Sunday, December 4, 2011

His Timing

Funny thing is...this blog is something that God has been stirring in my heart for weeks.  It's only funny if you know the details of my week. And, then, it's only funny in a really sarcastic, ironic kind of way.  I'm really not in the mood to write a blog.  I'm not in the mood to share my heart.  But, when God moves me to blog, I just have to.  It's unbearable to have it all rolling inside of my heart until it comes out on the keyboard.  This week, I am emotionally, physically, and mentally spent.  I don't remember ever feeling the way that I do now. This week definitely did not end the way we had hoped.

God tends to teach me in themes.  I can look back on so many times of my life and tell you what He was teaching me at that particular time...and all the events in my life at that time would revolve around a theme.  The theme for this fall has been "His Timing." We have had several big things that have been heavy on our hearts for a long time.  Things that we have spent HOURS praying about.  Not for days.  Not for weeks.  For MONTHS.  Heart-wrenching prayers and pleas that have driven me over and over to God in tears, in confusion, in frustration, in anger (God sees me at my worst, for sure!), and in pain.  The wildest thing to me is that this Fall is the season that God chose to answer a few of those...within a few short weeks.  And, He answered them ALL beyond our expectations.  But, He sure didn't answer them in OUR timing. 

One, that most of you know, was for Gabriel.  Most of you know the story of our son's little life...or at least part of it. When I was five months pregnant, we had a day that I will never forget.  First, you are having a BOY!  Yay!  Then, as the doctor closes the door behind her, the realization that all is not well.  He has understandable terms...he has a dilated kidney.  In really simplified language, one of his kidneys doesn't drain as it should.  Much later down the road, we would find out that it was "severely" dilated.  Talk begins about all that it could could be a simple fix...unless the good kidney starts to fail which would mean surgery in utero.  It could mean Down's Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, or that his other organs may not be working well either.  "Would you be interested in an abortion?" (Yes, they really said that). Bi-weekly ultrasounds, constant checking, and then a few weeks later, pre-term labor.  A hospital stay.  8 weeks of bedrest at home.  And, finally, a beautiful 7 pound, 11 ounce baby boy born 4 weeks premature.  Then, the visits to the specialist began.  The realization that our son's kidney would not be one of the ones that would "heal by itself in the first year." The realization that in the world of dilated kidney's, his is REALLY bad.  First tests and x-rays.  Sedation for my wee little man.  First procedure at six months for which there is a 95% success rate.  Trusting God and waiting MONTHS to find out that we are in the 5% and that it didn't work.  Disappointment.  Frustration.  A new attempt at a solution.  Trying and waiting MONTHS again.  Two trips to the ER in a week just to find out that try #2 was not a success.  Gut check for us as parents.  How far do we go trying to save this kidney?  Praying and waiting.  Trusting God but REALLY believing that we have gone all this way and that He is now not going to answer the way we were hoping and praying He would.  We reached the point where we believed that our only option was the one we had dreaded...he would lose the needed to come out.  Complete emotional breakdown and sobbing for me (sorry if you saw me at church that day! It wasn't pretty!).  Then, another visit with our doctor and he informs us that he has one more trick up his sleeve and is not ready to give up.  Even though no one else thinks the kidney is worth saving, he feels it is.  Surprisingly hopeful day for us.  We feel that this is God's answer...the road we are supposed to take and we agree.  One more surgery.  One more chance.  Surgery goes well.  We wait and pray...for MONTHS.  When we come to check-up day, our doctor tells us that the surgery was successful beyond what he had hoped for.  And, he CANNOT tell the difference between the good kidney and the bad.  He even gets them confused for a minute.  We are
A-M-A-Z-E-D.  Not because we didn't believe God could do it, but because we had come to a place where we didn't believe He was going to answer in the way that we had prayed.  I still cannot even believe what a difference it has made in the life of our son.  Four months between appointments this time...the longest he has gone in his 18 months of life.  No more worries about whether or not he is peeing or how much or whether or not he is in pain.  We now have a happy, healthy, ACTIVE, regularly peeing little boy.  :)

Did God answer?  Yes.  Did He blow our minds?  Absolutely.  Is it because we are anything special?  Not a bit.  Are we humbled and in awe of a God who loves us?  You bet.  And, you know what?  The hardest part of the entire thing was the WAIT.  I couldn't stand it some days.  I just wanted out.  I wanted a quick "yes" or "no."  "God, just say 'yes' or 'no' and I will deal with it.  I can handle it if it's 'no.'  The waiting, God, not so much. Can we just skip that part?"  If God wasn't going to heal him, I was okay with it.  But, I just was SO sick of the waiting.  22 months we spent praying for our God to heal our baby boy.  And, in the end, he absolutely did.  Do I wish it had happened sooner?  Yep.  But, strangely, I am still thankful for the process.  I can't even explain why.  But, I think it is because when you are petitioning God for something with every part of your being, there's a closeness that you have with Him.  I learned so much about my heavenly Father, about peace that passes understanding, and about trusting His timing through this process than probably during any other time in my life.  And, every day that I watch my little boy, with his huge blue eyes and sweet dimpled smile, I am reminded of the faithfulness of God.  Gabriel represents God's faithfulness more to us than I can ever describe in one blog post.  And, truly, I wouldn't have the understanding of the faithfulness of God that I do if we hadn't gone through the process...every day of those 22 months. 

And, you know what?  This week, I came to realize more about why God chose to wrap up that little chapter in our lives in the time frame that He did.  He needed it to be fresh on my mind.  He needed it to be wrapped up, for me to be reminded that He is faithful, to have my complete confidence in Him, to have my trust, before He took us through our next trial.  This week, we got slapped smack in the face with the biggest trial so far in our adoption process.  Without going into details, we had expected a pretty great end to our week.  The completion of a huge step in our process.  With that step literally within our grasp, it was snatched away.  And, we face new delays.  There will likely be waiting...and it likely will be MONTHS more before we are back to the point that we were earlier this week.  This week has not been the first week of this process that I have truly felt spiritual warfare.  However, I have never felt an attack of the devil so intensely in my entire walk with Jesus as I have this week.  We know that, this week, we have been in a battle with the evil one.  And, it has been EXHAUSTING.  I am mentally, physically, and emotionally WORN OUT.   I have been hurt, frustrated, and completely broken-hearted.  Are we still hoping and praying for a miracle to change our current circumstances?  Yes.  But, you know what I know?  I prayed for 22 months for a little boy with brown hair and blue eyes.  I prayed for miraculous healing. I prayed that God would save a kidney that all but one doctor said wasn't worth saving.  And, God answered my prayer in an amazing way...22 months after I first started asking.  So, do I believe God is in control?  Yes.  Do I think He can still do a miracle in our situation even tomorrow?  Yes.  Do I know that He will?  No.  But, the thing that I am more convinced about than ever is day, I will have TWO little boys.  And, when I look at the one with light brown hair and blue eyes, I will see his little brother with dark brown hair and dark brown eyes...and they will BOTH remind me of God's incredible faithfulness. And, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will do it in His timing.  Because He is working it ALL for my good.  All the pain.  All the hurt.  All the tears.  All the frustration.  All the days spent just putting one foot in front of the other in obedience.  One day, it will all just be part of the story of how God brought our little boy home to us.  And, we are 11 months into praying for our littlest boy and, hoping against hope, wouldn't that be great if it meant we were halfway to him.  :) 

Thanks for going on this journey with us.  It's the hardest one I have ever walked, so it means the world to us that you would go with us, and as one precious friend told me this week, "it's a privilege to lock arms with you in this battle."  :)

Beaten down, bruised, but truly blessed,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Orphan Sunday

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "For as the heavens are higher than the eath, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

Never has this verse been more true in our lives than in the month of October 2011.  There are several stories to be told, but one of them, the one I am going to tell today, was a story that God allowed SO many of you to help Him write!  When God placed the Adoption Rocks t-shirt dream in our hearts, we had NO idea what He had in store for us.  But, thanks to you, 98 shirts "Adoption Rocks!" t-shirts are going to be worn by people from Georgia to California, and we were BLOWN AWAY!  The biggest surprise of all was that we made over $2,000 profit from the sale of the shirts!  We were completely humbled and blessed! 

Those are the facts of the t-shirt fundraiser, but what I cannot even begin to put into words is what happened in my heart with every check, dollar, or paypal deposit that came our way.  Time after time, we were humbled.  Our friends and family started buying shirts as soon as we posted them.  We were humbled and blessed.  We had friends buying shirts for other families going through the adoption process.  Humbled and blessed.  We had friends buying shirts while going through their own adoption process.  Humbled and blessed.  We had friends and family who said, "I don't want a shirt, but I want to donate money to your adoption" (one from halfway around the world).  Humbled and blessed.  We had friends who clearly cannot count very well who paid too much for their shirts.  ;)  Humbled and blessed.  We had friends who had their co-workers, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins buying shirts.  No joke.  Humbled and blessed by people we have never met.  Craziness!  We had friends buying shirts to wear in honor of their daddies, sons, daughters, and brothers who were adopted.  Humbled and blessed.  We had friends who said, "You don't have the time to be doing all this.  Let me take care of the shipping and delivery."  Humbled and blessed.  We included "free shipping" in the cost of the shirts, but we had friends who decided that they would be the "free shipping."  Humbled and blubberingly blessed.

So, when I say 98 shirts and over $2,000, what you hear and what I am saying aren't the same thing.  I cannot even put into words what we have gotten to see God do through this process.  But, please know, we are so thankful and so blessed by your hearts and the story that God used so many of you to write on our hearts.  We will never forget it.

That said, please do not forget that tomorrow is Orphan Sunday!  November is adoption awareness month, and we hope and pray that you will focus your heart and prayers on orphans tomorrow.  If someone asks you about your shirt, please use it as an opportunity to share that there are currently estimated to be 163, MILLION orphans in the world.  Please pray for them.  Even though our God knows their names, He knows their needs, and He knows their precious hearts, we do believe that He loves it when His children intercede for the least of these and, that in turn it will make our hearts tender to their needs.  May He break our hearts for what breaks His.

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed." - Psalm 82:3

If you wear your shirt tomorrow in honor of our sweet baby boy (and we hope you do!), PLEASE have someone snap a picture of yourself in it and either post it to Facebook and tag me in it, or e-mail it to me at  I would love to include your pics in a future blog post and see all the BLUE out there for Baby Boy Gruhn!

He has done GREAT things for us!  Praise to Him alone for HE. IS. WORTHY!

Love to you all,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Adoption ROCKS!

Here it is!!!!  I cannot tell you how excited I am about this shirt!  Even more exciting that we are starting our pre-sale of these shirts on the day that our Home Study was FINALIZED and sent for state approval!  YAY!!!!!!!

I can take credit for NONE of these I will give credit where credit is due:

Idea and Vision - GOD!
Design - Garen McConnell
Color Choice - my friend, Melissa (who suggested blue for BOY!)
Slogan "Adoption Rocks" - That'd be the super cool man I am married to!
James 1:27 - Okay, so I chose the verse, but considering it's God's Word, we will go with GOD on this one! 

Now, for the good stuff!  The PRE-SALE IS ON!!!  We will be selling shirts starting right now and going through October 13th!  As I shared in my previous post, our hope is to get the order turned in and the shirts back to you in time for you to wear them on Orphan Sunday which is November 6th! 

It's a regular-cut, 100% cotton, shirt, and we will be offering them in both youth and adult sizes. 

Adult shirts are $25 and come in sizes...S, M, L, XL, 2X, 3X, 4X, and 5X.
Youth shirts are $15 and come in sizes...XS (2-4), S (6-8), M (10-12), L (14-16), XL (18-20)
***If your kids prefer an adult size, it's fine.  The price will still be $15. ***
AND, that price INCLUDES shipping or local delivery!  :))) 

To buy a shirt, please go to the blog and look in the upper left hand corner.  There is a "DONATE" button that will take you straight to PayPal where you can place your order.  In the comments section, let me know who you are ordering for (ex. 2 Adults, 2 Kids) and what sizes you would like (ex. Adult Small, Youth Large). 

If you are a Dave Ramsey fanatic (we are, so I can relate!), or you are just not thrilled with the idea of PayPal, let me know, and I will let you know our address so you can send a check!  Please include your shipping address, as well!  If you have questions, concerns, or are just generally confused, let me know.  You can e-mail me at

Thanks so much for the support!  We can't wait to see what God does.  I am hoping that there will be at least 147 of us wearing these shirts all across the country on Orphan Sunday.  One person for every 1 MILLION orphans!  If that were true, we could EACH be interceding through prayer for 147 MILLION orphans on that day. 

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed." - Psalm 82:3

And, if you want, please feel free to share this blog post on Facebook, through e-mail and with anyone and everyone who you think might be encouraged by our blog or who might just want a new, fabulous blue shirt!  ;)

Thanks for going on this journey with us.  We are blessed for it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Defending the Cause

A few months ago, the Holy Spirit was REALLY dealing with my heart about defending the cause of the fatherless.  It makes sense.  After all, it's biblical.  Want proof?

Deuteronomy 10:18 - "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing..."

Psalm 68:5 - "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."

Psalm 82:3 - "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed."

Isaiah 1:17 - "Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."

And, just so you know...those are just a few.  There are many more.  And, before we go on, and you go all Pharisee on me, let me assure you that I am aware of the verses that also talk about the widow.  He has been dealing with me about that, too.  But, this post is about orphans.  Thanks.  :)

I could not stop thinking about the 147 million plus orphans in the world.  Not just the 0-12 month old, Ethiopian baby boy who will one day join our family, but the other ones.  The ones that we will leave behind when we go to bring our son home.  The ones who are on the wait list because they have "special needs" or are "older" than the usual, preferred age of adoption.  The ones in the countries that are currently "closed" to adoption.  I could NOT stop thinking about them. 

One thing I can tell you, but I cannot make you understand fully unless you have experienced it for yourselves is that when God opens your hearts to welcome one orphan into your family, He will open your heart to them ALL.  It's why so many families who adopt an orphan go back again to adopt another...and sometimes another...and another.  It's why in the middle of the craziness of the adoption process, before some couples every lay eyes on their child, they are already talking about starting the process of adoption AGAIN.  For ANOTHER one.  I can't explain it.  It doesn't make sense if you haven't been there.  He has changed my heart.  And, I am pretty sure it's going to be that way FOREVER.  And, now, it doesn't make sense to me that I haven't ALWAYS felt this way...that there was a day, not too long ago, that adoption wasn't even on my radar.  Thank you, Jesus, for opening my eyes.  For showing me glimpses of what you see and who you care about.  I am SO grateful. 

And, so, with the orphans of the world constantly on my mind and my heart, I couldn't stop thinking about how we could help them.  I firmly believe God is calling the Gruhn family to not only embark on the journey of adoption, but is also calling us to some sort of lifelong adventure with orphans at the heart.  I think He has plans bigger for us than bringing home this little baby to our family.  And, He is SLOWLY allowing me to see pieces of what He has in store.  And, while you might think that the adoption process is big enough to tackle at this crazy time in our lives, I knew that God was up to something more. 

Somehow over the course of a few weeks, God began to reveal to me that He had a plan for us to start with awareness.  This blog could obviously be considered part of that plan.  But, I really began to sense that God was leading me towards the idea of creating a t-shirt that would serve two purposes.  The first purpose would be to help us fund our own adoption and bring home our son.  The second would be to promote the cause of adoption.

When God called US to adoption, we trusted Him with the finances.  We believed that meant to two things.  First, that God would provide.  He has. And, we have been humbled.  And, second, that we would live sacrificially to make it happen.  We will, we do, and we will continue to do so.  In fact, adoption has disciplined us more in our finances and our giving than anything to date.  So, knowing that was our previous stance and that we had never really talked about fundraising of any sort, I shared my idea with Neal.  And, he was in full support.  And, then, a God-thing happened.  I called my friend, Melissa, like you do when you feel like you're supposed to do something, and your husband agrees, but you just need ONE more person to make sure you aren't crazy.  And, if you don't know her, you aren't aware that everybody needs a friend like Mel.  She is one of the most encouraging, supportive, cheerleading friends I have ever had.  And, of course, with that said, she thought it was GREAT!  :)  But, more than that, God placed her in my life for such a time as this.  She said, and "I know WHO could design it for you!"  Long story short, she knew a teenager in her church (our previous church) that she thought would do it, despite the fact that he didn't know us!  I was SHOCKED.  And, over the course of the last month, it has been AMAZING to watch as God used a teenager who was willing to serve God by using his gift, to design a shirt for us, and to see that shirt come to fruition.  I am pretty sure I am not doing this part justice because I am SOOOOOO excited!  But, it has been SO cool.  I have loved it!
From the beginning, my heart has been that, if we could pull it off, that the shirt would be ordered, printed, and ready by Orphan Day 2011, which is Sunday, November 6th.  Of course, you can absolutely wear it and promote adoption ANY time, but our hopes are that you will wear it in YOUR church on Orphan Sunday and do your part to "defend the cause of the fatherless" on that day.  AND, I would love to see a picture of you in it.  But, we can talk more about that later.  :)

It looks like I will have the proof to show you TOMORROW, but let me just tell you that what I think (and I am SO not biased, of course).  IT. IS. AWESOME.  So, get ready.  The pre-sale will begin tomorrow and likely go through October 13th.  You will have TWO WEEKS to order a shirt and share our link with every one you know who might want one, too!  That will hopefully give us time to get our order to the company and get them back to you in time for November 6th.  That's the plan.

Our hope is that the shirts will generate discussion.  Maybe you will get to share our story or our blog.  Maybe you will get to share that there are 147 million orphans worldwide in need of a home.  Or, maybe, one day as you wear it and stare at yourself in the mirror, you will realize that YOUR family could welcome an orphan home.  ANYTHING is possible.  To God be the Glory.  I cannot wait to see what He does. 

Love y'all,

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Wow!  This has truly been the craziest summer that we have ever experienced.  I am truly thankful to have just survived it.  Neal has worked more this summer than I can remember him working in a while...probably since his Army days.  Our Home Study and Dossier preparation have kept us constantly on the go in our "spare" time.  And, we are back on our normal school, Life Group, and church schedules.  We had truly hoped that the craziness of work and the adoption would have eased by now, but that isn't how it has worked out so far.  But, we simply MUST be on the downhill slope.  MUST.  I am CONVINCED of it.  We shall see... 

Good news!  Our hard work on the adoption has indeed paid off!  We are almost DONE with the Home Study, and we are hoping to have it sent off to the state of Illinois for their approval sometime next week.  That will initiate the first of our waiting periods.  We have also been working on our Dossier simultaneously.  For those of you, like we were pre-adoption, who have no idea how to say "Dossier" or even know what it is, I will explain.  The Dossier is basically a large stack of extremely tedious paperwork and documents that you must gather and compile and then place WITH your Home Study to send to the country from which you are adopting.  If that sentence makes it sound complicated, I did not do it justice.  Please multiply it times 25 and pray hard for anyone who is currently in that phase.  It is mind-bogglingly crazy, hard, and so frustrating and overwhelming at times that I have just sat and cried.  Other times I have laughed.  Other times I have sat in the middle of a stack of papers just trying to figure out what to do next.  MANY times we have questioned our own sanity (those times usually correlate with the days we are convinced we are thoroughly messing up the three lives already entrusted to us!).  It's enough to make you crazy.  But, like I was told by a dear friend who went before me in the land of adoption, IT CAN BE DONE.  With that said, our Dossier is ALSO almost complete!  HALLELUJAH!  Glory to GOD!  I won't bore you with more tedious details of the adoption because once I start talking about it all, I can even get myself confused sometimes!  With that all said, just know that we are basically nearing the end of the paperwork phase and are closing in on the beginning of the waiting phase.  Again, HALLELUJAH!

This post started in my heart several weeks ago, and God has been slowly working it out in my life.  You see, September 18, 2011, was a very special anniversary in the life of our family.  It marked one year since our sweet Ella gave her heart to follow Jesus Christ.  I hope that the anniversary of that day never passes without me recognizing the importance of it, so that I can once again pause to give thanks to my Savior for the sacrifice that He paid for her sins and mine to make life eternally possible with Him.  He is SO good.  We spent the day with our sweet friends, the Newmans, and we had a wonderful time in a special prayer service with our Harvest family.  During our time of thanksgiving, I was moved to tears as my heart again felt the weight of gratitude that was within me for the salvation of our firstborn.  What a God we serve that He can call and make Himself completely known to even children.  He is SO good.

Ella was five years old when she gave her heart to Jesus.  For those of you who don't know the story, our cat, Emmy, had died just 3 days before.  Those 3 days that followed were very sad for us.  Ella took Emmy's death very hard (as did her Mommy!).  She began to have a lot of questions for us about death, dying, and Heaven.  We had talked with her many times before about all of the above, but her persistence was so different this time.  Neal and I found ourselves really struggling with the idea of a five year old truly grasping all that it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It's a hard road.  It's not paved with lollipops, roses and sunshine.  To follow Jesus is to live a life of obedience..  Sometimes...often, at great cost.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Is their joy?  No doubt about it.  But sometimes that joy is found in the darkest places, in our hardest days.  Matthew 16:24 says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  Based on that, we aren't among those who believe that you say a prayer, get your free ticket to Heaven, and live life in whatever manner you choose.  It's a serious decision that requires that we lay down our lives (maybe literally), our wants, our desires, and our plans, and CHOOSE to go wherever and do whatever He leads us.  THAT has become even more real i our own lives these past few years, and these are the things that we wanted to make sure that Ella understood.  But, knowing that Jesus talks many times about children (Matt. 18:2-5; 19:14) and how much He adores them, we were very open to the idea that He could indeed be making Himself known to Ella.  We spent much time praying about it, and we were trusting Him to show us.  Finally, the night she prayed to receive Christ into her heart, we knew that she was ready because the conversation and her desire were clearly not going away.  We prayed with her, we heard her ask for God's forgiveness for her sins and declare her desire to follow Him, we celebrated, we cried, we laughed, and we thanked our God for His goodness.  However, I will say, that we honestly still had doubt about whether or not we had explained it adequately for a five year old.  So, we decided that we would do as the Word of God says, and we would look for the fruit (Matt. 7:20).

And, boy, did it come!!!  I cannot describe to you what a joy it has been to watch the fruit of the Holy Spirit blossom in the life of our five year old and now six year old little girl.  I wish that I could put a year's worth of her prayers and our conversations in this blog for you to read, but I have tucked as many as I can away into my heart to ponder for years to come.  The Holy Spirit has come shining through her little life in truly more ways than I can count.  She has prayed diligently for missionaries by name, mission teams, healing for her baby brother, the adoption and health of her Ethiopian brother, salvation for her friends, salvation for the world, healing for those going through sickness, travel safety for friends and family, and on and on.  She has asked deep questions about orphans as we have gone through the adoption process, and, in her very six year old way, has figured out how to make sure that ALL 147 million orphans have a home.  Her plan:  every family adopts 1 orphan.  I think she is on to something, and I have sneaking suspicion it could work.  :)  And, it truly has been a year of these types of conversations.  It's been an absolute JOY to watch God move in her little life.  She has a heart that is hungry for God.

However, NO conversation or prayer has had such a profound effect on me as the one she and I had about two weeks ago.  As we were riding to school one morning, this is the conversation that unfolded from the backseat of our minivan...

Ella:  "Mommy, I have a plan."
Me: "What's your plan, Ella?"
Ella: "I think that one day, we should go to every house in our neighborhood and write down it's number.  On the second day, I think we should go to every one of those houses and tell them about Jesus.  On the third day, I think we should look back at our list, and we should make sure that we got them all."
Me: (I have forgotten my exact response, but I am pretty sure it was a shocked, mumbled version of...) "Wow, Ella!  That IS a plan!"

On the rest of the way to school, I shared with her how she could share Jesus with her teacher, her friends at school, and other people she meets.  But, she was still pretty adamant about her plan.  When she got back in the van that afternoon, here's how the conversation resumed...

Ella: "Mommy, I have been thinking more about my plan." 
Me: "Yeah?"
Ella:  "I'm kind of nervous about talking to people about Jesus.  Maybe we should just start first with our street, and tell everyone on our street about Jesus."
Me:  "That's a good idea."

And, that's where it stopped for about 2-3 days...And, isn't God funny?  He wanted me to know He heard our conversation.  As I was forcing my cardio-hating self to do torture on a treadmill and listening to my praise and worship music so as to distract myself from staring at the slow-moving clock, I very clearly heard the Holy Spirit whisper this to my soul...

Holy Spirit:  "So, are you going to do the plan?"
Me: (gulping for air and grabbing the side of the treadmill) ....(no words)
Holy Spirit:  "So, are you going to do the plan?  OR, are you going to teach her about fear?"
Me:  (again, nothing)

And, that is where it sat for a little while.  Me, just thinking and processing and deciding that I was going to HAVE to be obedient.  I canNOT be the one to teach my precious child that we are AFRAID to talk to people about Jesus.  Oh, how I don't want that to be me!  And, then, just as clearly as that treadmill conversation was to my heart, came another one...

Holy Spirit: "Unhindered."  I felt like He whispered it over and over and over again.  "Unhindered.  Unhindered.  Unhindered.  Unhindered.  Unhindered."
Me:  "Unhindered?"
Holy Spirit:  "THIS is what the unhindered Holy Spirit looks like." 

And, then, I got it.  Or, I am starting to get it.  It's been a process.  But, in that moment I got that my six year old little girl doesn't know that it's not typical to go to church, to hear about Jesus, to hear that we should share Him because He is great, because His Word is true, and because He is SO good, and JUST NOT DO IT.  She doesn't even begin to understand why anyone would hear all the wonderful things about Jesus, know that there are those who do not know Him, and just CHOOSE not to share Him with them.  And, I can either be the one to teach her that fear, that disobedience, that total lack of love for another, or I can CHOOSE to show her how to be obedient to the Great Commission, to lead by example, and to reach out to others with the love of Jesus Christ.

And, if I needed further clarification, a few days later, I went with my good friend, Ginny Smith, to the Beth Moore simulcast.  God spoke so much to me through His word and through Beth's teaching.  I am still processing through the event.  But, I have to tell you that I almost quit breathing in the last few moments of the simulcast when one of her parting words to us was, "We were meant to live the UNHINDERED life."  Are you kidding me, God?  Who even SAYS that word in normal conversation???  Being an avid note-taker, I wrote it down.  And, on the way home from the simulcast, I told Ginny the whole story.  Apparently God knows how slow I am to get things through my thick head.  I am tracking with you now, Lord.

And, so, I am saying it here.  The Gruhns will be laying out a plan for evangelizing our neighborhood...starting with our street.  Or, I should say, the Gruhns will be following the plan laid out by a six year old little girl to reach our neighborhood with the love of Jesus.  And, as I told my friend, I have a feeling when we choose to be obedient, that He is going to blow our socks off!  Not because of anything that Neal and I have done or will do, but because I think He has a plan in all of this to show Himself, to make Himself known, to get the glory, and to show a six year old little girl that He IS EVERYTHING that she believes Him to be.  And, I have a feeling that her two slow parents are probably going to be humbled and amazed.  I already am.  Thank you, precious Jesus, for saving my sweet little girl.  I hope to be a lot like her when I grow up.  :)

One more note on adoption before I sign off...BIG news coming soon for how you can help us with our adoption process, just in case you were dying to do so!  :)  And, you can be a part of promoting an incredible cause!  I'm going to be posting again in just a few, short days (you don't believe it, but it's true!!!). Be watching! 

Thank you again for going with us on this crazy ride.  It's like a wild road trip.  The more friends you have with you, the better!  Your love, support, and encouragement make us feel less crazy most days!  :)

Love to you all!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Goodness of God

We have been through one of (if not THE) most exhausting months of our lives. Neal's work has been unusually crazy, and crazy work is something we know well.  We have been "sprinting" through, what I hear is the toughest part of the paper work.  Ah, yes, the lovely "Home Study."  Do you even want to know how much I wanted to laugh when they told us that we would need a CPS (Child Protective Service) check for every country or state that we have lived in for more than 3 weeks since our 18th birthdays.  If you know us well (particularly Neal), then you know that the idea of this was completely overwhelming.  Just coming up with the list was overwhelming.  We have now completed four out of five home visits, a workbook with so much writing I thought my hand would fall off, 10 hours of online training, our physicals, our cat's physical (no joke), and probably more that I have already forgotten.  And, we just finished up one of the hardest parts, which was Gabriel's last surgery to attempt to repair his kidney.  We, simply put, are EXHAUSTED.

But, a strange thing has happened over the course of the last month for me...particularly during these last few weeks.  I have found myself OVERWHELMED...not by things...not by to-do lists, not by all that we are still waiting on answers for...but by the GOODNESS of God.  Does that sound crazy?  Probably so.  But, I have to tell you, Neal and I heard a sermon by a guest preacher a few weeks ago at our church (while our dear pastor and family were away on vacation) that had a profound effect on me.  He was talking about remembering the things that God has done in our lives and how, when we focus on the goodness of God, that we can't help but be reminded of all that God has done for us.  It's a big-time perspective changer.  At least, it has been for me. 

So, let me tell you just some of what God has done for us over this last month. 

1) He kept our son safe and healthy through a very intense surgery, and his recovery has been amazing already.  He had surgery on Tuesday, came home on Thursday, and by Friday (with two cuts in his side and a drain coming out of his back), we are having to discipline him for getting into things he is not supposed to.  We don't know the results yet, and we won't for a few months.  Is the waiting hard?  Yes.  But, God is IN the process, and THAT is where He continues to teach us.  So, I am sure that if He has us in the process for a few more months (at a minimum), then we still have much to learn.

2) He blessed Neal with a raise, and we celebrated his 5th year in his current position in an economy where so many around us are struggling and jobs are not plentiful.  That last fact doesn't escape us.

3)  I opened a card, just this week, from some wonderful friends, and inside was a gift for our adoption.  They are entrusting us with what God has entrusted them.  We are humbled and amazed at that kind of trust and generosity.

4) On NUMEROUS occasions -- this month, this summer, and the last year -- we have had friends step in to watch over our children while Gabriel has had doctor's appointments, procedures, ER visits (yes, more than one!), etc., and a few times with only a little notice.  And, might I add, they don't just OFFER, but they have served us joyfully, willingly, with glad hearts, and one even THANKED US for the opportunity to serve God through serving us.  What a gift!  You all know who you are!

5) Just yesterday, Neal came home with a bag of homemade cookies from a friend's wife and a card.  When I read the card, I was MOVED so deeply because she wrote in there that she wanted to do something special for us because of all that we had been through this week with Gabriel, and that she had bought a gluten-free cookie mix and preceded to describe every ingredient to me in detail that she added to it so that I would know it was safe for Ella to eat.  And, that was the THIRD time this month that someone has gone WAY out of their way to make a special treat for Ella.  You want to show me love in a totally unexpected, indescribable way? THAT does it for this Mama's heart, my friends!

6) Just last week some friends chose to bless us with what we considered to be a HUGE gift, just for our little Gabriel, just because they are fabulous and they love us and we love them.  What they don't know is that the timing of that gift was impreccable because the day before we had written yet another big check for the adoption.  God used their kindness and generosity to remind me that it is ALWAYS worth it to be obedient.  Not because good things always happen when you are, but because HE is worth it.  And, that He is SO good that He provides for ALL our needs (for the adoption and otherwise), He provides most of our wants, and He even throws in a few surprises along the way.  As my friend Amanda Newman would say, "just because He is sweet like that."  So true.

7) Several weeks back, a friend declared she wanted to help in some way because of a crazy string of events we had gone through with Gabriel, and she decided to have a pizza delivered to our doorstep.  She took care of everything, and it came on yet another crazy adoption day where we arrived home just five minutes before it showed up.  God's perfect timing prevails again.

8) God somehow has allowed our wild, crazy, cute, highly-energetic, strong-willed, and ultra-caring three year old to be potty trained in the middle of the wildest month we have had in ages.  I am calling that a blessing where God demonstrated his Almighty POW-ER.  It was nothing short of His grace and goodness and unspeakable love toward me that somehow that got accomplished in the time frame that I was crazy enough to try it.  PLEASE don't think I am joking.  I couldn't be more serious.

9) On Sunday, a dearly-loved and much-respected friend asked if she could pray for me, Neal, and Gabriel as he went in for surgery this week.  Something about the prayer of a truly righteous wo(man) that does it for me.  So blessed that people pray both FOR us and OVER us.  And, the amount of prayers that we have been beneficiaries of over the last months and year of our lives we do not know, but I can assure you that we have felt them all.

10) And, finally, during these last few months, I have had the awesome privilege to be able to talk with two girlfriends, whom I love SO dearly, who (with their husbands, of course) are starting the international adoption process.  That means that children from Rwanda and China will one day have a families to call their own.  And, I was also blessed to re-connect with a friend a few weeks ago that I had not spoken with (except via FB) that is leaving THIS MONDAY to bring home a second daughter from China.  As crazy as her life is, she took time out to encourage me, lift me up, and share with me some godly counsel about the process of adoption.  BLESSED.

I feel the need to stop at 10.  Please know that I could keep going, but you probably don't have the desire or time to read them all.  God has blessed us SO much.  We have been SO encouraged by SO many of you.  We are appreciative of every card, text, message, e-mail, FB post, etc., that we have received from so many of you expressing care or concern or love or encouragement.  Please know that we have felt SO loved by so many of you. 

What I pray that you hear and read from this post is not bragging, or showing off, or telling about how many wonderful things have happened, but I pray and hope that what you hear is the absolute goodness of God.  Please know that we are fully aware that we are completely undeserving of EVERYTHING good that has happened to us.  We live in a culture that says, "I deserve..."  We are guilty of it, too, at times.  I deserve a break.  I deserve to not have to do anything. I deserve this new ______________.  I have earned this, so I deserve it.  Hear me, and don't think I am morbid when I say it, but the only thing that we deserve in this life is DEATH.  The only thing.  Jesus paid the debt of what we deserve on the cross, so that those who believe in Him and choose to follow Him are free from that debt.  However, it will forever be the only thing I ever deserve.  Everything else that is given to me in this life...lavished on the absolute GOODNESS of God. 

I'm going to leave you with a song...check it out.  It's Matt Redman's newest song, and it has been an incredible reminder to me of the goodness of God.  It's called "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)."  The message of the song is that no matter what happens to us in this moment, on this day, or throughout the course of this life, in any given moment, we have 10,000 reasons to sing praise to God.  There will always be new praise and worship songs being written because there will always be something to praise Him for!  So, in those moments when you are tired, weary, discouraged, frustrated, angry, hurt, in pain, and on and on, seek to give Him praise for all He has done.  In hindsight, my little list of 10 things looks ridiculous, and I can already think of 90 others that should be added onto that list.  But, I hope you get the point, and I bet you're glad I didn't list the full 100.  :) 

Psalm 103:8-12,17-18
"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us...But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."

Matt Redman - "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"

Much love,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Cost of Adoption - Part 2

Wow!  One month has passed...whew!  What a busy one!  I cannot believe how fast our summer is going.  With 3 crazy kiddos, swimming lessons, Harvest Kids Camp, trips to Madison with Gabriel, a BUSY summer work schedule for Neal, and doing our Home Study...this month has been a WILD ride!  And, this girl is TIRED.  But, I thought about it tonight, and even though Neal is still at work as we speak, and I need to be working on our Home Study paperwork (that I have already worked on for two hours today!), I just felt God nudging me toward this blog.  He still has a story to tell through this process...and I will be faithful to tell it.

Part 2 of The Cost of Adoption could be called "The Provision."  We are only about 6 months into this process (CRAZY!), and God has already shown up in so many ways!  I have honestly "seen" God more in these past six months than probably at any other time in my walk with Him.  He has been SO real to us.  He has been SO faithful.  It's hard to even explain, and I am sure I won't do it justice.

As I shared with you all in the last post, a big part of the challenge for most people, and for us, in considering adoption is finances.  And, we knew that would be a place where God would HAVE to show up for us.  And, we believed that if we had faith, that He would do just that.  And, are you ready for it?  He HAS.  :)  For us, it started with doing our taxes this year.  This year, for whatever reason, we were SO on the ball.  We did them February-ish.  That's crazy early for us.  And, even crazier, we got back more money than we ever have before.  It was a "Dave-Ramsey-would-be-so-ridiculously-mad-about-this" amount of money.  We were REALLY surprised, and yes, for the fiscally responsible of you, we made some adjustments so that we will no longer be giving the government such a big loan every month for free.  :)  Happy?  But, we, we KNEW it was a God thing.  We were a couple of weeks into the adoption process, knew we needed to start putting away as much as possible, and KNEW that was why we got that money.  So, it went into the "adoption fund." 

Now, just so you know how it works, adoption costs a lot of least in my book. And, as a good friend told me when we were starting out, almost NO ONE who is called to adopt starts out with the money.  It's just not how it works, for most of us.  It's truly just a journey of faith for most people.  That said, I want you to understand that all of that money is not due up front or even at one time.  It's kind of like installments...not regular, systematic installments, because some are small and some are HUGE, and it honestly just seems like you are always writing checks for something or other.  But, I think it's easier that way because it's not like writing one ginormous check at one time.  That said, we paid our application fee several months back and that was our first "we're committed to this" check.  :)  It honestly felt pretty good.  We were being faithful to what we know God has called us to do, and we were officially on the journey.  The second payment, for us, was mailed in with our contracts.  This was more of a "sweat-a-little-while-you-write-the-check-we-are-REALLY-doing-this" kind of feeling (me, again - not Neal - I've told isn't his hang-up!).  We didn't know the exact amount until we had our orientation phone call.  The craziest part of that was that when they told us the amount, we hung up the phone, and Neal (who is NOT the resident number-cruncher), looked at me and said, "Wasn't that almost what our tax return was?"  And, I (resident number-cruncher), said, "I can't remember....maybe???"  (FYI - that was a RARE moment for us!).  So, being the resident number-cruncher that I am, I went and looked it all up.  And, you know what?  HE WAS RIGHT.  Our tax return was a little less than $100 off what we needed for that first big payment.  It was AMAZING.  I cannot even describe to you what a faith builder that was for me.  God provided just as we knew that He was telling us He would.  But, to SEE it was AMAZING. 

Next birthday!  I was blessed to see a special friend of mine on my birthday, and when I saw her, she handed me two cards.  Assuming they were for my birthday, I said "thank you" and threw them in my purse to read later (not my usual habit - but she gave them to me in passing, I promise!).  When I got home, I pulled them out, and that's really the first time that I realized there were two.  The first one I opened was addressed to me, and it was a birthday card.  Sweet friend!  As I looked at the second one, I noticed it wasn't addressed to me, but to our family.  As I opened the card, a check fell out.  And, as I started to read, the tears started to POUR.  My sweet friend wrote in this beautiful card about how she and her husband had received their tax return this year.  And, they went to God and prayed and asked Him what they should do with the money.  And, HE directed them to give their money to us.  I was BLOWN AWAY.  No words.  I called Neal on the phone and start reading the card to him...I was BAWLING through most of it.  Blubbering.  It was ridiculous.  He probably understood none of it.  But, it was an amazing moment for both of us, but even more so, for me.  Remember, money is MY thing.  It's MY obstacle.  And, as one of my dearest friends pointed out, He chose to show up financially on my birthday.  What a SWEET God I serve!  I am blown away not only by the generosity of my friend and her husband.  I am blown away that they got their tax return back from the government and took it and placed it in God's hands and asked HIM where HE would have them spend it.  But, here's the kicker, the part that this Dave Ramsey nerd TOTALLY got on this day was that the amount that they chose to give us was the SAME EXACT AMOUNT as our application fee.  BLOWN AWAY.  Here we are, at this point, almost one-fourth of the adoption costs have been paid, and only about $100 of what has gone out of our bank accounts was there when we started this process. 

He IS Jehovah Jireh - God the Provider.  Make no mistake about it.

Now, we are in the middle of the Home Study.  It's what our Agency Caseworker calls "the sprint."  And, I am SO not a runner.  And, NOT being a runner, that little analogy didn't sound like fun.  And, honestly, this last month has been EXHAUSTING.  I jokingly told Neal the other day that I know that a lot of people (me included) worry about the money when they are considering adoption, but if they even had a CLUE how time-intensive it was, they would run for the hills!  So, this has brought me to a new place in my dependence upon God.  Frankly, I am exhausted in almost every possible way...spiritually, emotionally, has been incredibly draining for both of us.  And, because Satan is SO sneaky like that, the "other" usual demands on our time (kids, work, church, illnesses, etc.) have intensified in the last month.  ALL three of our kids have had the strangest illnesses.  Gabriel's mostly relating to weird things going on with his procedures.  The girls have both had just really WEIRD stuff.  The kind that makes your pediatrician shake his head and say "I don't really know what it is...."  One is sick in bed right now as I type.  But you know what?  Satan LOVES distraction, and he can create plenty of them.  It's the thing I think that he does best for those of us who are committed to God.  But, what he doesn't understand and, I am sure, cannot wrap his warped little mind around is that all that he is stripping away from us and all that he is throwing at us are only INCREASING our need for God.  And, as a very wise friend reminded me the other day, in some of our hardest moments God even allows us to be stripped of our strength because by doing that, we have to DAILY depend on Him to be the strength that propels us forward.  And, while I said that if those considering adoption would run for the hills if they knew the demands on our time, I have to say that I have learned that if you are running, it's always better to be running TOWARD God than away.  THAT I know! 

I am definitely in a place where I really covet your prayers.  As soon as I am done with this blog, it's back to paperwork for me.  Neal still isn't home from work, but when he gets home, he will also have some to do before he goes to bed.  But, last week, when I was feeling SO overwhelmed and SO tired, the Holy Spirit repeatedly brought to my mind this passage in the Bible.  It's a passage where the Israelites have been attacked by the Amalekites and have gone to battle with them...

"So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up -- one on one side, one on the other -- so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword."  - Exodus 17:10-13

I have shared this passage with some of you already.  Before I even finished sharing it with a friend a few days ago, she said, "I can hold up your hands, girl."  And, let me say, I share this passage not because I am ASKING you to do this.  I share it because I already FEEL you doing this.  Thank you for holding up my hands.  Thanks for praying for us.  We feel it.  Thank you so much for walking with us on this journey. 

By HIS strength,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cost of Adoption - Part 1

I don't know if you have caught on yet or not, but I am not going to be one of those people who blogs a lot.  I am only here in the blogging world because I believe it is where God wants me, and I only want to share with you those things that I am sure that He has given me to share.  With that said, this post is something that He has been working out in my heart for more than a month.  I still don't know if I will do it justice, but I will do my best to share with you what He is teaching me and hope that HE will make sense of it all.  After starting this post, I realized that it would take more than one post to fully explain what He's been up to in our lives, and I think it will make more sense if I break it up into two parts.  So, here goes Part 1... 

Several months ago, when Neal and I believed that God was leading us down the path of adoption, we did what many of you have done who have either adopted or have considered adopting at some point -- we talked about the cost.  In the world of adoption, it's definitely the elephant in the room.  It's the thing that at some point, you have to talk about.  For many of you who have considered adoption, it's the one thing that has held or is holding you back.  For others of you who have chosen adoption, it's been the thing that God has used to increase your faith.  For us, it was definitely a matter of serious discussion.  With international adoptions averaging around $30,000, it's not really a surprise that the subject would come up for any of us.  For Neal, it's truly never been that big of a deal.  For ME, early on in the process, it was a barrier to my obedience.  Now, you must know, I am the one who does the daily managing of our budget.  In the world of Dave Ramsey lingo, I am DEFINITELY the "nerd" in the relationshiop.  Not shocking to most of you, and some of you would say that's an understatement!  So, in my very Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace-loving mind, I had decided that even though we believed that God was calling us to adopt, that the very "responsible" thing to do would be to save up the money for a few years until we had the required funds, and THEN adopt.  Very responsible of us, I thought.  Take care of the bases, tie up all the loose ends, and THEN be obedient.  The problem with that is, God wasn't asking us to adopt down the road, and I knew it.  He was telling us to start the adoption process NOW.  And, I don't know about you guys, but the Gruhns don't just have $30,000 lying around in our "whatever shall we do with all our money" fund.  In the world of parenting, my response was what is known as "delayed obedience."  And, as I like to say, "delayed obedience is disobedience."  When I ask my girls to go clean up their toys, I am not okay with them deciding that they will be obedient tomorrow.  I am not even okay with them deciding to do it 10 minutes after I ask.  When I tell them to do something, I mean for them to do it right then.  Anything else is disobedience.  And, this idea of "delayed obedience" is the very conversation that God was having with me during this time.  But, as He often does, He used someone else in my life to demonstrate why His ways are better than mine. 

We have been blessed to have some very special people cross our paths over the 13 years we have been married.  One of these families is the Rose Family.  They are an AMAZING family and have been an inspiration to us since we first moved to Southern Illinois.  Mike was our worship pastor in Marion, and his wife, Nancy, is one of the most godly women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  They have eight wonderful children (whom Nancy also homeschools!!!) and have been such a godly example to us in parenting, in faith, and in service to our God.  We were blessed to have our paths cross with them for a time, and I have been SO blessed to continue to learn from their lives and obedience via Facebook (isn't it wonderful?).  Well, during this time that I was arguing with God (let's just call it what it was!), Nancy shared an amazing God-story (the Roses ALWAYS have God-stories -- I believe because their faith in God is BIG!).  I will share it with you as best as I remember (if you are reading this Nancy, please forgive me if I get any of it wrong).  The Roses now live in Ohio and were wanting to go on a trip to visit their family in Michigan.  However, they really didn't believe that the tires on their van would safely make the trip, and so they had opted out of going.  Without them ever voicing their need, a man from their church showed up on their doorstep with a set of new tires for their van because he had "happened" to notice the worn out tires on their van in the parking lot at church.  Nancy doesn't even know it, but God SO used that story in my life to confirm to me that He WAS calling us to adopt, He was calling us to do it NOW, and that He WOULD provide.  I remember that as soon as I read that story, I came downstairs and told Neal, "I don't think we should save up the money.  I think we're supposed to do it now."  His response was somewhere along the lines of "I totally agree.  I have never thought we should wait."  Money was MY hang-up, not his.   

The "cost" of adoption is not something that I am past.  It's something that still tempts my obedience.  It's not that I begrudge the money or would rather spent it in another way.  It's not that at all.  I just frankly don't understand HOW it is all going to work out.  It doesn't work out on my budget spreadsheet, and my faith struggles at times because I can't SEE it or make it all work out in my head.  So, it's only natural that God and I would have many conversations about this, and that I have to surrender it and lay it at His feet often...almost daily. 

The week of Easter, I could not get the "cost" out of my mind.  While I usually spend the week of Easter trying to be mindful of what Jesus did for me on the cross, this year was different.  I could not get the "cost" of my salvation out of my mind.  All through this process, people have told me that adopting a child will give me a greater understanding of what Jesus did on the cross for me.  I feel like God gave me a tiny glimpse into that this Easter.  You see, we are not God's natural children.  As Christ-followers, we believe that JESUS is God's only Son.  Most of us probably know John 3:16 (NIV) - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  When Jesus, God's only Son, died on the cross, He paid the price for our sins.  He made it possible for us to become the adopted children of God.  Don't misunderstand a key part of this.  Jesus' death does not mean that we are automatically His children.  It's only in choosing to accept His sacrifice for our sin and choosing to follow Him that we become His children.  John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

As someone who grew up going to church, I knew all this in theory.  I accepted Jesus' sacrifice for my sin at a young age and made the conscious decision to follow Him.  This wasn't new stuff to me.  What WAS new to me was what was what God was already doing in my heart regarding the "cost of adoption."  You see, I was grappling with $30,000.  I was trying to understand how God was going to provide the means to what He is calling us to do.  But, what was new to me was the complete realization of what MY adoption cost my heavenly Father.  "The cost of adoption" for God was NOT $30,000.  The cost for HIM to adopt ME was the life of His only Son.  Grapple with that.  Let it sink in.  And, really let it soak down to the depth of your soul.  For me, what is IMPOSSIBLE  to fathom is that God CHOSE DEATH for His only Son so that I might have life.  Now, go there with me.  If $30,000 seems like a lot to you, imagine for a second that the price of adoption for the child God has called us to was the life of one of my biological children.  I cannot even understand that kind of sacrifice.  I am not deserving of that kind of love.  1 John 3:1 (NIV) - "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

It was through the week of Easter this week that I came to not only a greater understanding of what God had done for me, but also why He SO loves adoption.  James 1:27 says - "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  Someone had shared a thought a few months ago through a blog I read that it took me a while to figure out.  They said, God loves adoption because "adoption is the gospel."  At the time, I had taken this to mean that adoption was a way to be obedient to God's command to those who follow Him to "go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19)."  However, the week of Easter, I GOT it.  That's not what they were saying at all.  God loves adoption because it IS the gospel.  We, who have chosen to follow God, ARE adopted because of the death of His Son.  Adoption IS the gospel.  We cannot be His followers, redeemed by the blood of His Son, and be anything but FOR adoption. It is only through our OWN adoption that we get to be the children of God.

And, it was through this process that God revealed to me more about His provision for our own adoption process.  There will never be a greater need in my life or your life than our need for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.  Without God's sacrifice of His Son, and the price He paid for our sin, we would be eternally separated from God.  Good works, acts of kindness, religious practices - NONE of these makes up for our sin.  NONE can put us in right standing before God.  God is HOLY.  He cannot tolerate sin.  Outside of accepting the shed blood of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin, we have no hope in this life to be reconciled to Him.  Isaiah 64:6 says "...all our righteous acts are like filthy rags..."  It was through thinking deeper about this, that God revealed to me something I had never thought of before in terms of my own needs, particularly the financial needs associated with our adoption.  He has ALREADY met the greatest need I will ever have.  Why is it then, that I worry about anything?  And, why in the WORLD would I worry about something that I know clearly that He has called us to do?  Matthew 6:25-34 talks about how ridiculous it is for God's people to worry.  I know this passage well, yet I find myself guilty of worry far too often!  The revelation of this hit me like a ton of bricks, and I felt the Holy Spirit say to my heart, "If I met your greatest need through the death of my Son, don't you think I can handle everything else?  I have GOT this."  Oh, ME of little faith!!! 

And, to think that this is only Part 1.  I cannot WAIT to tell you what He has been doing to show me just how MUCH He has got this.  I will not make you wait long...I promise. 

Thanks, again, for going with us on our journey.  I cannot wait to share more with you...

Much love,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Choosing Joy

I cannot believe that more than a month has passed since my last post.  Much has been going on in our lives and in my heart in these last few weeks, and I have just been trying to process it all through myself before sharing it with you.  Shortly after we returned from Disney World, we set out to finish our application.  However, if you read my last post, you know that things in Ethiopia were somewhat in limbo when we left for vacation.  During the week after we got home, we spent a lot of time talking through what would happen if Ethiopia was no longer an option.  Our agency had first recommended to us that we look at either Ethiopia or Bulgaria, as they appeared to be the best fits for our family.  Ironically, those were the only two countries we had ever really felt led to explore.  However, when we started our journey toward Ethiopia, we felt like that was the direction that God was leading us.  So, this first week back from vacation, I spent a lot of time asking God why He would lead us in a direction only to have the door close.  I get that it happens.  I have heard the stories of others who have had the exact thing happen to them…people who were much further down the path than us.  I had friends telling me of their friends who were going through the same thing as us, wondering what was going on in Ethiopia, and they were ALL further in the process than us.  And, then, God reminded me of a story through a sermon that our dear Pastor John preached.  He reminded me of the story of Abram…

“The Lord said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land I will show you…Abram was seventy-five years old when the Lord told him to leave the city of Haran.  He obeyed and left with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and slaves he had gotten while in Haran.” (Genesis 12:1, 4-5a)  And, what God began to impress upon my heart is that He called us to adoption…NOT to a specific country.  And, when He calls us, He wants us to obey, and He doesn’t have to give us the details.  Gulp.  That was a big lesson for me.  So, of course, we decided that our only option was to move forward…wherever He leads us.  If that means Ethiopia, fine.  If it means Bulgaria, fine.  If it means somewhere else, fine.  So, with that, we began the very practical steps of finishing up our paperwork.  In doing so, we had to list our country choices, 1 and 2.  So, I sent an e-mail to our agency rep to ask whether we should even put Ethiopia, or if we just put Bulgaria.  And, then, God showed off.  Her response to me was that in spite of all that Ethiopia has said about changing their system, that they have not seen ANY delays in the adoption process, nor do they expect any.  None.  I don’t even understand that.  But, that’s what she said.  So, all that time I spent questioning and wondering instead of obeying was wasted time, except for me learning a big lesson about doing more following and less talking.  J  So, much to our excitement, last week we received the final paperwork we were waiting for in the mail, and we were SO thrilled to mail our application and our first payment to our agency last Saturday!  Yay!  Step 1 down. 

In the middle of all of this, both Neal and I have both felt what we believe is spiritual attack.  It’s not been just one thing or event, but, much like my last post, just the compounding of several very real frustrations in our lives (some practical and some more emotional) and, already, some hurdles in our adoption process.  I think in the last month alone, our computer has had 3 different sets of issues...not working, not connecting to the internet, not printing, etc.  You name it.  And, frankly, when you are doing something as paperwork-intensive as adoption, it's a pretty vital thing to have a working computer system.  But, God has provided for us in that area as well.  As we have had one frustration after another come our way, it has caused us to really dig deep in God’s Word and find out what He has to say about hard times, trials, and suffering.  In just a period of a few days, God began speaking truth into our lives through His Word (on our own and verses shared with us by several friends), through a sermon I found by Francis Chan on YouTube (“Is Suffering Optional?” – it's broken up into five parts, but I highly recommend it!), and through a book that Neal has been going through with his Flock Group.  Crazy how when God is driving a point home to you, that He makes it in SEVERAL different ways to make sure that you are getting it!!! 

On top of it all, we started a new Bible Study with our Life Group – John MacArthur’s study on James.  As we started the first chapter, I came across a passage I could probably recite by heart…James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  For me, that’s a verse I have known for a LONG time.  But, this time, as I was reading it, I began to ask these questions:  “What does it mean to ‘consider’ it all joy?  In the MIDDLE of a trial, what does that even look like?” 

For some of you, it may seem weird to question what the Bible says, but I don’t think it is at all.  I think it’s only then – when we question scripture, when we dig deeper, when we seek God, when we ask for the input of others who have a genuine faith – that those verses become ALIVE to us.  It’s then that they are more than just words on a page.  I think we are meant to do more than just read the Bible.  We are meant to live it, and, it is meant to be LIFE to us.  Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  God’s Word is meant to guide and direct us, to instruct us in the paths we are to take, to set parameters for our life, and to help us break out of those parameters we have set for ourselves that reflect our hearts more than His (super tough!).  Simply put, it's meant to CHANGE us.  I think much of my Christian life has been spent reading the Word of God for knowledge, or to "check a box" to say I did it, and not so that I would be changed by it.  

So, then, how do we “consider it all joy” in the middle of a trial?  It’s SO much easier to have joy at the end of a tough time, especially those times when God wraps it all up nicely for us with a bow, and we get to “see” some of what He was doing.  God SO encouraged me last week as I discussed this passage with Neal, a close friend, and even my Life Group.  And, here’s what I learned from Him and through them.  Joy in the midst of trials is a supernatural thing.  It’s absolutely BEYOND our capability to face what some of us will in this lifetime and “consider it all joy.”  That kind of joy is the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in our lives.  Joy is part of the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) that He displays in us when our relationship with the Spirit of God is as it should be. 

And, what I have learned about finding joy in difficult times is that He is EVERYTHING that we need Him to be.  He is our provider, our help, our strength, our Father, our friend, and so much more.  And, even in the middle of trials, He gives to us in abundance.  Over these last few weeks, God has used others in our lives to answer prayers that were never voiced aloud.  He has moved in so many ways to let us know that He is ever-present in our lives and this process.  He has given us strength and encouragement to keep going when the road was really hard.  He has provided confirmation of His calling over and over again, even when we didn’t have a speck of doubt about it all.  And, on more than one occasion, He has heaped on blessing for no reason at all. 

One such blessing came to us last Sunday.  We work with the cute and highly energetic Kindergarten group at our church about two weeks each month.  A few weeks ago, we had a sweet little girl visiting our group, who I just KNEW was from Ethiopia.  However, when her Dad picked her up, I chickened out and didn’t ask him.  J  However, last Sunday, Neal and I were standing in the foyer at our church (which we never do) waiting to meet with some of our Life Group members, and this same beautiful little girl who I was so curious about runs up to say “hi” to me!  Yay!  I was SO excited to see her again, and then her Mom, whose name is Cathy, walked up.  We began to talk, and I found out that her daughter IS from Ethiopia and was only adopted a short time ago.  Of course, the connection began immediately !!!  I was SO encouraged by our conversation and hearing Cathy’s heart for adoption and how she has been praying for couples like us to be called to adoption.  She told me that by following God's call to adoption that WE  were an answer to HER prayers.  LOVE. IT.  Not only that, but we find out that we live in the same area of town.  Can you say "Wow!!?!!"  She ends up getting my e-mail, and we say “goodbye.”  As I meet back up with Neal, and I’m immediately telling him about Cathy, we run into her again, but this time with her husband.  So, now Neal gets to meet her husband, Mark, AND, a friend of theirs who is visiting them from Atlanta (whom they met while they were IN Ethiopia adopting their daughter and HE was adopting his son).  So, did you catch that?  God ordained for us to meet two families visiting our church who have adopted children from Ethiopia just a short time ago on the day after we submitted our own application!  We felt so overwhelmingly blessed that God would use that meeting to just show His love, grace, and goodness to us.  Truthfully, we were blown away! 

All that said, I am learning to CHOOSE joy…every day…sometimes several times a day.  It’s a choice I make to rely on Him to be everything I need.  And, just so you are up on the latest, the adoption application that we mailed last Saturday, arrived just one business day later at our adoption agency halfway across the country.  On Monday, I got a call from our agency rep to confirm they had received it.  Of course, it was also a request for a little more information.  J  But, that’s okay.  I am learning, as Cathy told me on Sunday, that this is a “paperwork pregnancy” and that the road will be long, and it will be hard, but as with our relationship with God, it will also be SO worth it.  And, I am hoping that with THIS “pregnancy,” there will be no heartburn.  J 

Thanks for sharing in the journey. 

Much love to you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bend in the Road...

This afternoon, I was scrolling down my Facebook page, just seeing what was going on with my FB peeps.  In the middle of "status updates" from friends, I often have updates from several ministries, businesses, etc., that I "like."  One of those "likes" on my page is our adoption agency.  I normally LOVE reading the things that they post.  But, today, my heart started to sink as I read through their post.  Here's the first part of what it said...

"We need your help to speak out for the millions of orphans in Ethiopia.  The Ethiopian Ministry of Women's, Children's and Youth Affairs plans to reduce intercountry adoption by 90%."

And, with that, we have come to our first bend in the road.  Now, let me say, this is not official.  It is scheduled to go into effect in two days, on March 9th.  And, if you are where I was, you might be asking "Why?"  Well, as best I can understand it, there have been some ethical concerns for a while concerning Ethiopian adoptions.  We have heard of some concerning things ourselves in this area, not with our present agency, but with other agencies.  It sounds like it's a knee-jerk reaction to the investigations that have shown that there are, in fact, reasons for concern with several agencies and orphanages currently facilitating Ethiopian adoptions.   I do believe the actions they are taking are an honest effort to prevent against child trafficking.  What is concerning to most people in the adoption world is the talk about shutting down many orphanages that are currently operating in Ethiopia and slowing, almost halting, adoptions in order to do this, and the fear that these actions will put the lives of children in danger.  To give you an idea of just how drastic an action this is, they are planning to change the amount of adoptions in Ethiopia that will go through their court systems from a current average of 50 per day to 5 per day.  For families already on waiting lists (and we are still months from that point), their estimated wait time just increased by at least a year.

So, I'm going to be honest and say that my first reaction was pretty much to just freak out a little.  After all, I still BELIEVE that we are called to adopt, and I still BELIEVE we are called to adopt from Ethiopia.  Although, I will also tell you that from the very beginning, I have prayed that God would STOP the process if we were wrong about adoption, if we were wrong about Ethiopia, and if we were wrong about our agency.  And, He stopped the process with the first agency we were researching in under a week after I first prayed that prayer.  So, I am open to the idea that He could be doing it again.  However, I am not willing to accept that until I know it to be true.  And, I don't know that yet.

So, when I shared all this info with Neal, he did what he does, and he reacted with calm and control (part of why I need him in my life), and said, "Let's not freak out.  We don't even know that this is happening for sure yet."  Ah, yes!  This is why it is called a "bend in the road."  Because with a curve, or a bend, you cannot SEE what is around it.  It does not mean that it's bad, even if you feel that it is.  You just have to go around the bend to SEE what is there.  And, yet, here I have gone again freaking out about future events that have not happened yet!  Don't you just think Satan loves it when we get ourselves worked up about stuff that might not ever happen?  When we let ourself go down the path of "what if's?"  I think he totally digs it!  And, I often make him very happy in that area, I am sure.

So, after those wise words, I opened my Bible to read the passage that we were supposed to be reading yesterday (but I am currently a day behind the hubs if you must know the truth!)...Romans 8  Now, I want to share with you some of the Biblical goodness that I discovered in there tonight...

Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." 

Romans 8:26-27 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been calld according to his purpose. 

Romans 8:31-32 - What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:37-39 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And, I don't know about you, but today, I am thinking it's GOOD to be a slacker!  Isn't God AWESOME?  In one chapter, He just gave me verse after verse reminding me to trust, reminding me to pray, and reminding me that HE has it ALL under CONTROL.  And, so that is where I am...trusting and going to do a lot of praying.  And, I am definitely going to be allowing the Spirit to intercede for me, because I am pretty sure I don't even know how to pray about this one.

Before I go, I want to share with you the last part of the Facebook post I read from our adoption agency today...

"You can help by signing the petition to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi at:  Forward this to your friends, family members, churches and everybody you know!"

This is a link to a petition for the government of Ethiopia to not make this very hasty decision without thinking through the consequences.  I am going to be praying about signing it.  I have not decided yet because I want it to be a God-decision, not an emotional, me-decision.  Would you be willing to do that with me?  To pray about signing and to do so, if you are so led by God?  I don't need to know if you do or if you don't, I just would love it if we could pray through this decision together.  It will need to be a quick answer from God, because we are under two days away, but I am trusting Him for guidance. 

Please also be praying about the situation in Ethiopia, whether you sign the petition or not.  We will not be nearly as affected as will be SO many other families who have been waiting for months and maybe years already.  And, most importantly, please pray for the precious children whose lives are going to be greatly affected by this decision.  So thankful tonight that He doesn't NEED me to do His will.  I am trusting the "father to the fatherless." (Psalm 68:5)

And, if you get time, go read Romans 8.  You have read a lot of it already.  :)  Now, you can just go fill in the gaps.  I am pretty sure that it will be an encouragement to you no matter what place you find yourself in today.

Thanks for sharing your hearts with me and for going with us on this journey. 

Much love to you all!