Friday, March 25, 2011

The Thorn in My Flesh...

I need to write a book.

It would be called "To Do List: A Grieving Handbook for Mom's with Young Children, Full Time Jobs and No Time to Think." The cover would have a piece of paper with words written in grocery list form that goes something like this:

7:00 Wake up Kids
7:15 Make Breakfast, Brush Kids Teeth, Pack Lunches
8:00 Drop off at School
8:15 Start Laundry
8:30 Grocery Shopping
11:00 Lunch
11:30 Tears and Memories
11:32 Break up Fight

No one told me that going through this process of grief is impossible with three small kids, working full-time, being a wife, homework, adoption paperwork, etc., etc. No one prepared me for the onslaught of emotions that would roller coaster through my day, not by me, but by my three babies.

No one told me that one would yell at me, treat me like dirt, and then the next second cling to me for comfort. No one told me that my optimistic child would be talking about how lucky grandma is to be flying with the angels and the next almost break into tears when she hears her grandma's voice on the voicemail. No one told me that my 2 year old would suddenly want to sleep all the time as a coping mechanism to a traumatic event.

And yet this is the daily grind in my house working out our feelings with the absence of Grandma here.

I've got numbness down. If that was the one and only stage of grief, I'd be a pro. Honestly, I walk around in a daze most of the time doing my tasks. Playing a game, making lunch, making snack, doing laundry, picking up toys. Those things are easy, they don't require any feeling.

I've been struggling with severe insomnia. I will lie in my bed awake...all night. I will watch the hours tick by without one wink of sleep. I don't think about things, my mind isn't racing. But I've been told it is. In fact, my mind is working so hard to block out things that I just can't rest. I've resorted to taking sleeping pills for the last week after 3 nights of no sleep.

Sometimes I think I'm losing my mind. I forget the most common things. I forget to make arrangements for Owen to get to picked up from school. Or I forget that I did make arrangements and pick him up anyway. I forget to fill out homework or permission slips. I forget groceries that are written out clearly on my list. It's bizarre.

The other day I was at my wits end and I cried out to God. And He responded through two people (my wise husband and the great James MacDonald) with the same verse. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7

The thorn that Paul is referring to is an enduring source of personal pain. A thorn can be a physical ailment, a death, a bad decision that brings a lifetime of consequences, or some other problem that will not leave you. 2 Corinthians never specifically says what Paul's "thorn" in his life is, but it was something causing him great pain. I have two "thorns" in my life, they will remain nameless (they are not actually people), but have caused many trials, pain, and suffering. And the one thing I have noticed about these thorns is that they won't seem to go away.

I've been reading Job because I feel like he is a great example of how to keep the faith even when you feel like your whole world has been shaken and taken away from you. I find it interesting that Satan is given permission to hurt Job by God, but he cannot take Job's life. This testing is Job's thorn.

Thorns are sent by Satan to harrass and torment us, but must first be allowed by God. But why would God allow us to go through the torture and harrassment of Satan? It seems so cruel! God's goal in allowing the thorn is to use it for good. Otherwise, he would not allow it. God knew that Job was faithful and would not turn away from him even if he lost everything near and dear to him, including his wife and children. God has promised not to test us beyond what we can bear. "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." 1 Corinthians 10:12, 13

So what shall I do with this? It's hard to accept hardships. I definitely don't welcome it with open arms. I usually pray, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." Like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39). But I NEVER follow up with "Yet not my will, but yours be done." How many times have I asked God to take away the pain and yet never tried to figure out why He was allowing it.

I need to really follow Christ's example when it comes to honoring God in my response. He says, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11) Have I not been preaching how great God is? Have I not made my faith known in a good God who loves me unconditionally? I am risking all I have claimed to believe to come crashing down around me. Am I going to accept the cup given to me or am I going to run and hide from the seemingly never-ending testing in my life.

But Jesus' still small voice says, "My grace is sufficient for you." God's undeserved favor for me will get me through the deepest of trials. And that is the necessity of my thorns. Until I see my need for His grace, then I will never lean on Him and let him take control of my struggles.

I want to close with a quote from James MacDonald in his "When Trials Never End" series. It's what gets me through those days when the thorn feels more like a crown pressing down on my head causing deep scars and throbbing pain than just a prick in my finger. "Be content with your thorn. Submit and embrace it. Live your life with the thorn, because you love Christ so much."

What are your thorns? How can you honor God and boast your need for him.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You Are Mine...

Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes what is real is so hard to take that we hide behind a facade. There are no facades here because the feelings are too raw.

March marks the one year "anniversary" of the darkest time in my life.

I'm not usually a sad person. I typically am happy and try to find the good in every situation. Sure, I can be a cynic at times, but I tend to be more optimistic. That being said, depression is not a struggle of mine. I hardly find myself "down in the dumps". A year ago, this was not true. But that was not a mental depression.

This was spiritual.

One thing that you will learn about me is that I am stubborn. Not slightly...but absurdly stubborn.

After a year of ups and downs with my mom's health, Nick's career, the uncertainty of what our futures held in ministry, I had decided that enough was enough. I was not going to take the risk of allowing any more testing or trials in my life.

I was exhausted of never knowing what lay around the next corner. Not knowing what tomorrow would bring. Exhausted of feeling out of control and unsettled for months on end.

I drew my line in the sand.

I picture a young child who has just been told to do something she does not want to do. First, she simply says, "No." After seeing that this mild disobedience is not being received by the parent, the child raises her voice and says, "NO!" After continuing to seeing that her answer is being denied and she must still complete the task she's been given, what does she do?

She turns her back, covers her ears, and closes her eyes. This was me.

I shut God out. It was too much of a risk to allow Him near me. If I did my devotions and read my Bible, I was going to feel convicted to continue each struggle in faith. In my prayer time, I felt that I wasn't trusting God with control over my life and all its circumstances. I turned my back completely so that God would have no access to me.

Of course, we all know that turning our backs does not take away God's power and control over this life, but sometimes He does back off so that we can learn some hard lessons in our rebellion.

I was miserable. God was nowhere in my life. I could feel it and those closest to me could see it.

During this time, I was cleaning houses with my sister-in-law, Jill. We had so many conversations about the struggles I was having and the anger that burned in me. How I just didn't know how to trust God, and that I didn't want to. It was during one of these conversations that she quoted a line from C.S. Lewis' book "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." When describing Aslan (who is a metaphor for Jesus), it is said:

"Aslan is not safe, but He is Good."

This statement grabbed on to me. I'm not the most theologically wise person, not even close, so at first I stumbled over what these words meant. The more I thought about them, the more I realized what the author was saying.

Christianity was never meant to be the easy way. We were never promised wealth, fame, health, and good fortune. In fact, Christ said that we must daily suffer and take up our cross (Luke 9:23) and that we would face hardships of many kinds (Acts 14:22). He says that we will be tested and tried in our faith (James 1:12), and that the road is narrow.

Our goal in this life is to be refined into His likeness. God is pure holiness, and He uses tests and trials of all kinds to build our faith and reliance on Him to get through those times. So when we have persevered through those challenging times we will be more like Him than before.

After months of mulling over this idea and finally accepting that God has called me to a season of testing, I realized that He did this because He demands perfection in order to be in His presence. I am not perfect by a LONG, LONG, LONG shot, and He knows that. This is why He sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, to take my imperfection and replace it with His perfection. And why did he do this?

Because He loves me.

I was looking at God as a tyrant. As some big bully in the sky who decided to deal out some misfortune in my life as if He were up there rolling the dice in a game of chance. I sometimes wondered if He was chuckling at each little obstacle He put in my way.

But He wasn't.

His heart was hurting as much as mine was. He hates to see His children in pain, but He does it as discipline and training because He loves us. I think of my own kids and how I must discipline them to teach them to make better choices next time. I don't do it with an evil laugh or because I can lord it over them. In fact, I HATE sending my kids to time out or grounding them from a special event. Why? Because I love them, and I hate to see the tears that fall when they've lost something special. It's the same with God.

And I never realized it.

Last summer, I had my own personal revival. I fell in love with Jesus again, like I hadn't in a long time. I saw Him in a new light and knew that He loved me. And because I loved Him, I could abandon all control and know that I can trust Him in every trial.

I'm writing this tonight because I'm angry.

I see myself shaking my fist at God and asking "Why? God, Why?" Were these trials for nothing? Did I not gain anything but only lose tremendously. I feel the child in me stomping my feet on the floor, crossing my arms and sticking my tongue out. He's not playing fair.

"Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness...But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve." Joshua 24:15

This verse echoed in my mind throughout the day today. I've been lacks in my devotionals and prayer time. Call it busyness or just mere stubborness. (I think its mostly the latter.) I'm angry, and I've been choosing to serve the child wallowing in self-pity. It doesn't feel good.

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Today I will choose the Lord.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blessed Be Your Name...

Saturday I posted a blog directing you to a link announcing the issues in Ethiopia regarding adoptions. I'm not going to candy coat how this affected me.

I was defeated. I've been pushing forward because I was ready for something good to happen finally. But then we got the news.

Now being the pessimist that I am, I immediately turned this into the "end of the world." I threw my hands in the air and said, "I guess its time to give up, they are just going to end up closing down the country."

I was angry and confused and ready to throw in the towel. Then I began questioning, "God I thought this was what YOU wanted us to do." "Why does everything have to be so hard?" (hear the whine?) "Why do I keep getting the rug pulled out from under me?"


There may have been a few underlying issues that contributed to my momentary insanity, but God decided that maybe I had had a bit much lately. In His mercy, He decided to kindly, calmly remind me that HE is still standing right here beside Nick and I as we journey to bring home our little girl.

We got the original e-mail Friday night right before bed...bad timing. I literally lay awake all night thinking about what this meant not only for us, but for our little girl waiting for us, and for the millions of other orphans in Ethiopia waiting for a family to call their own. Saturday morning brought alot of tears and emotions and sleepless pity parties. It was a wonderful day in the neighborhood on our street!

By noon, I was wiped clean of all energy. I went to the mailbox and found an envelope from DCFS. It was our Foster Care License...we'd been approved!!! In case you don't know how this arduous process works, you have to have a Home Study and 10 Hours of training with a state social worker before you can be approved for adoption. Along with this you will receive a foster care no, at this point we are not pursuing foster care but are licensed :)

I felt like God was saying..."remember timing is everything." It felt like reassurance that even though each step is tiny, we are moving forward and should continue to do so. The peace that overflowed through my body was welcomed and I took a peaceful two hour nap!

Sunday...more reassurance from above. An unexpected gift of $500 from some of the most generous people I know. I have seen these people scrape from the bottom of their piggy banks to help someone who may otherwise be overlooked. They are the most genuine, loving, compassionate people I have ever met and to be a recipient of their generosity is humbling beyond words. They received a gift from someone in the past and it was no longer of any use to them, so they sold it. Instead of keeping the money to buy something new and exciting (like I would do), they "regifted" the money to someone else who they felt was "working the fields", as well.

Ok God, we will move forward in faith.

Monday...the reassurance is pouring over the top! An e-mail from ICARE, Intl., the orphan care/grant organization that handles our donations so they become tax deductible, is in my inbox. Another extremely generous gift of $500 has shown up in our account. What?!?!? $1,000 in two days?!?!? And to top it off, the givers of this particular gift let us know that there is actually more coming, that was just a first gift!

Seriously, God is good!

To top the whole week off, we met for the final time for our home study! We have completed that step, been approved, and now waiting for our fingerprint "invitation." I'm so giddy I can hardly contain myself!

Our friends, Dawn and Greg, just left on Tuesday for Ethiopia to meet their precious, new son. I am anxiously awaiting updates, pictures, stories...everything! I am ecstatic for them, and I can't wait until one day we are sitting around sharing our adoption stories. And that day isn't far! Please pray for Dawn and Greg as they embark on this new chapter in their lives, their children as they transition to becoming a family of 6, and for safe travels here and abroad.

There is one song that has been a motto for me throughout every trial Nick and I have faced. It's lyrics echo loud what I yearn to say everyday. Through every tear stained, pitiful temper tantrum, I long to whisper these words over and over...

"YOU give and take away. YOU give and take away. My heart will choose to say. Lord, blessed be your name."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You Can Help Orphans in Ethiopia!

Joint Council on International Children’s Services Statement

What You Can Do:

1. Sign the petition ( to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi – and pass it on!

2. Have you adopted from Ethiopia? Please send us up to 3 photos and 50 words or less with what you would like the Ministry to know about your child – we’ll compile the information and send a book to the Ministry of Woman’s Affairs. Send your photos and stories to by Sunday, March 12, 2011 to be included. Please note that sending photos and stories gives Joint Council unrestricted right to use the information you provide.

3 Share…Please send this Call to Action to family members, other adoptive parents, and everyone you know! Post, forward and share your adoption stories via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Make sure you include us in your posts so we can all hear your stories! Here’s links to our pages: Facebook, Twitterand our blog.

4. Stay informed: Get up-to-date information regarding the situation in Ethiopia by signing up to receive information from us: click here to do so, make sure you choose “country and issues specific information” and “Ethiopia.” And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitterand our blog!

5. Help ensure our advocacy can continue: Joint Council is a non-profit and receives no government funding. Please join us in ensuring more children live in safe, permanent and loving families. Donate today!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Another Bump in the Road...

Please read the following articles and be praying for the families, including ours, that this affects. (You will have to copy and paste)

Friday, March 4, 2011

We've Got a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who reads our blog! We are at 26 Followers...woo hoo! Our drawing is for an Ordinary Hero T-shirt.

Ordinary Hero Foundation is a nonprofit,child advocacy organization. Their goal is to encourage and provide a way for every person to make a difference in the life of a child in need, through adoption, missions, or local outreach. They also strive to bring worldwide, public awareness to the orphan crisis. They believe every child needs a HERO, wants a HERO, and is looking for a HERO. They believe that HERO is YOU. Their Mission is to inspire and empower ORDINARY people to make an extraordinary difference in the life of a child in need. (

Ordinary Hero has a financial fundraising program to help those adopting raise money to offset some of the costs of adoption. In November, we used their fundraising program to sell t-shirts to support our adoption. The winner of our drawing will be receiving an Ordinary Hero T-shirt and help support another family bring home their child to their forever home.

And the winner is...

If you are screen name Stephanie, contact me at and we will get the t-shirt out to you!

Our next drawing will be at 50 Followers!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Process of Grieving...

Nick has this saying,

"Don't beat a dead horse."

I think it is the most ridiculous saying. I usually roll my eyes when he says it, but sometimes...sometimes...I take it for what it really means and it suits perfect with the situation.

My blog is about my life and right now my life is consumed with a death that daily hurts in a new, more painful way. I don't want to "beat a dead horse", but I do want to be honest and open about my struggles.

Have you ever been so exhausted that you can't sleep? So exhausted that your entire body hurts and you're not sure you can keep your eyes open but your mind just won't give in?

Welcome to the "Grieving Process".

At first I was so interested in what I could expect to face over the next year. What I could expect to feel and a certain timeframe for how these feelings would come and go and how long they would stay around for. (I'm a bit of a control freak).

Being the internet geek that I am, I googled it.

"Grieving Process". Enter.

A million expert sites lit up the screen and I could feel exhaustion creeping in.

Guilt. Remorse. Anger. Shock. Relief.

I suddenly didn't want to read any more. My mind was shutting down. Exhaustion got heavier. I didn't want to have to think about my emotions. I didn't want to categorize how I should feel each day.

I just wanted to be.

I needed some advice yesterday. Some advice that specifically could be given only by my mom.

In this day and age, we expect immediate answers and gratification. If I have a question, I text 4-5 people and within seconds I get 4-5 responses. If I need a recipe, a phone number, directions, I google it. I have access to any and all information I could ever need at the push of a button.

In my mental conversation, I was mulling over the ways that I could get the advice I needed. I knew that I couldn't call my mom. She wasn't available. Yet there was this lingering notion that told me, well maybe if I e-mail her then she will have a couple days to get back to me.

It may seem silly, but the actual fact that I cannot, in anyway, get a hold of my mom for any reason is hard to grasp. When I finally wrap my head around it, I think of all the unanswered questions I have. I suddenly have a million pieces of advice that need addressed right this minute.

And each day it gets harder. I don't ever see it getting easier. Her gain is an immense loss for me.

I realized that there isn't a neat, little timeframe that I could give myself. My emotions change every day. One thing remains the same though. I am so emotionally exhausted, its hard to know how I will make it through each day.

But I do. I do because my mom would want me to. I do because my husband and children need me to. I do because it wasn't my time to leave this earth, which means I still have a job to do. I still have people to serve. There are those who need prayer and comfort. And there are those who need Jesus.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me...Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith..." 1 Phil 1:21-25