Let’s Talk About Surrender

It’s been a wild couple of weeks.

John was excited to be hired to teach in the Newport News Public School system.  He’s been commuting an hour to an hour and a half back and forth to Great Bridge since we got married.  He’s been a great sport about it and he has LOVED Great Bridge High School…but 3 hours of commuting time + 6 kids + grad school + me for a wife + dogs, cats and rodents + yard work + home stuff + church + friends = whoa, man.  Those extra hours are going to be life changing.

NNPS assured John that he would have a high school position but…middle school kept calling.  Middle school is not his forte and frankly, no one’s favorite.

But John said this to the Lord, “I’m all in.  Whatever your plan for me is, I’m all in.  If it’s middle school, Lord, I will go and teach middle school.”  He may have even prayed this prayer with fear and trembling.

And then he put action to his words and accepted an interview at a middle school.

He went to the interview and he liked the principal and he liked the building and he totally surreneded.  “Okay, Lord.  I’m ready to go where you send me.”

On the way home, he, with a grateful and fairly happy heart, prayed again, “Lord, where you send me, I will go.  I surrender to your will.”

The phone LITERALLY rang that moment and he got an interview at Denbigh High School.  It’s 15 minutes from our house and he doesn’t even have to travel down 17.  (Anyone who is local knows the importance of this.)  It’s the place he most wanted to be.  The interview went great and the job is his.

On June 11th, I posted this:  Peace In Disappointment, all about our surrender of our big dream of international adoption.

We had been wrestling with it, literally, for more than a year.

I could not reconcile this great desire for this Biblically recommended thing and the simple facts that the doors were not opening.  It caused so much angst (I hate that word, but it fits) in my soul.  Foster agencies didn’t like that we had a house full of people and would work with us when some of our older kids moved out.  Another agency discouraged us from the beginning because we really wanted to choose a waiting child, and they kept pressuring us to get all the finances done first.  That same agency was inconsistent with their advice and just left us uneasy.  No peace and God’s plans have a supernatural peace all over them.

So, we laid it down.

Then.  BOOM.

I read a blog (or a Facebook article or maybe just a post?) about a disabled mom in a wheelchair.  She and her husband had adopted several times from overseas and every time, only her husband traveled.  Truly, our main issue with the whole thing was both of us being away from the littles for so long and my health.  I simply can’t manage international travel right now.

But wait. Only ONE parent needs to travel?

I confirmed it with an agency and tentatively asked about this little beauty I’d seen on Reeces Rainbow.

The agency cheerfully said, “YES!  One parent is FINE and we would love to tell you more about ‘Shyla’.”

I told them all about us, how busy our house is, how full it is and how I have fibromyalgia.  “Okay!” she said, brightly, “Here’s all the info and the paperwork to get you started!”

We sent it in.  She sent us COMMITMENT PAPERS specific to ‘Shyla’ so that she would be our daughter and we would need to hustle to get all of our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed.

She told us her name- Sylvia…and the fact that she goes exclusively by Sissy.  Oh my heart.  This is OUR daughter.   She showed us a video and I don’t speak Bulgarian but I caught one word- musika…She likes music. And in the photo, behind Sissy’s are big pink poodles, just like Lila had all over her nursery as an infant.  She turns three in August…wouldn’t it be amazing if we could celebrate her fourth birthday with her at home?

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We love her.  The kids love her. They’ve been praying for the past year that God would “help the orphans find families and please God, let one find OUR family.”

We are honored that God is trusting us with this.

There are fees galore and lots of red tape to come.  We will rely fully on fundraising and grants but we trust God to provide.

We have named her Sylvia the name her first parents gave her when they gave her life Grace because the grace of God is covering her and us and this whole thing Virginia after a beloved member of John’s family, his great aunt Carter the name we give her as she comes into her second life.

Help us bring Sissy home here.   There is no amount too small or too large.  If money is left over, it’ll be donated to Reece’s Rainbow to help other families bring their children home.  If our adoption fails and our place in Sissy’s life was just to love her and pray for her from here, the money raised will go towards her adoption still.  We can give specifically to her through our agency.

Every penny of these funds will go to the orphan crisis one way or another.

The cost is high, though not as high as adoption from some countries and not as high as through other agencies.  We see it like this- it’s a ransom for our daughter’s life.

She has no future in Bulgaria.  She has some special needs.  We expect she will flourish with therapies and quality medical treatment here with us.  But in Bulgaria, she will just decline.  There are not the resources to get her what she needs there.  She will stay in foster care until she is “too old” then she will move to a children’s home.  When she ages out of there, it’s off to pass the rest of her life in an institution.

I believe God has better things for her.

Being in this place of surrender feels right and it feels peaceful.  I know that this is God’s plan and God’s course for our life and we are going, full speed ahead until, she is home.

Help us make this miracle happen!

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Sylvia Grace Virginia Carter

Peace In Disappointment

I don’t like feeling disappointed.

I really don’t.

And I know, I know, I know that no one does.  But today, I am bogged down in disappointment and discouragement and I am sad.

I have long held a dream close to my heart.  A dream of adoption.  I have felt a stirring for it ever since I was very young.  I specifically remember a couple of families from high school that had large families full of kids of all kinds- special needs, neurotypical, adopted, bio, foster.  I was always so fascinated by the whole thing.

I met my friends the Tiefenbacks and got to know their beautiful daughters from India and my friend Dianna and her beautiful three.  This dream, it has waxed and waned over the years but it has never, ever gone completely away.

It was set ablaze all over again in knowing and loving our sweet  Aila.  In watching several Facebook friends go through growing their families through adoption and fostering.  In standing with my sister of the heart Kristin and her husband Drew as they began the foster parent journey.  Watching another family I just love adopt their second daughter domestically.

I looked around one day and I realized that I know so many people who have a heart for adoption. I realized that even my current heroes in the faith (Sara Hagerty, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton, Ann Voskamp) all also have Big Hearts for adoption, for protecting and serving children in crisis.  It’s all around me.  And God does not do coincidences.  Everything is purposeful, everything has meaning.

In my first marriage, adoption was not something my husband wanted to do, so that dream had to be surrendered.  And that was okay, because sometimes life is like that.

In my second marriage, it is something my husband very much wants to do.  Our heartbeats on this are very much in sync…and so somehow, now having to surrender it because of my health is just so much more painful.  It’s as though it was in my grasp and then was snatched away.

We fell in love with a three year old in Hong Kong last year, while my fibro was under control.  We tentatively asked if he was an option for us.  The answer?  He was already in process with another family.  Yay! That’s what you want.  For kids to get adopted.  No worries, there are 147 million children in need in this world.  Surely there would be one for us.

We fell in love with several sibling groups in Bulgaria but were warned by the adoption agency not to go that route because of how many young daughters we had still at home.     The situation for orphans in Bulgaria is heart wrenching.  You can learn more here:  

Okay, so we paused to regroup and pray for a while and see where God was leading us.  We had some goals in our personal lives to meet with our finances and John was in grad school and Nora was still so young.  It felt like the door was closing for just a little while longer.

Now, we are prayer warriors for four special little ones on Reece’s Rainbow.  And these four are just so precious and deserve a family so much.  And we would gladly adopt any and all of them.

Shyla

When I saw her face…she just looks like one of us.  Her name would be Lydia if she was ours.

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Brayden

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I just believe he would flourish in a family of his own.

Rubin

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This sweet love.  Is he beautiful or WHAT?!

And finally this guy who is about to age out of the orphanage, with the same name as my own son.

Charles

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These are just four of 147 million and my mothers’ heart longs to go and swoop them up, bring them home and love, love, love them.

But I have this disease that steals my days.  This disease that makes an hour long car ride into an excruciating ordeal.  This disease that makes travel to another country almost impossible.

The costs of adoption are entirely overwhelming but can be overcome.  This I know for a fact. I  saw the body of Christ come together and bring sweet Aila home.

But my health.

This fibro thing has been out of control since about January and nothing I have done seems to be bringing it back in line.

So…time to lay down the international adoption dream again.  It’s disappointing.  It’s heartbreaking.

But what I know is this:
1. God gave me the dream of international adoption.  And He is not going to ignore a dream He placed in me that falls right in line with His word:  “Pure and undefiled religion is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” Why would he set our hearts on fire for this and then render us inactive? He wouldn’t! That’s not who He is. He will show us our path, in His timing.
2. God loves these four I’ve posted here and all 146,999,996 others more than can even be imagined.  More than I ever could, even if I adopted all four of them.  They are of eternal significance to Him.  Precious, fearfully and wonderfully made.  Treasured and cherished by the God of the Universe.  He is their Abba Father, Emmanuel, God with us.
3. I can help in so many other ways, not just as an adopter.  There is much I can do for these four. I can pray every time they come to mind.  I can teach my children to pray for them, to have their hearts open to the needs of others.  I can raise funds to help them on their journey.  I can advocate for and speak for them.  I can be their voice, stateside.
4.  There is beauty in surrender.  God can turn my mourning into dancing.  He can rescue me in my sorrow and distress.  He meets us in our hurt places.  He walks with us.  He is the Great Healer, of all pain- physical, emotional, spiritual.

I don’t know where the adoption journey will take us.  There are about a million different ways it could go.

What I do know is that the crisis is epic.  Forget my sad little heart for a second and just consider the magnitude of the orphan crisis.  I type and I delete and I type and I delete because there is nothing I can say that can even come close to describing it.  Just research it for yourself.  Read up on foster care needs in your own town, scroll through the kids on Reece’s Rainbow, watch the documentary I linked to above.  Go to Show HopeThese 400Amazima and countless other websites.  Check it out for yourself.

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This is my prayer over these precious ones.

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Please pray about the orphan crisis and please share your experiences with me and with my readers.  We are not all called to adopt, we are not even all called to give financially…but I believe that God does call us all to action one way or another.

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And that is where I am today.  This morning.  I feel peace about it, sad but peaceful.  I am just going to be still and wait on Him to give me the next step.  I’m going to advocate and pray for these four He has laid on my heart and I’m going to keep praying this fibromalgia away.

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If you want to help financially, you can donate to Reece’s Rainbow or to one of the four I’ve linked to specifically by clicking any link above.

OR, if you want to help through shopping, from now on, my retail profits from DoTerra and Norwex will go to these four kiddos’ adoption grants.  (You can read more about the adoption grants and how they work on the Reece’s Rainbow webpage.)

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And, stay tuned, because I’m opening my Etsy store soon.  It’s called CartestersonINK and it’ll be filled with art from our family.  20% of all profits will go towards our little RR friends’ adoption grants or to other organizations that are designed to help end the orphan crisis globally.

Faithful readers, I am thankful for you.

Tilly

Tilly
Tilly

Tilly still has scars from her past.

I take off her collar this morning and it stares me in the face.  The pink groove that will never grow fur, no matter how much time goes by, because she spent so many months of her life tethered.  A groove that says that she grew but no one adjusted the rope or chain or collar that held her in place.  She’ll always have that scar.

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When she came to us, she was afraid.  Her tail stayed tucked, she wouldn’t look at anyone, she seemed ashamed when we tried to give her affection.

As months have gone by, she’s thrived under our care.  She is brave now, jumping up on the table to steal food, barking the backyard, wrestling with Caroline, climbing up into my lap.  She is my constant companion, always where she can see me.

I love her.

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When we were still fostering dogs, Tilly was a huge part of it and not just because she was our foster fail.  (Foster fail:  when you foster a dog but then can’t let it go to get adopted.  You’ve failed at fostering.)  She coaxed shy dogs out of their shell.  She played with them and snuggled them and herded them.  (She’s a champion herder.)  Whenever I saw her with the other fosters, I had just one thought.

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She who has been forgiven much, loves much.

She’s grateful.  Inasmuch as a dog can be.  She’s grateful.  And she has thrived because she is so loved.

She still has to be disciplined, she still has to be trained and taught.  I’m tired of her eating my shoes.  I wouldn’t mind if she stopped stealing food off the table.  I absolutely can not stand it when she jumps on people with her sharp little claws.

But most of all, I love her like crazy.

And I think about that shy, tail tucked dog who is now, at this very moment, wrestling with a dog three times her size in the living room…think about how she has blossomed in our family.

Living things just need love.

I’m grateful that when I walk through trial and fire, that God loves me.  I’m grateful that He can see the scars from my past and can make them beautiful.  I’m grateful that I can use my struggles and my hurts to help others.  I’m grateful that in the very middle of all my mess and chaos, He can place a hand on me and still my heart.

And so, yes, I realize that I’m comparing my walk with God to my relationship to my dog and I also realize that’s a bit crazy.

That’s okay.

I mean, I seriously, crazily love my dog.  So it makes sense to me.  And it’s just like God to use our every day to teach us Big Lessons.

Today, I’m grateful for this little brown mutt and for God who gave her to me.  And I’m so grateful for what He has shown me through her.

You should rescue a dog.  I know some people that can hook you up.

Xoxo Pet Rescue