worship in the gutters

What I greatly fear has happened in Christian churches worldwide, is that this brand of worship has produced an experientially focused, overfed, overindulgent brand of believers.

If I say “worship” or “religion”, what’s the first image that pops into your brain? If you’ve been a part of the Christian community for even a nanosecond, this is probably what you’re envisioning:

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Looks amazing! We’ve all been here. Expensive, colored, sometimes pulsing lights, atmospheric smoke, trendy, attractive people on stage fueling the compliant crowd into an emotional experience.  Eyes are shut tight, hands waving, bodies swaying in musical accord. Musicians expertly playing state of the art instruments. The service ends and expensively dressed congregants file out of such a “worship” service feeling energized, yet longing for the next religious personal “experience” as soon as this one fades.

What if I told you that this isn’t worship. This is not true Biblical religion. You’ve been fed an indulgent half-truth and the whole Christian world believes that this, THIS is true worship. True religion.

It.

Is.

Not.

Yes, yes, the Psalmist talks about singing to the Lord a new song and that is great! Let’s do that! Raising holy hands, yes! Awesome! Have at it! I’m all about some great Christian music. Lights, smoke, etc…nothing inherently sinful about these things….

BUT…

What I greatly fear has happened in Christian churches worldwide, is that this brand of worship has produced an experientially focused, overfed, overindulgent brand of believers. It breeds prideful performers and esurient, entertainment seeking congregants…people who are so focused on sentient religion that they fail to comprehend what God has instructed us, through Paul, as to what pure, unerring religion is.

The early church didn’t have lights, camera, smoke, action, glory, accolades….. No, my friends….. Their religion had simple hands, traveling feet, unending suffering, total sacrifice, pain, and many times, a bloody martyrs’ death.

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What concerns me greatly about the seeker-friendly focus of churches is that this type of experiential worship is NEVER mentioned in the New Testament. Never.  In fact, James addresses what true religion is, very clearly and explicitly:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Wha?!?!  No flashing lights? No smoke, come on! For Pete’s sake, where’s the smoke machine? How can I worship God without conjuring up that wondrous, sparkly experience?

So, let me get this straight….. you’re telling me that true religion is this:

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And not this?

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Yep. According to the apostles.  The persecution and sacrifices they endured and God’s calling qualified them all to teach with the utmost, tip-top, religious authority.

I have this strange feeling that if James or Paul were alive today,  you wouldn’t find them on stage riffing away in torn jeans, you’d find them in the gutters and street corners, hands dirty, picking up filthy, abandoned infants, praying with widows, ministering to the homeless.  You’d see the scars on Paul’s back, a split underneath his eye from the stoning he’d recently walked away from. You’d see the bloody chafe marks on his wrists from the chains that attempted to paralyze him from proclaiming the glorious gospel of Christ.

I wonder what Paul, and the other great saints of old, think when they look down at our churches right now….and you know they ARE looking.  At you.  At me. At this church of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you’ve had some sort of ecstatic religious experience, my friend, and that’s great! But I’ll let you in on a lovely secret…..Ready?

Lean closer.

God meets you when you’re here, at the bottom, weeping because of the lost souls in those dirty rows of cribs….He gathers your tears as you gaze upon the abandoned child in your arms….as you stroke their thin, sore covered neck. God meets you in your painful longing to bring Christ to as many lost, broken, difficult, RAD, sleepless, defiant, sick, hopeless, damaged, sweet images of God as you possibly can.

God meets you in the broken, not in the mighty.

Recently, my husband was in India on a business trip. There were two sisters who slept on the sidewalk outside his office building every day. One can’t help but wonder what these children would think if they walked into one of our churches today….at the colossal amount of money wasted on entertaining the masses of “believers”.

My heart weeps because we are all living for the NOW, not the eternal. We aren’t really broken up by this photo. We are numb to it. I am numb to it. You are as well.

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When you meet a lost soul here and there is no fanfare, no accolades, no lights, no atmospheric music, no “likes” on YouTube…. this, THIS is where you will find pure religion. Perfect, silent, heart-broken worship. This is where you see God move mountains, miracles happen, healings take seed.

I’ve been here before and it’s heart wrenching. It’s gut twisting to be snatching little ones from the jaws of hell. It’s horrible, frightening, and down-right terrifying to invite the unknown into the rest of your life…into your family…..

and I want to be here again because this is where you meet God.

 

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What makes this religion real? It’s real because orphans and widows cannot give anything back to you. Pure, perfect, holy religion! There is no mar in it, no thought of self, no consideration of how it’ll give back…what you can gain from it.  Christ-like, sacrificial, wholly pure religion.

Let’s get back there! Let’s be so radically on fire for Christ that we may have to hide amongst the dusty bones of the catacombs, picking up abandoned ones from the gutters.

Let’s go there together, you and me.

Because Jesus said, “ For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

If you’ve read this far, then I beg you to wrestle with this question….where would you like to meet God?

Here?

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Or here?

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Let’s gather in the gutters and meet God.

how do I protect him from words?

If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

“Oh my word, I could just take you home with me RIGHT NOW!” She bends down and starts talking directly to Lian.

“Oh, you’re just so cute! How old are you, what’s your name?” He’s ignoring her because he’s rolling a roll of tape across the hardware store’s floor.

“I love it when they’re this age and they don’t talk yet, it’s when they get older and start talking that drives me crazy.”

Ouch…I sigh….what I wouldn’t give to hear Lian speak to me, hear what he’s thinking, hear his little boy thoughts. The countless hours I have spent with flashcards, letters, slowly saying words, coaching, bribing, singing…..Progress is painstakingly snail slow.

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“He’s not really speaking much yet.” I state, inwardly cringing a bit. I know what’s coming and I mentally brace myself.

“Oh”, she pauses, “does he have autism?  Oh, Down Syndrome? You know, you can teach those kids how to talk.” She beams upon me as if, in that one statement, she has rescued me from all my travails, enlightening me with the knowledge that he can be taught.

Those kids. The “us” and “them” thing.

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“Well, every child is a bit different in their abilities.” I wrestle a can of spray paint from Lian’s hand.

Stop the madness!

“You know…(why is every uneducated statement always predicated by ‘you know’), I read that in China, these kids are just abandoned just because they have Down Syndrome and it happens all the time. Parents just leave them. Can you believe that?”

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Oh dear.  God, how do I gently educate this person while keeping my composure? I’m so grateful that Lian doesn’t understand…yet….but does he? I’m not sure what he does or doesn’t comprehend about adoption yet. I want to rush over and cover his little ears. It’s as if she thinks he can’t hear because he’s not talking.

I smile and shake my head. I tell her about the hard choices that some parents have to make with medical care and the cost of some children’s needs. I tell her to not believe everything she reads. I tell her that we love him to pieces and that he is so incredibly valued.

“Well, I could never do a thing like that. I just don’t have the patience for it.” She flatly states.

Okay then…and I tell her to have a nice day and we leave.

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Let me pick your brain with the “what if’s” of this conversation.

What if Lian had been old enough to understand? How incredibly damaging it would be to his core self-worth to hear a stranger make a judgment call as to why his biological parents made the decision they did. This is HIS story.

Would he assume that he is somehow flawed, that was HIS fault he became a orphan, that his parents didn’t love him enough to keep him?

How hard the car conversation will be when he IS old enough to comprehend the heartache of his past.

How do I constructively navigate and cut this conversation short? I’m truly at a loss here because this is new to me. If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

I felt torn and guilty that I should have known what was coming.  I should have circumvented it somehow, I could have cut her off (SUCH a hard thing for me to do, since manners have been drilled into me from a young age.)

Mamas who have done this a long while, help me! I don’t know how to handle this well, introvert that I am. I need kind suggestions, not mean or snarky ones (although those are fun to contemplate).  I don’t want to cut people down, I want to educate, but not at the expense of my son’s hurt.

Any words of wisdom? I could use some. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you!

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down syndrome has ruined me…

Not only did He throw out all of our preconceived notions, He made us long for what was better before He gave it to us.

Down Syndrome.  Wow, wow, wow.

If you read my previous post, you can probably understand more fully why the wows are repetitive in this eternal journey called adoption.

Just, wow.

If adoption was a stretch for us, special needs adoption resembled an attempted arabesque, while hopping on one foot and balancing on a high wire over a pit of dieting lions. It was a circus act that we had no training for, no experience in, no previous calling to.

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We had just started our adoption journey. Like the hopeless romantic that I tend to be, I’m dreaming of a sweet little girl with dark, Asian eyes and stubby pigtails. I heart girls. I have two girls and while I love my son to pieces, girls are just so darn fun to dress and play with. I’m not a rough and tumble person. I like quiet. My girls are quiet. I’m an introvert. I like peace and tranquility. A girl is good for me.

My life, my choice, I want a girl. Yep.

Bring on the quiet and sweet!

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Oh, there are no healthy children coming out of China, you say? Oh, ok…..well, a minor special need is fine…..let’s see. Maybe a missing thumb or cleft lip?  That’s not too hard….

Oh, there’s a list?  With checkboxes? Ummm…God?  Ok, now what?

Even now, I cringe at how shallow my thoughts were, how unbelievably rosy and undeniably uninformed, immature….selfishly silly.

 

We are about one month into our process. Our agency cheerfully tells us, “You know…there’s this list of waiting children that we have a hard time placing. You should look it over!”

Uh oh.  A list of kids that they can’t find homes for, that nobody wants. Hmmmmm….

Well, it can’t hurt to look.

The little faces scroll by. Hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Willi-Prader, blindness, deafness…the list goes on and on.

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God, I can’t. I don’t know about any of these things, how can I?

Each syndrome, each medical problem has a little face attached….and their eyes. How does one describe their eyes? It’s a combination of lostness, sadness, hopelessness with a healthy dose of pleading questions.

Are you my mama? Why am I alone? Where are you? Whom do I belong to?

And then there was this:

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It was this look. This photo. I literally couldn’t stand it. I saw him and I just knew. He’s the one!

I wanted a girl and God laughed.

BOY!

I wanted a minor need, God chuckled.

DOWN SYNDROME!

Oh my stars, God, if adoption was a lion avoiding high-wire routine, what will Chris say to a boy with Down Syndrome?

I left his photo on the screen, biting my nails until Chris came home. He walked in the door and I carefully pounced.

Soooo, honey…there’s this boy on the waiting child list (I mumbled that last part)? What do you think?

He took one look at him and said, “That’s our son!” My jaw just about hit the floor….again…”But he has Down Syndrome and could never grow up, never leave us, he might be non-verbal, could need heart surgery, could get leukemia, will need multiple therapies, might have this…that…the other thing…oh, and that……” I run out of counting fingers with the list…do I start on my toes? My voice trails off in dismay. What am I thinking?!?!?

Without hesitation, “That’s ok!”

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Ok, wow….we sat down for dinner and my mind is racing…we just both agreed and said yes to this little guy.  I have ants in my pants, my appetite has fled.

“Go call now! Call the agency now and tell her we want to pull his file. Do it now.” Chris’ insistence bumps me into motion.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Tiffany’s voice travels through the phone, “But his file was just pulled 24 hours ago. Nobody has so much as asked about Lian the entire time he’s been up for adoption, and now two families want him in 24 hours!”

He was no longer available. My heart sank. What?

Why, God, why? We both felt so strongly about him? We were both in agreement, a relatively amazing minor miracle, we timidly stepped out in faith and now, he’s gone?

“Argh” cubed.

Ok, back to square one. Well, maybe this was just to open our hearts to Down Syndrome? Rationalizing our disappointment.

The days pass and I keep an eye on the list. No other child jumps out at me and I keep looking at Lian’s photo over and over again.

“Stop torturing yourself!” my best sister instructs. “God has something else for your family.”

She’s right.  I won’t look, ok one more time. Last time. No, this time is the last one, I swear…..aaaand one more.

Staaaaaahhhhp!

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Every day I looked and prayed for Lian. I was happy that he’d finally found a home, but I was sad inside. So sad.

God was silent. Don’t you just adore those silent times with God when you assume you’re headed in the right direction and WHOOPS, shift in speed, direction, altitude…and there are no “this is your Captain speaking” announcements?

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Yeah, me too.

I had finally accepted (not really) that Lian was gone and two weeks later, the phone cheerfully rings.

“So, the other family doesn’t want him, do you want to pull his file?”

YES! I shout, damaging her ear drums. PULL IT QUICKLY!

So, the file is pulled, the “yes” is said, the wheels start the forwardly motion and we all say “wow” in chorus.

I literally went from no boys, no severe special need to intensely longing for a boy with a more complicated special need.

God knew what I wanted and chucked that because, frankly, He knew better.

Not only did He throw out all of our preconceived notions, He made us long for what was better before He gave it to us.

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And I am ruined.  Forever ruined for any other type of adoption. I’m telling you that this sweet boy has entirely captured me, heart and soul. Down Syndrome adoption has turned my world upside down and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So, if we adopt again (please, God!) I’m adopting Down Syndrome again.

Because I’m ruined for anything other than Down Syndrome.

And some say there isn’t a God.

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Though friends forsake you…

Besides, when you’ve stood in a sterile, crib-filled room, your heart filling with tears, the deafening, infant silence signaling the destituteness of this world, somehow these petty things fall away. You want to join hands with those nearest, forging forwards to beat back the relentless dragon of orphanhood.

“You make me feel inadequate.”

The words were like a knife in my gut. I caught my breath, unsure if I’d heard the phrase through the phone correctly.

“I’ve been praying and God told me that we aren’t good for each other….we shouldn’t be friends anymore.” Her voice was devoid of all its accustomed affection and warmth.

Unsteadily, I’m stammering, “What? What did I do? Marie (name changed), how did I make you feel inadequate? Something I said? Did?”

My heart is pounding and I swallow the lump in my throat, but tears sting.

“This isn’t right…Marie…you can’t just end a friendship, can’t we work this out? This isn’t right!”, I’m awkwardly repeating myself.

What followed was a  litany of reasons why she was upset with me…through the pounding in my ears, it was “you didn’t let me put something in Lian’s care package….it’s all about your kids, not mine….you’re manipulative….you posted a meme that offended me….” I felt like she was grasping at straws, searching for something, anything to end the relationship.

I’m verbally stumbling around, trying to defend myself, apologizing for the offensive meme…..not realizing that I’d offended her by posting it, trying to explain myself.

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A meme I loved and agreed with, but she thought I was aiming it at her…but she didn’t have a facebook account, so how was I aiming it at her?

In frustration,  I raise my hand to my face, feeling it tremble.

“Ok, if that’s how you feel.”  I fall silent, resigned. How can I insist she stay friends if she doesn’t want to?

The conversation abruptly ended. I hung up the phone, sat down, and wept. I’d just lost a friend.  A dear, Godly friend. A person I loved and respected, that I had laughed with, cried with, prayed with…..I was beyond devastated.

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This wasn’t just any friend, Marie was one of my closest friends. Our children had grown up together for years…our daughters were best friends. We would get together for coffee at least once a week and we’d laugh, paint, draw, the kids would play. I so enjoyed her company….a beautiful extrovert, she drew me out of my introverted reverie, her spunky personality and beautiful smile always lifted spirits. She was popular, everyone loved Marie…all were drawn to her charming charisma. Never the popular one, always the nerdy, quiet, artistic one, I was thrilled just to be welcomed into her inner circle.

I vividly remember the years she prayed with me for adoption. She knew my heart and deep passions for children in need of families. A happy history existed, but I helplessly watched those sweet years crumble away into the murky waters of bitterness and misunderstandings.

To be honest, I have wracked my head and heart, trying to figure out where I failed. I would lie awake at night and shed bitter tears on more than one occasion. If a photo popped up on social media of her, sleep would be a stranger to me. I had to unfriend her friends, her family, all people I knew, just so that I could try to put it out of my head…move on, get some sleep.

I was confused, hurt, and in the midst of it all, we were trudging up the uncertain mountain of adoption paperwork and fundraising.

Then, one day, it came to me….the tension, the noticeable withdrawal….It all started that autumn when we started the adoption process. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem at the time, but there was a coolness that had started, a drifting away distance. She was no longer available for weekly coffee anymore, too busy. My texts went unanswered…she didn’t call or answer her phone.

“That’s ok!” I attempted to be cheerfully accommodating.  She has kids and a busy life, whenever she’s free, it’s ok. I tried to reassure her…but I quietly wondered.

The distance progressed. A few times I tried to get to the bottom of it, fumbling through emotions and words, sensing something was amiss, but unsure of how to fix it only making it worse, I’m sure.

We were matched with Lian around Christmas time and then that phone call happened after one last, strained coffee together in February. It was over.

It has been almost two years since that day. Does the rejection still sting? Absolutely. Deeply.

Did our adoption have something to do with the ending of the friendship? I honestly don’t know.  What I do know is that the timing was strangely coincidental.

I’m certainly not writing to garner sympathy because I’m pretty sure my experience has been replicated multiple time in the adoption community.  If not friends, then family rejection, neighbors…….I’m writing just to encourage us all, as Christians. Even if God is moving your best friend or family member in a direction that you don’t agree with or if you’re feeling inadequate in the shadow of their journey, you must wrestle through those emotions with scripture as guidance.

If one allows untruths to poison the spirit, strangling the friendship, the ripple effects of those actions in severing the close bonds of camaraderie spread fearfully far.

If you are truly a believer, the words “God told me to end this friendship” should never come out of your mouth. Ever. Unless there is serious unrepentant sin in the relationship, God would never send you in that direction.  In fact, Proverbs states that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

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What does that mean? God places certain people in our lives to sharpen us, honing our Christian walk, teaching us lessons that we would never learn otherwise.  The sharpening process is metal grating against metal…..not pleasant, but oh so valuable when the end result is realized! When the sharpening process is complete, you are both stronger, wiser, more ready to traverse the challenging individual journeys God has laid before you!

Don’t shy away from the sharpening process in your life, my friend.

We are sisters in Christ.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone….If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:15-18

Honestly, my sweet friend, God isn’t going to have a separate area in heaven for the two of us.

“Oh, Marie!  Welcome to heaven…I know that you and Cady have had earthly issues, so please go to Heavenly Sector B….and Cady, please make your way to Sector F, the clouds are especially fluffy there”.

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No! Your journey with your sisters in Christ starts here and now, regardless of our fleeting irritations, busy lives, or PMS driven impulses!

Let us love and support one another, fleeing from unhealthy thoughts that endlessly strive to divide us. How will the world know we are Christians, except by our love? All of our precious efforts should be focused on unity and reconciliation when matters of the heart are on the chopping block.

Besides, when you’ve stood in a sterile, crib-filled room, your heart filling with tears, the deafening, infant silence signaling the destituteness of this world, somehow these petty things fall away. You want to join hands with those nearest, forging forwards to beat back the relentless dragon of orphanhood.

 

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One of my favorite movie quotes is from First Knight, where King Arthur says, “I take all of you. I cannot love people in slices.”

Whoa.

We have to take the bad with the good and love the person in entirety, unconditionally, without parsing out the easy parts of their journeys or personalities. Some of my most fragrant friendships are the unexpected, uncommon ones where God lovingly plopped us together, making me glean exceptional life lessons.

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I’m pleading with you all, as Godly women, to live together in unity, encouraging one another, lifting one another up in prayer, not getting bogged down in divisive pettiness that is the world’s main destructive diet in friendships.

Please, I am begging you, consider eternity. Remember what Christ died for and how He forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. Forgive, as you would like to be forgiven.

If you have a grief against a sister, RUN to them and resolve it, with tears, with humbleness, with hugs over coffee….make it your top priority.

And to Marie, if you ever read this, I love you dearly. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart for anything I said or did to hurt or offend you….and I’m always here, if you ever want to heal.

We are followers of Christ. Let us act accordingly.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive” ~ Anais Nin

 

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trash or treasure…

What’s the old saying?  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Trash /traSH/ noun.  discarded matter; refuse

Trash is something we discard. It is so valueless that it isn’t worth keeping,  you just toss it and walk on.  We throw things away every day, many times a day, and we rarely pause for thought.

Treasure /treZHer/ noun. A quantity of precious metals, gems or other valuable objects. verb.  to keep carefully (a valuable or valued item).

We rarely find treasure but when we do, our lives change for the better.  We treasure the things that society highly values.  We keep it in gilded boxes, carefully preserved, displayed proudly for all to admire.

When we were in China, one of our guides in Beijing asked us why we were there. We hadn’t had our Gotcha moment yet and I proudly showed her a photo of Lian.

She looked at him and frowned at me, “Oh, something wrong with him?”

“No, nothing is wrong with him.”  I stated quietly, “He has Down Syndrome, he’s an orphan… he needs a home.”

“Oh, you make big trouble for yourself!” she laughingly declared in broken English, shaking her head in dismay.  “Why you do that?”

My heart sank.

Why do I do that?

Let’s see, her assumption was that this small child must be somehow flawed, something must be wrong with him, especially since he’s an abandoned boy.  Boys are more highly valued in some cultures. He must be considered worthless, too sick, too damaged, or too much work, and she’s assuming that that is why he ended up as an orphan.

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She viewed him as abandoned. Discarded. Not worth a thought. Out of sight, out of mind, let’s live our lives and if we’re comfortable, why should we be concerned about these children?

As I considered this, I realized that although this one person, or the entire nation or the world, for that matter, might consider us foolish for taking in a little, unwanted person, we have the unique privilege of seeing this soul with a wholly, different set of eyes.

Heavenly eyes.

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What one society considers unworthy, we know without a doubt that he is treasure.

Our God lovingly crafted this treasure, and what an immeasurable treasure he is.

This child.  This sweet child who smells of strawberries and cheerios, was left in a baby island when he was 6 weeks old.  His note simply stated that he has Down Syndrome, that he’s a good baby, please take care of him…..The mama also wrote that “he is my angel.”

That one phrase spoke volumes to me. I’m sure he was her angel. I’m sure she loved him dearly, but you see, my friend, we live in a world where the vast majority of Down Syndrome children don’t even see the light of day. Iceland boasts that they haven’t had a Down Syndrome birth in 5 years. Some people want to eliminate this sweet extra chromosome altogether.

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Whatever doubts, fears, or family pressures she had to leave him, I’m sure it came from misinformation that pretty much ALL cultures of the world are throwing at mothers who carry Down Syndrome angels in their wombs.

As I’m learning more and more about the dire straights of parents who have special needs children in other countries, I cannot and I never will judge them for the heart rending decisions they are forced to make.  Watching a recent documentary of a family with a child who had cerebral palsy, the child’s care cost $1500 a month.  What was the parents’ income? $400 a month.

Some governments won’t lift a finger in these cases. In their eyes, the child is worthless.  There are countries where you cannot get medical help for your child unless you pay the hospital upfront. This means that if your baby has a heart condition and is turning blue, gasping for air, lethargic, and you rush him to the hospital, he will not receive treatment until you pay.

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If you don’t have the money to pay, what do you do? You choose between abandoning your child so they can receive life saving surgery or keeping your baby and watching her die in your arms.

What is your choice? Choose wisely.

Another parent tearfully lamented that when he took his sick daughter to a hospital, the hospital wouldn’t accept her for treatment because her expensive condition meant that she was considered worthless.  The parents were strongly advised by the medical staff to abandon her.  Trash.  Something to be discarded, someone not worth keeping. Leave her and move on.

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How do we change the perspective of leaders and societies to see the infinite value of these precious souls?

I think it starts with us.

You and me. Down syndrome children used to not be up for adoption in many countries because they were considered un-adoptable, unwanted, unworthy.  They languished in institutions for their entire short lives.

Now? We are bravely showing the world that they have value.

We will fight and work for these children to have families.  Their files are finally being prepared because parents like you and me are willing to shout their value to the world. Down Syndrome children used to not even be up for adoption.

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How amazingly incredible is this?

You see, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Doesn’t that statement “but God” just give you chills?  But God…..sees, He knows, He plans, He changes the hearts of parents half a world away, He provides a way.

BUT GOD gently teaches us that these children are infinitely valuable, maybe even more so than you or me, because of their helplessness, because of their intense neediness, because of their deep losses.

And so, God asks each of us, He’s asking YOU, as followers of Christ, to look at these children through His eyes….. as treasures.

Treasures.

Something that is infinitely valuable, something worth the work, and the time,  the money, the mountains of paperwork, and the perceived “inconvenience”.

What one family, one government, one country, one world treats as trash, I am honored to count it as treasure, and what a beautiful, sticky, funny, loving, stubborn, mischievous treasure it is!  Our lives are forever altered and our once apathetic hearts made all the richer for this treasure that we are honored to have in our family.

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Besides, even if it cost a million dollars, wouldn’t he be worth it? His life, his eternal soul, his story…He is priceless.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure?  Is it in a glass box labelled “please look but don’t touch” cordoned with velvet ropes?  Is it on display in your garage, expensively shiny and red, ready to turn heads?  Is it coldly lit in numbers on your bank’s computer screen?

Or is your treasure intricately woven with the heart of a soul that you are investing in for eternity?  Eternal treasure.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Priceless.

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“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For were your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

 

the hubby hurdle…

The divide widened, rifting us in an unhealthy way. A not God-honoring way. A way that wives should not be taking and for me, I was completely justified, in my own stubborn mind, for feeling this way.

You might be like me. You might have married a good man, a quieter man, a man who will cover your feet when you’re cold or leap out of bed in the graveyard hours when you hear those heartwarming “harf harf” sounds of the cat commencing her scheduled barfing routine. I think that many of us have married these steady men. Everyone likes them, demands their time, they give unselfishly, cautious spenders (Target is his nemesis), you get the picture!

They work hard, pay the bills, bathe kids, fuss at teens for too much phone time. Overall, they are really, good guys….church guys, who will answer the call to help others with basically, anything.

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But adoption….adoption was really a struggle for my steady man to wrap his mind around.

A few years ago, when I broached the subject with him, it was a flat out “no”.

“We have enough kids, we can’t afford it, how can I love another child like my own?”. Those were the main bullet points, and in that order.

Me, I’m all pie-in-the-sky. “We DON’T have enough kids, GOD will provide, we CAN AND WILL love another child just the same as our own”. And so the argument went, and argue, we DID.

For years.

The topic would come up, I would become bitter and frustrated, he would shut down, I would be sarcastic and snarky (which is always such a GREAT and PROVEN way to move your husband forward on the spiritual journey of adoption).

I was so incredibly, undeniably certain that adoption was for us. I had wanted to adopt my whole entire life, ever since I was a child, I just knew….I wanted to have my own kids and I wanted to adopt. There were children that needed a mother and here I am, a mothering type of person and I would mother them.

They would be so mothered that they wouldn’t ever feel the need to be mothered again. I’m here, let’s get this show on the road. Chop chop.

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And so, we went round and round, me, weeping sometimes bitter, angry tears, yearning to be involved, yearning to start the big, scary journey and him, rock solid in his bullet point facts of male, square-boxed, time honored practicality.

The divide widened, rifting us in an unhealthy way. A not God-honoring way. A way that wives should not be taking and for me, I was completely justified, in my own stubborn mind, for feeling this way. Clinging to my pride and justification, I allowed bitterness to creep in.

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And our marriage suffered, because of me, because of him, because we weren’t doing this the right way, the Godly way, and we both knew it.

Finally, I got to a point where God was gently (but not audibly) saying, “Let it go”.

But, but….

“Let it go.”

God, I CAN’T let it go, there are children that NEED me, they need homes, they need a MOTHER and look! Here I am!  A mother!  What a coincidence, so, you know, let’s start this thing.

Let. It. Go.

I’m pretty sure He quite possibly was saying this with gritted teeth because, man, can I be super stubborn.

Yeah.

So, I’m all Holy-Spiriting my husband, which just might be NOT my job and I’ve got the impatience thing firmly down pat from lots of practice and I’m a total, emotional wreck inside.FullSizeRender 33

After much internal struggle, which resembled one of those animal planet shows where two grizzlies have at it over a salmon head, I had to finally, reluctantly let it go.

THEN, because even though I’ve “let it go”, I still had to do SOMETHING, I started a line of artwork to help raise funds for other families, who were obviously more spiritual than ours, and much more blessed to be able to be so annoyingly united in their decision to go adopt.

I feverishly poured myself into fundraising, and fundraised my little heart out for quite a long time, creating a whole line of ink artwork that sold like hotcakes. It was the beginning of the adult coloring insanity and my finger developed a permanent dent in it from all of the drawing I did.

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I believe God gave me purpose in the waiting, and there was purpose in this artwork that was yet to be realized. It took me an entire year to complete my line of Exquisite Ink work and in that year, I felt like I had truly let it go. I sadly resigned myself to the fact that adoption wasn’t for us. I’d just do my small part, however measly it felt, in raising funds and supporting families who were going. (Grrrr…)

Cue, God.

We started attending a new church at the time and it just so “happened” that the pastor was preaching a whole entire, wondrously glorious series on trusting God.

Are you really trusting God? Are you stepping forward in faith, even when you are uncertain of the outcome? Do you trust God with your marriage, your money, your family? Well, do you? Huh?

He wasn’t as annoying as that, but you get my drift.

I’d sit in service and I’m telling you, it took all the self-control in my body not to elbow my husband at certain key points. He’d sit really still, I’d glance down and see his foot jiggling. At times, he’d shift uncomfortably like someone was poking his back (It wasn’t me, I swear!). I’d smile an internal smile with my internal jaw, which, later on, you’ll see will be dropping….internally.

After service, in the car, I’d want to talk about the sermon, and he’d say, “I don’t want to talk about it.”…… that’s it….and silence prevailed.

And I left it, because I sensed that something was happening, but I didn’t allow myself to hope…..I’d already spent too many years hoping, weeping, and praying… Hope hurt too much.

I miraculously managed to shut my big mouth (no easy feat) and let the Holy Spirit do His thing, because, you know, that’s His job and not mine (I should probably get a tattoo of that somewhere to remind me of that).

Three months. For three months, we didn’t talk about the sermons and for three months, our pastor wielded the sword of the Word of God like an expert surgeon…..and now you’re wondering what kind of surgeon I go to, but ancient surgeons might have used swords back in the olden days, so just hush now. You get the mental picture.

Finally, one Sunday afternoon, he sat me down. He needed to talk to me.

He’s  very serious.  My heart suddenly hurts. “I’m ready. I’m ready to adopt.”

I sat really still, fearing that any sudden movement might blow away this new feather of faith. My heart leaped and my internal jaw just dropped, but outwardly, I didn’t move a muscle or say anything.

He’s ready.

Really?!?!?!?!

He’s ready.

My internal jaw was grinning so hard that it forced my external one to comply. There are really no words to accurately capture the sky-high joy that swept over me.

We’re ready.  All those tears, arguments, years of hurt, hoping, disappointment, bitterness, talking, hinting, hoping some more….We. Are. Ready.

And that, my dear friends, is how we started down the wonderful, lovely, hard, scary, amazing, close-to-God’s-heart path called adoption.

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Through all that emotional upheaval, I learned something valuable. Don’t be the Holy Spirit in your husband’s life. Yes, yes, it’s very hard and while there are times we are to hold each other accountable, it wasn’t the right time.

My man likes to lovingly point out that if we had started down the adoption road when I wanted to, Lian wouldn’t have even been born yet and wouldn’t be a part of our family. It’s so incredibly evident that Lian was meant for this family in God’s perfect design.

Think Sarah and Hagar. Just because your intentions are good or that you think you’re following God’s plan for your life, doesn’t mean that you can take matters into your own hands and advance your cause, pre-empting God’s perfect timing.

It has been an incredibly difficult, but necessary lesson for me.

The journey has transformed our spirits, whittled away our self, weeded out the sinful poison ivy in our garden of life.

 

Adoption has irrevocably changed us.

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God’s timing, allowing the Holy Spirit to work, being patient, respecting my husband’s leadership and decisions….ALL things I had to learn the hard way and I’m still learning these things.

Above all things, lifting up your desires in prayer to our Heavenly Father, Who hears us, but just may not answer as quickly as we’d like.

Now, I’m itching to do it again, but I’m proud to say that I’m zipping it.

Moderately. 😉

Was your adoption decision journey easy or hard? Encourage others with your story in the comments. I feel that there are many spouses out there that feel the call, but aren’t united yet in the decision.

How can I lift you up in prayer, my friend? Let me know!

Stay tuned for how Down Syndrome chose us!

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this eternal journey…

I’m moderately pleased to be joining the blogosphere.  I say “moderately”, because I’m  not one to get overly excited about things and I say “pleased” because I am that….simply, mildly, quietly pleased.

It’s early morning.  I’m sitting here crunching cough drops and hoping that my Downy Duckling and teen trio will stay asleep just a few more precious minutes so I can, you know, construct an uninterrupted written thought that possesses some semblance of sanity.

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This journey called “life”, that we contemplate on and avoid, struggle with and rejoice in, scream at and whisper to…this life is eternal. You are eternal.  Your soul is eternal.

I desired to start blogging about adoption, Down Syndrome moments, motherhood, some artsy musings, eternity, healing, forgiveness, along with many more myriads of ideas that idly meander through my head as I scrape banana off my kitchen floor with my finger nails and fish magnetic letters out from under the fridge with my spaghetti server spoon.

After much thought and idea jotting,  I was stumped, and I prayed that God would
give me a title for this blog.  The Eternal Journey just popped into my head.  Amazingly, the name was free and so, it’s this…..This journey called “life”, that we contemplate on and avoid, struggle with and rejoice in, scream at and whisper to…this life is eternal. You are eternal.  Your soul is eternal.

Through my musings, I’d like to point us all towards this horizon that we should be fixing our eyes on, traveling towards, running the race for….this horizon called eternity.

You see, I believe that if you and I keep our perspectives fixed on eternity, this journey God calls us to will hone our focus in on Christ, and the hard things that He lovingly asks us to commit to won’t seem too implausible for our ordinary lives.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18

If you’d like to join me, I’d be honored. If not, and you’re thinking “meh, she’s a mediocre writer with a boring life”, I’d have to agreeably nod, and you may continue on your merry internet way with nary a hard feeling from this side of the screen.

But, I pray that you may find some enjoyment, some spiritual encouragement from my journey, accompanied by an occasional giggle or feeling of camaraderie, and if so, I’d be honored beyond belief.

…aaaaand, I hear the humming of my newest family addition commencing!

The sleep fairies must have been in a good mood this morning but I must not test their patience.

Won’t you join me on This Eternal Journey?

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