11.24.2014

Exciting Adoption Update

Before I jump into an update for our adoption process, I wanted to share how thankful I am that I had the opportunity to share the deeper parts of my heart in my last two posts: A Burdened Heart and I Will Follow. Your comments on Facebook were so encouraging. I received private messages and email from some several people - some known and others I have never met - sharing that they, too, have had similar experiences with loss when following God's leading. A friend shared an incredible sermon with me called The Pain and the Promise of Obedience, and I loved every word the pastor spoke. Check it out if you haven't seen it yet, as it was such food for my soul! Thank you for being so gracious with your words, as there is always risk to stepping out in a vulnerable position, sharing your heart and faith with others.

Now for the good news! So much has happened the last couple of months. My last update about our actual adoption process took place two months ago on September 23rd. We had just received our fingerprint appointment from USCIS the previous day. This is a background check with the Department of Homeland Security. Despite our appointment not being for a couple weeks, Ryan and I decided to see if they would allow us to have our fingerprints taken early. We drove downtown Indy on September 25th, and we were thrilled when they allowed us in without an appointment! Thirty minutes later, our fingerprints were finished. In the weeks that followed, we were assigned an officer with USCIS, and we awaited the news of our approval.

After Trick-or-Treating on October 31st with some friends and their children, we came home to find our Immigration Approval! We had already sent our dossier to Lifeline, and this approval was the last document needed to start the next part of the process. I emailed a scanned copy of our immigration approval to our social worker, and she started the Authentication process the following Monday, November 3rd. Authentication occurs at the county, state, and federal levels, and various authorities give their stamp of approval that each document is real and not fabricated. For example, our birth certificates are actual birth certificates. We received notification that the authentication process was complete on November 20th. We celebrated being one step closer!


Today we received the most exciting news so far. We are officially Dossier To China (DTC)!!! Our social worker as uploaded our dossier into China's system, and she also mailed everything to them today. HOORAY! We were hopeful to hit this milestone before Thanksgiving, and we are so grateful to be finished with everything on the US side for awhile.

So what next? Well, we first celebrate how far we have come in five months! And then, we continue to wait for a precious little one's file to arrive in the US. As I have shared before, on February 12th I saw the picture of the most beautiful little one, felt a indescribable pull to him, and said aloud, "He looks like my family." I immediately inquired about him while Ryan was asleep next to me. Every month that followed, I checked with my social worker to see if she had learned anything about him. Was a file being prepared? Did his orphanage participate in international adoption? Did they partner with an adoption agency? You can imagine our surprise when we learned on June 30th that his file was indeed being prepared, and miraculously, his orphanage partners with our agency. Within a week, we submitted our application to begin the adoption process once again with the understanding that we might or might not be chosen to view his file. Time will tell how this story shall end, but we have faith that God is sovereign! He is good, and He loves this precious boy more than anyone. I know this child will be adopted by the family that is best for him whether it is us or not. However, I can't help but imagine all four boys playing together, riding in our sweet mini van (haha!), and reading bedtime stories together. I try to protect my heart, but sometimes, those visions sneak in unexpectedly and bring a smile to my face. I will keep you posted and let you know as soon as we hear anything. You can only imagine how eager we are to know who our fourth child will be!

11.18.2014

I Will Follow

Almost 2 ½ years ago, I stood at church singing a Chris Tomlin song (click to play while you read)…

I will follow you
I will follow you
 
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back

This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me


This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me

I will follow You (I have decided. I have decided)
I will follow You (I have decided)
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
 
After singing that song and listening to the subsequent sermon on obedience, Ryan and I made the decision to surrender to God’s will for our lives. We decided to deny our selfish desires, put aside our fears, trust the Lord, and move forward with adopting a child. The lyrics, “I will follow you. No turning back,” became an anthem of sorts to us. Many of you probably remember hearing it in the video we made for our puzzle fundraiser. We entered a world that was completely unfamiliar to us but felt God’s presence and affirmation at every turn. Our eyes had been opened to a broken part of this world that we knew existed but never allowed ourselves to feel or see. Soon, the term orphan became personal. These children became real. I experienced an insatiable hunger for the Word like never before and longed for a child I had never met. I spent more time praying on my knees and drew closer and closer to God than I ever knew was possible.
 
Fourteen months after making the decision to FOLLOW the Lord, I held Tucker for the very first time. I can still remember how his tiny, warm body felt in my arms, just like those first moments you have with your newborn baby. In time our difficult beginning was replaced by deep roots of love and a strong foundation. We have experienced the true meaning of beauty from ashes.

Over the past year, I have struggled with all that we have lost since bringing Tucker home including our family of four, our church home, and our community we experienced there. I resigned my position as a school psychologist, which I really loved. Walking away from a possible opportunity to create and lead an orphan care ministry was more painful than I can describe. Several relationships have changed. Some have ended altogether while others have shifted significantly. Two years ago I had certain dreams for the future – what could have been but will never be. I have grieved each of these losses and have often questioned why so much has changed and why we seem to have lost so much.
 
In the time that the leaves have changed colors and fallen off the trees, God has revealed answers to my questions in so many ways, and I am finally beginning to understand the purpose in our loss. For book club, we read Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. The term counterfeit god is another word for idol and is defined as:
 
-Anything more important to us than God.
-Anything that absorbs our mind, heart, and imagination more than God
-Anything we seek to give us what only God can give
-Something so essential that, should we lose it, our lives would feel hardly worth living.
-Anything on which we spend most of our passion, energy, emotional, and financial resources
-Something that we look to for significance and security
-Something that when it is removed, we feel despair
 
Tim Keller states that the most painful times in our lives occur when our idols are being threatened or removed. Although the past year has been filled with great joy, I have also felt heartache and disappointment after losing what I now understand were treasured idols. Without them, I have sometimes felt isolated, in despair, and alone. Over the past six months, I have often felt like I don’t fit anymore. I have wanted to leave and start a new life somewhere else because trying to live here without my idols was uncomfortable.
 
I now realize that throughout this past year, God has stripped these idols away so that He could fill that space in my heart. Tim Keller wrote, “You don’t realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have” (p. 19). Instead of seeking the majority of my spiritual nourishment at church, I am primarily being fed through quiet time with Him, studying His Word, reading additional books like Counterfeit Gods, and having discussions with women in my Bible Study. Rather than placing expectations (which Beth Guckenberger calls premeditated resentments - love that!) on outside relationships, I am trying to find healthier boundaries for them. More importantly, I am striving for deeper relationships with my family and the Lord. I am working to find my acceptance, security, significance, and approval through Him rather than through my career, a church, and my relationships.
 
On November 10th, I was reading a devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. She wrote, I am molding your mind and cleansing your heart...
 
...I am re-creating you into the one I designed you to be."
 
More affirmation that all things lost were for my good. God was cleansing my heart so that I could continue to FOLLOW Him.
 
Last Christmas, I downloaded Kyle Idleman’s book Not A Fan on my Kindle and finally started it a week or so ago. Sometimes I laugh when my circumstances collide in perfect timing with a book, song, sermon, etc., and this was definitely one of those cases. I have highlighted so many parts of this book – it is so good! The main theme is what it means to be a true follower of Christ versus just a fan. Idleman writes that:
 
Fans are enthusiastic admirers. For example, we are amazed by what Jesus has accomplished.
 
Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives. For example, we are willing to go to church until it interferes with our kids' ability to play on travel teams.
 
Fans don’t mind Jesus doing a little touch-up work but resist when He wants complete renovation. For example, we are willing to give a small portion of our money to His Kingdom but resist a full financial makeover through a program like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.
 
Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications. For example, we are willing to accept Jesus as our Savior as long as we don't have to stop living our comfortable, pleasure-filled lives.
 
Idleman states that “When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans” (p. 32). In reading this book, I found it so interesting that within the four gospels describing Christ’s life, Jesus said Believe in me approximately five times but said Follow me about twenty times. Idleman defines following as requiring more than mental assent, as it calls for movement. He writes, "There is no way to FOLLOW Jesus without him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something.”
 
I was once a fan all the ways described above. I loved God but stayed inside my safe bubble. I wanted to sit in a pew, listen to a sermon, and be inspired. I didn’t know what it meant to make sacrifices for God. I thought God wanted me to be happy – not feel pain. On July 19, 2012, God asked us to stop being fans and decide to FOLLOW Him…really FOLLOW Him…for the first time in our lives. In fact, I am still learning how to stop being a fan as I strive to FOLLOW Him.
 
This past Sunday, we attended a local Chinese Christian Church for the second time, and Dr. Thomas H. Hermiz spoke. His sermon was entitled Full Submission. Again, this was another situation where our circumstances and God’s message collided so perfectly. Dr. Hermiz stated, “Following Christ requires surrender, submission, and obedience.” As I continued to listen to his talk, I started thinking about how God will never lead us astray. Ryan and I have lost parts of the world that we loved, but those pieces stood between us and God. With those idols removed, God can reside in our hearts more fully, and He can more powerfully work in us and through us. Following Him will cost us, but I believe with my whole heart that there is nothing sweeter than living in the center of God’s will for our lives. Dr. Hermiz said, “No one ever regrets entering the mission field God calls them to.” I love that. His words were so encouraging to my soul. 
 
On Orphan Sunday, Ryan and I stood with friends at a church we’ve been attending for the past 6 months. We sang a beautiful song by Hillsong (click to listen while you read):

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy
 
(not even the most enticing, comforting idols)

Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back

I've been set free

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ my all in all
The joy of my salvation
And this hope will never fail
Heaven is our home
 
(Of course I don't feel like I belong - this isn't my home - and leaving won't change that)

Through every storm
My soul will sing
Jesus is here
To God be the glory
 
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

And before I knew it, we were singing out those beautifully familiar words. Our anthem had returned two years later under different circumstances and in a different song.
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back


I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back
 
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
 
And so we keep singing our anthem and marching toward the Lord – wherever and however He leads. This journey hasn't been comfortable or easy or without loss, but there is no place I would rather be. Christ is enough for me.
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