“Can I talk to you for a minute…?”

Oh man, that phrase always make my heart skip a beat.  Have you ever gotten a voice mail or been asked to stay after the meeting for “just a moment” with those cryptic words hanging in the air?

No advanced warning — just a look, a feeling, a tone of voice.  My brain jumps 35 steps ahead of the game trying to grasp any clues or context.  My mind spins remembering recent interactions or conversations.  What could it be?  Good or bad, I’m going to brace myself.

Those are the exact words my husband heard as we prepped for bed on a mid-summer night.  With his tooth brush in one hand and I-phone in the other, he casually checked his messages and dutifully tackled the plaque before heading to bed.  My heart raced and I just couldn’t keep it in any longer…  Um, okay, he glanced up.  Upon noticing the “deer in headlights” look on my face, he discerned he’d better sit down for this one.  In an instant, I blurted, “I don’t need you to say anything, in fact, I don’t want a response… I just need you to know that I can’t seem to get this idea of adoption out of my head and I don’t know what to do about it!”  There, I said it.  I’m pretty sure it was one run-on sentence too.  Phew, I for one, felt much better.

He on the other hand, received the news and let it sink in.  Ever respectful of my request not to respond in haste (I’m sure he was never so thankful for that request as he was that night!), he sweetly responded, “Okay.  This is is serious.  Let’s pray about it.” 

And pray we did…. We now find ourselves in what Paul Harvey notoriously deemed, “the rest of the story.”*

Recently, however, that cryptic phrase turned its eyes on me. 

I was on my way out the door, when my sweet friend asked me if I “had a minute”.  Of course.  What’s up?  As her body language shifted from wishing  pleasant good-byes to brief hesitation, I knew this would require more from me than just planning the next playdate.  I inhaled and prepared my heart to be open to her heart as she bravely shared a piece of it with me.  Tears glistened in her eyes as she commanded them to stay at bay.

Although conflict is never easy to swallow, I thanked her for her honesty and commended her “braverism” (a word coined from one of my all-time favorite musicals, “Wicked’!).  It’s not always easy to open up and lay a slice of our soul on the table — available for the taking.  I much prefer to hold my cards close to the vest.  I keep the risk of hurt safely tucked away.  Too bad my friend “risk” so often takes “joy” hostage along with it. Without abandoning myself to the potential risk, I cannot reap the benefits of pure joy. 

I so desperately want to experience the true life that only Jesus offers.  I want to experience his miracles of restoration and reconciliation, but fear stands at the gate — a sentry at the ready.  The great Australian speaker, Christine Caine says, “We pray for miracles and avoid the context in which miracles can happen.”

Even in the sting, I appreciated the fact that my friend would respect our friendship enough to come to me with her hurt and pain.  It’s not easy to hear, but there can be healing.  Isn’t this what God wants from us?  He wants us to share our hurt, our pain, our laughter and joy — with Him!

God’s hackles don’t rise at the words, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”  Instead, he settles in, invites us to sit in his arms and replies, “I thought you’d never ask….”

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)

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*Just a quick update to my post last week regarding the slow-down of Ethiopian adoptions.  The numbers were dire – a potential 90% decrease in processed adoptions.  Unfortunately, I don’t have too much more to report except things are looking a little better.  The latest numbers I have heard involve only a 50% decrease.  I’m not sure of all the ins and outs, but from what I gather this isn’t entirely grim as it just seems that MOWA and the courts will now be working at the same pace.  Still slower, but not stunted altogther.  For now, we wait and see how things shake out.  I continually loosen my grip and try to give it all back to God.  After all, it was God who granted the vision in the first place.

She said, He said

Today, as I open my inbox, I am flooded with emails of public outcry regarding the most recent potential legislative changes concerning Ethiopian adoptions.  Word on the street is the Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (affectionately known as MOWA) is tightening the proverbial belt and, as of March 10th, will only be processing 5 adoptions per day as opposed to the 40 or so they have been processing as of late. This news could result in a 90% reduction in processed adoptions!  IF this policy goes into effect, several thousand children per year could remain institutionalized.

Selfishly, my thoughts race inward, “What about us?”  Then, my worldview expands, and I think, “What about them?  All of them?”

Let’s just back up the truck here.  My metaphorical gestational clock was prepared for the “standard” amount of time it takes to process an adoption.  “4 – 6 months!” our agency’s website touted. Granted, my biological pregnancies took 40 weeks, but if we could pound out the paperwork and get going in less time, then by all means — let’s do this thing.  God granted the vision.  We took the leap of faith.  A picture arrived of two sweet children and in an instant our hearts were kept.  A family of four morphed into a family of six.  Now we just needed to jump through the hoops, gather the paperwork and travel to Ethiopia.

A + B = C, right?  I know it’s not pretty, but that’s what I said.  (I never claimed math of any sort was my strong suit.)

I am slowly learning my “chronos” version of time is different than God’s “kairos” version of time.  As I type this, our painstakingly prepared paperwork is signed, sealed, and ready to be delivered.  Well, all except for one thing…. my FBI clearance.  True story.  Apparently, my fingerprints leave a lot to be desired because I have “failed” the background check due to “poor quality” prints — TWICE!  Now they have to do a name check.  By all means, check away.  I’ve paid my parking tickets.  My husband jokes I should be on the lam.  (Don’t worry FBI guy, if you’re reading this I truly am minding my p’s and q’s — and feeding the meter.)

Recently I confessed my anxiety to the Lord in the pages of my tattered journal.   My thoughts spoke… Doubt. Confusion. Expectancy. Excitement.  Restraint.  Relief.  Always questioning, How will this all turn out?

He said, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away, slowly steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.”  (Habakkuk 2:3 NLT)

Right there, in the pages of his Living Word, he once again settled my anxious heart.  I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I know something’s starting right now… I know, cheap Disney reference, but if the shoe fits!

God does not need us for the victory.  He is victorious.  But He does ask us to actively participate in His kingdom.  It is our privilege to watch Him work.  If you feel so inclined, please visit the Joint Council Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children website and sign this petition:

http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43714.html

I said, what?  He said, wait…. So, we hurry up and wait for His perfect timing.

Happy “Providence” Day!

That’s right, you read it correctly, Happy Providence Day!  Despite the inordinate amount of adverts on television attempting to woo my wallet to Kay’s  “open heart” pendant or the prevalent images of Hallmark teddy bears filled with animal “magnetism”,  I propose an alternative look to the commercial laden chocolate extravaganza we call Valentine’s Day.

Lest you think I’m innocent of the commercialism, I admit I can spend money and expend energy on this annual love-fest like the best of them.  I am a sucker for a V-Day with all the fixins.  Today I woke bright and early — okay, my hubby may beg to differ with me on the definition of “bright and early” but for me, it was — I set out the crimson sweetheart placemats with cards and gifts for my precious little Valentines to enjoy before school. Yes, the proverbial chocolate hearts did make an appearance and were appreciated.  My daughter quickly engaged in yet another wardrobe change to don her new hoodie.  My son, glanced at the iTunes card and wondered where the iPod was to go with it — um, details — and my husband fained excitement over the new sleeping aid I gave him, a book on Ethiopian history.  And, I am enjoying the smell of flowers wafting through the house.

Our American version of Valentine’s Day suggests we pull one day out of the year to publicly celebrate our love for one another.  Everyone is eligible to get in on a piece of the action.  Household pets may receive heart-shaped bones and the chocolate industry takes grade-school Valentine’s Day parties straight to the bank. 

Unfortunately, however, our English definition of “love” can ring shallow when compared with the many definitions of the word “love” exemplified in the Greek language. In fact, the Greeks boast four different kinds of love:  Storge — the “I’d do anything for you” kind of love, Phileo — the “I love you, man” kind of love, Eros — the “wink, wink, I think we’re more than friends, if you know what I mean” kind of love, and finally, Agape – the” unconditional, unmerited effervescent grace-filled favor of the almighty God” kind of love.

Agape love can only be harnessed through a relationship with Christ.  Admittedly, I am weak by my own power to display this super-natural type of love. I must first die to myself in order for the Holy Spirit to breathe the breath of life and love back into this human vessel.   To me, THIS is the only kind of love that can drive us to stand unabashed and unashamed, publicly proclaiming a love so divine some may even call it “crazy”, in a world that so often distorts the very essence of the word.

This past weekend, my husband and I got to drop the kids off at Grandpa and Mimi’s house (thank you G & M!!) to enjoy a church sponsored marriage retreat in beautiful Estes Park, CO.  (Incidentally, this is the very spot where we tied the knot 15 years ago!)  Our senior pastor and his wife inspired and encouraged us in our marriages through their seemingly effortless and gifted teaching and personal vulnerability.  While my hands were sore due to an exorbitant amount of note-taking, there is one concept in particular that has captured my heart and infused freedom into my life…

Providence.

The theology of providence denotes God’s activity in the world; His extraordinary intervention in the life of people.  How can it be so mysterious and yet so simple?  God’s love reigns down on us in such a way that He is faithful to weave circumstances, events and people together for his providential purpose.  As Joseph states in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  We must never dismiss the confusing, chaotic, or blissful circumstances of our life.  Words like “serendipitous” or “coincidence” can be exchanged for “providence.”  Never doubt God’s hand is at work!

Despite our perceived “mis-steps” over two left feet, He continues to weave it all together.  He brought my husband and I together 15 years ago to love, honor, and cherish each other — so help us God.  I didn’t get into the college of my choice and ended up meeting the love of my life.  My husband placated his Dad’s wishes to “just drive through Colorado” on the way to California (my hubby’s first choice!) to check out a tiny liberal arts school.  Two lives woven together on a college campus.

On August 23, 2010 I committed a day to prayer and fasting over this heartbeat God had given me for adoption.  What is YOUR heart in this matter, Lord?, I asked.  Little did I know, half way across the world, two young Ethiopian children were saying good-bye to their mother who relinquished them for adoption.  Months later, my heart would be drawn to read their profile and stare into the photo of their captivating eyes.  God’s spirit united my heart to theirs as I noticed the day they were dropped off at the orphanage, August 23, 2010.  One more thread woven in the loom of God’s providential love.

God’s love knows no bounds and it penetrates borders.   His love shatters strongholds and breathes life and freedom.  So, on this Valentine’s Day, “may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is”. (Ephesians 3:18).

May today and every day be,  Happy Providence Day.

Go ahead, take a step.  Providence awaits….

What are the odds?

What are the odds that the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things would take a moment to reach down and speak to little old me?  Honestly!  His switch boards must light up like the fourth of July with prayers pinging at all hours of the day and night. My husband thinks his in-box is full, but I’m pretty sure it pales in comparison.  God’s literally got a million and one things (for me that’s a standard hyperbole I use with my kids) going on – how could he possibly multi-task like that? 

I know, I know.  My two-dimensional, spatially challenged brain just can’t comprehend it, but like Frontier Airlines’ motto, God’s economy is a “whole different animal.”   It probably goes without saying, I am NOT an economist by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I ended up auditing the only economics class I took in college so I wouldn’t completely tank my GPA.  I pretty much walked away from that class knowing the basic definition of macro vs. micro and not much else.  I don’t think I balance my supply and demand all that often.

If God is the producer and director of the MACRO, how could he possibly have time for the MICRO?  I don’t understand how it all works, but every once in a while, I get to experience a glimpse into this cosmic conundrum and it humbles me to no end. 

Yesterday, I finished a tremendous book touted by Elle magazine as the 2006 winner of the “Readers’ prize in nonfiction.”  There’s No Me Without You chronicles the story of Haregewoin (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) Teferra, “a middle-class Ethiopian woman who found herself at the heart of a global health crisis.  After the loss of her husband and daughter, Teferra reluctantly agreed to take in two of Addis Ababa’s thousands of AIDS orphans, and soon children of all ages began to appear at the door of her tin-walled compound.”  This story will move its reader to laughter and tears.  Certainly a “must read” for anyone adopting from Ethiopia and I would submit for the public at large.  Anyhow….  the end of the book details several heart-felt stories of young children adopted out of Teferra’s home and placed with “forever families” in the United States.  The reality of what life looks like as lives from various cultures and backgrounds are woven together is profoundly felt in the joys and the challenges of everyday life.  However, one family’s personal question in their adoption journey stopped me in my tracks. 

We learn of a married couple’s desire to adopt out of Ethiopia.  The Cheneys rejoice as a referral comes their way for a three or four-year old little boy.  As the couple prepares for the arrival of this little one, they learn the boy’s biological father is still alive, living on the streets and dying of AIDS.  “Suddenly the Cheneys weren’t sure that this boy would be theirs either. He wasn’t an orphan” (p. 401).  For them, this news begged a profound question:  Should they continue the adoption or assume the lifelong treatment for a man living with HIV/AIDS in an effort to reconcile the family?  They didn’t have to struggle long, however, because they soon found out the father had indeed died.

This ethical struggle, turned poignantly personal as it turns out, the sweet kids we are pursuing for adoption aren’t technically orphans either.  We have precious little information about these children, except that they are HIV negative and their Mother is HIV positive.  The same question the Cheneys struggled with flashed through my mind and I immediately committed these thoughts to prayer.  God, could you have led us this far only to chart a different course?  My mind whirled with more questions than answers. 

My excerpt from yesterday’s journal entry reads, “Lord, this is a perplexing situation, but I TRUST you are a God of details, provision and unconditional love.  I pray your Spirit directs us in the way to go.  Your ways are better than our ways. You know the plans you have for all of us involved in this journey towards family whatever that looks like, however it comes. I pray your sovereign hand, your eagle’s wings over us all. Grant us discernment and wisdom to follow your will.”

Fast forward to my time with Him this morning.  (Hang with me here!) My parents are currently serving as coordinators for a “Kairos Prison Ministry” weekend in Sterling, Colorado.  E-mails went out a couple of weeks ago requesting that volunteers sign-up to pray for the prisoners in 30 minute increments throughout the entire weekend.  I “dutifully” signed up for my slot which just so “happened” to come this morning. 

I snuggled into the Scriptures at my kitchen table with a steaming cup of coffee  in my hot little hands.  Flipping to the back of my Bible, I decided to look for verses on “prisoners” to see what God has to say about his tender mercy in this matter.  As it were, the Lord led me straight to Psalm 68: 5 – 6 (NLT):

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Um, back up the truck!  Could it be that God would weave all of our stories together in one single snippet of Scripture, embedded in His sacred word, holy and living, suspended in time? My jaw dropped and I fell to my knees. 

Men locked in prison cells are hearing about eternal freedom in Christ. They are not forgotten. Two children, malnourished and mourning in Mekelle, Ethiopia are cared for in their home country as they prepare to become part of a family in a land far, far away.  They are not forgotten.  I do not know how our story will end, but I’ve read the end of the “greatest story ever told.”  The Alpha and the Omega, the God who created the beginning from the end reached out to touch me today.  I am not forgotten.  He places the lonely in families; His family.  You are not forgotten. 

What are the odds God has this all under control?  I’d say the odds are pretty good.  You can take that to the bank.

 

Here am I; send me (Isaiah 6:8)

So it turns out my man, Oswald Chambers has just turned this well-known passage on its head for me — yet again! That guy. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suppose he wasn’t the life of the party at company dinners, but it sure would have been interesting to sit next to him. There aren’t a lot of witty quips in his widespread daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. Not a lot of LOLs or LMAO moments in there. In fact most of what he writes goes well over my head. I honestly don’t know anything about his life here on earth, although I’m pretty sure he died at a young age. Most of the good ones do. But I do know, more often than not, when God graciously illumines my human mind, Ozzy’s passages pretty much kick my hiney.

Take today’s entry for instance. Yup, today’s date. Chambers tackles a very quoted passage in Christian circles… Only slightly behind John 3:16 or Jeremiah 29:11 in popularity we find Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I; send me.” Upon further investigation in the context of this passage, it turns out God wasn’t directly addressing Isaiah at all. Chambers writes, “God did not address the call to Isaiah; Isaiah overheard God saying, ‘Who will go for us?’ (Now here’s the kicker!) “The call of God is not for the special few, it is for everyone. Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition.”

Isaiah has just been privy to the Holy of Holies. In some sci-fi moment, the angels surrounding the Lord are actually covering themselves in reverence and Holy fear. They are singing of his glory and the whole temple fills with smoke. Isaiah immediately shrinks with the revelation of his profound unworthiness and declares himself a sinful man. No sooner has Isaiah uttered these words, than an angel swoops down, touches his lips with a burning coal and declares Isaiah’s guilt removed and his sins forgiven. AFTER this encounter with profound grace, Isaiah’s ears are opened and he hears the Lord asking for a volunteer to be a messenger to his people. Isaiah thrusts his hand in the air and in a Donkey from “Shrek” kind of moment says, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Um, I hesitate to pause the story here, but Isaiah, do you even know what God is going to ask you to do? My 21st century, American mind would like to have some more details before I just go blindly off into the deep, dark woods. What’s your return policy? Is there a “satisfaction guaranteed” mentality? What about customer service and creature comforts…. I could go on and on. Truth be told, I have done just that in some of my conversations with the Lord. As it turns out, the Lord’s message via Isaiah is none too pretty. He’s going to have to speak of death, destruction and wastelands. I’m pretty sure his “prophet rating” plummeted.

Upon hearing the message, Isaiah asks the Lord how long he must do this? It turns out it’s going to be a while as God scatters His people to distant lands and the whole country becomes an utter wasteland. Israel will be but a stump, BUT the stump will be a holy seed that will grow again. Therein lies the promise. What has been destroyed will be made new. God’s truth will restore beauty from the ashes.

Five years ago, when my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary enjoying cheese and wine on a park bench in Napa Valley, I don’t suppose we honestly envisioned our seemingly flippant words of “adoption” would come to pass. We labored over conversation about family planning and wondering how God would use us. At the time, our two children were 6 and 3. We weren’t planning to “have” any more children biologically, but (and I quote) “should God ever want to grow our family, we would pursue adoption.” Period. End of story. We flew home, gathered up our children from Grandma’s house and went about our lives. Birthdays were celebrated, moves were made. Life went on.

Of course, God did show up as He always does. It may not have been recognizable at the time, but this whisper of adoption, however faded or slight, kept beating in our hearts. Prayers were jotted on paper every now and again or breathed into the darkness of the night. Adoption probably wouldn’t be the path for us, but just in case. After all, we are cruising right along. Two healthy kids. Check. Great marriage. Check. Nice house in the suburbs. Check. Great job. Check. Comfy life….. Um, check.

Just this past summer, we came face to face with the Holy of Holies. Nothing extraordinary had happened. In fact, quite the opposite. We just slowed down our pace. As Bill Hybels says, we “lowered the ambient noise” in our life. And sure enough, I heard God speaking, “Whom shall I send?” Together, we prayed. Not knowing all the answers, not being able to map the course with any certainty, we said, “Here we are Lord. Send us.” In this way, at this time, we will obey your call. I know our life may very well look like a stump at some points. The challenges may overwhelm us. But the Lord is faithful, I trust the He will turn the proverbial stump into a holy seed that will….. grow again.

Now, just help me remember that. 🙂

The First Ammendment says I can…

It’s official…. We are adopting and I am blogging.  I’m pretty sure being a blogger is a pre-req for becoming an adoptive Mom.  Blog addresses are now bylines.  I never knew there was a whole world of people, regular ordinary people dying to get their thoughts out in cyber-space.  I suppose it’s cheap therapy.  I can only hope the crime rate is falling because instead of manifesting private, sordid thoughts into road rage, people are actually laying them out for the whole world — or really no one at all — to see. 

I’m not entirely sure I am qualified for this — for blogging or for adopting, but that’s where I’m headed. I’ve got a journal full of personal thoughts and plagerized passages.  Eventually I will get many of them out in this way. 

As they say, ‘read it and weep’ – or laugh or roll your eyes.  Just don’t come crying to me or I’ll darn well give you something to cry about.

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Jamie Ivey

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