Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fear, Doubt, and the Names of God

This is a post that has been sitting on the back burner simmering for a while.  I get goosebumps and tears every time I think about it but haven't quite had the courage to try putting it to words yet.  Now as I prepare to post, it has been months since the week I am about to describe to you.  I decided it is time to finish it off and post it, as we are currently facing an unexpected delay in our process.  I need to finish and share it today because it is full of hope and good news.

After our months and hours of searching, we found Titus!  And after we found him, we were able to orchestrate his file transfer!  Two huge steps to begin our journey.  Miracles, in fact.  I told my husband early on as we discussed pursuing this adoption that "if God will find this little boy, he will provide the funds to bring him home."  In my mind, funds were the only obstacle once we "found" him.  I hadn't yet considered myself as the enemy.

No matter how many times we hear a truth, or how well we know it and could even teach it to others, there must be a crucial point of decision to allow that truth to change us.  When it comes to spiritual truths, we must invite that change over and over in each new situation.  Because, let's face it.  We're a bit like Ogres and onions.  We've got LAYERS.  There's the layer that says "I trust God".  Underneath that is the layer that says, "I trusted God really well with [fill in blank] in the past."  Then there's "I trust God... with some things."  And then it starts to get rotten at the core when we hit something we've never faced before; In my case, the unknowns of adoption.

So, God led us to find our little boy and get approvals for the file transfer.  I was over the moon!  And then the darkness settled in.  I'm not talking about the application fees and the first agency payment, or even paying for our homestudy, fingerprinting, medicals, and background checks.  We took those steps of faith in joy, because "If God will find this little boy, he will provide the funds..."  But as we began writing those first checks and waiting on the news that the file had indeed transferred and our family had been officially "matched" to Titus, I developed new fears.

It started innocently enough, reviewing what I had seen so far of his file.  Limb deformity.  Ear deformity.  other minor conditions.  HOURS of research, and love growing like crazy for this little guy who needs a family to help him navigate this world and discover his abilities.  Research is a great thing, and we have SO MANY resources available to us.  But as other research junkie moms can confirm, too much research can be a really bad thing.  It can turn a common cold into a rare deadly disesase.

Thus began the greatest week of fear and doubt that I have ever experienced.  What if his conditions are worst-case-scenario?  Can we meet his needs?  What do his conditions mean for his future?  How will it affect our family?
And I questioned..
What about the calling we so strongly felt to bring him into our family?  Did we hear wrong?

Meanwhile...

The Bible study I am working through with the girls had a quick section on Old Testament names of God.  They were enjoying it so much that we decided to take it more slowly, focusing on one or two names per day, researching its origins and uses and discussing how God fulfilled those names both in the Bible and in our lives, praying through them.  So as I struggled with all of this fear and doubt, I was teaching my children that

Are we doing the right thing?
  Jehovah Raah                                                                          El Elyon
          The Lord is my shepherd                                          What if he has [x] condition?
                                                                                           God is Sovereign
What if his medical records aren't accurate?
                                    Elohim   God is our Creator

Jehovah Shammah                                                 
God, this is scary!                                              Jehovah Rapha
The Lord is There                           How do we treat his conditions? Can they be healed?
                                                                      God is our Healer/Physician
                                        
                                                        Jehovah Shalom
                                       The Lord is our Peace
                                   
And my sweet artsy older daughter began adorning our house with reminders.
How can I expect my children to believe and trust, unless they see me exercising complete faith and trust?

I think that certainly all the questions we had we valid and obviously we need to prepare with lots of good research.  And there is no problem with revisiting and asking God for confirmation of his calling, so long as it is balanced with trust and faith, not controlled by fear.  I am so thankful to have a patient, loving Heavenly Father who reassures me when I am scared.

Our choices matter and they change the course of lives.  Had I let fear cripple me, we would still be a family of 5.  Beautiful, but incomplete.  Had I let my doubts consume me, our lives would be relatively easy right now.  Risk-free, but less fulfilling.  Had we listened to the world instead of the Word, Titus would still be an orphan instead of becoming a son.  We have a long and difficult road ahead, but I am choosing to focus not on who I am, but on who GOD is.

Today, as we face a potential delay in our process, I'm reminded that my reaction matters.  Do I react from fear, or from faith?  I am powerless, but he is All-Powerful.  God is showing me that it is only through Him that Titus will come home.  And I have a feeling I'll need that reassurance one day when I've been awake all night with a disoriented little boy who doesn't understand where he is and fears being abandoned or displaced again.  I'll need it when I overhear the first snide comment about his appearance or hit a snag with his healthcare or educational plans.
Only God.  Only God.  Only God.

Only God, our Shepherd, our Creator, our Healer, our Peace.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come Quickly, Lord!... But Wait!

Over the past few weeks we have prayed fervently for our brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted.  For several months our Young Adults Bible Study has been studying Revelation and the coming of Christ.  For the past two weeks my husband has been preaching about persecution.  As a couple we discuss how to prepare our children for what may come to America during our lifetimes.  

And my heart begins to cry out, "Come Quickly, Lord Jesus!"

But I can't say it with all my heart.  Because a piece of my heart is far away; far away from me and far away from the knowledge of Jesus.

 I have come to a much deeper heart-understanding of these verses in 2 Peter 3:


9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief
in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up...13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earthin which righteousness dwells14 Thereforebeloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peacespotless and blameless15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation


It has never before felt so personal to me that while many are eager for the fulfillment of Jesus' promised return and the subsequent destruction of evil, God is waiting not out of leisure, but out of love.  There are more children who are HIS who he desperately loves, and he must wait for them.  

I know that God hears the voice of those spoken of in Revelation 6:

 I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O[k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

And God understands.  He knows their cry. Jesus, too, was murdered because HE IS the Word of God.  But he waits for vengeance because there are many sons and daughters yet to save. 


I cannot know at what point God will complete his plan for the earth, but I do know that there will always be more.  There will always be someone who is deeply loved who doesn't yet know Christ, and at some point those people will perish.  And so while there is still time, let us pray for them, that they, too, may know God and be restored in their relationship with Him.  Let us love deeply enough that we would desire their salvation over our own comforts.  Let us reach out to neighbors who struggle to find meaning in life. Let us comfort friends by sharing the hope that we have. Let us bring orphans into our homes and raise them to know the Lord. 

 And let us "be holy in conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God" and "grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity." (2 Peter 3:11-12,18)


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Open in time for Grandparents' Day (Sept. 7)

 Our Etsy shop is open!

Etsy is an online marketplace for custom art and handmade gifts.  Megan has designed and painted thumbprint trees as a way to celebrate family and support our adoption.

Please help us promote our Etsy shop by sharing our shop page or our blog page with your friends and family.  You have easy access to our shop by the new tab at the top of our blog.



You complete the trees with your family's (or friends, class, party attendees) fingerprints as the leaves, creating a one-of-a-kind keepsake art to cherish.  They also make a great guest book alternative for baby showers and weddings.

They are available as canvas boards, personalized with your family name or other writing, or as a 12x12 scrapbook page!


Grandparents' Day is coming up on September 7th!  What a wonderful way to celebrate your grandparents' legacy and at the same time help Titus become a grandson!
Other gift opportunities: You child's teacher with the students' prints!  A family reunion keepsake, going away gift, anniversary present!

We had a great opportunity to participate in a Farmer's Market on Washington Island this summer.  Each week we set up with our trees and lemonade.  The trees were well received and we enjoyed meeting so many people through this experience. And the girls sold LOTS of lemonade!  We earned enough to cover the cost of our online education with a little to spare toward our next agency payment!


Three Ways You Can Help Now!

We have been overwhelmed by the loving response we have had as we share our adoption process with you.  Thank you so much for your encouragement and desire to be part of our journey!

 Many have asked us about the fundraising process.  This will be a huge part of our lives over the next many months.  There is one big hurdle remaining between us and fundraising, and that is our Home Study.  We have our paperwork turned in and our final interview will be complete by the end of this month.  After our social worker submits our study, we wait for the court to approve it.  This may take a couple of months.

Our home study must be court certified before we can offer a tax-deductible method for fundraising gifts.

We could turn to a number of crowd funding sites and begin at any time, but we view any gifts we receive as a treasure to be cherished and respected.  By waiting to offer a tax-deductible method we are respecting the giver, and may even be able to set up an account with a charity that will eliminate any processing fees, allowing EVERY PENNY to go toward bringing Titus home.


Here are 3 ways you can help us NOW while we wait:
1)  PRAY
     That our social worker will be timely in drafting and submitting our home study and the court processing time will be minimal.
     Megan is painting and selling thumbprint trees as a means of helping with our expenses.  These make great gifts for families, grandparents, anniversaries, family reunion keepsakes, teacher gifts, and guest book alternatives for baby showers and weddings!  Please check out our shop and SHARE it through Facebook and with friends and family.  (New post about our shop)
3) Garage Sale Goods & Baked Items
     We will be holding a (hopefully huge) garage sale on October 4th at Megan's parents' home (also the weekend of their neighborhood garage sale, so traffic should be great!)  If you are local, please consider donating items you no longer need to be sold in our garage sale.  We will pick them up from you!  We would also like to do a bake sale for all those hungry garage sale shoppers we expect. Talk to Megan if you would be interested in donating some home-baked goods to our cause.  Bonus idea: If you are not local but are holding a garage sale or selling items on Craigslist this fall, consider donating a portion of your proceeds to bringing Titus home!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

God Knits with a Red Thread

An ancient Chinese proverb says "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

We had a "Red Thread" experience tonight that I'm thrilled will become a part of Titus' story and, I pray, his childhood experience.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post from another member of a facebook group for families adopting or who have adopted from Titus' orphanage.  This is an amazing group of moms (and some dads) who share photos, prayers, encouragement, and knowledge as we are all in different steps of the process and many have their children home.  My new friend, Angela, posted a link to her blog and I saw that her family lives in Arizona.  I sent her a message and... can you believe it?!?!.....  We live in the SAME CITY!


I can't really bother to get my head around the numbers that would make up a statistic for the likelihood of this happening.  What I do know is that God is in the process of knitting together the support systems that will carry both our families through the difficulties and joys of our adoptions and adjustments. (Perhaps he knits with a red thread?)  I am thrilled that we have connected with each other, and as our 5 children played together after dinner tonight I daydreamed to the day when all 7 of our children are here together - 5 who have grown up in Arizona, 2 who began their stories in the same city, SAME ORPHANAGE, half the world away.  Many families travel across states to hold "reunions" with families who share some sort of pre-adoption connection to their children.  We will need only to travel a few miles, and just might even bump into each other on accident!  T and C are not in the same room of the orphanage and we have no idea whether their paths ever cross now (I doubt it) but even so, it is more of a connection than many adoptees have in their childhood.

I was so blessed by how well our families got along and even as they were walking out the door tonight Angela and I found another point of commonality, another way to lend support and encouragement!

Please join me in praying for the final stages of their adoption as they travel in approximately 8-10 weeks!  I cannot wait to see their daughter HOME and in their arms.

Can you tell the kids got along?







Saturday, August 9, 2014

Our Family is Growing!


We are thrilled to share with you that the Chinese Center for Children Welfare and Adoption has given us Preliminary Approval, a "soft" yes, to adopt our son, Titus.  (You can catch up on the beginnings of our process with our first post, "The Journey Begins".)  This feels like a small step, really, considering that there is so much still to do, so many approvals yet to receive.

 But, the huge thing PA gives us is the go ahead to share our journey publicly with all of you.

It feels much like the milestone of getting through the first trimester of a pregnancy.  Things are looking good and we can pretty certainly say we have a son on the way!  We also have a while yet to wait and a lot of work to accomplish.

 Technically, we also have permission to send him a care package and "introduce" ourselves to him, but we have chosen to wait a little while for this, as it will still be many months before we bring him home and this can feel like an eternity to a small child.

A lot has gone in to our adoption so far.  We've been in the process for about three months.  In order to receive our PA, we sent China our Letter of Intent, which included, among other things:

  • Acceptance of his referral, stating we CHOOSE HIM!
  • Medical reports and labs indicating our health
  • Statement of Income and Property (net worth assessment)
  • A rehabilitation plan regarding his special needs and detailing conversations with doctors and specialists.
  • Police clearance letters (I'm glad to officially know I didn't marry a criminal!)
And the work is just beginning!  Please pray for us as we continue to gather documents, sign papers, wait for approvals, raise funds, and educate ourselves on adoption, attachment, special needs, etc.

Our next steps are:
  1. Complete Home Study (interviews finished by end of August, court approval could take a couple months)
  2. Dossier must be sent within 6 months (all paperwork sent to China)
  3. Fundraising (more details coming soon...)
Please read about how Titus came into our hearts in the two previous posts here  The Journey Begins and Where's Waldo.  You can also learn more about him on the Introducing Titus page.

We have agreed with our agency to password protect photos of Titus until the adoption is final.  Please text me or email me at EricAndMeganJohnson@yahoo.com if you would like the password for our gallery.  If your email address does not identify who you are, please tell me, as we will not give the password to individuals we cannot identify.

Thank you for celebrating this news with us!  We are thrilled to share our family's journey with you.