Friday, September 30, 2011

branches



As I sit under my cozy mosquito net, fan pointed directly on me, waiting for Jeremiah to come home from the long day at the village, I am reflecting on my longings, my passions, where I have felt most alive, free and happy. I have spent the day in bed – I think I food poisoned myself last night – but it has given me time to think.

Jeremiah will attest to the fact that for the last 2 years – but more concentrated in the last 3.5 months, I have been searching for names, but not just any names, names with real meaning. One time he commented on how many names I must have written down in my journal! This is a mostly private obsession, but I am now letting you in on my little secret. And yet, still I don’t know! (Well this isn’t just me who is deciding, but well I appear to be the only one looking). But Jeremiah has opinions, which of course helps narrow it down a great deal, maybe a great deal more than I would like, but hey we signed up to be parents together, so I guess he should have some say…?

This blog is titled Beautiful Branches, that is the scripture God gave me over a year ago, Isaiah 4:2-6. Now I am very aware that hermeneutically these prophesy was meant for Jesus, so I don’t want to blaspheme, but it is a picture of what I feel our children will be. I will quote the NLT
But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel… who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the land of the living. The lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion…”
This land is full of pain and suffering, of destruction and dark forces. Here, they are more visible – not to say they don’t exist in other places, but it is confrontational here. There is no escaping the injustice, the lack of education, the life expectancy, (38 years). I believe God has called our children out, not for their glory or ours but For God’s. For His people whom he cries for. These children will be what Isaiah 11 calls
A new shoot, yes a new branch bearing fruit from the old root.

So a name, for our children (God willing 2). Any suggestions? Anyone know the word for branch or other things that could make reference to these verses? In another language perhaps? Of course we are not limited to these meanings, but we are praying God would give us a clear word for our children.

It is a strange feeling; a place we cant let ourselves go very often, the yearning with out seeing fruit of the longing. In thinking about names, I think it gives me something to hold on to, one thing I am in control over out of the millions I am not. Yet, my hope cannot be found in these children to be, even when they are in our arms. I think God is teaching us something more valuable than we know right now, something that will become like gold. A gift to us, a baby gift from God, how to wait and trust. I am valuing what this is doing to my character more and more. That doesn’t mean I still don’t get angry at the system here, or feel like giving up, or ask God when!? But it does mean, my hope must Be in God, the giver of good gifts, because it can all be taken away in a blink of an eye. Living now, hoping for what is to come, but holding tight to what I have, holding tight to Jesus now in the midst of the trials. This is what creates gold in me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

suffering


- You know those days you lay down in bed at night to go to sleep, and you think to yourself “if I had known at the beginning of the day, what today would hold, I never would have gotten out of bed!” but after the fact you realize it was God’s grace you didn’t know because it would have been too much to handle? Looking back, that is how this last year has felt, like one of those days.
I must put a disclaimer here – I am being a bit dramatic, I can do that sometimes. There have been moments of pure joy and real victory.

When I think about this last year, think on all the funerals we have been too, and some we were not able to attend; think about disappointments, the unmet expectations; the huge life transitions; the prolonged waiting for what we hoped beyond hope would already be a reality, having kids in our arms by now; through accidents; bearing of others burdens, sometimes unable to share our own: when I think of all these things, I am glad I didn’t know before hand because I never would have gotten out of bed.

These words haunted me this morning, in the wake of struggle –

The earth will soon dissolve like snow
The sun forget to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine

He called me to be on this earth. For His pleasure and love…
I have been asking large questions, feeling isolated and lonely in them. Seeking God’s wisdom because as the message puts it in James 1 “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” seek Gods wisdom.

Often I pray, God, why? It is too hard, why? Holding everything, and then more bashes us when we think it can’t get more difficult.

But there it is, here we are, in it.

There have been joys this year.
Both of us achieving the long worked for goal of completing our bachelor degrees was one of those times.
And there were many more with good friends, and family. Really connecting with people, many times over suffering, but real depth growing in our selves and in relationships.
Sharing in others simple joys in overcoming hardships. In seeing the release in others of things long hoped for, that has been especially sweet.
That is what has made this year bearable.

Now coming upon October, walking into each day, not knowing any more what to expect. Around the next corner could be unexpected joy, or unexpected sorrow. Last night Sarah said something to me, “For some reason God has called us to this place where there is so much suffering. And for some reason he causes us to suffer too.” Even now it makes me cry.
In this suffering I want to run. I want to escape to the safety of good friends, to the comfort of knowing we will have running water in our house, today and everyday. To the familiar spaces that make life sweet. To the places where I largely know what to expect out of people, systems, and products on the grocery store shelves. To the place where people respect each other despite gender or class. Where craigslist and speedy Internet is only a click away. To a place where we aren’t always looked to either as a target, an outsider, or as someone who is going to solve their problems.

But here we find ourselves, in the midst of hardship and peril. Walking this road I feel ashamed to say is really hard. Harder than I thought it would be. With obstacles unforeseen, and difficulties in relationships unexpected.

just a few days ago, jeremiah and i were reflecting, after yet another funeral in the village, someone related to Joseph, we said, how can one person take so much suffering in his young life? in just the year and a half we have known him there has been about 5 people close to him who have died. that doesn't include his dad who died we don't know how many years ago. the fact that his mom lives 2 villages away but he never sees her. yet he bears it, maybe he just disconnects? how else can a person continue living?

5 years from now when we are living who knows where, I am sure I will look back at this post and think, oh I was so emotional, and too free with my words. I will feel embarrassed that I shared such intimate thoughts, because the truth is, no matter how much we question things; we are here, until God calls us somewhere else. My complaining, I will tell myself, did no one any good, least of all me. This is how I now look back at myself and my former moments of weakness. But right now, in this moment, I am entering into the sorrow, the fears, the loneliness, and attempting, praying to see where God, where Jesus, is in it all. Sometimes it feels like our entire lives are an open book, everyone knows everything about us – either to build us up where we don’t deserve or to criticize. But this is it, little us, broken, searching, hurting people. That’s it. We need God. Why does it take something so painful to get our attention, to make us see our need for him?

Monday, September 12, 2011

in zambia


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We are now living in a society where adoption, foster care and the act of caring for children is thought of very differently than in the west, than in America.

Most people in Zambia, in Africa it seems, take orphaned or vulnerable children not out of choice but out of obligation, out of a cultural stimulus. They care for their own.
End of story.

Because the problems: HIV, disease, poor nutrition, poverty, and the list goes on: people must care for their relatives. No one is untouched by HIV/AIDS. Therefore no one is untouched by the orphan crisis.

When I speak of adoption to people here, as a choice we have made, the way we are going to grow our family, most people, from the impression I get, just chalk it up to being white, to being American, to having the freedom to choose. But for them, they have no choice but care for those around them who are in need, their sister’s cousin’s husband’s dead brother’s kids…. Seriously.

But then, there are so many, the problem is so big, they must choose to turn some away. Then what?

“The kids we want to adopt, the babies God has for us,” we explain gently, “ will have no family, totally unwanted, those are the kids…”
They question us… especially those who have never known anyone who chose adoption. At social welfare, the most wonderful social workers assistant; we have known her since last year, and she has always been so helpful. When we spoke to her a few weeks ago about wanting to adopt, her response, “You? You are not from here. Why do you want to adopt when you are not from here?”

They fear we will take their children away, some think we will abuse them, some simply don’t understand.

“Children are our inheritance. In our old age, they take care of us, just as I took care of my parents, and their brothers and sisters if they had no children of their own.” How do we explain that we don’t want to take away their children, we just want give a chance to those who would have never had a chance to have a family.

We just want to give them a chance, and to pour out our love, and to open up the world to these children, to give them opportunities they would never have had.

We are not naive, these children will talk like us, they will probably like the foods we eat and of course be used to how we live. Because they will be our children, but that does not make them less Zambian.

We have had to wrestle with what is important…

Kingdom culture, kingdom values, no matter if they talk like a Zambian or American, what matters more, what supersedes all culture in our mind, is Jesus, his values, his kingdom. We will make every effort to give or children a chance to be Zambian. But in the end, we are American, but above that, we are followers of Jesus.

We will do our best to instill a love for their fellow Africans, to give them a heart that values the poor, to live our lives so they serve along side us and along side Zambians.

But they are God’s children, and they will be our children, and they will also be children of Zambia.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

here we are


How do I begin?
How do I express the range of feelings the overwhelming (and sometimes underwhelming) emotions?

I think ill begin where it started…
Sometimes life feels like this journey I am in the middle of, but cant remember how exactly I got here.
Things began and kept going.
Now I am standing in the middle of a beautiful jungle, sounds and smells are like nothing I have ever know, the risks and fears are just as great, the path has ceased to exist, so now the choice is mine…
But never the less, here I am.

Adoption: This blog is about adoption, but I cannot start there
I must begin much before this specific decision, I must start with a struggle.

Tension: pulling of two worlds, two lives, two passions.
This tug of war is sometimes a vague feeling, but sometimes palpable experiences. To quote Chariots of Fire “I feel His pleasure when…”
when…
I am standing up for the voiceless.
I am creating, with my hands, things that make this world beautiful.

I have had a newfound love for Pottery, ceramics.
Creating art from mud, from the mire of the earth, brings me more joy than I can express. I loose my self, and I find something of God when I am sitting at the wheel. Now, by no means am I even very good at it, but oh how I feel His pleasure in those moments.

I also have a conviction, a purpose in life I can’t ignore. That is, as Isaiah 51 Puts it, “and my justice will become a light to the nations. My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations. All distant land will look to me ad wait in hope for my powerful arm.”
Justice, Mercy, Hope
This gives my life purpose in a way doing ceramics all my life never could.
– Just to clarify, this is me. No finger pointed, but judgment passed, just God’s sweet voice to me.

So how do I reconcile this? It has always been my struggle, since the time I realized how messed up the world really is. How we, how I, can bring a piece of God’s kingdom to earth now.
How I use the gifts God has given me, how I live my life. But knowing this purpose does not making living for it, easy.

In perfection, in Eden, had the world stayed that way, my joy, my contentment would have been to worship God all day long, through creating. When I “feel His pleasure.” But this isn’t the world we live in. Knowing the suffering, I can’t ignore the pain. So here I am, fulfilling the call God has on my life. The purpose he has called me to fulfill…

No, that purpose is not being fulfilled because I live in Africa, because we are with poor daily. Not because I feel the cost of sacrificing the life I have always known, none of this is relevant.
So what is?
Responding to the cry of His people. Hearing the voice of the unheard. Doing my little piece in the world to reverse the curse that is heavy upon us all. And yes, that took me to Africa, but it is not about Africa. It is about my heart.
It is about the people I surround myself with, the risks I take to fulfill this purpose.

Do you know how often I think… what if we never left Eden? I could be creative and muddy all day! (This is my selfish side). Then I think what if Eden was still our home… that little girl whose mother was raped, as a result was born with HIV, this little girl has never seen a bathtub, let alone a real meal: has .001% chance of ever leaving the life she was born into. I think, that little girl would be a princess, if we still lived in Eden.
This is the part of me that can’t ignore the purpose God has called me into. If we were still in Eden I would have no need, none at all, to even think about anything but doing ceramics, because that little girls life would not be in shambles.

This luxury is not afforded to me, not to any of us.
This is the world we live in. this is the pain that exists.
In Livingstone district (the district we live in Zambia) 30% of people are HIV positive. That is almost 1 in every 3 people we shake hands with.

This tension… the tug of war in my heart will never stop. Entering into this kind of pain is not what I want to do. Sometimes everything in me says run, just get away, it is too much. The problems are too big, the perversion of good that runs deep into the fabric of society will never be made right.
And maybe this is true.
Maybe I can’t change the whole society. Maybe I can’t solve the problem of HIV, or rape or abuse or poverty.
But I can bring God’s kingdom into one person’s life. And that has to be enough.

So, you ask, what does this have to do with your reasons for adoption?

Jeremiah and I decided, early on, that we only have so much energy to give as people, as parents. We asked ourselves, how do we want to spend that energy?
There are many kids, in fact millions, literally, who have no parents. So why shouldn’t we be their parents. We would be priveledged to love them, those who God loves so dearly.

That is where it started. And now, every baby I see, every little African girl walking down these roads, holding her mothers hand, I think “ that will be me some day.” What will my daughter be like and a 3 year old, as a 10 year old? What will she struggle with, whom will she marry?

I used to try to image what it was like for my friends who so badly wanted to be mothers. To be honest, I couldn’t quite understand it. All I could see was what they were giving up. And now, I see… now I feel it! And oh, the longing is like nothing I have ever experienced. It feels like we are incomplete, we are bursting with love for our children who we don’t even know.

But here we are, like so many who have gone before us, so many who have played the waiting game.

Here we are.

Have spent almost 2 years now investigating Zambian law, talking with people about the specific process we should go through. Finding out that Zambia, unlike many African countries, allows international adoptions. Deciding to move here, to adopt and also to live and do ministry. Deciding to do an independent or parent initiated adoption. Deciding to do our home study here in Zambia instead of in Minneapolis – to save money and to explore if it can work this way. Deciding to still do an international adoption not a potential easier but riskier adoption where after 2 years the child naturalizes with us to the US. Deciding to risk all these things, because we felt God asking us, asking if what we so strongly desired, becoming parents through adoption, could also be used to pioneer something new.
So here we are.
In process… still.
Waiting, dreaming, believing, hoping, and trusting.
Sometimes doubting, fearing, questioning, and crying.

But here we are.

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