Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Standing on the Promises of God

We survived our homestudy visits, and survived is exactly how I feel about it.  Because while I joked about it Saturday, the reality is that you will not be denied permission to adopt based on a few spots on your floor, now if your dust bunnies eat children maybe, but really what they are trying to evaluate is who you are and whether you can "handle" another child.  And that means you answer question after question about the most intimate details of your life and heart.  As much as I like to talk about myself, it is exhausting.  You are always feeling like something will come up that means they'll say no (and I'll admit my family history does not look good on paper.)

I really didn't mind while I was talking, but I arrived home Monday night a bundle of anxiety that she would deny us or less problematic but more annoying, insist that we have a professional psych evaluation--which would cost us in money and time.  But one of the questions she asked was how you handle stress--and while trying to imply without lying that I never actually feel stress I answered: I drink a coke, I eat, I remove myself from the situation, I pray, read my Bible, call Oak or a friend.

So Monday night I was stressed.  I'd removed myself from her questions, I'd talked to Oak and a friend, I had eaten dinner including the high calorie coke, but I was still just so stressed and tense.  Oops, I had forgotten the most productive steps--praying and reading my Bible.  I was stressing about our adoption being approved because I was assuming it was in the hands of our caseworker, agency, and the US government.  I'd forgotten whose hands it is in--God.

It wasn't until I was lying awake long past bedtime that I remembered who can bring me peace.  I turned to my Savior and sought His solace.  I meditated on His word.  I could feel His peace transform my bundle of anxiety to rest.
God's word offers us many words of promise and encouragement, but the two verses I kept repeating in my mind over and over as He enveloped me in His comfort were:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding."  Proverbs 3:4  Really mostly just the Trust in the Lord part and it was almost as if He was whispering it to me, "Trust in your Lord, for I am the Lord your God."  (which is not an exact verse anywhere.)


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7 

So I went to sleep with thanksgiving on my lips and peace on my heart and Tuesday was a much different day.  The morning cleaning was work, but not frantic, and I even cracked a few jokes during the interview--like we leave the teaching of morals to our children to Awana and Sunday School--okay, bad jokes, but still I wanted to write this post because there will be many more times in my life (like today as we get ready to go camping) where I will need to remember :

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.  Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD,we have an everlasting Rock." Isaiah 26:3-4 


Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Happy to Be Here

Yeah!  We are on our mini-vacation* before our vacation.  Yesterday was spent swimming at the pool, taking lots of pictures, and dinner along the Columbia River.  Today is the science museum, possibly more swimming, and Oak talking the state of the union with an old friend while I talk to his wife about anything but and the children play--hopefully happily.  Tomorrow more swimming and a giant bookstore.

We are having a fantastic time on our pre-vacation.  It has nothing to do with the free wi-fi actually being free so I can check my blogs and facebook (no e-mail because I never remember my password) or that we were able to get a suite so Oak and I can have the lights on after 9.  It is just nice to be together as a family and not worry about the things we need to get done at home...which is a lot.

We timed this vacation to celebrate my birthday since on my actual birthday Thursday and the 3 days following we will be camping with Oak's family.  For the most part I enjoy his family, but camping not so much.  This time I cannot decide if it is the lack of internet or hot water I'll miss the most.  Hot water.  Definitely hot water. I actually believe (intellectually not emotionally) that going unplugged for a few days will be a good thing.

Unfortunately, or fortunately because we do need to get this done, we are squeezing two visits with our homestudy case worker into the 3 days we are home between trips.  I don't know what I was thinking!  Monday we spend the day an hour north for our interviews and then Tuesday she comes to our house.  I do not know when I will be able to shampoo the carpets, dust under the beds, and wash the windows.  She can deny us the opportunity to adopt based on the size of our dust bunnies.  She can!  Oak will not believe me.  He is also denying the lack of bark-a-mulch on our freshly weeded flower beds or the uncut lawn could impact her decision.  

Oh well!  Nothing I can do about it from here!  I'm going to go appreciate the hot water before we head off to our free hot breakfast.  I feel so very blessed.

* I try to avoid saying we are away from home on the blog until we are back, but everyone knows we have a giant mean dog that our cautious local family is checking on 10 times a day.  Also, I realized any thief bright enough to trace our ip back to our home computer won't want anything we own.  The most valuable thing we have is my camera...and THAT is with us.  Ummm, our VCR might be worth something.  I think it is the last one on the planet that still has tuner inputs.  If you do break in, do you mind shampooing the carpets for us?  Also, please avoid burning it down.  My husband's home burned down when he was a teen, and my childhood home burned when I was in my twentiess (after I met my husband).  I believe we will have trouble convincing our insurance of the pure coincidental happenstance if our home burns down.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just Read Galatians

Have you ever met someone that said, "I don't want to be a Christian; the Bible is just a whole list of don'ts."  What has been your answer?  I'm pretty sure I've answered with the platitude "Christianity isn't about don'ts, it's about dos."

And in some ways it is about dos:

Do Love God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Mark 12:30
Do Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Do Believe and be saved. Romans 10:9 
Do Repent so your sins may be forgiven.  Acts 3:19 

But somehow we (or at least I) have always been able to link it back to a don't--that don't thing in your life of which you need to repent.  In some ways this is the same idea I learned a few months ago about shifting the emphasis of the Gospel message from our sin and need for a savior to the hope available in Jesus, but God keeps showing it to me over and over so here I am talking about it again.

If I see this verse out of context:
My immediate assumption is that there is some sin the Galatians are struggling with preventing them doing what is right--Loving God, loving their neighbor, or believing.  Some don't they should stop doing.  Do you know the sin they were supposed to stop?

The sin of legalism--relying on law for salvation as opposed to faith.

Some people in the church in Galatia had decided that the non-Jew Christians needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.  The people were believing it and it was starting to cause division in the church, and Paul, he was mad!

Galatians 1:6-9 "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed."

Paul spends most of Galatians explaining why...nevermind, there is lots of points in Galatians, and I was really only trying to share what I learned from Galatians 5:7.

Do you know why Paul was so mad?  Yes, they were turning away from his teaching and the teaching of the gospel, but more exactly they were turning away from their salvation coming from faith in Christ and turning to salvation in the law.  The law.

Why is that a problem?  Because it cannot save us.  Christ died and rose again so we can be free from the bonds of sin.  Why subject ourselves to a yoke that God does not intend for us?

Galatians 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."

Do you see what I see?  Paul wasn't mad at them for a don't.  Neither was he mad about a do.  He was mad that they were giving up their freedom to be perfected by the flesh.

Galatians 3:1-3: "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

It is good for me to learn and remember that God loves EVERYONE while they are yet sinners and to wait on the Holy Spirit to bring them conviction on the don'ts while I extend them God's grace, love, and mercy.  

It is harder to let go of some of the dos at times.  Clearly it cannot be about salvation "for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" Ephesians 2:8.  But still it is hard not to have that list:

All Christians...fill in the blank.

But surely we are to turn away from sin and do SOMETHING!  Well, yeah.  But again, so silly, but it is about the emphasis.  Why are we turning from the don'ts and doing the dos?  What truth are the Galatians, and us, supposed to be obeying?

Paul tells us in the two verses preceding Galatians 5:7--
"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love."

Faith working through love.  Isn't that just a beautiful phrase?  We strive to be more like Christ, to love God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind, to love our neighbor because of love.  A lot comes down to love, doesn't it?

But how?  We aren't always very loving, are we?  Or at least I'm not.  I'm selfish and needy and lazy and...enough confession for today.  Paul even answers that in Galatians.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Galatians 5:16, 22-25.

Aw.  Just read Galatians--all the way through in one sitting.  It isn't very long and God's word can penetrate so much clearly more than my muddled ramblings.  All I wanted to do was put my Scripture and a Snapshot Photo into context.  You just cannot fit all the text of Galatians on one photo, well, and not have it be pretty :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Love My Daughter

Friday I played house with Sunflower.  It is her favorite thing to do right now and if the boys will play with her I don't see them for hours at a time (though the upstairs becomes a disaster).  But on Friday Huckleberry was still at church camp and SnapDragon wanted to "be by himself" so I played house.  I do play with Sunflower but too often it is in multi-tasking mode; not Friday.

I got my hair combed with pretty clips by my "mama."  I discovered why playing house seems to result in the shoes in my closet becoming completely rearranged.  I ate the marshmallows Sunflower cooked us for lunch.  And finally I got to lie down and rest.

For 3 seconds.

Then "Cock-a-doodle-doo!  Wake up, baby!"

"Umm, Sunflower, real babies will sleep for hours."

"But Mama!  You not a real baby, you just pretend!  Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

So I woke up and ending up driving the toddler bed to Texas to visit Captain Awesome. (Don't ask why the baby did the driving and not the Mama.  "Silly Mama!  I can't drive!  I'm only two!")
My silly, fun, creative, sweet and beautiful, not a baby anymore, girl!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Picture Perfect -- Summer

I feel like this blog is woefully neglected lately while my photography blog is getting a post a day; so unfair!  But I just have not been having any deep thoughts.  Aside from scheduling a sitter so we can meet with our Social Worker so she can write our homestudy so we can...all I have been doing is taking pictures, doing things with the kids so I have something to take pictures of, editing pictures, and making myself limit my children's screen time to the agreed upon summer limits.  It has been hard to be diligent because with all the rain "turn off the TV" results in a lot of mess and noise--but I say it--I do.  It just means I have no space in my head for deep thoughts.  

So that means you get a gratuitous picture of my son.  Nancy over at Ordinary Miracles and the Crazy Eight is having her monthly Picture Perfect Contest.  

Picture {Perfect}

The theme is summer.  I wasn't sure I could participate this time because with all the rain I might get a shot at summer in August.  But then I remembered some shots from the 4th of July--the nicest one we've had in a long time (the irony in that does not escape me).
Out of the different pictures taken at the lake that day, I chose this one because summer is:  the light, the swimming, the wet children, and the exhaustion.  He took a moment to rest, ate a plum, and went back to swimming.   He also looks so grown up in this shot (for an 11 year old) and to me, this year, summer means that last days of my baby boy.  Next year he is in middle school and before I'll know it (but hopefully not before completing an adoption from China) college.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Monday Morning

I did it!  I sent off all of our new paperwork to our SW so we can now schedule our homestudy visits.  

I called the mom of SnapDragon's best friend from school and arranged a play date for Thursday.  He cannot wait to see her. 

I called Huckleberry's school and then filled out his enrollment packet.  Then I took the two youngest to Huckleberry's school to turn it all in and pick up the forms for camp enrollment and elective choices.

I folded the clothes and put some of them away.

I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher.

Caught up on blogs and comments and watched an episode of Psych.

Also I got 3 1/2 hours of weeding done and it isn't yet 3:00p.m.

Overall a very efficient and stress relieving morning.  Sending off the adoption paperwork and making the phone calls lifted a huge weight from my shoulders, or more accurately untwisted the knot in my stomach.  It has been almost a year since we told our agency we were ready to renew our homestudy which was a little early, but now we are starting to cut it a little close assuming China's pace stays similar (which is a huge assumption).

SnapDragon has been begging for weeks to go see his little friend from school.  She is a sweet girl from a nice family, and he just adores spending time with her and sharing stories and active imaginations.  But arranging elementary age play dates is really uncomfortable for me.  I've been dreading making the call.  We've met her parents several times, but do we meet at the park, can she come here, do we have to have the whole family over, can we just let him play at her house?  Thankfully Mrs. Best Friend Mom suggested SnapDragon come over to play and have lunch Thursday.  I quickly accepted the easiest solution for me--the only work involved being driving him to and fro--feeling quite comfortable in the ability of two teachers to keep him safe.  

I am also glad to have confirmation from Huckleberry's school that he has a spot and will be in the system soon.

Okay, so maybe I ate a fresh pretzel off the floor because it was easier than taking it to the trash.  Maybe Oak took the paperwork to the post office and Sunflower put away some of the laundry (scarily well for a not yet 3 year old on her own prompting).  Maybe my friend's daughter did the weeding in order to earn money for her trip to Uganda with Samaritan's Purse, but I did do all the other stuff.  Surely someone has said that delegation is the ultimate form of efficiency.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fireworks -- Sunday Snapshot

We had a great Fourth of July weekend--the park, a birthday party, dinner with my Dad, a trip to the Falls, the Zoo, and the 4th itself at a friend's house on a lake.  
I am still sorting through all of the pictures I took.  But while I might later share the pictures from the Falls, the zoo, or the Antique Tractor Pull from the weekend before, fireworks might seem a little dated if I wait too long to share them.  

And I do want to share them.  They aren't perfect, but we had a good time watching them and it was a blast to take pictures--though my camera still smells a little smokey.  

The hard part is narrowing it down--so this blog gets 8, my facebook got 5, and my photo blog has another 8.

This doesn't include all the truly funky ones created by camera shake or me holding the button down a little too long that I still kept because laser lights in the sky is just really cool.

Kind of like this one, but even funkier with even more squiggly lines and colors.  Maybe by next year I'll have a tri-pod.
I'll admit it.  The boys favorite part was swimming in the lake, but I didn't take many pictures of that.

Nor did I take any pictures of Huckleberry riding the jet ski or Sunflower swinging on the swing set.  I did take pictures of Sunflower playing with her friend and feeding her friend's cousin play food, but I'll stick to photos of fireworks today.

Truly a blessed Fourth of July weekend.  I pray yours was also blessed and safe.  

Thank you to those in the military service and your families for the sacrifices you make in order to keep my country free.  Thank you for those who work at home to keep my family safe.

Sunday Snapshot


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ephesians 2:1-10

For the summer Bible study I am taking we are supposed to write down this week's passage--Ephesians 2:1-10--put it somewhere we are frequently and read it 3 times, 3 times a day.  It would be embarrassing to admit I am at the computer frequently if it wasn't already obvious.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  Ephesians 2:1-10

We are supposed to read it 9 nine times a day and allow it to seep into our soul so that we live as if we actually believe the promises God has given us.  "We are His workmanship."  "But because of His great love with which He loved us."  "For by grace we have been saved through faith."  

How blessed I am to have access to God's word on a daily basis to study and experience His great love for me.  Why do I waste that great blessing?


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lucky Girl -- a book response

I'll admit I've been taking a break from adoption books and letting myself read fiction again, nothing worth sharing.  However, I did recently finish "Lucky Girl - memoir" by Mei-Ling Hopgood.  Mei-Ling was adopted as an infant from Taiwan into the United States by a couple near Chicago.  The book tells of her relatively easy search for her birth family and her communications and visits to reunite with them.

In some ways, I enjoyed the book very much.  She was trained as a journalist so most of the story is relayed as it happens without much emotional editorial.  It is nice to see the perspective of an adult adoptee from Asia.  Her first interactions with her family and subsequent visits are portrayed very clearly making you feel like you are amongst the chaos and enthusiasm yourself.  As you discover more about the family dynamics and the whys of the adoption (including the fact that another daughter has been adopted out), you feel drawn into the mystery and drama.

In other ways, I found it disappointing.  She mentions her emotions occasionally, and I respect her desire to not put it all out there, but it feels a little simplistic.  Everyone, including the author, seems two dimensional, not a whole person.  The story almost feels like fiction it fits into a mold so neatly.  Adoption is good, finding birth families is not necessary, and if you accidentally do, you are sure to find it messy.  Ultimately birth parents are actually evil or stupid and weak like society believes.  Adoptive parents are the real parents.  She didn't say that in so many words, but I'm not sure how else to interpret her facts as they are presented.

Now her reality and story is her story even if it does read like a cautionary tale as to why to not reunite with birth parents (she actually has several birth siblings that "rose above" her parents backwards culture and make okay connections).  There are very few voices representing the adult Chinese adoptee, so it is great to have her book.  Her voice is important.  I only wish the raw emotion of her heart (that must exist) could be heard more clearly in her voice.

(By the way, I finally figured out what code I need for my review tab to just pull up the most recent reviews instead of me creating a list.  It has been bugging me for months, so I am very excited to have figured it out.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

I've been busy doing things with my family and taking tons of pictures--many I have posted over at my photography blog, so I haven't had time to write a thoughtful post.  

But I do want to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July (and for those in Canada, hope you had a great Canada Day!)
God Bless America! Please.