Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lesson My Son Taught Me

We just finished supper at our neighborhood Taco Bell. Not something we do often (McDonald’s is closer), but it was a special occasion. What was the occasion? It was Monday evening, and Mommy forgot to plan supper! Seriously.

I finally wrangled all of the kiddos into the car, and we were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot when Josiah started saying something over and over about the poor lady. The other kids were drowning him out with their chatter, but he finally got my attention.

“Mommy, she’s poor. Look at her holding the sign. Can you give her some money?” He pointed to the woman on the corner of the shopping center exit.

I couldn’t believe he even understood what that was all about. Where had he learned this? This is my child who, along with his two siblings, was living in an orphanage in Bulgaria just 20 months ago. When I asked him how he knew about people holding up signs and things of that sort, he reminded me I had explained that to them before. Oh… How could I have forgotten that? Widow brain is alive and well it appears.

I knew I didn’t have any cash on me, something I rarely carry anymore. However, my son kept asking what I was going to do for her, so I checked my purse and wallet…just to make sure. This time, my memory was spot on. No cash.

I told Josiah I had nothing to give her, but I would be sure to get some cash to keep in the car for these types of occasions from now on. He then asked me how I paid for dinner. Smart kid apparently didn’t accept my answer. I reminded him I paid with a card that worked like cash. His next response was completely unexpected.

“Mommy, I have money in my bank at home. Can you drive me home to get it, and I’ll give her that?”

How do you respond to your 9-year-old former orphan wanting to take money out of his piggy bank to give to the sign-holding lady on the corner of the shopping center? I was honestly taken aback. At this point, I knew God expected me to respond.

I’ll admit I pass by many of those people without ever making an effort to do anything for them. Not because I’m not willing, but because I never have cash and don’t ever seem to bother to think of what else I might have. I know some sign-holders might not be doing it for the right reason, but that’s not up to me to determine. If God prompts me to do something, it’s up to me to obey. This time, the prompting came through my son.

I decided to dig deeper into my wallet. I thought I had some gift cards in there I had been using to shop with. Certainly there was something left on them. The first one I picked up was for Walmart. We happened to be just next door to a Walmart at this particular time. I called the number on the back of my card to check my balance…zero. Nothing left.

Ok, Lord! I sense I’m to do something for this lady. What do you want me to do? Go to the bank and get something out? A gift card? Please direct me here. I don’t want to disappoint Josiah.

I had one more gift card in my wallet. It was a VISA gift card. Again, I called the number on the back to check my balance. This time…$23.87 was the response. I knew He was asking me to give it to her.

“Okay son, I’ve got something with some money available on it,” I shared with Josiah.

“So, are you going to give it to her?” he asked me.

Still a bit unsure, I responded, “I think so. I need to make sure I can get close enough to her, but as long as I can safely do that, I’m going to give it to her.”

We pulled out of Taco Bell’s parking lot and headed to the exit. I was able to pull up right beside the lady. She looked at me with pleading eyes before I ever rolled down my passenger window. As I started to do so, she hurried over to the van, and I simply said, “I’m sorry I don’t have cash, but I have this card with $23.87, and you can have it.”

She immediately responded. “God bless you!” And, as we drove away, I heard her start to pray, “Heavenly Father, thank you for what you’ve just done…” Her voice drifted off, and I heard nothing else as we were out of earshot at that point.

I looked back in my rearview mirror at Josiah, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

“Was that okay Josiah? Did mommy do what you hoped I would do?”

He nodded, while still grinning.

I simply thanked him for pointing her out to me early enough to allow me time to try to find something to give her. We then had the discussion about how everything we have belongs to God. Everything. He simply loans it to us while we’re on earth. I told him how I knew God was pleased with him, and he would be blessed for being obedient.

Thank you Abba for this gift of my son and for continually teaching me through the eyes of these former orphans. I stand amazed!

#HeIsStillGood

Monday, March 27, 2017

We Knew She Was Different

The first time we laid eyes on her, we knew she was special. Katerina had a way of lighting up a room with her huge smile and her pure joy. And…when she met her daddy for the first time…oh the joy, such incredible joy. We didn’t know how Katerina would react to Joel, because many children living in orphanages haven’t had a lot of contact with males (most caregivers are women), but Katerina knew this man was HER daddy, and she loved him immensely, and the feeling was mutual.

Katerina has always been such a special little girl, in many respects. She’s the only girl out of the four we’ve adopted. That, in and of itself, makes her very special. She holds her own with the boys, but she loves to be the girl God has created her to be. She plays with dolls, likes to have her fingernails painted, and loves to wear pretty dresses.

Soon after our adoption of Katerina (and her brothers) was complete, we had them all evaluated at an international adoption clinic and by their local pediatrician. It was clear there was something else going on with Katerina. We learned early on there was a developmental delay (not uncommon coming from orphanage life). But, we were referred to the Fullerton Genetic Center to have her evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children coming from the part of the world where these children came from are often exposed to alcohol in the womb, and FAS or any of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are very strong possibilities for these children.

Upon her genetic testing (which ruled out some other possibilities) and a battery of testing, Katerina was confirmed with FAS. Our hearts broke for our sweet daughter. It wasn’t her fault, but she’ll have to deal with the effects of a choice by another for the rest of her life (as will her new family).

This past December, Katerina was evaluated yet again, and we learned she also has Autism. That somewhat came as a surprise, because many symptoms of FAS are in direct contradiction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, she scored high enough in the other categories that her diagnosis was clear.

Joel and I knew we were in for a lifetime of parenting this little girl who would grow to be a young lady. What would her future look like? Would she be able to learn enough to live independently? Would she ever be able to work a job? So many questions…

This past Friday, I faced the next challenge alone for the first time. Katerina just went through re-evaluation for her IEP (Individualized Education Plan). She was given a large battery of in-depth tests. The results of the all the testing…our baby girl is mentally challenged. Her IQ is very low, and she is now considered “moderately intellectually delayed”. I think we knew it deep down, but I heard it for the first time, and my heart broke again. I had to grieve for my daughter all over again. But this time, I didn’t have her daddy to grieve and share this news with. I truly felt and thought to myself, “How much more Lord? How much more weight can my shoulders take?” I know I won’t feel this way forever, but for now…I feel the darkness is getting heavier and the pit is getting deeper. I’m still praying and waiting for breakthrough and a glimpse of the light breaking through the tunnel.

But, God has great plans for Miss K! I know He does. She is full of compassion and love and seems to know how to comfort people in pain in ways others don’t. I had a bit of a meltdown a week ago that unfortunately happened in front of the kids. The boys kept asking if I was okay and wanted to help with words. But my sweet girl…she walked up to me and started rubbing my back…she didn’t say a word. She just rubbed my back! God used her mightily in that moment to comfort her hurting mama.

He has great plans for my girl! No doubt in my mind. I just want to make sure I listen to His still, small voice to know what role I play in His plans for her. Without Joel to help me make decisions, I’m trusting God to fill the role of “husband to the widow” He’s promised and guide me through some of the hard decisions I might have to make decades from now or even in the next few weeks.

He won’t let me down. His plan is always perfect and always better.

I’ve been working with Katerina on learning some things about herself that I want to make sure she never forgets. She finally knows them, and will repeat them to me when I ask her to tell me her “I am’s”…and, she’ll say…

I am beautiful.

I am special.

I am smart.

I am loved.

Yes you are my precious! You are so, so loved!

Monday, March 6, 2017

You Not Die Mommy?

Those words from my little three-year-old blonde bundle pierced my heart this morning, “You not die Mommy?”

I carried him into preschool as those very words came from his lips. I stopped in my tracks.

I’ve had some very difficult drop-offs with Austyn lately at school. He loves going there, and this didn’t happen until after Joel went to Heaven. I’ve left that place many a time with tears streaming down my face, begging God to let me just take him back home. But, God hasn’t revealed a way for that to happen yet. In the meantime, we trudged through the difficult drop off mornings.

This morning…those words illuminated my little man’s fear and pain. He might only be three-years-old, but he gets it. Loss, that is. He may not remember his birth parents, since we’ve been part of his life since he was six months old, but he remembers his adoptive daddy…the one who sang him to sleep most nights, who changed his diapers, who taught him to build things with Play-Doh, and who wrestled with him on the floor most evenings. He also remembers Daddy went to Heaven to live with Jesus 22 days ago.

And now…he wants to know if Mommy is leaving him too. It took everything in me to hold my composure when he asked me that question this morning. But, the tears are pouring now as I type these words.

The truth…I didn’t know how to answer him. If I told him the truth in that moment, would I increase his fear of losing his mommy? If I lied to him, will he one day not trust the promises I make him?

Holy Spirit…please give me the words to speak in this situation…now!

Austyn…mommy plans to be here to pick you up this afternoon. Mommy will not die until God says it’s time for me to go to Heaven, but I believe He wants me to be your Mommy for quite awhile. So, put a smile on that face, have a great day, and look forward to mommy coming to get you this afternoon!

That’s it friends…I had nothing else to offer in that moment. But, he seemed content with that response, and it was the best drop off we’ve had in the last 22 days.

Abba – please let my children know you intimately as Daddy right now, as I am simply not enough.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Hardest Prayer

My girlie and me - saying "goodbye" at Training Camp.

My girlie and me – saying “goodbye” at Training Camp.

As I shared just last week, my daughter, Anna, is spending the month of July serving as a short-term missionary in Uganda, Africa. At the young age of sixteen, Anna’s chosen to “give up” a large portion of her summer to live among some of the poorest in our world to teach them about the love of Jesus.

I think it hit me Friday night as we worshiped together…Anna and her fellow missionary team members and the parents that were present. We spent some time offering up songs of praise to the God of the Universe. Afterwards, the students were asked to line up in the aisle that formed between some rows of chairs. The worship leader asked the parents to come pray over their children – a commissioning prayer, of sorts. In return, the students were asked to pray over their parents. It was then that I lost it.

I’m not sure I’ve heard a sound more beautiful than my daughter praying over my husband and me, with tears streaming down her face. It was almost as beautiful a noise as the first time I heard her cry on January 23, 1997. Tears streamed down her face then, but for entirely different reasons. As I held that little newborn baby in my arms for the first time, I knew God had great plans for her. Little did I realize that as I held my 16-year-old “baby” girl last Friday evening, I was beginning to get a glimpse of some of those plans.

I’ve had parents tell me over and over, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never let my daughter or son travel to Africa at the age of 16.” I understand what they’re saying. I really do. In my own skin, I could never let Anna go either. But… Anna doesn’t belong to me. She’s God’s child, and He’s simply blessed me immensely by “loaning” her to me for as long as He chooses. He’s given me a great responsibility in choosing me to be her mother. And, it’s something I don’t take lightly. But, I also know that apart from Him, I would not be capable of parenting the way He intends.

In my flesh, I didn’t want her to go. But, in my spirit, I couldn’t be more proud of her for going.

In my flesh, I think of all the horrible things that could happen. But, in my spirit, I’ve placed her in God’s hands to protect. He loves her more than I ever could.

In my flesh, I wanted to go with her. But, in my spirit, this is something that she needs to do without me.

In my flesh, I’m afraid she’ll come back changed. But, in my spirit, I want her to come back changed.

I’ll never forget something a former Sunday School teacher of mine shared with a group of us. During class, she posed the question, “Have you ever prayed for God to take your child?”

What was she talking about? Was she out of her mind? Why would I do such a thing?

She explained further…

“When my first son was an infant, I prayed the hardest prayer over him I could ever imagine praying. In short, I asked God to call him home right then if there was ever a chance that he would one day reject Him as Savior and Lord. I didn’t want him to live an eternity apart from God, so I asked God to call Him home before he had a chance to reject Him.”

Gulp. I remember sitting there thinking (in one thought) how harsh that sounded but (in another thought) how much that mother loved her son to actually “risk” having God take him from her so soon. But, the agony of a lifetime apart from Him was too great.

And now…my Anna is spending the rest of the month in Uganda…sharing about her Jesus with those that are willing to listen. Maybe…just maybe…there’s another mama ready to pray a similar prayer over infant, but she wouldn’t be able to unless she already first met Him. Maybe…just maybe…Anna was called to be His voice at such a time as this. Maybe…just maybe.

My heart is so full with anticipation over what God is doing through my girl. His girl. Will you please continue to pray for her? Pray that God would bless the ministry work of the team in such dramatic, miraculous ways that there’s no mistaking His calling on their lives. Pray for continued safety and good health. After a weekend training camp and two days of air travel, the team landed on Ugandan soil yesterday afternoon around 3:00 pm. The work has begun. May He receive all the glory!

Now – for Monday’s book giveaway winner: Sarah C. (6:52 pm 7/9)! Congratulations Sarah. May Natalie’s book be a blessing to you. Please email me your mailing address so that we can get the book right out to you: leah@outofdeepwaters.com. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bye Bye Bully…

Some of the most teachable moments come through some of the most obvious ways. After having spent the last twelve years perfecting my “mom skills”, I can say with a loud proclamation – I’m nowhere closer to perfection than the day I began! WOW – parenting is so tough sometimes! As my wee one is now a pre-teen, I am trying to pass the reins to her a bit when it comes to issues needing resolution. I’ve taught her to try and handle difficult situations (i.e. school bullies) to the best of her ability and then call in her “back up” if needed. She’s actually done quite well during the few times that it’s happened, however she ran into a situation recently that didn’t seem to want to disappear with her tactics alone. I kept offering my services, so to speak – a little “mom intervention”. She kept reminding me that she would handle it. The situation only continued to worsen. I reminded my daughter that it’s okay to ask for help – that sometimes there are situations bigger than we are, and we simply can’t resolve them on our own. She relinquished “ownership” of the situation to me, and the problem was resolved in less than 24 hours. I did nothing special, but I relied on my adult “power” to step into this adolescent situation in a tactful way and in a way that would not bring my daughter any embarrassment. Needless to say, she’s happy – the tears are gone – and, mom’s smiling!

As is always the case, the tangible life lessons that involve me as teacher almost immediately find their way back to me as student. This time – I was the one needing intervention, a little “back up” assistance, but I didn’t own up to that. Finally, a still, small voice inside me kept reminding me, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (See also 2 Corinthians 12:9) Yes it is – sometimes, I can only rely on God’s divine power to solve a problem. It may just be more than I can conquer on my own or simply more than I choose to deal with. But, He’s more than ready to take our load, He doesn’t want or expect us to carry our burdens alone – just ask Him!