Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hope Deferred

I apologize for my lack of updates and posting...



I feel like Proverbs 13:12 sums it up pretty well.


"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy."


I returned to Africa in November, being hopeful that we would be able to all come home together, but also feeling like I was supposed to be ready to leave the girls again.  Leaving our eight kids here at home was a thousand times more difficult than last time.  There were so many tears and so much anxiety.  Understandably so.  The last time I left them we told them it would be a few weeks or less until we came home, and it was two months! 


The night before I left I laid with our eleven year old and eight year old daughters before they went to sleep.  They were literally begging me not to go.  My heart was breaking, I felt strongly I was supposed to go to be with our daughters.  When they asked me if I would be home for Christmas, I knew it was very important to them, so I gave them all my word I would return before Christmas. 


Throughout my month in Kinshasa, very little happened to move our case along.  The man who could sign our letter was out of the country most of my stay, which meant that there were no meetings to be had.  I booked my tickets to return home Saturday,  December 14...but then, you guessed it, just before I was to leave, I got a message that the man had returned and that he would meet with our rep on Tuesday!  I spoke with Brian and quickly changed my ticket.  I truly felt like this was "the meeting".  I had not been truly hopeful up until that moment. 


Brian had a very positive meeting with the DRC's Ambassador to the United States earlier that same week.  He left feeling positive and encouraged.  No, there were not any promises made, but she gave Brian her word that she would be in touch with our contact and would do what she could to help.  "A good-hearted woman" is how Brian summed up his time with the Ambassador.


"The meeting" I was waiting in the DRC for was moved to Wednesday and it did take place.  At the meeting the man asked our rep to come back after Christmas--which is where the Proverb comes in.  I had such a high hopes that the girls would return home with me, and not only was my heart sick, but so was my body.  In fact, it is likely I had gotten strep throat from the girls early in the month I was there, so I had been packing it around for at least three weeks.  I was VERY sick when I got home and even landed myself in the Emergency Room when the strep got so bad it felt like I couldn't breathe early one morning.  I'm better now, thankfully...I'd like not to get that sick for a very long time!

When I got home it was time to scramble around and get everything ready for Christmas.  We had several (5) Christmas Eve Worship Experiences where our kids sing in the choir, so I did plenty of running kids.  :)  All in all, it has been a wonderful few weeks being with our kids and my husband.  Without school, the kids and I have had a lot of snuggling time.  I finally feel rested and well.

And, in the meantime, God has been laying some things on my heart, that I feel strongly I need to share. 

Though this process has been very difficult for us to understand and absolutely the most gut wrenching thing we have ever walked through as a family, we want to be clear: we believe that the officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo truly do have the best interests of the children of their country at heart.  Because we don't have a clear picture of all the pressures they are facing, it is easy for us to say "just sign the papers and let our girls go".  However, that is just not fair.  We don't know what they are facing.  The truth is, this process has taught us so much.  YES, YES, YES, YES we want our daughters to be home with us, we wanted that months ago.  However, our daughters are no more deserving of coming home than the hundreds of other kids waiting to go home to their families, nor are we more deserving of parenting them than the hundreds of other incredible parents we have been blessed to meet throughout this process.
The reason that they have shut adoptions down is because some people (likely only a few) have not been following the adoption laws that the country has in place.  I even heard about some families who, more than likely, got their children home outside of the steps outlined by the DRC, which caused me to be bitter and angry because if that is true, those families could be causing further difficulty for the many families who are waiting to leave. 

However, in more recent days, I have really been convicted that it is not my responsibility to "police" how anyone chooses to get their children home, and because I wasn't there, I don't know whether their means of exiting was "legal" or not.  What I believe my anger and frustration is communicating is that I do not trust fully that Jesus will bring our daughters home in HIS perfect time, despite what others do or do not do.  He has not placed me in authority over any other family and the steps they take to get their children home.  Instead, He has asked me to do what is right and honoring before Him.   I/We are responsible for how WE behave.  We are responsible for our actions.  Yes, I believe that we as adoptive parents should speak out, advising those who are just starting their adoptions about steps we can each take to ensure OUR adoptions are ethical, but I do not believe Jesus is asking us to condemn those who choose not to follow the law.   I would be lying if I told you that we had gotten our process perfect.  What I do know is that we have learned a lot.  By the grace of God, I do not believe we have done anything immoral or unethical, which is what Jesus is asking of us. 

The other thing I am learning is that lots of times,  we as Americans have a view, and dare I say arrogance, that our country knows how other countries should be be run.  This could not be further from the truth.  Like I said, it's easy for me to say "What do they care about our girls?  They should just sign the papers and let them go!"  But the reality is that they have laws and rules and we are asking for them to make an exception to two of their laws, for our family and for our daughters.

At the end of the day, I want ALL orphans to have the opportunity to have a family, not just our four little daughters.  I want my life/our lives to be about the interests of others before our own.  I want to invest in and be a part of an adoptive community that shows love and support, not hate and judgment.  And what's true is that sometimes, all of that means heartache and sacrifice for our entire family.  I know with all my heart that my loving Father is in the business of redemption and that is exactly what I am asking of Him.  That He would use all this heartache for His glory and etch into us a heart that is more like His and brings Him immense glory!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Joy

Last week was a HARD week. Of course, I do my best to put on a "happy face" during the day for our girls and for the other moms around me, but if I even have a moment to myself I just break down and sob.  As I talked to my sweet husband via text the other day he said he believes I am probably experiencing some depression. He said the load I/we have been carrying is a lot and it can only be sustained for so long. As I thought about that I agreed...since I met our daughters in June, my heart has been in torment. When I am at home I continually think the pain will lessen when I am with the girls and when I am with the girls I realize it isn't any less and I feel like I should be home. Breaking ALL of our children's hearts is more than this momma can bear! 

I share all of this with you today not to ask for you to have pity on me but to share with you that there is nothing special about me.  I know many of you are just trying to encourage me when you make comments about me being brave and strong.  The truth is, I am weak and broken.  I realize though, now more than ever that is where the beauty of Christ begins and why I need to be boasting about my weaknesses. I am a broken mess and I believe more and more that's where Jesus wants me. Broken for Him, is when I allow Him to do HIS work in me.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says:

"Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I DO know at any moment that God is powerful enough to allow the girls to come home. I have reminded my self a thousand times that God loves these girls SO much more than we do and, although I do not understand this situation and why He has not chosen to allow them to come home with us, I need to keep my focus on:

Isaiah 55:6-9:

"Seek The Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.  Let them turn to The Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says The Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Yesterday I took the girls to the grocery store.  One of the few "Western-type" of stores in town, and it was quite crowded. I am not sure why many people here do not like Americans adopting the orphans from their country, but I saw many people who are not afraid to make their displeasure in what we are doing known.  There were plenty of scowls and even a bunch of pointing and whispering. In my very depressed mood, I allowed myself to get disheartened to a new level. I smiled and tried to ignore the very obvious chatter about me and our girls, but I allowed it to hurt and I will even confess I was resentful of them. The Lord has chosen to use my devotionals over and over in my time here, so clearly responding to me as if the book was written for me. In my devotional just this morning, was a reminder that being hurt and offended by how they behaved is making me no better than them. Here is just a portion:

"Thank Me for the opportunity to offer grace to those who offend you and forgiveness to those who hurt you.  You become more like Me every time you offer mercy instead of judgement. When you dare to praise Me for the difficult people in your life, I receive honor and glory, and you receive blessing. As you look into My face and worship Me, My love shines through you." 

Oh how I long to be secure enough in my Lord that I can be that person!!

My mind also immediately went to the man who can sign our letter. I have prayed continuously for his heart to be softened but never once have I asked Jesus to bless him. Honestly, from a human perspective, who would???  I am mad and hurt he would cause this situation for our girls!!   But the Lord gently reminded me that I am not to live my life responding from my human self. I am to respond with the love and grace that He shows me daily, that beautiful love and grace that I too am so undeserving of!

"Thank me that I am able to meet your needs even when others let you down. Praise Me that I am able to transform their lives as well as yours. Just as My Son died for you, My child, He died for them. When you judge and condemn them, your attitude breaks my heart." 

That is so true. I have been judging and condemning and breaking My Fathers heart.

What if the Lord wants to use me to show love, grace and mercy to people here who so rarely see it. If I chose to stay in my sad, depressed state, feeling bad for myself, I will miss that opportunity.

1 Peter 1:6-8:

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy."

So, I'm asking Jesus for joy today. Joy that only He can give, because in our current circumstance it's very hard to find!  Will you join me in praying for that same thing?

We love you all so much and we are so thankful for you!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lice, Scabies, Malaria and More!!!

 Well, as the title suggests it's been fourteen days full of bugs!  The doctor has been over to visit multiple times. The girls have had malaria, pharyngitis, ear infections, and the ever-abundant parasites in their poor little bellies. To say it has been trying would be a colossal understatement. I have a lot of experience with sick kids, but it's rough being without my sweet husband and my mom's help!  The doctor who visits us here at the motel is very, very kind however, he speaks very little English and I neither speak or read French. Trying to remember each of the girl's dosages and medicine frequencies has been a bit of a nightmare. After having to have my husband contact a physician friend at home for the dosage for one of the girls, I finally started my own notebook and list of what each girl is taking and how often. It hasn't been all bad. I am so thankful I have been here to hold each feverish little girl. To hug them and tell them "It's ok...Mommy is here." To make sure they are getting enough to drink. Even through the sickness, bugs, infections, and pain, there have been many laughs and lots and lots of loves. Everyday that passes I fall more and more in love with our beautiful daughters. 

I'm not sure what I was thinking upon my arrival this time...I guess maybe because we killed all the lice last time we were here (in October), I thought that the girls would still be free of them?  Whatever I thought, I did not do a thorough enough examination of the girls' heads and realized, painfully realized, after 10 days of GiGi sleeping, more or less on my face, that they have more lice than I care to see in my lifetime!  

Poor little baby was scratching her head, but I thought she was just scratching at a couple of fungal spots, which are being treated. No, those weren't just fungus...she was scratching lice in her hair.  And, yes, just as you might imagine, I have the friendly fellows crawling around on my head as well.  :(. After closer examination I also realized GiGi had scabies on her ear. It's not a severe case of scabies, and we are very fortunate, because it can spread VERY quickly!  I am not positive I have them but I have a couple spots on my knuckles that look very suspicious so I will be treating those tonight as well. 

As I watched the girls picking lice out of GiGi's hair tonight, I will admit it was pretty funny, especially when they would pull on her hair too hard and she would say "Awwwwwww" and then click her little tongue in disgust at them. :). However, the humor quickly fades as the pit in my stomach grows.  Why have my beautiful daughters lived their lives exposed to so many bugs-both on their physical bodies and internally-that at the ages of 7,5,3 and 2, they instinctively know what to do about them???  All I can think about as I scratch my own head are the hundreds and thousands of precious babies that don't have a lice treatment kit accessible to them. They don't have the cream to rub on the scabies that kills them, they don't have the medicine to kill the bugs that make their little bellies hurt constantly. It's likely that if they were treated, they would just get them all over again. Am I doing enough to ensure that this isn't the "norm" for babies and children?  Why should it be second nature for these precious children to be scratching their bodies constantly?  Why should they have never-ending diarrhea?  Why should thousands of innocent children die every single year simply because of dirty water?   

It makes me sick to my stomach to realize that my four daughters know exactly what to look for and how to kill the lice. That GiGi, at just under 2 years old, knows enough to sit still for her sisters to dig them out of her hair. I know as Americans we are told that kids live in poverty and suffer. I know I grew up being told how blessed I was. But the reality is I had no clue!  When we went to Ethiopia to pick up Silas, Josh and Mahlea, it changed everything for me. I couldn't even leave the guesthouse without sobbing. Looking into the sad eyes of such beautiful, hurting people. Being in Africa has opened my eyes to a reality I think every American should know. It is easy for us to focus on our own busy, comfortable lives, that is until you have seen people you love hurting. My eight amazing African children have endured more hardship in their few years than I have in my entire life. Our older kids have shared many, many heart-breaking stories. Even our little girls know enough English that they have shared some things that are gut wrenching.  I don't have the answers, and oh how I wish I had the solution for every child, and the more I learn about God, the more I believe He doesn't want a singular solution. The truth is, from My Father's perspective, entering into the suffering of others is as much about changing MY heart and MY life as it is about giving children a family.

As I sit in my room listening to my beautiful girls sleep, I don't ever want to forget. I don't ever want to be the selfish person I have been in the past. I will gladly say "yes' to bugs and dirt--things I have always disliked. I will say "yes" over and over again if it means I can look into beautiful little eyes and tell them that they are loved. I don't know what our future holds, but I know we will continue seeking God's wisdom and keep right on saying "yes".
Proverbs 24:11-14 tells us
"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die;
save them as they stagger to their death.
Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”
For God understands all hearts, and he sees you.
He who guards your soul knows you knew.
He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
My child, eat honey, for it is good,
and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste.
In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a bright future,
and your hopes will not be cut short."
Tonight I am asking The Lord what more I can do to make a difference in the lives of "those who are unjustly sentenced to die" and I'm praying all my children will find the Lord's wisdom and the bright future He has in store for each of them!!

Before I sign off for today, I want to let you know that we have some amazing friends in Billings who have been fasting and praying for our family and our girls and our situation every Wednesday. They asked us this week if we would invite you to join us in praying and fasting, not just for our situation, not just for us to get our daughters home, but for ALL the children and ALL the families who are in a very similar situation to ours, as well as for the DRC as a whole.  Would you join us?

As always, we love and thank you for walking this road with us.  We can't do this without you!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Love

For the past few months, I have been reflecting a LOT on the people in the Bible and what life looked like for them.  I have then been comparing it to my own life, how it has been in the past and how it is now.  I don't even know how to describe what I believe Jesus has done in my life the past few months but I found it summed up in Bob Goff's book "Love Does".  (A MUST read!)  Goff says: 

"I learned that faith isn't about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules.  It's something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice.  Perhaps that's why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel-"God with us".  I think that's what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us.  It's also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people.  The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in  a Hallmark card.  But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.  It's a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright."

I would be lying if I said that I was excited to come here to the DRC again.  As I laid in bed the morning I left, I was recalling the way I felt before leaving the girls to come back home.  I truly did not know how I was going to leave them.  I remember asking myself how I could stay away from my kids at home any longer but because our four little girls were right there in front of me, I felt their pain more deeply than the pain of my kids at home.  I wondered to myself if I would feel that same way if the places were swapped.  It reminded me of when I was pregnant with Preston and Dylon.  I don't know how many other moms can relate to what I am about to say but I feel guilty even writing the words now.  I would hold Bailey and wonder to myself how I could possibly ever love a child as much as I loved Bailey.  The reality is and has been proven over and over again for me...God's love, the reason I am able to love my kids, it doesn't stop, it never runs out, and in all honestly, I believe with all my heart the more kids that I have been able to be "Mommy" to, has allowed me to love each of my kids even more.  I truly delight in how uniquely God created each one of our children!!  

I will be honest, it was awful leaving our eight kids at home.  I felt like I couldn't possibly leave.  I told them how sorry I was over and over.  Yes, it does help that they are a little older and that they speak English and that I am leaving them with Daddy, but there was very real pain in their eyes and it truly broke my heart.  While reading Bob's book, I came across this: 

"I think God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us toward Him.  We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away.  the folks who were following Jesus in Galilee got to decide the same thing each day because there was no road map, no program, and no certainty.  All they had was this person, an idea, and an invitation to come and see."

That pretty much sums up the past few months for me...I am more aware of Jesus being near to me than ever before in my life.  I have said "yes" to things I would have never had the courage to in the past, because I have felt so clearly that God is guiding us.  Don't get me wrong, I have doubted so many times I am certain Brian is tired of me asking "Are you sure I should go honey?"  The last night before I came back here was one of those examples.  I'm scrambling around, packing up the last couple suitcases and I get an email from the man who owns the guest houses where we have stayed.  His email to me said, "I'm so sorry Danna, we have no availability until Sunday the 24th."  Ummmm big, HUGE gulp.  Where were the girls and I going to stay????  I hadn't booked anything else and I was about to get on a plane in the morning.  I immediately began asking Brian what I should do, should I change my flights??  He told me to calm down, to ask the owner if he had any apartments available.  So, I wrote him back and asked if he had any of his apartments, I also added that Brian really didn't want the girls and I staying elsewhere.  I got an email back from him that said he would respond in the morning.  I know Jesus asks us to have faith and to trust Him but I will confess, in situations like this, I more frequently decide it is a "closed door" than the Lord asking me to trust Him.  I WANT to trust Him and I had several other confirmations that I was supposed to leave this week.  So, I finished packing and went to bed, knowing that I may arrive in Kinshasa not knowing where I would stay.  Here's another quote from "Love Does":  

"I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity they had hoped for.  But I've always wondered if when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him.  Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down.  Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in."  

I'm sure glad I didn't change my tickets that night!  God is very merciful and I woke up to two emails.  The first one I read was from the owner of the motel, confirming they did indeed have room for me.  The second was a Wisdom Hunters devotional, the part that jumped out to me was this:

Compassion and courage are steady staples for servants of Jesus. We seek out the spiritually lost, the emotionally bankrupt and the physically displaced to invest our time and money in them for Christ’s sake. Compassion is love in action and courage carries it on its broad shoulders of bold belief. Obstacles are only stepping stones for God to show Himself real and resourceful. Hence, continuous courage is fueled by faith in Christ. While others hide out in fear, we remain faithful.
 
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Revelation 14:12

I know that this adventure is just beginning and that God has so much more to teach me/us.  I will continue to share how He is working in us!  Brian and I are humbled that you have chosen to join us.  Truly, thank-you doesn't seem sufficient for the way so many of you have financially supported us so that I can go be with the girls.  Or, the way so many of you have offered to make meals and help out with the kids.  Last, but certainly not least, we are so grateful for the continued prayers on behalf of our girls and our family.  Thank-you!!!

One more Bob Goff quote for you:

"Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure.  It's not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us.  God asks what it is He's made us to love, what captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made.  And then, leaning over us, He whispers, "Let's go do that together."  This is it for me, ask anyone who has known me for a long time.  My entire life, there is nothing I have been more passionate about than children.  There is nothing I would rather do than love on kids, no where I would rather be than with a room full of them :)  "...if we start RSVPing yes to His invitations and go after those things He's made us to love.  It's not all planned out for us either, and that's where most people get to nervous to take the next step.  But know this: when Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Greatest of these is Love

Since we made our announcement about me returning to the DRC to be with four of our daughters, we have had the privilege of having a whole bunch of conversations with people.  Through some of those conversations, we're learning that some people don't understand this decision.  They're encouraging us to make the "right" decision, when the bottom line is, there is NO right decision in the place we're in.  No matter what we decide, it's wrong.  Wrong because our family will be divided--which is patently wrong. 

Almost 10 years ago, Brian and I went to a church planter "assessment".  It's a tool commonly used to determine if you as a Pastor and couple, are equipped to plant a church.  Brian and were both blessed to know Sam Summers very well.  We both learned so much from him.  Sam was teaching at those "Assessment Meetings" and for all of these years, since that day, I have reminded myself over and over of something he said.  At that time, Brian and I ONLY :) had sweet Bailey, who was about a year and a half old and I was VERY pregnant with Dylon and Preston.  And what Sam said that day made such an impact on me, I remember the room, the desk I was sitting at and even the clothes I was wearing!  He said this:  "I know taking risks for God can be scary, I know you think that being "safe" and having life all figured out for your kids is what is best.  I am here to tell you that it's not.  Raise your kids teaching them that God wants to take us on adventures.  Tell them you don't know what tomorrow brings!  That is how they will grow up with faith, knowing God is faithful."  Isn't that just amazing?!? 

Yes, our eight kids at home need me, I believe that with all my heart.  However, if Brian and I present this to our kids as an adventure, an opportunity to love our four sweet little girls, they will see it that way as well.

I have had a few people ask me if I think our kids at home will resent the girls.  I already know the answer to that, it is simply "no".  After learning I was going to go back, in two separate conversations, both Preston and Jazmyn told me all they want for Christmas is their sisters to come home. I am blown away at how God is at work in their little hearts.  What a joy to watch.  Our hope for our kids is that they will know even at these young ages that God's love always involves a choice and an action, and our love should be like His.  And we pray that they will continually ask themselves how well they display their love for God in the choices they make and the actions they take.

1 Cor 13:13
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love. 

I have read my favorite book "Kisses from Katie" numerous times and I have shared some of her thoughts here before. I opened it up yesterday after having a rough morning and SO connected to these words:

"Mommy" is such a powerful name.  Mommy means "I trust you." Mommy means "You will protect me."  Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing when you are excited; Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed.  Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts.  Mommy is a comfort place, a safe place.  Mommy means you are mine and I am yours and we are family.  Though I had only parented them for a short time, the mother's love in my heart was true and God given, and a mother should never have to be separated from her children. "
Then a little later in that same book:  "I thought about the fact that several of the girls had lived without a mother for a period of time. Some had hardly known their mothers, others knew their mothers well enough to still feel the fresh pain of losing them.  And now I was leaving.  They would be loved and well cared for, but in a very real sense, they would also be motherless again.  It was so hard on them and it made me feel sick just to think about it."
Unlike Katie, it is true that I have eight children in the US that I am "Mommy" to.  So, for her, the answer was being with her kids.  I have to choose between my kids, like I have been doing for months now, thus the title of the last post, "Impossible Place".  

When we arrived to be with the girls in August, I started my time with them as "Mama".   This is how children in the DRC refer to any woman, it is a sign of respect, like "Madame".  Same with "Papa", it would be like "Sir".   After several weeks with them, without me even asking, they started calling me "Mommy".  I am their Mommy and I cannot leave them there anymore.  I have had many friends ask me how long I am prepared to be there.  My answer is: "I simply do not know."  I can truly hardly make it through today at the moment.  I am clinging to Matthew 6:34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." 

Last week a good friend called us and committed $100/month to our Adoption Fund until our daughters are home.  He also challenged us to ask  others to do the same thing.  30 (or 31) families each committing $100/month that to us, covers a significant piece of my being with our daughters in the DRC.  I know, for some, $100/month is too much, but please know that any amount will help us.  A few families could throw in together.  A small group could throw in together.   We get it if you are unable to commit to a monthly gift.  Maybe you can commit to a one-time gift.  No matter the amount or the frequency of your gift, it ALL matters to our daughters and to our family.  Thank you from the depths of our hearts for your generosity!

One more quote from "Kisses from Katie" to close out this post, one I have read over and over throughout this process. 

"I didn't realize it then, but I strongly believe now that there is a common misconception that whatever happens to us is the will of God.  It's as though we think: Okay, I can do whatever I want and God will either do something or He won't and that will be His will.  It will all work out.  It will all happen just like it needs to.  I don't believe this anymore.  I believe that God is in control, yes, but I also believe I have a choice:  I can follow Him or I can turn my back on Him.  I can say "yes" to Him, or I can say "No".  I can go to the hard places or I can remain comfortable.  And if I remain comfortable, God who loves us unconditionally will continue to love me anyway.  I may still see His glory revealed in my life and recognize His blessings, but not like I could have.  I can miss the will of God.  The rich young ruler certainly did.  He didn't fall dead, as Ananias and Sapphira did; and maybe he went on to live a great life, but it wasn't the life he could have lived had he said "yes" to what Jesus was asking of him."
We love you and are so grateful to God for every one of you.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

IMPOSSIBLE PLACE

After many days of prayers and many, many conversations, Brian and I have decided that I should go back to Kinshasa to be with our four daughters, who are stuck there.  As you would imagine, just like leaving the girls there almost a month ago was gut wrenching, making this decision has been brutal as well.  There are no "good" answers in this situation.  It, frankly, is an impossible place.  Since March, we have legally been the parents of twelve children.  We have been separated from our Congolese daughters for six of those months and the two months we were with the girls, we were apart from our kids here.  The first few months of that waiting time were sad, but we hadn't yet met our little girls. Looking at sweet faces in a picture and knowing they are in a place that is less than ideal is one thing, but when you look into those sad eyes and kiss those sweet cheeks, it changed everything forever for both of us--not to mention them!
 
Our June trip was difficult because it was our first realization of how deprived of food and love our girls really were.  They tore food out of each others hands at mealtimes, snack times, and anytime in between- like nothing I had ever seen before.  GiGi threw up at our first dinner because she didn't even know what it felt like to be full.  It was horrific.  The most awful thing I had seen in my life.  We stayed in Kinshasa with the girls for a little over a week and leaving them was much, much harder than I imagined.  But we arrived in Kinshasa knowing we would have to leave them. We also knew that we would be back very soon to bring them home forever. 

That's what we thought when we returned to Kinshasa on August 10--that we would be there for a few short weeks and we would bring our girls home forever.  But, as you know, that's not how it went.  We spent two bittersweet months with our girls, falling even more in love with them and them with us, every day. 

Then, we were forced to make the torturous decision to leave four of our precious daughters behind and return home to our other eight kids.  I cried myself to sleep every night for weeks, knowing the day was coming closer and closer.  I would lay awake at night and plead with Jesus to give us a way out, a way to bring our girls home.  I will never in my life forget saying goodbye to our four little girls.  We had a conversation with them, William (our agency rep) helped translate what was about to happen so we knew the older two understood.  Sweet Jada sat on the bed with a sad face as I was sobbing in the corner.  Like a big girl, she wiped my tears and said, "It's okay Mommy."  Liberty marched off to play like nothing had even happened, we already know she likes to put on a "tough face".  It was clear the younger two had no idea what was going on, off they went to play as well. 

Two days later, we said goodbye.  I packed the girls up with their special blankets we had brought them, their picture books of us, a few toys, and clothes.  I was holding GiGi walking to the car, telling her over and over how sorry I was.  I handed her to Brian so I could kiss the other girls.  Jada gave me a big and long hug, I looked into her eyes and told her how much I loved her and that we would be back.  I literally had to chase Liberty to get her to even give me a hug, again I told her how much I loved her and that we would be back.  I picked up sweet Karis and I hugged her tight, as I placed her in the car, it was in that moment that she finally understood.  She immediately started crying and reached for me.  Brian had put GiGi in the car and as the nanny got in, the doors shut and they quickly drove off.  In all of my life, I will never forget the cries I heard.  Both Karis and GiGi were crying and calling "Mommy, Mommy"  I cried and cried for hours.  Everything in me was longing to stay but I knew I needed to come home, and be with our kids at home, rest, and most of all, pray.   

Reality is, when the girls did not know we existed, it was much easier to be here and leave them there.  They were in a decent place- it was an improvement from where they were before.  Experiencing a week of being with their Mommy and Daddy hadn't impacted them too greatly.  However, after two months with us, they know what it is like to have a Mommy and Daddy again.  They know what it is like to be loved and treated like they are the most important person in the world, not just another child in a room of twenty.  We left the girls with people that we believe DO care about them, and like I said in a recent post, it is a nice orphanage in comparison to many.  But that does not ease the fact that they're still in an orphanage.  Our girls already lost one set of parents, the younger two girls, more than likely, do not even remember them. 

So, Lord willing, I will return and start over...for those of you who have not parented children who have been deeply wounded, it will be starting over.  They will need me to prove, once again, that they can trust me, that I love them unconditionally.  I am planning to bring materials with me so that I can start teaching the girls some educational basics.  They have never been to school so we'll be starting from scratch.
 
So, here are the details...The first step is getting a new visa to enter the country, $300.  Then a plane ticket, between $1500 -$2000.  Right now, the best option is still for me to stay at the same place I stayed before.  It is safe, secure and familiar to the girls.  I have sent messages to some other adoptive moms and there are other, less expensive places to stay but they're less than optimal.  Not to mention, there will be at least one other adoptive mom at the place we stayed before. The security of knowing that I would have another adult to talk to and someone to help if I needed it is very comforting.  Our room will cost $100/day.  In addition to that we'll incur food and transportation costs.  I can take as much food as possible, but there are some things I will have to buy in country.

All cards face up, we are in the hole, financially, after our last two month stay.  We borrowed considerable sums because we thought, again and again, that we'd all be coming home soon, and that we just needed to wait a little bit longer.  I realize that even considering going back and spending more money when we are already in the red seems ignorant.  But truth be told, it's not about the money--it never has been.  Honestly, if we would have known what this adoption adventure would cost in time, money, and sacrifice, I can almost guarantee you that neither Brian or I would have signed up. 

Truthfully, none of this makes any sense to us.  I will confess to asking "Why?" more times than I can count.  Likely, my feeble mind could not even begin to understand the answer to that question.  That is why in Isaiah 55:8, God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."  We cannot understand all that God is, nor all that He does.  I take great comfort in knowing that God didn't overwhelm us with having to make a decision knowing what we know today.  He gave us the courage and strength to say "Yes"  to those four sweet little faces.  He knew how this story would go and He knows the ending.  He is good and He can be trusted.

"I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please" (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Please continue to pray for our entire family.  We don't know the exact timing of when I would return and of course we are praying that the document that needs to be signed, will be signed before any of this has to take place!  Then we will just go--get on a plane and go (VERY QUICKLY) pick up our girls as long as we have the money we need for that trip--2 round-trip and 4 one-way tickets.

 We are so weary of asking for financial help.  However, here we are, in a place that we cannot do what we believe God has asked us to do, without the help of friends and family and people who feel lead by God to partner with us to bring our four little girls home.  If God leads you to give, even a few dollars, we would be so grateful.  There is a donation button on the side of this blog.  If you click it, it will take you to Journey Church's "give" page.  If you choose, you can give a tax deductible gift there, but please be sure to type "Hopkins Adoption" in the comment box.  If e-giving is not your thing, you can also mail a check made payable to "Journey Church" to 1794 Baxter Lane East, Bozeman, MT 59718.  Please leave the "memo" line blank, but do attach a sticky note to your check that says "Hopkins Adoption". 

We are so, so grateful for your prayers and for your continued support and sharing of our story.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PRESENT TROUBLES

We continue to wait...we really don't have any new news, just the same; waiting for a signature at the Presidents office.  For me, this ranks even with my daughter Bailey being diagnosed with diabetes, as one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  Looking back, as horrific as it was (and still is), watching my little girl endure needle poke after needle poke, I still felt like I was somewhat in control.  I managed that "control" by making sure I was with her at all times.  I think most moms would agree that is a normal and possibly even healthy response.  I am sharing all that to say, that I think I handled Bailey's diagnosis better because I still felt I had some kind of control. 

This however, is COMPLETELY out of our control.  Nothing I can do or say can change the fact that our four little girls are halfway around the world from us, in an orphanage.  No matter how nice that orphanage is in comparison to other orphanages in the world, it is no place for our daughters (or any child for that matter).  I miss them so much, I find myself adding 7 hours to what time it is here over and over throughout the day wondering what they are doing.  I wonder if they are happy, I wonder if they are getting enough to eat, I wonder if they are sad and wondering when and if we are coming back.  The pain is almost unbearable at times knowing I might miss another lost tooth, another first word, or even a scraped knee.  I can't handle that I am not there to kiss them good night, tell them how much I love them, and listen to them tell me how much they love me.  I really can't handle that I am not there to pick GiGi up when she wakes up at 11:00 pm, worse I wonder if she even does wake up anymore or did unanswered cries cause her to stop?? 

Last night we attended our church's Fall Faire.  I had a wonderful time seeing our kids dressed up and having a good time. Simultaneously, I could barely hold it together thinking about the girls and the reality that they should be home by now.  I couldn't stop thinking about how much fun our little "wild women" would have.  I even wondered what each of them would have chosen to dress up as.  I will confess, I went to bed with a broken heart, tearfully telling each of them how sorry I was that they weren't here to go with us.  No, I cannot talk to them right now but I have found that talking to them like they are here releases a lot of my emotions.

God is faithful, if you don't believe me, try opening your Bible and praying to Him daily.  I am overwhelmed by His love for me today, I opened up my Bible and it fell open to a page where I had a piece of paper randomly stuck in my Bible.  This is not unusual, my Bible is filled with bookmarks, sermon note pages, note cards.  However, this was just a folded piece of paper.  I don't even know what it was from.  The paper says, "He calls us to a greater and deeper faith in Him.  Mary did not let her questions stop her from taking the risk!"  Then there are a list of verses, I looked to see if the spot that the paper was in was on the list and it was.  2 Cor 4:17 "For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us an immeasurable great glory that will last forever!"
Then I read the notes at the bottom, it says
Our troubles should not diminish our faith or disillusion us.  We should realize that there is a purpose in our suffering.  Problems and human limitations have several benefits.
(1)They remind us of Christ's suffering for us.
(2) They keep us from pride.
(3) They cause us to look beyond this brief life.
(4) They give us opportunities to prove our faith to others.
(5) They give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power.

So in our present troubles, I am asking God to continue blessing me with His words of encouragement and I am thanking Him that I get to be reminded of how much more He suffered for us.  I am thanking Him that this situation really does prove how small and powerless we are.  I am thanking Him that even though these last few weeks have been dragging on, in reality it is a small amount of time. I am thanking Him that He has given us the opportunity to share with others that we DO believe that He is our GREAT and POWERFUL God.  We are thanking Him that although we don't know exactly what it looks like, we believe with all our hearts that in His perfect timing He will be demonstrating His incredible power to allow us to bring our girls home!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

PRAYER OF HEZEKIAH


Today I listened to a message by Pastor Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Community Church.  It was perfect, just what I needed to hear!  If you want to listen to it yourself, I'd encourage you to give it a listen:

http://media.willowcreek.org/weekend/prayer-together/#content

In short, Bill talked about Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Kings 19: 14-16.  Hezekiah had just received a letter that all of his people including women and children would be killed.  Hezekiah immediately went to the Lord's Temple and spread the letter out to the Lord.  Here is what he prayed:
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

Bill reminds us to begin our prayers to the Lord, like Hezekiah did, telling Him how amazing and awesome and powerful The Lord is.  This will help us increase OUR faith and remind ourselves Who it is that we are praying to.  Bill also spent time talking about the last verse: if we are always searching our own hearts and examining our motives for our requests, we can then pray with even greater faith, knowing God will answer us if our motives are to glorify His name and make Him known.

Oh, how this encouraged me today.  I need to remind MYSELF how great MY God is so that I might pray with faith knowing and believing MY God is more powerful than any ruler of any land.  No matter what the outlook is from our human perspective (and believe me, right now it's not good).  He can cause any one in power to do what will bring glory to His name.  I know our little girls (and so many other kids) coming home will bring great glory to our God!  I am full of faith and encouragement this morning, praying for miracles, please continue to pray with us!!

Headed Home

I just noticed that this didn't actually get posted it was still a draft, it was intended to be posted on October 8 
Thank you all for your prayers... Brian and I are leaving the Congo this week. As devastating as it is, we are not able to bring the girls back with us at this time. We are going to continue to work to bring them home from a distance, our agency, our attorney, and many other amazing people God placed in our path, while here in the DRC, will continue working to help us bring our girls home. Please keep them and us in your prayers. I will not be making any more posts for a while and I apologize if I don't answer messages. I'm going to focus my energies on being with our kids back home.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Democratic Republic of Congo

Here it is...Sunny Days, Kinshasa DRC.  You are correct, it is a beautiful place!  The people are WONDERFUL, the place is immaculate (other than the messes our girls make) :).  It would truly be a fantastic place to spend time.  Here's the deal...we have been here for 40 days and in case you are wondering, that is TOO long!!! Thank you to our friend Eric DeHaan for allowing me to "steal" your photos :)  Our room is the one with the door open in the first photo and the last photo is actually Eric and Cara's room (and the Wilson's and the Larson's...yes we have been here long enough to have 3 families stay next door and there have been several days it has been empty too) right next to door ours but it is very similar to ours.








We came to pick up our girls having no idea what we were about to face.  Our first week went well, Brian headed to the US Embassy to request an earlier Embassy appointment, as our agency had a miscommunication and missed taking our girls to their appointment on August 5. 

Thankfully the Embassy was very helpful and we had the girls VISA's in our hands one week and a day after our arrival here.  The next step of the process was the Bordeaux Letter (we have also discovered this could have been started before we arrived).  The Bordeaux office began to express concern about us having 8 children at home and the fact that we are adopting 4 more.  We were even told that the Bordeaux office could overrule the court who had finalized the adoption and that there was even a very real potential that we could lose the girls.  This was obviously a definite "low point". 

Our agency went to work preparing reports and documents that showed our financial ability to care for 12 children, letters from both our social worker and our agency's case worker, photos of our family together and information and statistics about the number of "large" Christian families in America to show them that we aren't alone in our "craziness" :)

The Bordeaux office wanted the Minister of Gender & Family to sign off on our case herself, but unfortunately at that time we learned that there is an actual law in the Congolese law book that states that you cannot adopt more than 3 children at a time without a "Presidential dispensation".  Therefore, she also had to pass our case on. 

There have been some other "hopeful" ways around this "Presidential dispensation" in the past six weeks (some of which I may share in more detail in the future) but we hit a dead end each time.  So, here we sit, with an attorney and our agency working on our behalf to get our "Presidential dispensation". 

I do not have a "good excuse" for not updating our blog as the process has unfolded, all I can say is this:  the first couple weeks were both exhilarating and exhausting reconnecting and getting to know our girls; the next couple weeks were full of hopes that quickly turned into disappointments.  I was feeling too defeated, hopeless, desperate, impatient, depressed, broken down, bitter, irritated, disgusted, discouraged, conflicted, confused, lost, and distrusting.  The list could go on but I think you get my point.  I did not have the emotional ability to even put into words what I was experiencing.

In addition to the negative emotions I was experiencing, I could go on and on about the positive ones I was experiencing with my girls.  They are the more beautiful, hilarious, brilliant, and energetic than I could have ever imagined.  So the only heartache I really have had, is that I have eight amazing children at home and in the last 6 weeks, we have missed Joshua's 18th birthday, Jazmyn's 8th birthday, Mahlea's 14th birthday.  In addition, we have missed everyone's first day of school.  Bailey started her first year at Chief Joseph Middle School and Mahlea and Kenzie started their first year at Bozeman High School.  Dylon, Preston and Jazmyn started their first year at a brand new Elementary School (Meadowlark).  For this mommy's heart, this journey has been unbearable at times.  I've missed soccer try-outs  (and I wasn't there to comfort two kids when they didn't make the team).  I have missed flag football games and volleyball practices.  I have even missed HOMEWORK which I will confess isn't my favorite "Mommy duty" :)

I have not even been capable of intelligently expressing my heart so for now, I will quote my very sweet friend:

"I ache for you, my friend, but am realizing once again how finite and small my thoughts are compared to the large capacity of love understanding and Grace our God has. I can still rest in the truth that God has been, IS and WILL continue to carry my friend thru this season. The truth is that with HIM you are home, you are with family and are so abundantly loved that really the details to the rest of this story are an inconvenience of timing.....mind you a very large and painful inconvenience, but nonetheless in the big picture this is a short season in the life of your family and in the life of the much larger story God is writing for you. Do not give up, do not lose hope God is still in control and can be trusted. Thank you God for giving us times and moments of opportunities to grow in our faith in the most difficult of ways - when we have no control. I pray for strength, endurance, perseverance and abundant joy for my friends Danna and Brian today. Work mightily in their hearts and draw them even closer to you. Amen"

I will do my best to update from here on out.  I am SO excited to post pictures of our amazing girls but we have decided to wait until we are home.  If you would like to be added to our "secret" FB page (where I post LOTS of photos and daily happenings around our motel), send me a message and I will gladly add you.  "Thank you" doesn't even begin to cover how grateful we are for all our friends and family and your love, support, prayers and fasting on our behalf. We have experienced the beautiful picture of what Christ intended. 

“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11).