Thursday, November 22, 2012


In 1996 the US Army deployed Dennis to Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Magdalene was eleven days old, while the big boys were 5 and 3.  Our simple life in Honolulu, Hawaii was the only one we’d ever known as a family.  Our feet felt incapable of wearing shoes and our brown skin chilled at the thought of a blustery fall day in Heidelberg, Germany, our new home. My brave husband faced deployment, as he does everything else, by trusting in the Lord, and leading us to do the same. 

The days crept by, but children are resilient and rarely resent change.  As they began to thrive, I reluctantly sought the same.   From the wide windows of our row house one could see farmland, then the forested animal preserve, which extended as far as the eye could see.  The boys would race through our lopsided fence for each imaginative adventure.  They were pirates, cowboys, or explorers, but I fought my own mind, which imagined itself as a lonely prisoner in a foreign land. 

Then one afternoon, the sun beckoned me outside.  I was glad to see that the community picnic table where the neighbors often drank coffee or wine was empty.  Several meters ahead stood a crumbling stone farmhouse.  In the sunlight the dusty farmyard strewn with colorful clusters of wildflowers, quietly invited me to sit on its old rock wall. 

Close by, stood the silent figure of Oma Schilling, the 89-year-old woman who owned the farm.  Her aged brown eyes looked steadily into mine, then her gaze softened as she looked at newborn Magdalene, sleeping peacefully in my arms.  I motioned for her to sit, then placed my precious baby into her thin, strong arms.  She removed a clean, well-worn hankie from her pocket and laid it across Magdalene's chest.  The contentment in Oma Schilling’s eyes struck a chord in my heart over which I had built my own protective barrier.  We sat together and my weary spirit softened while hers was blessed.

Today is Thanksgiving.  In the midst of the rich aroma of cinnamon and sage, fresh bread and turkey, my thoughts draw me out of the present and back through the years to the things for which I am most thankful.  It is the exquisite people across the globe, in whose eyes I have had the privilege to look, for whom I am thankful.  God’s love rooted in the souls of men is the deepest well of refreshment one can give to another.  Man is not the source; he is but the conduit. 

May God bless you and keep you today and every day, as we share struggles and joys, all the while treasuring each other as children of the same mighty God.   

Friday, November 9, 2012


Zion presses his face against the cold glass, which steams up his view through the rectangular side window.  His soft brown eyes peer out into the chilly day.  Soon my mother, known to our children as Mor-mor, will appear, to whisk him away on his own short adventure.  They will walk to her house hand-in-hand, jumping into every puddle along the way.  Zion’s pockets will bulge with treasures of leaves the color of flames and stones that to him are more beautiful than any gem.  With chocolate cookie crumbs in the corners of his mouth and his boots packed in mud, he will return home an hour later, content.  

Across the room two immense boxes stand as still as Zion does now. Wide tape stretches to hold each “room” in place, while roughly hewn rectangular windows pierce the cardboard castle.  Earlier in the day Malachi had led his siblings in cutting and taping, then he had directed them to gather from the bedrooms the treasured framed photographs of each of their birth mothers.  Malachi photocopied each lovely face, and then taped the paper pictures to the window squares in the castle.  A flashlight shone down from an elevated piece of cardboard on the roof of the box, so that each exquisite picture could be illuminated. “Mamma,” Malachi had called, “It’s time for you to tour our masterpiece!”

The love and honor our children give to their birth mothers mirrors the way I feel about my own mother.  For when I was a child, she valued me and her life reflected the love of God.  I remember her wise words as she sat with her Bible in her lap in the early morning hours each day, “If you ever wonder about your faith, or the direction others are leading, read what Jesus said and did, then follow Him.”

Each of our birth mothers honored the life inside them.  As I sat in the box, with the photocopies of their beautiful faces surrounding me, I choked back my tears.  Outside I could hear our children’s joyful voices, anticipating my delight over their creation. We never know the outcome our choices will have on others until time gives us the answer, but God’s way of honoring every life will guide us well, always.  

When I think of light and windows, these verses from Matthew 5: 14,16 (NIV) inspire me, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”    

Monday, October 29, 2012

                       The Finer Things in Life

Wrapped in a bright orange scarf covered with swirls and a taupe wool hat to match, I felt a bit chic as I climbed into the driver’s seat.  The three smiling faces of the Littles, as we call them, met my glance through the rearview mirror.  “Buckle up!” I announced, “ We are off on an adventure in the city!”

Vivid seasonal colors in elegantly adorned shop windows, lined the narrow streets of the center.  I felt tempted to linger, but obeyed my mental list of tasks, as I grasped the hands of Ezra and Zion and kept one eye on Emmaus, who held to the edge of my pocket.  My efficiency fell behind the competitive goals of our three rascals who most certainly intended to medal in the Naughtiness Olympics!   

To our delight, a fabulous play structure stood in a wide cobblestoned area and beckoned the children in pied-piper fashion.  Heating lamps hung above benches, while the rich aroma of coffee wafted alluringly from a well-situated espresso bar.  I timed each of our children on the best of the climbing equipment.  Short lines began to form, as other children waited for my thumbs-up for the beginning and ending of their turns.  I find it interesting that we often seek order and boundaries from others, even in the freedom of creativity.

A toddler in a grass green colored jacket and brick red corduroy pants reached for a grown-up.  The caramel toned fingers of his chubby hand fell in sharp contrast to the creamy white skin of his daddy, who matched his son in clothes of impeccable taste and urban design.  I wondered if the intertwining of their lives had also begun through adoption.  Their tender greeting to a second caucasian daddy gave me the answer to my un-posed question. 

Rambunctious play gave way to the unraveling of moods.  My wavering patience remained intact long enough to find a café.  Sun-chips, soda, half-sandwiches, coffee and peanut-butter-chunk cookies quelled the rising storm as all munched merrily.  Overheated by the complexity of the moment, I whipped off my cap and scarf.  In a flush of embarrassment I found a plastic purchasing tag, still attached to my taupe fashion statement!

Just then, a beautiful young woman caught my eye.  She stood at the counter beside her father.  Thick brunette curls trailed along her shoulders onto a fuchsia cashmere sweater, which embraced her lean frame.  Her dress was of pink lace, the kind any girl would adore.  The elegant man wore a black trench coat, charcoal tweed pants and expensive shoes.  As she turned around I noticed the strange nature of her shoes, for they were flat rubber sandals.  In them she began to shuffle gauchely toward a seat as she held her cookie, she hesitated every few seconds.  Her glassy eyes anxiously watched as her father pulled his chair in close beside her.  The young lady mumbled a few words, and then looked to him again for affirmation, which he gently gave.  As they rose to leave, the father placed his raincoat over her frail shoulders and I caught his eye.  He wore an expression of strength and steady resolve.

I gathered up our mess, as Zion spilled his drink, Ezra squeezed the remnants of the cookie in her fist and Emmaus wiped crumbs from his pants.  Our vibrant crew raced to the car as I followed, choking back my tears.  My heart felt moved by the tender stories I’d witnessed in the day, which reflected dignity amidst struggle lived out loud by strangers before me.   

I threw my hat and scarf onto the vacant seat beside me and eyed my rascally crew through the rearview mirror.  Ours had been an adventure in discovering the finest things in life.


Thursday, September 13, 2012


Reading glasses are now included in my inner circle of inanimate object best friends. When the left hand reaches for the written word, the right hand finds the glasses. However, my rebellious mind often attempts closer examination without help! Time and again I seek to see glass-free. The result is always the same, all is blurry, and nothing makes sense. The consistent poor result of my stubborn attitude reminds me of my more desperate need. As I seek to understand the world before my eyes, I can only see it clearly when I reach for the Lord's help. He restores my focus every single time; smudge free through His lens of Love!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Voice In the Night

Nestled beside me in the dark, Zion stared toward the open window as the curtain whispered to the pane, beckoning us to look beyond.  In the garden, a frog song broke into the night.  The lone baritone sung to the starless sky in bold confidence.   Zion and I sat in the boys’ room listening amidst the audience of pillows and comforters, while Malachi and Emmaus slept.  The day had been difficult and I felt spent, but Zion did not doze, he waited as if in expectation.  The frog's crisp notes rose through our window, mesmerizing us.  Yet suddenly, without warning or a chance to request an encore, silence took center stage and the frog vanished.  He offered neither a bow nor a glance towards his four-year-old fan, perched in balcony seats.  
Tears brimmed Zion's raisin-hued eyes, so I, in hopes of capturing the fleeting joy of the serenade, imagined out-loud the journey of the green vocalist venturing where the crickets played their fiddles amongst the protégé plantings, sheltered from raindrops under the pavilion of hostas.  In my storytelling, sleep crept in and covered us both.

Several hours later I awakened in the darkness of the children's room.  Loneliness begged my company and I obliged, as I stared out into the weariness of the day, which had not yet begun.  Earlier, a messenger had stood on webbed green feet in my garden, but I could not will him to stay or, for a moment, understand why his swelling song seemed joyful.   The frog had burst in on the hushing of the day and, while I imagined to my son that all was well in the garden, in truth, it was well with me.  Loneliness is rarely alone, for Worry and Fear often accompany him.  I allowed myself drawn into their cadence, but their numbing influence could not keep me.  The melody in the garden began again.  This time Mr. Frog had also pleaded for an invitation for his friends.  And thus a choir of amphibians belted out their croaks of joy in fellowship as the sunrise received their offering.  It spilled forth glimmering rays of light to announce the dawn.  The promise of a new day is always behind the darkest night.  It is God's way.  And the best of ourselves is often revealed in the company of others. 

Dennis’ kind voice called from the hallway, “Where are you, Honey?” His words ands the smell of fresh coffee pulled me from my metaphors.  “Here I am,” I answered, thankful to be in the light and fellowship of the day.     

Friday, May 11, 2012


This is not my morning.  It is sunrise in the East, while at home in the West our family sleeps in the cool, still night.  The sunlight will soon soak into our chilled skin, warm and delicious; but for now Magdalene and I ache from our restless, uncomfortable night on the plane.  Yes, red-eye indeed, we have two sets to prove it!

In the airport we see faces everywhere, some are fresh, others seem to be a bit bedraggled-looking like ours; yet each is uniquely beautiful, made in God's image.  The stories held closely in the heart of each traveler are not for me to know, yet each person we see is a Somebody to Someone, whether they know it or not.  To God, there is no one more valuable than they.  Do they know this?  In the launching and the landing, their journeys take them from my wondering.

Our adventure is encapsulated in a 29 and a1/2-hour visit.  Anna, Zion's birth mother, has invited us into the next chapter of her story.  She has just given birth to her second child, Isabellia, whom she will parent, with her fiancé Fisher by her side.  Four years ago, when Zion was born, Anna and I were given 48 hours together in the hospital.  Then, Anna was 16, fragile and brave.  The exquisite intertwining of the grief and joy of adoption is difficult to describe.  If you ask Dennis and me about it, tears may come before words.  The beauty of an open adoption is that Anna and our family has a relationship and the pieces of the puzzle of Zion's life fit together for him to see.  We love Anna fiercely, and like all our birth mothers, she is part of us.

Outside the airport, Magdalene and I are a rumpled pair.  We are thankful for the metal bench, warmed by the sun, which lends us a spot to rest.  Fisher stops at the curb inquiring if we are his passengers.  He likes my shoes, and says so.  I like his smile, but I don't say so, not just yet.

The hospital room, in dimly lit reverence, welcomes us.  Anna, smiling through her exhaustion, shows us her precious child.  I tremble a little in amazement, for Isabellia closely resembles Zion, yet she is pink and feminine.  Our quiet hours together are rich in conversation and tender moments, but they disappear far too quickly.   I weep inside, after our embraces of good-bye, for there will be challenging days ahead for this new family.  But, this is not my baby.   She is Anna's.  This is not my family. This is Anna's.  Though I love Anna, God loves her more than I do.  His plan for Anna, Fisher and Isabellia is their unique journey, which we will encourage, celebrate and into which we speak life.  The interwoven members of a healthy family tree must grow outward and upward separately for the branches to become strong.  

The trip home is quiet and contemplative for me.  Magdalene studies Science for an early morning test.  She lends me her pillow, which softens the hardness I feel.  Her companionship is invaluable; she is the infusion of joy, which strengthens every good thing.

Elias kindly greets us at our airport in the West at 1 a.m.  Soon we will enter the cool, still night of our own home and Dennis will be there for us.   When daylight arrives, Zion will gaze at the pictures of Anna and Isabellia in awe, he will be pleased as he proudly shows his siblings.  In this morning there will be happy faces. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Arms Wide Open

Ezra's face lit up into a smile, she jumped to her feet, spread out her arms widely and ran to me. She buried her face into the crock of my neck and I breathed deeply, it was a moment of delight. The reckless abandon of my child's embrace is a picture of the way I want to live, in trust and surrender to God.

When I think of this kind of love, I am reminded of a woman I met during our years in Germany. She gave me a vivid view of the strength that comes from trusting in the Lord.

As I stood at the edge of the ICU entrance, I waited, as my friend spoke her final earthly words to her beloved husband. The day before her husband experienced a brain hemorrhage, from which he would not awaken. By the waiting room, I stood rooted to the floor as I watched the elevator doors open to reveal my friend's five children huddled together. Their mother came through the ICU doors and knelt to the ground. Although her petite frame looked frail, the width of her arms seemed boundless, as she tenderly reached out to encircle them. They fell into their mother's embrace and sobbed, as she was strengthened by the presence of her Savior.

During her husband’s funeral my friend’s lovely soprano voice enveloped the listening crowd. She sang these words written by Horatio G. Spafford:

"No pang shall be mine, for death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul."

To surrender to the One who chose to commit the ultimate act of selflessness by stretching out his arms on the cross, is to overcome. Today and for all eternity, God is with you; he is waiting with arms wide open.