Hold on to that Tree

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Hold on to that Tree. It’s a phrase my one of my dear friends and I say, text, email to one another when we are growing weary in our adoption journeys.

A few months ago I read this post on Ann Voskamp’s blog, written by Jennifer Duke Lee (please take the 5-10 minutes to read). Her words stirred a deep truth in me that I needed to remember, one that you need to remember too.

Whether you are in the midst of waiting to bring home your precious child or you’re in the throws of attachment and bonding or maybe you’re only praying about adoption, we all need to remember that clinging to Jesus is the only way we can walk this path that is filled with many joys, but also many heartaches.

“When trouble comes – and trouble will come — when the river through your life swells and rages; or when the creek-bed cracks dry; when the storm marches across the sky, or maybe straight across your heart; you will be scared.

And it might feel cold. You might be tempted to grab for a sorry substitute, begging for the false hope of a rope.

But friend, you are strong. Hang on to the Tree that is even stronger. Hold tight to the tree that has already redeemed you, the tree that bore every ache you could fathom, the tree onto which every sin was nailed.

Hold on to the tree that held your Savior.”

 

So, this Friday as you close down your notifications on your email one more time or as you gear up for another weekend of what could be heart-wrenching work to break down the walls our little ones have built up for protection, remember that we have a Savior that has already bore every pain and He knows our tears.

 

Run to Him and never let go of our Tree. He is gracious and faithful to provide all the strength and patience that we will ever need.

 

Hold on to that Tree, sister.

 

{You’ll find this post over at Mercy Found Ministries as well. It’s a place for families on the adoption journey to find encouragement as they continue to trust God in the process.}

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i’m a dreamer

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I’m a dreamer. Not the visionary-type of dreamer, mind you. I’m a vivid night dreamer. My husband has declared the drive to work “Story time with Sarah” because I often spend the first 10-15 minutes sharing the previous night’s dreams to him (he doesn’t find them as intriguing as I do, but he listens…good man). My dreams are usually far-fetched stories that include bits and pieces of my days or something that we watched on TV the night before.

(I have a lot of Sydney Bristow (Alias) & Olivia Dunham (Fringe) dream-type dreams. Which often lead to interesting conversations as we drive to work!)

But, a few months ago I had a dream that has embedded itself into my mind’s eye and I hope it never leaves.

(Disclaimer: the dream is not how the reality is in our adoption process…that would be weird)

In this dream, my husband and I were headed to a hospital in the states to meet our children for the first time. We were walking through customs on a hospital floor feeling very nervous but excited to meet our children for the first time. We were then taken to a room filled with children and someone introduced us to our older daughter! She was beautiful, healthy, and happy playing with her friends and toys. We were then escorted to another room to meet our other child. As we entered the room, a nurse explained to us that our son was very ill. I went to him and saw his tiny, frail body and swooped him up. The nurse continued to tell us that he probably wasn’t going to make it and we should consider staying with him for as long as we can in the hospital.

In the dream, we weren’t supposed to take our children home yet; we could just visit with them for a short time. I pleaded with the nurse to let us take home our son for the remainder of his short life. As the nurse left to discuss with her directors, I held our son in my arms on a hospital bed. I told him how much I loved him and how wonderful he was and how I was going to do everything I could to make him feel better. He looked straight into my eyes and said “Mommy, I love you. All I want you to do is hold me until I die.”

And then I woke up in tears…

I also woke up with the pressing words of God on my heart…”I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” God clearly spoke to my heart that there are countless orphans around the world battling illnesses who just want someone to call Mommy and hold them in their most desperate moments. I was and still am overwhelmed.

What do I do with this dream? How do I act upon it? How can I hold those little boys and girls who are sick while I am thousands of miles away? How do I care for children who may not be sick, but their chances of adoption or family are slim to none?

I still don’t know what to do with this dream and with this heart desire. We sponsor two children through Amazima and Compassion. We are adopting. We give to friends who go to orphanages. We try to raise awareness. We pray.

But still I feel like I can do more and I want to do more. I want to go to the broken places. I want to hold the children, care for the sick, and tell them about the love of Jesus. I want to build relationships with orphanages and help them provide medicine, love, and staff.

I guess you could say that I am a visionary dreamer too…

when you feel like you have 700 million things to do

I woke up this morning feeling groggy and anxious again. The never-ending list has seemed to haunt my dreams as of late. The fundraising letters, thank you cards, fundraising plans, dishes, laundry, care packages, blog entries and the list could go on were whirring around my heart this morning and into the afternoon.

But all I wanted was for it all to be quiet.

The days of feeling like I have all the time in the world to get things done and I’m actually checking things off the list seem to be a distant memory.

Just yesterday my husband was updating a friend of his on our adoption and he mentioned how we are in a season of waiting and don’t really have much to do right now. I laughed to myself and shook my head as I looked at my long to-do list, with most of it regarding our adoption. It was then a little voice quietly spoke to my heart, “Sarah, you’re becoming bitter and discontent again.”

I was and to be honest, I’m still fighting off bitterness and discontentment. The toddler in me wants to throw a tantrum because I just want one thing in our adoption to be over! I would love to use the double “F” word (fully-funded) or to say that we have passed court. I fight the fear that my emotions and anxieties will take the better of me through this process and I don’t want to be defined by being an anxious busybody.

I long to be quiet. Not just the noise level, but I long for a quiet that washes over this tired soul and lifts it up to a peace that passes understanding.

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph. 3:17) 

This morning as I was washing the dishes and putting away the laundry, I stepped outside and gazed at the summer sky. I took a deep breath, and prayed that God would quiet my heart. And for a moment, He did. I pray for more of those moments.

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Yes, there will always lists to complete and I will have to work hard at times to help bring home our girls, but in order for me to stay sane and to enjoy this season that God has placed me in I need to take captive my thoughts and cling to the truth that Jesus brings quiet to my life even when there are 700 million things on my to-do list.

How do you quiet your heart and mind when life seems out of control?

Five Minute Friday: In Between

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These little shoes have little feet to fill them.  Those little feet are on the other side of the world, where my heart is.

We are living in the in between of not being parents and being parents. Every morning I wake up and wonder what our daughters had for lunch and if they are laughing and playing with their foster mom. Every night I pray that they are sleeping with full bellies and healthy bodies. Knowing who my daughters are, but not being able to care for them is just plain hard.

The in between stage for the majority women is a well defined 9 months. When people ask us how long we will wait, I go into a rehearsed speech of why it could be 7 months or why it will more than likely take at least a year for them to be in our arms and then explain that there is always the chance it may never happen. Every time my heart hurts when I speak those words.  I do not do well in the in between stages of life.

It’s here in the in between that I have found a deeper need, no a desperate need, to hold on to the One who holds time in His hands. He is the Only One who will be able to hold me in this season of longing for our daughters, to having in our arms and have our hearts filled with their presence. He is who I cry out to every morning, afternoon, and evening to be near our babies and to be near me.

I have found something special here. My loving heavenly Father is nearer now than ever.

In my in between.

Today I linked up again with Lisa-Jo Baker & her Five Minute Friday community. Every Friday a one word writing prompt is given and for five minutes you share your heart on what that word means to you.

Did you read my post where I shared my heart on the loss of our first referral? You can check it out here.

Our Story is Not our Own {Mercy Found}

Today I’m over at Mercy Found Ministries. Mercy Found is a ministry founded by 3 adoptive mamas who saw a need to encourage adoptive families on their journey. They understand the financial burden and need for community that the adoption journey requires. God opened their eyes to the plight of the orphan and used their individual adoption journeys to ignite in their hearts a desire to financially and emotionally support adoptive families before, during, and after their adoption. 

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In February of this past year, I anxiously opened my email to see a picture of two beautiful faces looking back at me and we were told that these girls would be ours. We lovingly named them A & M and began dreaming about the day they would come home. Six short weeks later, I received a phone call that knocked me to my knees. Those precious girls weren’t going to be coming home to us. A situation had occurred that would not result in an adoption.

At that point, I couldn’t see past my own pain and loss. I doubted God’s goodness for my family and doubted whether I could keep going. I was tired of putting my faith in building our family, only to see my dreams time and time again fall through. What I didn’t see was that God was working on behalf of those little girls for their good and He was molding my heart so that He would receive the ultimate Glory.

When my husband and I began the journey of adoption, we didn’t anticipate roadblocks of the magnitude we experienced and we also didn’t expect that God would use adoption to open our eyes to orphan care around the world.  When we were told that A & M were not adoptable any more due to a family member stepping forward, I didn’t understand.

In my American prideful mindset, I thought that what my husband and I could provide them would be best. I didn’t understand that adoption isn’t always the ideal choice. I had thought adoption was the only way to help the orphan crisis. That was until we received that phone call about A & M and my eyes were opened to the true need in hard places, like Africa.

One rough morning I was crying with my friend on the phone and in her wisdom and through the Holy Spirit she told me something that has changed my heart for birth families forever. As she was praying she asked that God would open my heart to love and pray for the family of A & M. She called out to God and thanked Him that He knew that keeping A & M in Africa was the best for them and prayed that because they were staying in their biological family, the girls would grow to be women who love their people and help facilitate change. After that prayer, I was in hot tears. I was humbled by the truth that I was not the best for these girls. I will never know the outcome of A & M’s story, but in their short six weeks of being with me they have forever changed my story.

Adoption can’t and shouldn’t be the only answer to the millions of orphans living in the streets and in orphanages around the world. There are countless vulnerable children in the world who aren’t in need of being adopted, but are in need of their mom and/or dad having the resources to care for them.

As my heart has grown for adoption, I have also been challenged to start thinking about ways we can preserve the birth families of these children so that children can grow up emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy in their given culture. There will and are children who most definitely need the gift of adoption. And there are children like A & M who had family who wanted to care for them, but needed the resources to make that happen.

Where do I go from here?

Where do you go from here?

Begin with prayer. It will only be through the work of the Holy Spirit that change will happen and people’s lives will be restored. Pray for healing. Pray for restoration. Pray for goers. And pray about whether you are to send or go.

Start with being a learner and getting others involved in what you’re learning. Open your mind and heart to the possibility that some of our preconceptions about third world countries have been wrong. Learn about other organizations making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and women, such as Amazima and Compassion International. Read books like Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr.  Find your tribe of people who “get this” because we can’t live this out in isolation.

Finally, some of you will go to the hard places. It’s my dream to be able to go to the hard places of the world and help those in need. Not for my glory, but to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need and to experience a deeper intimacy with my Savior that rescued me from the pits of brokenness.

We as followers of Jesus are all called to care for the orphans and widows in their distress…how will you engage in that calling on your life?

And if you were wondering…two months ago we received another email filled with pictures of two other little girls who, Lord willing, will come home soon to us!

Thank You!

thank you

Our Thirty-One Fundraiser ended yesterday! The fundraiser went better than I was anticipating! We brought in $425 for our adoption fees. I just wanted to say thank you to all who shared our fundraiser, purchased product, and prayed for us!

We are getting closer and closer to reaching our next goal of $21,700! We have raised roughly $5,000 so far. I know that it seems like we have a long way to go (we do!), but we are tired and know that we are in need of taking a fundraising sabbath. The timing of our exhaustion works out well since we will be heading on vacation one week from today!

Thank you all for hanging in with us as we continue to wait for the day our girls are in our arms!

 

ps-If you’re interested in donating a tax-deductible gift at anytime, we are partnering with AdoptTogether. Here is our website: www.adopttogether.org/woodadoption/

I’m Over at Dreaming Big Dreams

Today I’m guest posting at Jamie Ivey’s blog, Dreaming Big Dreams. Jamie is the wife of the Austin Stone Community Church‘s worship pastor. She has been doing a Monday series of where and why friends (and blog followers) of hers adopt. Here is a little snippet and I hope you’ll jump over to Jamie’s blog to read the rest of our story.

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Pray. Take a step. Listen to your desires. Trust God.

 

My husband and I are on our first adoption journey of probably many. And I don’t say that because this specific journey has been easy, or even fun. It’s been hard. It’s been refining, yet there is a deep change happening in our souls. God is breaking our hearts for the orphan and He is cutting through and destroying my control idol.

 

Eight months ago, we decided to embark on this crazy road of adoption. We had been trying to conceive for a year with no success. We knew that God had called us to adopt sometime in our life, so we thought that this was that time.

Continue reading here