your dear ones, me and all His children.  Sometimes our circumstances or those of others' tempt us to believe He has forgotten us, or sent this world swirling without a care.  But even in darkness, we can trust and wait for His light.  It is on the horizon.  When our path seems sad, God will lead us through it and joy follows suffering when we stay close to Him.  And the obscurity of today, our struggles, this age; they must serve to draw us closer to the One who holds our lives in His hands.  We can find hope in God's way, and walk with Him along this earthly road, leading to eternity.  Be encouraged.  If one precious little boy, living under our roof, can have his entire life transformed by the love of Jesus, then you can trust your life to Jesus as well!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Future with a Hope

We watched an ant haul a moth across the driveway.
A Little asked why.
"It might use the moth for food or building," I answered.
"Or perhaps it has always dreamed of flying," replied Emmaus.

In these dark days of loss and suffering in many countries throughout our precious earth, I am tempted to despair.  But the God of the Universe who calls us by name, who never sleeps or turns His face from our requests, is with us.   It is we who have been given the privilege to be the hands and feet of His compassion, healing, love, encouragement and sacrifice.

The Enemy is strong, his way is brutal, seeking to strangle our attempts to believe in Hope, seek power through prayer and act with courage.  He whispers or sometimes screams, "Fear men, fear me!  Fear the relentless violence and revenge...hide from the future, your dreams will be shattered as I destroy the innocent and most fragile among you, while you gaze in horror, helpless and weak.  I will prevail!"

Beloveds, God says, "Fear Not!" These are the first two words spoken by angels throughout God's Word when something big is on the horizon.  God will give us strength and direction now, as we turn to Him for revival.  We must open our hearts and our ears to The Lord, trusting that His sovereignty remains and His love will comfort, restore and guide His children.  As we turn our backs to Satan's lies, we receive encouragement and inspiration from these words given through
Habakkuk 1: 2-5
"How long O Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife and conflict abounds.
Therefore law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so the justice is perverted.
The Lord's Answer
"Look at the nations and watch-
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe
even if you were told."

We will call to The Lord, read and write words of truth and belief inside our very thoughts.  We must draw close to Him and pray for everyone and everything!  Prayer is powerful.  We can love well in the earthly realm in which we have been placed, as we hope in the eternal hope of Jesus that remains secure, though mountains tremble and seas quake.  God is alive and well and with us.  He shall overcome!

Like Emmaus we look at life with innocent eyes of possibility, trusting God with our dreams.  There is a future with a hope, secure in Jesus!

Isaiah 40: 31 equips our hearts with courage, "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."


Monday, July 21, 2014

Love's Portrait

Here I stand in an ink-blue, polkadot skirt, smiling at Master Artist Ezra.  She often draws portraits and writes love notes with the few words she can spell, to Dennis and me.  These we find taped to our bathroom mirror or bedroom door, wherever we may most likely see them.  Ezra loves well.  When a child invites you into their heart space, the soul is refreshed, unconditional love abounds there.
Not long ago I saw this unfettered love displayed through the actions of a stranger.  A Latino grandmother scooped up one of her two charges, spoke brusquely into his chubby face, then set him back on his tottering feet.  She leaned forward a bit in her chair and breathed out a rich sigh of pleasure as she gazed lovingly at both children.  

Our five Littles sat close to me, devouring soft ice-cream cones at the IKEA café, while I sipped hot coffee.  Our uncharacteristically calm demeanor allowed me a few seconds to enjoy the sight of the grandmother's love, expressed in her fussing over clean faces and full bellies, as she coaxed the smallest child to eat his last bite of hotdog.  She noticed me watching her and smiled at my crew as she extended her arm in a sweeping motion, "Mama?" I nodded.  She continued, in broken English,  "Oh, so, so beautiful, hmmm, nice."

In her look and actions, I was acutely aware that she believed I had birthed each of our five youngest children.  Women understand women.  I began to explain, but she would not let me speak. "No, it's okay, I know...and so, so, so beautiful...and you, yes, yes..."  she nodded kindly.  Her grandchildren were done and ready to run, as children often are in an instant.  She blessed me with her gentle eyes and bustled away.

In these eleven years since our adoption journey began, Dennis and I have had some interesting interactions, been questioned and sometimes felt almost accosted by strange remarks over our diverse family.  But I have never seen a reaction to the beliefs of this woman; that I must have had a life with many lovers, husbands or boyfriends... and yet instead of viewing me as one with a Scarlet Letter, she saw me as beautiful!

Condemnation is easily given power over our opinions, like a weed in the garden, it seems to pop up before our very eyes and displays itself vividly through our slightest glance.  The accusing thoughts attack quickly and if not wrangled in the instant, destruction of relationship or self-worth is immediate, as quickly as a gash from a dagger wounds.  I am in-tuned to this in the intimate choices of a pregnant teenager as well.  We say we support life.  We say promiscuity in our community is acceptable.  However, what is our true view of unplanned pregnancy?  Somehow judging the woman is an acceptable form of hypocrisy and condemnation in our society.

Psalm 119: 22 says, "Remove from me scorn and contempt..."  It always starts with me.  If I can look on others in the same way that Latino grandmother and my daughter look at me, then you will be loved well...and if you can look at the next face you see in that same manner, then they will be blessed, and... 

This is love's portrait.     

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Ezra grabbed my hand and pulled me to the stone steps leading down the length of the yard.  "Mommy, Mommy, come see," Zion called, as he stood beside Emmaus gazing up into the branches of a tree.   This simple tree has lived and flourished for seven years on the lower terrace, but has never produced fruit.  Yet today, a single plum, almost ripe, invited us to stand under her canopy of leaves to behold her surprise existence.  Emmaus spoke in hushed tones, "It's a miracle, I've never seen a miracle before!"
"Yes you have," Zion answered, "when you were adopted!"

Are you waiting for a miracle?
Many of you know that for five years I prayed about adoption with no 'fruit', not even a hint that we may someday be able to adopt.  I prayed desperately for just one more child to add to our biological flock of three.  Never would I have imagined that for each year of prayer, God was building trust and patience in me, and that in His time, those five years would become five children!

The little discussion between a 7-year-old brother and his two 6-year-old siblings from across the globe, under a 7-year-old tree presenting her first plum, is the tangible miracle I see before my eyes today.   Trust God with your dreams, he planted them in you and nothing is impossible for Him!  

Monday, July 7, 2014


This morning I glanced at the familiar pots flanking our front door, as I turned from waving goodbye to Elias, who was headed to work.  The cascading blooms always steal my attention as I instinctively snip-off dead leaves and vines-gone-astray with my fingers.  To my surprise this simple variegated filler plant held up its beautiful secret; two white blooms.  I had no idea it had flowers to offer and yet if I did not look closely, perhaps I would never have noticed!

I am reminded of an event last week, ever so momentary, but poignant none-the-less that I wished to share with you.  As I sat in my car waiting on the green light for my left turn onto a side street, I noticed an elderly man.  He looked like a retired Santa Claus in overalls as he stood at the edge of his lawn with his hands shoved in his pockets.  He watched each vehicle closely as they passed by him.  The house beyond looked as unkempt as he did, not shabby exactly, but in need of attention.  I felt sad for him.  The cars were certainly fascinating to him in some way, or maybe it was the people driving them.  Perhaps he was lonely, weary and bored and came out to his curb every day to watch life pass him by...

The busy street suddenly cleared and in an instant, the 'lonely-weary-aging-Santa' dashed across the street, grabbed an armful of mail from his huge mailbox and zipped back over to his yard.  In a flash he was back inside his house!

I laughed out-loud at my ridiculous assumptions!  I almost felt as if I owed the gentleman an apology!

In my morning reading of Psalm 51 the focus is on self-examination, seeing our own sin for the ugliness it is and entrusting ourselves to God's unfailing love, making us white as snow and restoring our joy.  Only God knows the hearts of men.  Our job is to assume nothing, but to be willing to see the best in other's and to humbly expect joy in the unexpected.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I once stood under the drenching of a delicious steaming shower while holding a cup of coffee.   Yes, true story.  I know it sounds more like a poorly written sit-com moment, the ones writers insert at 3 a.m. when they are spent and shooting begins at 6 (as if I know the art of TV screen-play writing!).  But haven't we all been in such a moment of stress and need?  That day when we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life, when all our coping and struggling come to nothing, so we double-dose on something normal yet verging on the ridiculous, thinking that by upping the anti we will provide for ourselves the courage and ability to get through the pain of the day.  It doesn't work.  It never will.

Pastor Jim Fleming used to say that when a waiter carries a tray of drinks and is jostled, that which is in the glasses spills out, indeed...and what might one find if we were jostled in such a way?

My own illustration comes in the kindergarten classroom form, since you have probably come to realize by now, that with children ranging from almost 23 down to 5, I never seem to graduate into elementary school.  When you and I are pressed, sweetness can be found.  How on earth is this possible.  S'mores!  The answer is simple, Beloved Friend.  When the heat is unbearable, and the refining fire is truly at work and we have come to the end of ourselves, if we have asked of God to do the filling...if we have sought His truth in His Word and trusted Him with our lives, even when the world laughs at our foolishness...sweetness will spill from our difficult circumstances.  Perhaps you wish to stop reading now?  Perhaps my solution looks flimsy and only for my life across the minutes and miles from your hard thing.  Test me, Dear One...not because I have authority, but because I have seen God's grace and beheld His truth in some terrible, dark places about which I can never tell you.  I know the truth that when God fills us up, when the nooks and crannies are filled with faith, hope, love and belief, you will find His goodness in unexpected places, empowering you to live joyfully, mightily and strong, because when pressed, His goodness in you appears.

God is with you, in the deepest places, ask Him, knock, request His fellowship, whisper the name of Jesus and see the goodness, sweet and delicious filling your soul!  God bless your day, Dear One!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

God is in the Details

I promise, there is nothing that matters to you that God doesn't see.  Even in the most minute thought or quiet longing, God cares.  Does anyone else know the number of hairs on your head?  Not even you.

Yesterday morning, in my flurry of responsibilities, I felt a check in my spirit.  Two huge garbage bags filled with clothes from five years' worth of Elias' wardrobe additions, void of subtractions until now, lay piled in the garage.  The one to whom we'd committed the items would arrive soon.  I poured through each piece thinking I was searching for an Australia T-shirt, a gift from one of Dennis' trips (that was not in the bags).  Slightly confused as to why I was even searching, I held up a nondescript navy Hanes top, which I knew had never been Elias'.  I was clueless as to the one who had owned this item.  Then the truth hit me.  I felt startled and pale at the idea that I'd almost parted with so precious an article of clothing.

When 9-year-old Salomé was three days old, her precious birthmother placed her beloved daughter into our arms amidst streams of tears flowing between us.  She tucked the T-shirt she'd been wearing around our newborn's tiny body, "To remember my smell, if she fusses." She said weakly.

Two years ago, I gave Salomé the shirt again.  She loved it and at first carried it everywhere, but swirled in her bedroom of dollies and delights, the simple shirt disappeared.  It must have meandered the house until it arrived with its most likely owner, Mr. Every Color as Long as it Matches Blue, Elias.

Sitting on the garage floor, I clutched the precious memory of Salomé's birthmother and thanked God for prompting my search.

Perhaps you think this is silly, I hope you don't, but I will happily explain something you may not have considered.  To an adopted child every sweet connection to their birthmother and heredity matters, if not while they are young, someday in the future it will.  Our identity unfolds in time, mixing sorrow and joy to build depth, compassion and love.  I believe our collected stories told over us and about us, are treasures beyond measure.  And just think, God stores our tears, our prayers, and our days in eternal memory, reminding us of what matters...trustworthy with every detail!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Walking on Water

The first moment I met Ezra, four years ago, she clung to Magdalene as she had since the day they left the orphanage.  Dennis, Gabriel and Magdalene had journeyed to Ethiopia to meet and bring home our two precious Ethiopian children.  Two and half year old Emmaus slept soundly in Dennis' arms in the airport.  Emmaus' five hours of screaming on the flight had exhausted him thoroughly.  Dennis wore the battle wounds of our new little boy's fears in the form of bloody teeth marks to his face.   I reached my hand to Magdalene's chin and tears began to stream down her cheeks.  "Being a Mommy is hard," she wept.

At fifteen monthes, Ezra could neither walk nor eat solid food.  Each time she was given something to eat or drink, she'd hold it in her mouth without swallowing, perhaps she percieved each mouthful would be her last.  Intially she'd sleep sixteen hours a day, until I realized she was sleeping her life away!

Within the first 30 days of our adoption my mother and I contracted Hepititus.  Suddenly, I lay sick in a dark room for the duration of two months.  Dennis and our three oldest children had to juggle everything, especially the difficult traits life in an orphange had forged.  Chaos took hold of our family, while close friends cared for as many of our needs as possible.

When Jesus' disciple Peter asked if he might also walk on water, Jesus answered, "Come!"  In the darkness of the night, over the tumultuous sea, Peter believed he could do the impossible, with Jesus' guidence.  I imagine Peter's strong character and trust as he stepped out of the boat onto the waves.  At first he did not waiver, but when he took his eyes off Jesus, fear of the powerful storm overwhelmed him and he sank!  He cried to the Lord to save him.  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" (Matthew13:31 NIV)

What impossible thing are you facing, Beloved Friend?  Tough situations often look worse the more closely we examine them and we are seized by hopelessness.  In the midst of the dreams of our lives, we're struck by the pain of unexpected circumstances and things appear far different from what we had imagined or think we can handle.  Can this ever turn out well?  We ask ourselves.  But Jesus did not instantly calm the storm into which Peter walked.  Jesus met him there and brought him through it!

Look at our children and rejoice with me!  Be inspired Beloved!  As these siblings dance in puddles, in celebration of family, and the joy of childhood, remember the stuggles through which they have walked.  Impossibility did not win in their lives, nor should it rule in yours.  The God of miracles is at work transforming you, even through your hardship.  We have no idea of what his wonderful plans are! Step out with Him in trust for He is faithful, no matter how strong your storm appears. Take one step at a time, splash or leap with your eyes steady on Him.

 Zion, who stands in the center of this photo, always says,  "God is with you!"  And Zion knows!