Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Rare Exception


"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
— Philippians 4:4-9

(Rob writing from U**ne)

It seems to me that some people come to faith in Christ naturally, willingly; while others must be dragged to faith against their stubborn wills.

My wife belongs to the former set. Ever since I've known her, Julia has been a positive personality who firmly believes that God is good, and that He works actively every day for the good of His children. Her deepest desire has always been to step into God's work, whenever and wherever she could.

It pains me to admit that I belong to the latter set. Much as I aspire to faith like my wife's, I tend too often toward skepticism and gloom. One of the greatest fears of my life has been that my naturally lugubrious nature might drag Julia down— might prevent her from doing some good work that the Lord set before her to do.

By God's grace, not this time! In a broken world filled with compromises and trade-offs, the adoption of orphans like John and Aaron is one of the most unblemished good deeds I can think of. I am so, so glad that I didn't stand in the way.

********

As one who aspires to greater faith, I often seek inspiration from others.

Sometimes I find inspiration in the past, as in the story of George Müller. For those who don't know, Müller was a Prussian-born missionary who founded several institutions for orphan care in England during the mid-1800s. Müller is best remembered for these two hallmarks of his ministry:

  1. Müller depended on God to answer specific prayers, often in the nick of time. For example, one morning Müller and his orphans sat down to thank the Lord for a breakfast which He had yet to provide— for the table before them was as yet empty. The next minute, a baker arrived to say that something had told him to arise early that day and bake extra bread for the orphans. The minute after that, a dairyman arrived to say that his milk cart had broken down just outside the orphanage. Would the orphans like to have the milk, seeing as the warm weather would spoil it before his axle could be repaired?

  2. Müller somehow managed to raise all of the money he needed for his many ministries without ever asking anyone for money. This was one preacher who never passed the plate when he led a church service! Instead, he left the offering plate in the back, and let the Holy Spirit inspire believers to give whatever they would. The funds for Müller's orphanages came not from targeted fundraising campaigns, but from believers around the world who mysteriously felt led to contribute to what Müller was doing.

Which isn't to say that Müller didn't communicate his need. A big part of Müller's job was to speak and write about what the Lord was doing through his ministry, so that believers could be inspired to help.

********

A few weeks ago, I met someone who reminded me forcefully of George Müller. His name is Slavik Puzanov, and he comes from this country. Together with his wife Alyona, American missionary Laura Rechkemmer and others, Slavik leads an orphan care ministry called Nasledie Heritage Foundation.

You may remember that the funds from Julia's Mulligan Stew fundraiser last year went to support Camp Lela. This annual summer camp is one of Nasledie's biggest ministries, bringing the love of Christ to hundreds of orphans every year.

If you're curious about Camp Lela, then consider taking a couple of minutes to watch this video:



Doesn't this camp look fantastic? Imagine suddenly getting the chance to do all of this, after spending so many dreary days at the orphanage! So active, so creative, so spiritual and so fun!

When I compare the somber faces I see around here every day to the glad faces in that video, I can hardly believe it's the same country. The difference, I believe, is that Camp Lela introduces people to Christ in a new way, an evangelical way in which few here have met Him before.

Honestly, I've never seen another camp like Lela. How I wish we could have sent our older boys to a camp as good as this!

Rob and Julia's eldest son Ben volunteering at Camp Lela last year!

But Camp Lela is only one of Nasledie's ministries. Every weekend throughout the year, Nasledie mission teams share Christ in orphanages all over their region, building relationships in anticipation of camp. These teams reach out to eighteen orphanages in all, and will soon add a nineteenth. The good they do in these orphanages is incalculable.

Another Nasledie ministry involves the ongoing war in eastern U**ne, which we Westerners too often forget. Nasledie's response to that war is to share Christ with the many refugees who have fled to its region. Slavik reminded me of something that people who haven't personally experienced war often forget— that even if the war should end today, years must pass before life can even begin to return to normal. Many refugees who try to return to their homes will find them in ruins, or so damaged and looted as to be unlivable. War refugees need food, shelter and time get back on their feet. Nasledie's vision is to fill those needs in the name of Christ.



How can I convey how immensely inspired I felt after meeting Slavik and team? Let me just say that as a natural skeptic, I often prefer the spiritual heroes of the past to the ones I meet in the present. With my insincerity detector permanently set on maximum sensitivity, I rarely place my trust in anyone, much less someone I've met only once.

Slavik proved to be a rare exception. Despite the profound language barrier between us— for Slavik speaks little English, and my R**ian/U**ian was as pathetic then as now— my heart knew immediately that this was a Christian leader I could trust, one whose vision I could support without the slightest misgiving. The trappings of religion mean nothing to this man. His religion lies not in lavish buildings, rituals and robes, but rather in simple faith, prayer and action.

********

The reason behind all of my long-winded blather is that with our adoption going on, Julia won't be able to do a Mulligan Stew this year. This year, all Julia and I can manage for Camp Lela is this George Müller-style, non-fundraiser fundraiser: we're sharing the need with as many people as we can, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will lay it on many hearts to support Camp Lela again.



Starting next month, Nasledie hopes to invite a total of about 700 orphans to 7 different camps. The cost per child is about $60, bringing the total need to about $42,000. As of today, they've raised about half that much— which means that without the other half, 350 orphans will miss their chance to go to camp this year.



It pains us deeply to think that so many poor orphans might miss their chance to go to camp this year. If you have anything to spare, then I strongly encourage you to support Camp Lela, and soon. We can testify that Nasledie is a godly ministry that will steward your funds wisely, and will use them to do inestimable good.



To donate to Camp Lela online:

Please FOLLOW THIS LINK to the Camp Lela YouCaring page

To donate by check or money order, please snail mail:

International Messengers
P.O. Box 618
Clear Lake, IA 50428
Please include a note to indicate that your funds are for Camp LELA!

There are many ways to care for orphans. One is to support adoptions like ours, and we are so grateful for all of your kind gifts in the past! Another is to support ministries like Nasledie, which care for the innumerable orphans who are always left behind. We believe that God is not limited to one way or the other; rather, He treasures all our efforts to do good in His name. If you are looking for an effective ministry that you can trust, then Camp Lela is a great, safe choice.



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Fabulous Five


There are 140 million plus orphans in this world.
 
A number that is staggering and causes us to raise up our hands in despair. 
 
We can't save them all.  I don't know how many times I've had someone tell me that.  We can't save them all.  We can't fix the orphan crisis.  There are not enough willing families to take them in.  The issues are too vast.  The cost too steep. 
 
Truth.
 
I agree on all the points above. I can't save them all.
 
But there are five orphans out of those 140 million who I can do something about.
 
I can't save them all but I can do something for five.
 
Five children I have met.  Five who have stolen my heart.  Five who have robbed me of sleep.  Five who matter deeply.
 
Five amazing children. 
 
Two are little.  They both rock an extra chromosome.  They are listed on Reece's Rainbow as Wetherby and Rebecca.

  

One is a very special girl.  Sweet beyond words.  She is listed on Reece's Rainbow as Reilly.

 

One is our new son's best friend.  Even writing about him breaks me down.  He is Toby on Reece's Rainbow. 



The last was a surprise.  Unlisted until we walked into his life two weeks ago.  A found treasure who is going to bless a family beyond measure.

I named him Charlie



Five children.

I can't fix the 140 million orphan problem, But I can do something for these five.

 
 So stay tuned. 

I have some really loud shouting to do!!

P.S. All the pictures above are mine except for Rebecca's. 
 

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's in a Name?


What follows is a brief memoir of how we settled on the name John Edward Nalle.



We didn't cross the ocean with a list of boy names in our pocket. So when the road we were traveling took a sharp, unexpected turn, we lacked a map to guide us to the right name.

Choosing the right names has always been important to us. Up till now, we've always taken a long time to debate each child's name, and we have fond memories of each naming process.

This time was different. First, the breakneck pace of international adoption meant that after our sharp turn, we didn't have the luxury of time. Second, our new little boy shared a name with Aaron: both boys were originally named Ivan, familiarized as Vanya.

"Aaron," of course, was Aaron's temporary name on Reece's Rainbow. After using that name in prayers and fundraisers for months, we hardly thought of changing it. The name seemed to fit the boy perfectly. Plus it fit with our other boys' Hebrew names: Benjamin, Elijah and Aaron.

Aaron's middle name, "Vanya," was a political decision. Desperate to please the nationalist judge who was to preside at Aaron's adoption hearing, we decided to retain "Vanya" as a link to Aaron's native culture. How much that decision swayed our judge, if at all, we will never know.

Naturally, we wondered if our new boy might like to retain the name "Ivan." After all, he's 10 years old, and has used that name all his life. Why would he want to change it now?

On the other hand, there was no way we could manage with two Vanyas in the house.

His middle name was of little use to us, being an Eastern European patronymic that most Americans could hardly pronounce-- including us. So the heat was on: we had to come up with two new names from scratch, and we had to do it fast.

John's temporary name on Reece's Rainbow was "Ian." We liked that name, but preferred something that would (a) tie him to our family, and (b) still fit our Hebrew theme. So we decided to offer him a version of the Hebrew name "Johanon." In U**an, it's "Ivan"; in Gaelic, "Iain" or "Ian"; and in English, just plain "John." One of Julia's grandfathers was a John, so the name ties him to Julia's side of the family.

We wanted his middle name to tie him to Rob's side of the family. That one was easy: Edward, in honor of Rob's late father, gone just four years.

This was how matters stood when our facilitator told our new Vanya that he couldn't keep his old name. We were half expecting him to be upset, but we were also so exhausted that we couldn't think of any other names to offer him.

Much to our delight, we discovered that he didn't care at all. As it turned out, the boy was so excited about finally having a family that he probably would have accepted whatever we proposed. So when our facilitator asked him if he liked "John," he simply said "Okay." "Are you sure?" she pressed him. "Okay," he nodded.

At this point, our facilitator realized that the sky was pretty much the limit. So she started throwing out other nice American names:

"How about Michael Jackson?" "Okay."

"Or Justin Bieber?" "Okay." "Or Scott, or..."

STOP!!!

"John," we said. "Let's just go with John."

"John?" she asked him.

"Yes, John. Okay!"

That's more or less how we arrived at John Edward Nalle.

A bit of study revealed the origin of the Hebrew name "Johanon": it means "the Lord is gracious." How very fitting. The Lord truly is gracious!

Four sons, each with a Hebrew name: Benjamin, Elijah, Aaron and John.



The Lord is gracious indeed!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Scattered

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
And I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Almost 23 years ago Rob and I walked hand and hand down the aisle and out of the church with that song by Rich Mullins playing in the background. It was an unusual song for a recessional but for us it was our prayer.  It was and continues to be how we want to live our lives.
 
I'm sitting here alone in an airport in Eastern Europe where few speak my language.  My husband is several countries and a long train ride away.  My newest son slept again last night in his orphanage bed, surrounded by eight other little boys.  He's no longer an orphan but still waiting for his day of release.



 
My oldest is in college, my second son is at a boy scout event and my littlest is home. He's the only one home.
 
We are a family scattered and I am feeling it as I sit here alone.  I am so longing for the day when we will be gathered together under one roof.  On that day, when we gather at the table for the first time and reach out and hold hands to pray, on that day I guarantee I will leak tears from my eyes.  I will not want to let go of the hand on my left or the hand on my right.  I will want to forever freeze that moment together.  My scattered family, together.
 
 
Until then, we are walking in His ways, step by step.
 
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, April 24, 2015

In Which Perry Mason Returns

(Rob writing)

Those of you who followed our previous adoption four years ago will no doubt remember Perry Mason not the TV show, but the copycat would-be attorney who saved the day at Aaron's adoption hearing. Faced with a proud nationalist judge who instinctively distrusted Americans, Perry used his natural charm and eloquence to convince the court that Americans aren't all bad.



Those with keener memories may recall that in reality, Perry charmed no one but himself. Perry's biggest mistake was to display his foolishly pathetic U**ian language skills before a room full of native U**ian speakers no doubt convincing the court that Americans are all stupid, if not necessarily bad.

In the end, I must admit that Perry proved more hindrance than help. Rather, it was Julia who convinced the judge, woman to woman, that going home with us was in Aaron’s best interest.

Interested readers may follow these links to Perry's gripping posts from four years ago:

Perry Mason Part One
Perry Mason Part Two
Perry Mason Part Three
Perry Mason Part Four



With new regions come new experiences. Based on the experiences of others in this region, we weren’t expecting any serious opposition at court this time. The judges here take advice from public officials who are close to the case, such as the orphanage director, the head social worker and the prosecuting attorney. The decision really rests with these officials: so long as none of them oppose the adoption, the judge won’t either. Thus the important decisions are all made long before the actual hearing, which might not take place at all if anyone opposes the adoption.

Fortunately, everyone here has consistently supported our adoption, from the beginning down through the hearing yesterday. Although these women are justifiably proud of the institutions they’ve built to care for orphans, they still recognize that no institution can ever take the place of a loving family.

The support of the head social worker almost brought tears to my eyes. I can’t quote her brief testimony, but the gist of it was this: that given John’s medical difficulties and personal history, Rob and Julia Nalle probably represent John’s one and only chance to be adopted.

Although we know that might not be true, we still felt immensely honored. Imagine being someone’s one and only chance for a better life! How many people have the privilege of knowing that they were someone's one and only chance?

We also felt honored to play our small role in God’s greater plan for good. As Mordecai said to his niece Esther, “Who can say that you weren’t set where you are for just such a time as this?”

Who can say, indeed? Based on our wild experience with this adoption, I must admit that I have absolutely no idea what God may be planning, and may never know. In spite of that, I believe these three things:


1. That God set us here to do good works— not in payment for anything, but in loving response to the love of God as revealed in Creation and in Christ. Just about any good work will do, so long as we do it in unselfish love.

2. That the best good works often cost more than we want to spend, both financially and emotionally. Just as Christ bore His cross of suffering, so those who follow Him must also bear theirs.

3. That our two adoptions feel like the best good works we’ve ever done, or ever will do.

********

Anyway, with all the important decisions out of the way, Perry and Julia’s court appearance was mostly a formality. Still, it wouldn’t be a Rob and Julia story if it didn’t include at least one headache.

This time, our headache was that our impartially-selected judge happened to be a fresh refugee from a war-torn region of this country, and she had never processed an adoption before. Intent upon making no mistakes her first time out, our judge needed nearly five hours to finish her work— roughly four more hours than any judge our facilitator had ever seen. Just when we were consoling ourselves that we might have to wait another day, our belated judge finally read out our six-page single-spaced adoption decree, minutes before closing time.

As for Perry and Julia’s testimony, we mostly bragged about ourselves. It pays to remember that although humility is a laudable quality in a human being, it is not the fashion in U**ne, and is utterly out of place in a U**ian court. Rather, one must boast about the great magnitude of one’s income, the vastness of one’s property, and how very well the children under one’s care have thrived. The court must have no reason to fear for the adoptee’s future, and we gave it none.

********

(Julia writing)

Near the end, Perry also gave the court reason to hope for John’s future. The clinching testimony, the one that earned Perry proud smiles from our facilitator, ran something like this:

“The doctors in Philadelphia [at Shriners Hospital] may be able to find some combination of surgery and therapy that can help John walk better. If they can, then he will receive the best care that modern medicine can provide. But if they cannot, then he will still grow up to a university education and a bright future. And no matter what happens, we will love him as one of our own; and he will always have a home with us, as long as we live.”


Thus Perry Mason's second appearance proved to be his finest. With these heartfelt words, Perry not only redeemed himself, but also made his wife quite proud.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's a Miracle

 
 
Thanks be to God our Father, from Whom all blessings flow. Amen.
 

We passed court today, which makes it official: John Edward Nalle is now our son!

 

We have much to share, but we're far too exhausted to share it today. Even as we write, Julia is rushing out the door to catch a train. As for Rob, he will remain behind here to soldier on alone through the mandatory 10-day waiting period.
 
Tune in again for more exciting new episodes, which promise to include:
 
What's in a Name?
The Return of Perry Mason
The Fabulous Five
 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

America and Apple Pie

Before we left last time, "Ian" made known one simple request: he wanted a hat and shirt with American flags on them.  Simple, right? 

Not so much.

The shirt I found rather easily, but the hat was another story. I looked and looked, wandering through Walmart, Sam's Club and just about every clothing store at the local mall. Zilcho pilcho. Plenty of UVA hats, Virginia Tech hats and so on, but not a single American flag hat did I find.

So I was overjoyed at the airport on Monday night, when I happened to walk by a kiosk and see this:


HALLELUJAH, I FINALLY FOUND "IAN" A HAT!!!

But wait, not so fast. 

Unfortunately, it happened to be quite late-- so late that the kiosk was closed.  Oh, the attendant was still there, which is why I got my hopes up. Regrettably, though, she had already closed her register for the night, and couldn't (or wouldn't) re-open it for one more late sale. Despite that PERFECT hat sitting right there on the shelf, and despite all my PLEADING about special circumstances, I flew out of that airport hat-less.


Sigh. No doubt I can find one online.

We arrived in the capital last night to find hundreds of e-mails and Facebook messages wishing me a Happy Birthday. What a sweet way to spend the morning: reading through friendly messages, feeling quite loved despite being so far from home.

Since we are only here for a few hours before we take a train to region, we decided to go out for breakfast rather than make our own. It was the first time we have ever eaten out for breakfast in all of our many trips to this country.

Upon finding a restaurant with an English menu, we figured we couldn't go wrong. How could there be any confusion about two simple orders, one of scrambled eggs and the other of pancakes?

It turns out that "scrambled eggs" really means two eggs over medium with toast and pate on the side. Which posed no problem, as the eggs were fresh and the bread homemade.


We had to chuckle over the pancakes, though.


Instead of fat American flapjacks topped with Aunt Jemima's, we received a soft crepe topped with hot apples, ice cream and chocolate syrup. Although it was quite delightful, it tasted more like homemade apple pie a la mode than what we call pancakes.

 Fire the menu translator, but retain the chef.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Soon

We are heading out late tonight.
 
Back to a little boy who has waited his entire life for a family.

 
Soon, sweet boy, soon!
 
Pray for us, Please.  Pray NOTHING stands in the way of this adoption. Pray for safe travel and for a kind judge who wants nothing more than to see him in a family.  Please just pray.
 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sweet 17

 
This son of ours is the one who just plain cracks us up on a daily basis.
 
His sense of humor has us scratching our head and in stitches much of the time.
 
Knowing that he needed costume parts for his part as a pirate in Peter Pan I asked him if he had any ideas.
 
What a hoot. He not only had a costume ready to go for Peter Pan...
 
 
 
He also figured he would use the same costume for his upcoming OA event where the theme is the Revolutionary War.  Check out his horse!!
 

 
So that's why I couldn't find the broom!!


 
We missed his birthday.  We were across the ocean and all we could do was give him a lame Facetime Happy Birthday call.
 
His grandparents and cousin stepped in and celebrated it with him, but I WASN'T THERE and I don't make it a habit of missing birthdays.
 
So on Thursday afternoon Elijah I went on a date.  We went out to eat and then enjoyed walking around the mall while I bought him some clothes for his birthday.  He found the whole clothes buying part rather dreadful because he has simple tastes much like his dad and is content with a simple wardrobe.  I'm not a big spender but I did have fun taking him shopping for things he truly needed even though he didn't think so! 
 
We also had fun buying our new little son/brother some much needed clothes.  He needed EVERYTHING.  Shirts, pants, socks, underwear, shoes, jacket, pj's.  EVERYTHING.  I scoured the sale racks and was able to find some great deals. I also have a friend who works in a children's clothing shop who met us at the shop and blessed us with a bag of clothes.  God is Good!
 
We ended the day with a Sam's Club run and a reminder that going on a date with mom can be a real adventure.  Especially when she locks the keys in the car!!  Yep. I did.  Thankfully, the trunk was open so all poor Elijah had to do was remove all the nicely packed groceries he had just put inside the trunk back in the basket so he could climb through the trunk and get the car doors opened.  It wouldn't have been that difficult to climb through the car except we were laughing so hard he had trouble getting through the opening. 
 
He told me in the car he ought to write a book about our escapades.  He figures it would be a best seller.
 
I doubt it but I would enjoy reading it!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Mad Dash

 
Breathing continues to be hard.
 
Adoption squeezes the breath right out of you and from past experience I know that not until you stand on U.S. soil are you able to inhale clearly again.
 
 
I want him home.
 

 

 
I want to tuck him in bed that first night.  I want to cover him with the blanket we received in the mail yesterday with HIS NAME embroidered on it.  It's covered with sailing ships which I find quite appropriate because I would sail in a raft to bring him home if I had to. 
 
Our court date was moved from April 21 to April 23.
 
That is a GOOD thing.  There was some paperwork that had to be done for court that was most likely not going to make it by the 21st which would have meant delay and rescheduling.  The later date gives our facilitator a few more days to get those papers completed.
 
It means though that next week is going to be a mad dash across and back for me.
 
I teach on Monday and then we fly out at midnight.  We arrive in the capital late Tuesday night, take an express train to his region on Wednesday, arriving late Wednesday night.  We have court on Thursday, April 23rd.  "Ian" will be with us for court and we will get to spend the afternoon with him.  Then I must get on a train back to the capital that night. I will have one day in the capital to wander alone and terribly lonely.  I fly home Saturday morning early. 
 
Break my heart.
 
Five days of travel and I only get to spend a few hours with my boy to hug him and kiss him and look into his eyes and breathe his air and soak him in and then I have to leave him.  Again.
 
Rob will stay.  He will stay and visit "Ian" each afternoon for ten agonizingly long days. 
 
I will come home and take care of the littlest and will be counting the days, hours, minutes, seconds until I get to cross the ocean again to help bring our newest littlest home.
 
Like I said.  Breathing is really hard right now.
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Could It Be Magic

 
I cannot wait for the day when these two boys are united again.
 
 
 
 
Many have asked how Aaron is doing with the change from a sister to a brother.
 
 
Honestly - He is overjoyed.
 
 
Aaron has found someone who LOVES Legos and games and blocks and cars and trucks.
 
 
Someone who isn't  going to run away from him or outdo him in everything.
 
 
Someone who is funny and easy-going and nonchalant about what Aaron can and can't do because he himself has things he can and can't do.
 


 

Someone who will be his friend through thick and thin!!
 
We think he found that someone.
 
God is so good!
 
 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Real Papa Hug

 
We are home.  Exhausted. Jet-lagged and missing the sweetest little boy across the ocean.
 
You know what's precious about this picture?? It's the first time he hugged Rob and it wasn't a quick little hug, but a "wrap his arms around Papa and hold on for dear life" type of hug.
 
 
We are not home for long. We have court on April 21st. My birthday.  We fly back out next weekend.
 
Hopefully all the requested paperwork will be finished by then and we can have an easy court and a grand birthday celebration!!
 
 
Passing court does not mean he gets to come home right away. That would be way too easy!  After court there is a mandatory 10-14 day waiting period and THEN we can start the process of actually bringing him home. 
 
At this point we are still up in the air about all the details surrounding his homecoming (who stays, who goes, who comes back etc.)
 
For today we are going to rest and enjoy being home. We will worry about details when we are a little less foggy in the brain!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stuck

(Julia writing)

I consider myself to be a pretty steady, even-keeled, not-too-quick-to-lose-my-head sort of person.

Case in point: I've never balked at riding elevators in this country, despite all of these terror-inducing features which most of them share:
  1. They are roughly half the size of an old-fashioned phone booth.
  2. They have broad gaps between door and car, allowing attentive riders like me to see all the way to the bottom of the elevator shaft as they enter the car.
  3. Their cables creak ominously, as if the slightest stress might send the car plunging into the abyss.


On the upside, all of those gaps in the car allow for plenty of ventilation in case of a lesser disaster, such as being trapped in a dark, unmoving car.

Which is what happened to Aaron and me.

Back in the capital last Wednesday, our driver called to say that he was coming to take us from our 6th-floor apartment to the train station. In preparation for his arrival, we carried all six pieces of luggage plus Aaron's wheelchair out to the elevator.

Since the elevator was nowhere near large enough to hold all of that, we would have to go in shifts. Leaving Rob behind, I pushed two bags into the car, climbed in with Aaron and pushed the button for the first floor.

In a functioning elevator, pushing the button usually produces two results: the door closes, and the car starts to move.

This elevator was a bit different. The door closed all right, and the car started to move; but a second later, the car ground to a halt, and the lights went dead. Imagine my delight at being stuck inside a dead, dark elevator with only a cell phone screen for light. Actually, the only reason the cell phone lit up was because our driver chose that very moment to call and say that he was getting close. The perfect timing of his call meant that he, Rob and about half of the capital heard my panicked scream that we were STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR and GET US OUT OF HERE! 

In my panic, I pushed every single button on the panel, which probably only confused the poor contraption even more.  Meanwhile, Aaron progressed from shock to fear to outright terror.  The combination of darkness and large bags between us left me no means of comforting him.

Thankfully, Rob is less prone to panic, especially when he's not personally trapped in an elevator. Thinking quickly, he rushed down one flight of stairs and pushed the call button on the floor below. After a moment's consideration, the wise old elevator decided to obey that signal. The lights came on, and down we went.

The moment the door opened, Aaron flew out of that elevator like a bat from a cave.  I did too, at first.  Now that the door was open, though, my panicked mind was actually more worried about losing our luggage than it was about being trapped.

Rob says that as I rushed back in to get my last bag, it was as if time slowed down: he knew exactly what was about to happen, but was powerless to prevent it. Just as he feared, the door snapped shut, the lights went out, and the car ground to a halt a second time.

Alone in the car this time, I must admit that I came completely came unglued.  I'm not proud of it, okay? I screamed, yelled and cried like a little girl.

Once again, Rob rushed down one flight of stairs to push the call button, which got me going again. This time, I exited even faster than Aaron. The only problem now was that our luggage was scattered over three floors!

As if to demonstrate his masculine mastery of machinery, Rob used that cranky elevator to collect and bring down all of our bags. The smug son of a gun didn't get stuck once.

********

In other news, we've decided to head home while we wait for our court appointment, which won't arrive for about two weeks. We're leaving region on the night train, and flying out of the capital early Saturday morning.

Aaron and I are both hoping that whatever apartment we find in the capital is NOT on the 6th floor.

I'm not feeling very steady and even-keeled at the thought of riding in another elevator in this country!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cast Your Bread


How do you go from dreaming about one child's untold story in your family to loving a different child in a matter of a week?

How do you let go of your dreams? How do you open your heart to love again when it has been so recently bruised?

Only by God's grace.  Only because of His tender mercy. 

This past Monday, exactly one week after Harper said no to joining our family, Ian officially said yes.



What a difference a week makes.


Back in January, as I was paging through my Bible during prayer time at church, I stumbled into the book of Ecclesiastes.  A book filled with reality checks.  A book which reminds us that life is short, and that how we spend our lives matters very much.

Nestled inside that book were several verses that particularly pierced my heart that morning.  Just that week, Harper's picture had been featured all over her country as a child who needed a family.  The fear of losing her was great, and I was struggling to give my fear to the Lord when I read:

"Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days.
Give a serving to seven, and also to eight,
For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.
If the clouds are full of rain,
They empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good."



The Lord spoke deep into my heart as I read those verses.

Just cast your bread upon the waters.  Don't let worry or fear block you from doing what God has called you to do.  Don't hold back, just go!

Quit looking for signs and assurances.  Quit waiting for just the right moment or circumstances. Just cast your bread upon the waters, and go.

Let God write the story, and trust Him for the outcome.


Last week on our longest day, after my worst fear had come true, I found those verses again.  I read them with tears dripping.  Cast your bread.  Do not hold back.

Do not let heartache keep you from doing what you were called to do.  Quit waiting for the rain, quit worrying over the wind.

Let God write the story.


Do not hold back.

"As you do not know what is the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child,
So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good."

Cast your bread.

I am so grateful we did.


Monday, April 6, 2015

This One's For You

(Rob writing)

Over the last several days, it has been my privilege to spend a great deal of time with two of the most inspiring people I've ever met. One is Aaron; and the other is our new little guy, Ian.

As someone who cares for Ian, I hope I can say this without fear of recrimination: he is also the shortest person of his age I've ever met.


From the waist up, Ian is powerfully built, with a deep chest, broad shoulders and big hands. His strong arms can pull him up a climbing pole almost as fast as a cat climbs a tree.

He also possesses a skill of which I'm terribly jealous: he can stand on his hands effortlessly, and even hand-walk a few steps. I think that with a bit of practice, this kid could hand-walk from here to the capital.



The story is less positive from the waist down. Ian's legs are short, stiff and twisted, barely adequate to carry him. Although he walks with great energy, his gait is painfully crooked, and his progress painfully slow. Indoors, he relies on his orphanage's many handrails to keep him upright. How he may fare outdoors, we have yet to witness. Fortunately, he has an advantage that Aaron lacks: strong arms to catch himself when he loses his balance.

Oddly enough, Ian's legs are a big part of what makes him so inspiring. Every step costs him so much effort; and yet he never complains or feels sorry for himself. When I think of all he's had to overcome, I am ashamed to recall how often I, who have enjoyed near-perfect health all my life, have nevertheless found reason to feel sorry for myself.

The other part of what makes Ian so inspiring is his winning, ever-positive personality. Given all he's been through-- including multiple abandonments, physical disappointments, painful surgeries and the harshness of orphanage life, just to name a few-- one might expect him to wallow in gloom. Yet he is perhaps the cheeriest person I've met in this country-- unless it's Aaron, who has always shared Ian's gift for greeting each new day with joy.

In our first interview with the orphanage director, we learned how Ian displayed his gift for inspiration on a recent trip to an army hospital. Although people often seem to forget it, this country is at war with a far larger neighbor; and war leaves grievous wounds, both physical and mental. With help from his director, Ian was able to visit some wounded soldiers who had been so traumatized by war that they were refusing to speak to their doctors. Some were grieving over lost limbs; while others were shell-shocked, emotionally shattered by the horrors they'd witnessed. At the very sight of Ian, though, these soldiers began to open up, hopefully taking their first steps down the road toward healing. The director was so proud of Ian, and the doctors begged her to bring him back soon.

In light of all this, my head is spinning with possibilities for what this boy might become. Given the right opportunities, might he become a therapist of some kind? Or perhaps a state department negotiator, or even an ambassador? For someone as naturally engaging and lovable as Ian, the possibilities are endless.