Saturday, May 28, 2011

8 years of abundant life.

It has been nearly 9 years since my family adopted my sweet baby brothers as special needs preemies. The journey to get them was more than adding members to my family. The Lord used that journey to bring me to a true understanding of what the Gospel is.

You see, God had put it on my heart to pray for a baby brother or sister (preferably both and in the form of twins...) constantly since I was about 3 years old. I would often cry myself to sleep begging God to bring a baby to my family. I used to go on walks in my neighborhood hoping to either find an abandoned baby or a puppy. (There were neither in my fairly conservative neighborhood... which was so disapointing to me. What the heck kind of neighborhood has no lonely puppies or babies wandering around? Most of my friends lived in the backwoods where people dropped off puppies all the time. Apparently nobody does that sort of thing in historic downtown. anyways. no longer bitter about the lack of puppies. we had dogs. i just wanted to find one! you know?)

 I was 9 years old when my parents felt God leading them to adopt a baby boy domestically. I was overjoyed. I began cranking up the twin prayers and begging God to allow us to have two babies that didn't have a family instead of just one. {Plus, i didn't want to have to fight my other siblings over who got to hold the baby. You know. Logistics and such.}

Well, 8 months later, we got a phone call that changed our world forever. We had twin baby boys waiting for us at the hospital and we had until 2pm the next day to decide if we wanted them. There was just ONE little thing. They were born at 27 weeks gestation. {as opposed to the normal 40 weeks that babies are supposed to be inside the womb.} They could possibly be blind, and deaf and have severe learning disabilities. "Baby B" had also had a Grade 2-3 {1-5 scaled, 5 being the worst.}Brain Bleed at birth which could mean he might have Cerebral Palsy. They were also supposed to have Asthma, severe lung issues, etc.

God gave us overwhelming peace about bringing them into our family and my parents went to pick them up at the NICU where they had lived the first 7 weeks of their lives.

It was exciting and lovely and amazing for me for the first few weeks. Our living room became a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and we learned to chart cc's, work apnia monitors, heart monitors, oxygen machines, etc. We learned how to remind babies to breathe as they turned blue while drinking their bottles. We grew and they grew.

However, after a few weeks of machines {that sound similar to the screeching eels in Princess Bride} beeping every two seconds because of a loose strap on a baby's foot, it started to get old for me. Really old. You see, when I prayed all those years for a baby brother or sister, I meant the kind that you could hold without having to remain within three feet of the wires that they were strapped to. I meant the kind that I could play with and not have to wonder if they would ever be able to sit up and see me play peek-a-boo with them. I thought that God had chosen a pretty rude way to answer a kid's prayer.

That's when He spoke to me.

You were helpless and I took you in.

You had nothing exciting to offer me, but I loved you anyway.

You had no hope of survival, but then I cared for you.

You were an orphan that was outside of my family. Now you are my child.

Love these babies the way that I love you.

With Agape Love.

A love that is not self-seeking. A love that hopes. A love that perseveres.

1 Cor. 13:4- 13
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God gave me such a deep love for them through this revelation. So much so that I wouldn't take all the healthy babies in the world for my two scrawny baby brothers. They may have been sick. They may never be able to talk or play tag or ride a bike, but they were hand picked for my family and hand delivered in answer to my prayers. Loving them didn't depend on whether or not they could play with me some day. I need only love them because they were created by God and given to me to love.

I was to love these babies that He decided I was to be a sister to. I was to trust Him with whether they would ever be able to understand anything that I would say to them or try to teach them. Those things were too big for me to deal with. God would handle them for me. All I needed to do was trust Him and trust that His plan for them would be a good one, no matter what...



God taught me who I was and who He was through two sick baby boys. I was an orphan and He was a Father who loved me past my unloveliness.

He has taught me more about His Love through this journey than anything else. Everything else will pass away but His love is what remains.

Today these sickly baby boys are running around outside with perfect health, catching lightning bugs and talking to me about going to the pool tomorrow where they will swim underwater as long as they possibly can. Holding air in the little lungs that were never supposed to function properly. With funny little goggles on their eyes that were never supposed to see properly and listening to each other laugh and say funny things with the ears that were never supposed to hear. Praise Jesus.

    James-"Baby B"- Is the family thinker.

 We call him "The Director". He analyzes situations faster than anyone and before you even know what's going on, he has three possible solutions to the crisis at hand and he's telling you about them. He thoroughly enjoys swimming, cooking, playing with his brothers in the woods, building with legos and memorizing Bible verses for AWANA.

He memorized all of Psalm 23 last month with the brain that was not supposed to function properly. If you need help with something, ask James. He's a smartypants with a servant's heart. He is also hilarious.

His life verses are James 1:22 " Do not just be hearers of the word, but do what it says." and 1:27 "Pure and faultless religion in the sight of God our Father is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself unpolluted from the world."
 He shared his testimony of how God healed him with a Sunday School class a few months ago and asked that they all pray for orphans... Then He shared about how He ran into the wall and got a brain bleed and had to have stitches on his forehead...that was a little bit of blending of events but the kids seemed to get the point. Haha.

                                                  Jeremiah -"Baby A" is compassionate. 

He is funny and so sweet and He has a smile that brightens up your entire day. He loves to read, go to the creek, swim, slide down the water slide and play Monopoly. He has a heart for the Congo and we've never even been there. {He got to meet a Congolese man at Disney and He was so excited.}

He loves to build and create things.

He loves serving others. He has a quilt that I made as a youngin'  that has a pocket on the back for books.{ you know, for late night emergencies when you can't sleep but you're supposed to sleep.} He can often be found with a flashlight and a book far too late at night.
{Ok, so maybe I used to hide him in the pocket too. tiny man. haha.}

He told me a few weeks ago that he read the entire children's Bible to James the night before and then He showed me the page where there was a picture of Jesus on the cross. "We both cried when we got to this part." Their hearts for the Lord as so precious and I am so grateful for the gift they are to our family. I can't wait to see what the Lord does in and through their lives that were predicted to be so very different than the life that God had in mind for them. Jeremiah's Life Verse is Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

These verses were what God used to lead my parents to adopt. They were going to name one baby boy "Jeremiah James"...but then my faith filled prayers sabotaged their name and we got two babies! Jeremiah and James.

Had they not been sick, I might not truly know the Lord.
Had they not been sick, they would not have the story that God has given them.
Had they not been sick, the three littlest kids would never have been adopted. The Lord used a special needs tax credit from Jeremiah and James' adoption to provide for the other three Littles to come home 4 years later.

God worked the hard things together for good.
God is a God of miracles. He is Jehovah-Rapha. The God who heals.

But, even if they were still sick...God would still be good. He does not make mistakes. He IS trustworthy. If Jeremiah and James were never able to communicate or do the things that they are able to do today, God would still be mighty and His plan for them would still be good. I know that with all my heart. God's love is not based on what we offer Him. He chose to love us and that is what makes us lovely. That is what gives us the ability to love others. The season of sick babies gave me a bigger glimpse into God's glorious Love than any other season of my life so far. If they had remained sick, God would have been just as faithful.

This week, 8 years ago, these precious Boys were born. I can't wait to see the next eight years, and the next, and the next. My Boys, may the Lord bless you, and keep you, and make His face shine upon you. I pray that He uses you for His glory in the nations and that He blesses you with a long life of service to Him. I know that He holds every day in His hands and He has a good plan for you. I'm so thankful I get to know you and be your big sister. I love you so stinkin' much.

In the words of Meshach Shadrach and Abednego as they faced the fiery furnace for refusing to worship anything but the One true God...(Read full story in Daniel 3)

Daniel 3:17-18
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

They were thrown into the furnace and the men who threw them in were even killed by the flames, but Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego were seen within the furnace, walking around with one who appeared to be 'of the gods'. They came out without even a hair on their heads singed. This is the response of the King who sentenced them to the furnace...

Daniel 3:28-30
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 

When we obey the Lord and trust Him to carry us, even through the fire, He works in ways we could never imagine. Disobedience results in consequences as well as missing the blessings that God has in store for those who wait for Him. When we choose to worship Him instead of ourselves {or any other thing that we may put first,} we get to see His faithfulness to us come out in ways that we could never expect or even imagine.

Be encouraged if you are facing the furnace today. Seek the face of God and follow Him. He is the only one worth following and He will see you safely through. Trust Him and He will be glorified. It might take a while to see any fruit, but obedience to the Lord's calling, even when it's hard, always results in blessing. Maybe it won't be the blessing you were hoping for, but always blessing. Just you wait and see. God's ways are so much higher than our ways. We don't have to understand His ways, we just have to trust and obey. He will show us His good will in His good timing.

Beyond thankful for 8 years of incredible life with these treasures. I'm so glad that God knew better than I did.

"God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption..." 1 Corinthians 1:28-30

Jesus is with the lowly and the brokenhearted, the sick and the orphan. The "things despised by the world" are the things that God loves and uses for His glory.

May He grant us all His eyes to see what is truly precious. May He give us the grace to love with Agape.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baby Rapunzels