Saturday, June 30, 2012

8,000 Words

I'm exhausted but wanted to upload some pictures to share with those of you who have been checking on us.  They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are 8,000 "words" for you.  :)  

Here she is in Wal-Mart for the first time...

Painting toenails...

Playing doll house...

The kids all disappeared upstairs and created some music and then came downstairs to perform it for us...

Tonight we went to the New Horizons for Children event at the splash ground, where Sandija got to see some of her friends from Latvia, as well as a Latvian chaperone.  She had a great time socializing with everyone!  :)

Here she is with her "Daddy Bear," as she calls him...

All the kids LOVED the splash ground, especially in this record-breaking heat!

Lovin' the watermelon.

Hopefully I will find some free time to write more, as there is so much to say.

Friday, June 29, 2012

She Has Arrived!

Last night found us waiting at the airport in much anticipation.

Checking flight status every minute.  "Have they landed yet???"

The clock we stared at during our wait...

And here was our first glimpse of them!  If you click on this photo, you can see Sandija waving with both hands.  :)

Sandija and her friend Liga walked together, holding hands much of the time.  We had met Liga's host family (from Tennessee), and we've made plans for the girls to Skype and get together sometime during their stay in the U.S.

And here they come!

Isn't she absolutely beautiful?!  Next to her is the director of New Horizons for Children.
She's finally with us!

And, in a moment I will never ever forget as long as I live, Sandija gave us a gift.  We were waiting in the women's bathroom, and she pulled her backpack off her back, unzipped the front zipper and pulled out these 2 things...

She pointed to the girl on this magnet and said, "Mother," and then hugged me and said, "Thank you!" It was truly a precious moment that I will always remember.

She was happy and having fun with her friend Liga in the airport.  Once they parted, she got a bit quiet but was still smiling and taking things in.  She slept the whole way home and then climbed into bed as soon as she could.  When I went to tuck her in, she was curled up in fetal position and seemed very withdrawn and lost.  I stroked her cheek and kissed her goodnight.

And then I went to my Heavenly Father, the only thing I could do.  Prayer is our lifeline.  He holds Sandija in His Hands.  And my hands and life I offered to Him: "Use me, Lord."

The house is still very quiet, as everyone is asleep.  The breakfast table is set, with a bowl of clementines and a container filled with different kinds of granola bars.  Little place cards are at each person's spot at the table, everyone learning their new place.

And my heart is full full full.  God is so good, and this is going to be a blessed summer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Her Bed and Blanket

So today was the day I finally got to put Sandija's sheets on her bed.  I made a little blanket that she can use while she is here and then take back to Latvia with her.  

It's really amazing how God put the whole thing together...  I made the calendar a few days ago...and I bought the material for the blanket a few weeks ago...and we pulled the pillows off a linen closet shelf about a week ago.  Tonight when we put the whole set together, we were amazed at how it all matched perfectly, without us even knowing it was going to match.  God never ever ceases to amaze me!

Here's her bed (bottom bunk), complete with her "S" on the wall above her bed (matches the "H" above our oldest daughter's bed on the upper bunk).  We plan to take the little dog to give to her at the airport tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Odds and Ends

We ran errands today, getting last-minute items for Sandija.  Look at this cute black and white box I found at Target for $1.  We filled it with a bottle of water and some snacks.  The inspiration for this came from many experiences traveling and changing time zones.  One time we found ourselves awake at 5am with starving children whose body clock was at 8am.  They wanted breakfast, but I didn't want to wake our hosts to ask for food before dawn!  :)  So, Sandija will have a little box beside her bed (after all, 4am is going to feel like 11am to her).

Sandija loves to do crafts, so we are going to introduce her to the creative world of scrapbooking, making a fun memory book of her visit.  We loaded up on scrapbooking paper and stickers...all 50% off...whooo-hoo!

Here is our most sought-after treasure.  We had the hardest time finding decent girls' pj's for some reason.  After searching through 3 stores, we finally landed on this cute pj set, and look at the sweet ruffles on the bottom of the pant legs...

Some necessities and some fun girly things...

Can't you just feel the excitement??

Sunday, June 24, 2012

As If It Were Me

I think I've seen thousands of photos of orphans.  I get them all the time in the mail, via email, from friends, in magazines, from our former adoption agency coordinator, etc.  Every photo, every story touches my heart in some way and on some level.  But then there are a few who just pull at me so intensely that they make it to "the mirror."  Our master bathroom has a long wall-to-wall mirror, and on the left side, there is a spot where a handful of photos have been hung from time to time over the years. Sandija's photo made it to the mirror several weeks before we stepped forward to host her.

One day, early in the morning when our bedroom was still dark, I slipped quietly into the bathroom.  Trying not to wake my husband with the bright bathroom lights, I closed the bathroom door before turning on the lights.  I was standing in the dark bathroom, facing the mirror when the lights came on.

And this is what I saw...

The first time this happened, it was the most odd experience to turn the light on and see someone else's face instead of my own.  The brain can sort through things very quickly, running through a series of guesses and ideas, filtering through the crazy speculations and narrowing quickly down to a rational explanation...all within fractions of seconds.  After realizing what I was seeing, "Whoa...that was weird" was about all I could come up with.

This same thing happened a second and third time on different days.  By then, I realized that this might be one of those times when God was trying to show me something.  I felt like Samuel who had heard God's voice but had mistaken it for someone else.  I stopped and asked, "Are you trying to tell me something, Lord?"

Then it seemed so obvious.  I was seeing myself in Sandija's place.  When this realization hit me, I stopped...I literally stopped and stared long and hard at my "reflection" in the mirror.  How would I feel if I were Sandija?  What would I need to feel loved?  The insight was incredible...and so close to home, as my personal reflection was infiltrated by someone outside of me.  As I stared at the mirror, I closed my eyes and tried to slide into her shoes...the brokenness, the rejection, the grasping for hope.  This new revelation grabbed me...hard.

I was looking into her eyes in the mirror, and it was as if it were me.

"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."  Hebrews 13:3

So, this is how it's supposed to be...  I am called/commanded/supposed to think of those in prison as though I am in prison with them.  I'm called to remember those who are mistreated since I'm also in the body...and therefore it IS as if it were me being mistreated, as if it were me in prison.  And that is an ugly place to go, even mentally.  We, as humans, tend to avoid the hard places.  We run from discomfort, and we want to numb any pain.

And, yes, even in loving orphans, we can very quickly focus on all the wonderful things we can do with or for these children that we can conveniently overlook the reality of the life they are living.  We can candy-coat it for our own conscience sake.  But sometimes we have to climb down into the messy place where someone else be willing to acknowledge the hurt and share the tears and pray fervently as we make steps upward together with them.

I simply have to do what God's Word says.  I have to remember Sandija as though I were locked up with her...and love her as I love myself."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Those Little "Extra Touches"

We were given a wonderful calendar that we could print out for Sandija (New Horizons has been amazing at giving resources!).  It has the months and days of the week written in English, Latvian and Russian.  This is a visual for her to understand what day she arrives and what day she leaves...a way to keep track of her days...a reminder that she is being hosted for 5 weeks and will then return to Latvia.  Yesterday I printed it out for her, but it looked a tad plain and in need of a little something to make it personalized for Sandija.

I have a little book I picked up awhile back titled Home Warming: Secrets to Making Your House a Welcoming Place by Emilie Barnes ("hospitality expert").  It was a beautiful book with warm drawings of home.  My kind of book.  It has a chapter dedicated to "guests."  She talks of how "imaginative 'extra touches' can make a big difference.  These are the little extras that say, 'I care'."  She  gives examples of placing fresh flowers and interesting mementos in a guest's room, providing them with a robe in the bathroom, turning down their sheets before bedtime...the little things that make people feel special.

I love to incorporate these sorts of things into our home life, not just for guests, but for my family.  On occasion in winter months, I will take cups of hot (warm!) chocolate for the boys to enjoy while in their bath or a cup of hot tea with a note for my teenage daughter who may be having a bad day.  A series of "little things" create an atmosphere of love...slipping little notes in their bedrooms before they wake up in the morning, surprising them with a candlelight breakfast, pulling warm clothes out of the dryer for them to put on after coming from playing in the snow, surprising them with lemonade when they are playing outside on summer days, framing Scripture verses for them to read while washing their hands in the bathroom...just little things that remind them that I love them.  

And plain things just aren't my cup of tea.  When I took the calendar off the printer yesterday, my mind began to thumb through some ideas to spruce it up a bit.  I had some extra scrapbooking paper and some leftover ribbon, and within a few minutes, the calendar had some pizzazz perfect for a teenage Latvian princess.  I love how it turned out!  We plan to hang it on the wall right next to her bed.     

We're busy preparing for her arrival.  Only 6 more days...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Preparing for Royalty

We are at the 1-week mark...  Her name is on our calendar for airport pick-up day!  The children have their own countdown calendars in 2 different places in the house.

We have a few things that we have bought Sandija in her heart language so that when she is with us, we can share the hope we have in Jesus.  We bought the Jesus film on DVD in Latvian.

And yesterday, these CD's arrived in the mail.  We are very excited about this treasure!  We found a very nice Canadian missionary family who lives in Latvia and does professional Christian music in Latvian.  Needless to say, we were very happy to get our hands on some music that Sandija can listen to while she is here.  The main reason is for her to have some Christian lyrics deposited into her soul, and the other reason is for the soothing sound of her own heart language.  For those of you who have ever visited another country, you know how very overwhelming it is to hear a foreign language all day (I have sometimes felt my head would burst!).  Hearing your native tongue can be a calming balm to the spirit on long days, so Sandija will have these CD's (and the lead singer autographed them and wrote personal notes to Sandija!).

And my very favorite gift...her brand new Bible!  Our sweet new friends who made the CD's also sent this Bible for Sandija.  The cover is very soft, and there are beautiful photos all throughout it.

I placed one of the ribbon markers in Psalms, and the other is in the Gospel of John.  Our oldest daughter plans to have a quiet time each morning and night with Sandija where both girls read their Bibles.  We want  Sandija to see how she has personal access to her Heavenly Father, the Father of the fatherless.

Preparing for Sandija's visit has been very enjoyable for us.  We have been shopping for a brush, toothbrush, 4th of July shirt, girly things, etc.  We have been busy cleaning out closets and reorganizing the bedroom where she will be staying.

So, why all the fuss??

One day while I was cleaning the outside of a window that hadn't been cleaned since...well...hmmmm...let's just say it had been a long time.    I was scrubbing it and thinking about Sandija's visit.  And a conversation came to my mind from a few years ago.  My friend Kerry was sharing with me some struggles and joys of the road of orphan ministry, teaching me truths that I have only come to understand as I've walked the road myself.  And on this one day, she was telling me about how one morning a few days before Christmas she was cleaning her house in preparation for an orphan whom their family had taken under their wing in the spirit of adoption (she lived in another country and was unable to be adopted, but Kerry's family treated her as a daughter and had invited her to spend the Christmas holidays with them).  Kerry was busy deep-cleaning the house, and she stopped and laughed to herself, "What am I doing?  You'd think I was preparing for the queen of England!"  And she said the Holy Spirit stopped her and said, "You ARE preparing for royalty.  I am Father to the fatherless, and she is my daughter.  You are preparing for the King's daughter."  What a sobering reality.

If a King were coming to our house, would we not prepare it differently than we would for regular guests?  Wouldn't we want to show the sweetest, most sincere hospitality and attention to detail?  Wouldn't we dig out our china dishes and make our most delicious meal?  Wouldn't we plan and prepare some surprises that we knew would make Him happy?

And if a King (or His daughter) were to come visit us, would we deliberate over a special gift to give?  If the King said, "Please give my daughter some shoes," would we carelessly rummage through an old pile of discarded shoes, or would we take her to the store to let her pick out some she liked?  Really, how would we treat a King or His child?

Don't get me wrong here...I'm all for good bargains and resale items that are gently used.  We have chosen a few of our oldest daughter's clothes and shoes that are still in near-new condition to give to Sandija, and we know she will be blessed to have them.  So, I'm not talking about that.  What I'm talking about is the heart attitude.  Am I treating her like the daughter of the King of Kings, or am I treating her like an orphan?  Do I give to her with an attitude of, "This old used thing should be good enough for you," or am I seeking to please the King by what I give and do for His daughter?  Do I think I'm doing her a favor just by letting her be in our home for 5 throwing some dollars at a homeless man on the street?  Or do I, instead, savor the miracle of how God Himself chose our family to spend 5 weeks with one of His own children?  Do I prepare her room with an attitude of, "Well, it will surely be better than what she's used to," or do I prepare for her arrival as if I'm preparing for royalty?

She is royalty.  God Himself is Father to the fatherless, and He is King of, by definition, Sandija is the King's daughter.  Really...what an absolutely humbling honor to prepare for her arrival!

One more week...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Really, it all comes down to this...

Some spiritual insights are simply too complex to put into mere  human words.  It's like trying to wrap your mouth around a whole watermelon or trying to hold a skyscraper in the palm of your hands.  Impossible.  And yet to leave it unspoken is not an option.  Something about putting it into words solidifies it.  I find myself this morning trying to do just that...

Well over a year ago, I asked God to knock me down completely and rebuild me.  At the time, I had no idea what that would entail, but I knew I needed to be different.  The me I was wasn't built by Him.  Sure, I had bits and pieces of Him...even significant chunks of Him, but I wasn't 100% like Him.  I wanted more.  I needed more.  So, I prayed that prayer.

And my world broke into a zillion fragments.

It has been an intense, INTENSE many months filled with trials, frustrations, tears, corrections, redirection, humiliation, desperation...the list goes on.  Some days I would literally find myself face-down on the floor, begging Him for more of Him...all the while, the knocking down of myself was in full swing, painful.  I have never felt so weak.

Then, we stepped forward to host Sandija this summer, and in the weeks since we signed up to do that, the intensity of the pruning and shaping in my life has only intensified.  I felt it growing to a head, much like a pencil that has a broken lead and is placed in the sharpener.  The past year or more of the knocking-down-and-rebuilding process has been like being placed under the blade in the sharpener.  But then as we get closer to this hosting period, I feel the blade bearing down deeper, harder.  It's coming to an absolute POINT.

And I asked, "Why?"  Not a whining "why" or even an irritated "why" but rather a truly curious "why?"  Why is the process speeding up and intensifying as we draw closer to orphan hosting?

The past few days held the answer.

God always, and I mean ALWAYS knows what He's doing.  He led us to watch some Francis Chan videos.  I cannot begin to describe the buckling, the breaking, the complete falling-down of all things old in my soul.  It was as if  the past many months had been a chiseling and hammering of old pieces.  And then God ushered me into the battle of Jericho...the mere walking around the walls, the mere listening to His Word through Francis Chan brought the walls completely down.  With an insane force, they fell.  And the soul pushed more deeply into the sharpener...this time with less friction as the blade went round and round, the soul submitted.

Francis Chan's words were simple: Read the Word and then just DO IT.  No fancy lighting, no smoke machines, no worship team cued up to add anything to it.  Just a simple, pure, passionate plea:  Read the Word of God, and be courageous to DO WHAT IT SAYS.

Remember the game Simon Says?  Francis Chan noted that we play, "Jesus Says" but with different rules.  Instead of following Him exactly and doing just as He says, we play an easier version: We memorize what He says, we get together with church members to study what He says, we even learn to say it in Greek...but there are very very few who actually DO IT.  He likened it to telling his child to clean their room, and 2 hours later, they come back and say, "I memorized what you said: 'Clean your room.'  I even learned it in Greek.  And my friends are coming over, and we are all going to study what it would be like if I cleaned my room."

That's us, isn't it?  Be honest with yourself here.  THAT. IS. US.  Do you fully understand that He will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth?  Do you fully grasp the seriousness for all eternity of the choices we are making THIS MOMENT?  He said that many will say, "Lord, Lord" and give a list of Christian things they did...but He will ask them to depart from Him because He never knew them.

You've heard it a thousand times, right?  But do we actually GET IT?  Do we honestly follow Him in obedience to all He said?

A few days ago, I pulled out a notebook and began to write down everything Jesus said in the Gospel books.  I'm only on Matthew 7 so far, and I have pages of notes.  Today I read back through them again, highlighted them and noted just how few I am actually DOING.  This is a wake-up call...a call to repentance and to turing around and determining to DO WHAT HE SAYS TO DO.

So, what does this have to do with hosting an orphan from Latvia??  It is everything.  In Him alone do orphans find mercy.  Sandija will soon be coming into our home for a few short weeks, and when she meets us, she NEEDS to meet Jesus...not a cheap replica that looks a bit like Him on the outside.  She NEEDS Jesus.  And in order for me to be Him in the truest sense, I have to listen to Him and do what He says.  Period.

It's so easy to glide over that quickly and say amen in the churchy voice, but do you really truly GET THIS???  We are to do what He says.  Let's take a look at a few things here...let's test our obedience level:  He said that are we are NOT supposed to collect for ourselves treasures on earth (Matthew 6).  Do we OBEY Him in that?  Or do we come up with excuses as to why He really didn't mean that exactly?  Here's another one: If anyone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek to him also.  Do we DO that when we are hurt by someone who is in the wrong?  And here's the one I've heard the most excuses for:  He said that if we want to follow Him, we must sell all we have and give it to the poor and follow Him.  Whew!  (Are we squirming here?!  Did you hear the automatic excuses rise up in your mind?!).  The final words He said to us before he went to be with His Father was to go into all the world and make disciples.  How many disciples are you making today?  Are you serious about that mission, or is there an excuse that pops to your mind instead?

You is so very very easy to say, "I accepted Jesus into my heart."  But the proof is in the fruit in your life.  The plumb line is in your obedience.  It is easy to say, "I'm a follower of Jesus," but what in the world does that mean if it doesn't literally mean that you do indeed follow Him in everything?

We cannot say we obey Him if we don't.  We cannot say we follow Him when we don't.  It's that simple.  And our lives depend on this...our eternal lives depend on what we are doing today about what He has told us to do.

And orphans, if they are to be truly helped by Jesus, must find HIM when they see us.  They must see the real deal...not an impressive copy that can fool the church crowd but is truly not obedient to the core.  In HIM ALONE do orphans find mercy.  Will Sandija find Him in me?

That is why the final bricks have come down in my prayer for Him to knock me down and rebuild me. The walls lie in ruins, and now He is rebuilding.  He has already given me His Word, and as I obey purely, unwaveringly, He will build me be a rare follower.

And that is why the sharpening tool is so sharp and fierce right now, focusing in with more intensity.  It is because HE is the One that needs to meet Sandija at the airport.  HE is the One who needs to hug her and love her with abandon.  HE is the only One who holds His Will for her life.  He needs me to seek that Will, to follow Him (REALLY follow Him) and be His hands and feet in her life.  I cannot do that if I am not willing to obey Him in all He says for me to do...ALL of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

When There is Silence in Orphan Ministry

"The first question that the priest...and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?'  But the Good Samaritan...reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him'?"  
---Martin Luther King, Jr.

I often keep my frustration to myself when it comes to orphan ministry.  Not wanting to offend, I choose to be quiet when I sometimes want to scream.

But, I will be bluntly honest here in this small blog post on one tiny blog in the sea of cyber space...

Sometimes it really gets to me.  Sometimes I go to bed at night, cover my head and cry for these orphans.  And I ask God, "WHERE ARE ALL THE FAMILIES WHO WILL RISE UP FOR THESE LITTLE ONES?!"  I wrestle with my inability to rally the troops.  Sometimes it truly baffles me how I can send out S.O.S. calls...for orphans who only have months until they are placed in a mental institution unless a family steps forward to adopt them...or for an orphan who is one of the last children awaiting a host family for the summer hosting program.  And the response is almost always the same: silence....sometimes a few muffled, "I'll pray about it," but mostly silence. 

A friend of mine experienced this recently when she posted on FaceBook several times about orphans who were in need of host families, and out of all her pleading, only a couple of people shared the info with their FaceBook friends.  A click of the mouse seemed too much to ask.  WHY is this?  Is it just a pain to do?  Or is it because we don't want to get involved, even at the smallest level (clicking the mouse)?  Or do we not want to bother or burden our friends?  Yet, if it was OUR child on the other side of the globe who was in desperate trouble, you'd better believe we'd be contacting every friend, family and stranger we could find and pleading desperately, "Help my child!"  But, because these children are not our own, we have a different level of concern.  We can refuse to help and not feel any tinge of guilt.  

I watched as the clock ticked down to the final minutes for families to sign up to host orphans, and there on the screen were several faces of children who were not yet chosen.  They will have to be told, "You weren't chosen by a family.  Maybe next time."  In the meantime, again the stab of rejection sears, as they spend their summer in desperation while potential host families spend their summer in comfort.

But the Good Samaritan...reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him'?"  

Do we stop long enough to care what will happen to these children who aren't chosen?

My 14-year-old daughter was getting into bed on the night of the host deadline.  There was an air of sadness in our home as we all silently dealt with the fact that several orphans had not been chosen...and now the deadline had come and gone...hope had snuffed out.  And my daughter broke down sobbing for these children.  No doubt, she was putting herself in their shoes, feeling their pain of rejection, of hopes plummeted.  Children can still feel with a tender heart that hasn't been hardened through the years with the adult answer of "well, that's just the way things are."  Children can still feel the reality of a hurting heart on the other side of the globe.  She clung to me and cried until she had no more tears.   When she settled down, and I was tucking her into bed, she said something that cut through all the politically correct reasoning of adults: "Mama, you know what I think?  I think every single one of those children had a host family.  But some just didn't obey."

I've thought on that for a long time, and I have to agree.

I have heard all the reasoning before: Not every family can adopt.  Not every family can host.  Not every child is supposed to be adopted.  All these statements  can be true to one extent or another.

But I fear that we use these as blanket excuses to make ourselves feel better about not getting involved.  We, in our culture, crave convenience, and entering into an orphan's life is anything but convenient.  We crave familiarity and comfort, and entering into an orphan's life will rip you out of your comfort zone with intensity.  We run from pain, and entering the life of a hurting child means entering their pain.  We crave simple...we'd rather write a check than roll up our sleeves.  

I'm not harping.  I'm not complaining.  I'm not guilt-tripping.  I'm simply struggling with the way the priest and Levite walked to the other side of the street to avoid the man who was obviously in need of help.  As Christians, we read about that.  We teach our children about that.  And we tend to say,"That priest and Levite were wrong.  The Good Samaritan was right.  We should be like the Good Samaritan."  And yet it fleshes out differently when it's an orphan (or widow or homeless or poor or oppressed) lying in the street (or on the computer screen) in front of us.  We care at some level...maybe even enough to say a quick prayer.  But the seat starts to get a bit uncomfortable.  We shift a bit and reach into our back pocket for excellent excuses: I cannot afford to host an orphan this summer...I have other plans...this may upset my own  happy home...I am not "called" to do this.  And we click the "X" in the corner of the page...we wipe it off the screen and out of our minds...we choose to walk to the other side of the street and not get involved.

I know because I've done it too.  Far too many times I haven't stopped for the one placed before my eyes.  

And, no, we cannot do it all.  Our family cannot care for all 147 million orphans.  But we can step forward for the one.

At the end of the day, when my frustration is high and hope is low, God my Father wraps me in His arms and reminds me that I do all I can and leave the rest to Him.  It is HIS work.

But it still grieves my heart that so many are missing out on the call He gave to us all.  So many are busy singing in the choir and going to youth pizza events (nothing wrong with those things), all the while ignoring what the God they worship has defined as "true religion."  While we are busy worshiping Him in a million ways that we like, we forget what HIS definition of real religion is: "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) 

Based on that definition, are we truly worshiping Him?

The answer is what grieves me deeply.  Where are the ones who will stand up and obey?  Where are the ones who will refuse to walk to the other side of the street but will stop for the one who so desperately needs help?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When Mama is Not Enough

One night last week, I went into our daughters' room to tuck them into bed.  I kissed my oldest daughter, and we said our goodnights.  Moving on to our youngest daughter, I bent over her and kissed her cheek.  Something wasn't quite right.  She wouldn't respond with her usual "night-night."  I repeated my goodnights, and she still lay there in silence.  I asked her if she was okay, and her eyes began to dart back and forth rapidly.  She has nystagmus, which makes the eyes go back and forth searching for a point of reference.  Her nystagmus isn't usually very noticeable, but when she is highly stressed, it kicks into high gear.  And when her eyes are darting quickly, we know she is anxious or upset or scared or very sad.  

My mind began to go over the evening's events, trying to remember anything that could have upset her.  Usually there is a pretty obvious trigger (Mama saying no to something, brother getting upset with her for taking a toy, being in an overstimulating environment, etc).  But, nothing that evening had seemed to bother her.  Even as I was brushing her teeth before bed, she seemed her usual self, but in a matter of 10 minutes, she was in her highly stressed/sad/upset mode.  I tried in vain to figure out what the problem was.  

I'm a mama.  I fix things.  I've been fixing the hurt feelings and hurt bodies of my young ones for 14 years.  That's just what moms do.  It's in our DNA.  We want it "all better"...and the sooner, the better.

And then I remember.  I'm not only a biological mama but also an adoptive mama.  In many ways, things are the same as I relate to my youngest daughter, who was adopted.  But in some ways, things are different.  There is a span of three years of her past when I was not present.  There is a biological history that I have no information about.  There are hurts and abandonment issues that go way down deep to a place that is inaccessible to me.  And, simply put, Mama cannot fix those things.  

I reached my hands out to pick her up, and she looked away...eyes darting.  I got closer, offering my arms again.  She would not move toward me, this time with tears on the verge of falling.  I moved in and scooped her up, and she lay her head down on my shoulder, clearly feeling defeated by whatever was going on inside her.  I asked again if she was okay, but she was quiet.  We went down to the couch where Daddy was, and I rubbed her back and held her close until she fell asleep.  

It was one of those moments that arise and reminds me again that these children...these precious ones that have difficult pasts, abandonment issues, and survival skills from years in an institution...these little ones are unique.  Mama cannot reach down inside and pull up the hurt and wash it away.  Mama cannot put a bandaid on the ouchie.  Mama isn't enough.

And it drives me to my knees again and again.  God IS enough.  He is what she needs, no matter what the issues are, no matter how deep the pain is.  He is the one I point her to.  Her whole life, as issues arise, I will have to admit my inability and point to Him as her healer, her hope, her Father.

This point is the same with our biological children too.  We cannot be there for everything they will ever face.  We cannot mend every broken heart they have.  We have to point them to Him as their sustainer, healer, hope.

But for children with difficult pasts, parenting has extra hurdles, more unknown factors.  Parenting them requires letting go of many variables that you simply have no control over (whether they were exposed to alcohol or drugs while in the womb, abuse that may have happened before you adopted, a past that you may not know or understand, survival instinct that may cause them to shut down every time they get upset, painful memories that you cannot change, etc).

Sometimes all I can do is hug her and rub her back and tell her that I love her, knowing full well that all I can give is simply not enough.  As I sat on the couch holding her the other night, my mind drifted to Sandija.  God is letting us have the privilege of entering the life of another orphan for 5 weeks this summer.  With the warm bundle in my arms, I felt the full weight of my inadequacies.  I know what it's like to not know what's going on inside their little ask what is wrong and to hear nothing but silent tears.  I know what it's like to look into their eyes and see pain that is far too deep to reach, and even if I could reach it, I wouldn't have the power to heal it.  I know what it feels like to realize that everything in me is simply not realize that I really cannot fix everything.

Lord, I cannot do it. I am too weak.  I am too human.  

In my weakness, His strength is perfected.  In HIM ALONE do orphans find mercy.

So, I lay myself once again at His feet...all my inadequacies and weaknesses transparent before Him.  Grace pours down in waves...grace enough to fill me and overflow into these unique children.  It's all Him.  I am a conduit only...empty, absolutely unable to produce the flow on my own...but rather to let His love and hope flow through me...and to trust that all the healing that I am unable to give, He CAN do through my fervent prayers.  Amazing really.