Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Death Crawl

OK, so I just watched "Facing the Giants" with the kids. I hadn't seen it in several years, and yeah, there are some cheesy parts... but wow... so much truth. I love the parallels that exist within the story to my own life, my own struggles, and my own choices.

I'm certainly no football fan. Well, that's actually a HUGE understatement. I know nothing of football... there, that's more accurate. BUT... there's a scene that I identify with in a very real way. In one of the football practices, the guys have to do "death crawls" where they carry another player on their backs as they crawl 30 yards or so down the field... without allowing their knees to touch the ground. Just a { little } bit tough, I imagine. Then, the coach challenges one player. "Will you do a death crawl to the 50 yard line... but giving me your absolute best?"
The player responds that he will... and the coach then pulls out a blindfold. He figures if his player can't see where the 50 yard line is... maybe, just maybe, he'll not focus on the simple goal, but focus on giving it all he has, without holding back.

So this big sweaty dude starts his death crawl. He goes and goes, and then goes some more.... but then it gets harder... he starts wondering out loud if he's there yet. Keep in mind, he's blindfolded, so he has no idea where he's even headed unless the coach tells him to go right or left. He's not seeing the end of the road here. The coach just keeps yelling at him to just give it his all... until he can't go anymore (in that oh so gentle way that coaches do). The coach tells him he can do it, he tells him he can do more, he tells him to keep on going, to NOT QUIT. The big sweaty dude is now almost spent. I mean, the poor guy is beyond exhausted. He's not liking this much. In fact, he's not liking the coach either, I have a feeling.

"Just two more yards..." says the coach. And then, he's made it. Big sweaty dude drops. Nothing left, nothing more he could have given. He wonders if he's made it to the 50 yard line, and why it was so incredibly hard to do.

... and then the coach tells him to look up. He realizes that he's all the way across the field... he went the entire way. He did more than he even knew he was capable of.
So much more than he ever thought possible.

As I watched the strength and energy that it took to cross that field blindfolded, the toil and the sweat and grit... the times, over and over again, where he had to choose to not give up... I felt like I'd been there. I feel like I am there now. I am in the middle of a journey which I do not understand or know the ending. I've been called by the Lord to give my all to him, to leave nothing behind. And I am blindfolded as to where it will all lead. I struggle to do what I must, to push on toward the goal, to persevere, to NOT QUIT. All along, I hear a voice beside me (and in me, and all around me)... encouraging me, testing my faith, asking me to do things that I am not capable of on my own.
Is there such a thing as spiritual sweat? Cuz if there is, I've been covered in it in the last 3 years. There are times I'm so tired, I want to lay down and call it quits. But then that voice speaks to me that I am not alone, that I am strong when I am weak, that his strength is sufficient for me. So, I keep pressing on, still blindfolded, still having to rely on God to show me when to turn to the right or the left.
I'd love to be able to write that I've made it... that I've completed my death crawl and I've collapsed in victory in seeing the long, long way I've come. But, I have a feeling that's a long way off. And that's OK with me, I guess. I'm in the midst of this thing, and I can't see where the Lord is taking me, but the thing is, I trust him. I trust his voice and I trust his plans, even though they are hard. Even though I'm sweaty and exhausted many times. Believe me - I wish I could take the blindfold off and SEE where I am, and what I'm crawling toward...!!!! But, that kind of defeats the point, now doesn't it? I have to rely on him for everything while I can't see ahead, and that's the beauty of it. That circumstance of having no ability of my own causes me to decide; lay down and die, or lay it all out before him... no holding back.

For me, the crawl is toward my children... not knowing if they will ever legally be as they already are in my heart... it's about trusting the Lord to show us what comes next for us in Liberia... it's about hanging on to him when all human hope is lost. For you, it could be a million different scenarios. We all have our death crawl. When this one is done, another practice begins, and the spiritual exercise of a new death crawl will begin. So, what are you gonna do... lay down and die, or trust the coach and head to the end zone?
(Whoa... seriously, Jason's gonna be so impressed that I knew to write "end zone" there. :)

Rev 3:8
"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

Isa 30:21
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Heb 12:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Isa 40:28-31
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Jos 1:7
"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"I Saw What I Saw"

I just found this song... and I can't even explain how much this was my experience in Liberia. I looked for the faces I've come to know, even though I knew they wouldn't be there...

"I Saw What I Saw" - Sara Groves

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and i can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

something on the road, cut me to the soul

your pain has changed me
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
and what I know of love

we've done what we've done and we can't erase it
we are what we are and it's more than enough
we have what we have but it's no substitution

something on the road, cut me to the soul

I say what I say with no hesitation
I have what I have but I'm giving it up
I do what I do with deep conviction

something on the road, cut me to the soul

your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
your courage asks me what I am made of
your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
and what I know of love
and what I know of god

Monday, July 12, 2010


I realize that Liberia is "our thing"... and that God calls each of us to do different, equally important things for his name. So, please know that I am fully understanding of that fact.

But here's the thing... I can't return from my time in Africa and not give others the opportunity to be a part of something that really matters to the heart of God. I must tell you that if you are so led by the Lord, your support will literally put food into the mouths of children in need. I know that now. It does not go toward overhead costs like advertising or a more modern set of speakers for a church building... it buys rice. It buys medicine. It buys malaria-preventing nets and screens.

And it buys it for children that I know personally now. For the children I could list one after another (but I'm not allowed to). For the children I've held and loved, and count it a privilege to know. is the site that will allow you to see just some of the children that we met in Liberia, and to choose to be their sponsor. I stood there and took all their photos... urging them to smile, saying, "show me your teeth!" I met each one. They have a name. They have a story. They are precious. If the Lord tugs on you, you can sponsor a child for $40 a month right from the site. I happen to have great suggestions for specific kids to sponsor if you are so inclined. :) You'd have to go through me in that case though, as the sponsorship site limits the number of children you can see, for privacy reasons. Boys and girls, deaf and hearing, usually aged 4 up to age 18 or so. I'm telling you, YOU will be the one to be blessed...

Jason and I have been thinking of the kids as we have our third meal for the day... when we notice that we have about three thousand options for what we'd like to eat... when we lay down in our comfortable {CLEAN}, mildew and mold-free bed at night... when we see Anika and Asher healthy and strong, not lacking in height and weight from malnutrition. We have decided to sponsor two of the sweet girls that we fell in love with. (One of them has a SWEET 4 year old sister that is available for sponsorship, by the way... :) We are excited to assist the staff of the homes to be able to buy rice and basic needs for the kids. We can get updates on "our girls" and send them letters and pictures and small items when we have the chance. We've decided we will challenge ourselves to save the money from our existing budget. Certainly, our family can do without doritos and ice cream bars and eating out as much... I can pass by those garage sale signs even when I know I might be missing the deal of the century... I simply don't need MORE of anything. Although Jason says he is not willing (yet) to part with his chips and salsa. If you know him, you understand. (Good thing we make our own salsa... he won't have to give that up anytime soon!) We just figure it isn't terribly hard to shave some each month from our abundance to provide for those with none. And if it were to cause us some sacrifice, then so be it.

Our Liberia team has been challenged to represent these children to others, and we are praying that sponsors for 30 children would be raised up in the coming months. I know times are tough. I know that money is scare for many, may people. But I also know that we are rich... even the poorest of us are so very wealthy compared to the rest of the world. If you'd love to sponsor a child, but $40 each month is just something you don't have... then maybe consider splitting a sponsorship with some friends, or your bible study! How fun to pray for a child with a group, and send them letters a couple times a year! Maybe that way, each person pitches in $10 instead of a full $40. Just an idea...

If you didn't stop reading this the moment you realized it might affect your pocketbook ... thank you. If you are already investing in God's heart for the orphan in another way... thank you. If you will pray with us that God will raise up financial support for these children... thank you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

12 Days Post-Liberia

I find myself trying not to think about Liberia sometimes. On one hand, I can't keep it out of my thoughts. Each day I work on something to do with the trip... pictures, video, posts, paperwork for sponsorship, evaluations for what we did at the homes. I even dream about something to do with Africa each night (with maybe one exception) since we got home. But sometimes I actually try not to think about it. It plain ol' just makes me sad to not be there in moments. Funny, because in several ways, I was relieved to leave Liberia. I am so fickle.

I was relieved to leave the humidity and the sweat.
the filth
the exhaustion
the chaos
the 20 people to a van
and I was even a little relieved to leave my sobbing kids as they called out "Mama... Papa" while we left. Yes, relieved because it tore me open, in a way that I can't describe, to see and hear them, and to not be able to hold them and make it better. To not know what the future holds, and when I might see them again. I found it hard to breathe as I cried. I have never known that kind of grief and sorrow.

That's one reason I try not to think of Liberia sometimes, because I can see them. And whether my heart pictures them crying like that, or singing or playing soccer, or babbling away in their sweet voices... it's all pretty painful. It's wonderful too though. What a confusing thing! So precious to me are those moments of remembrance, but so raw and searing as well. It is hard even to write it out, but this has become my way to think it through and force myself to deal with it instead of burying it. Others can read this, or they can not... I don't really care... I just need to get it out so it doesn't suffocate me.

Some things are too tender even for this forum though, and I have to work through those things, as I do all the rest, with God. He knew it would be painful. He prepared Jason and I for it, and he is so faithful to hold us through it all. But this burden we carry is not without consequences on our hearts. Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. I guess it all becomes heavy when we pick our burdens up and try to carry them on our own. We struggle under the weight, we stumble and trip ourselves up. When I ask him and allow him to carry the burdens for me is when I find rest. Rest and peace... and yet it is not pain free. I do have peace and rest, and I do believe that I am allowing him to carry my burdens for me regarding Kelvin and Hawa... not trying to wrestle them back from his arms to carry myself. And yet even in the midst of the joy and peace he gives me, I still deal with the sorrow of what the Lord has asked us to walk through.

I would love it to be easy in moments. I would love it to work out as we always hoped. I would love my heart not to feel as if it were "butter spread over too much bread" (as Bilbo Baggins would say)... spread over half the world to reach the children that my heart loves. But I always come back to the refining and completing work that God has done in me during the hardships... when he forces me to let go of my trust in anything but his own power and goodness. I don't want to know him differently that that. I don't want to know him in a lesser way. So- I will choose to rejoice in and be grateful for the road that he has led us on... maybe I'll cry as I walk forward at times, but I will certainly keep on walking.

So, on that note, here are some things that I want to remember about Liberia:

The way the children care for you and take care of you:
~Hawa tucking my "fla awa" (fly away) hairs behind my ears as we rode in the van
~Kelvin seeing sand on my leg and tenderly wiping it off for me
~ the children at the homes standing in the midst of the fire ants, while they wiped them from my feet
~kids who wanted to close my camera bag, put my lens back on, carry my fanny-pack and my supplies

The way we loved others and were loved in return:
~ teaching Kelvin and Hawa what zerberts are... and getting them in return
~ having at least 5 chidren attatched to my body in some form or fashion almost everywhere I went
~ receiving a bracelet from a beautiful girl who owned next to nothing in this world
~ holding "my" Sarah and Rebecca... and knowing that their hearts were full, as was mine
~ Washing sand out of Hawa's eyes, and holding her tightly so that she felt better

The joy:
~ watching my children do their african dances and sing their songs
~ hearing all the children sing {LOUDLY!} ... smiling the whole time
~ listening to Hawa call her brother a "cat-feesh" to insult him in fun.
~ holding my children with their arms wrapped around my neck

My Team:
~ knowing they loved every moment as much as I did, no matter the cost
~ hearing Matt's hilarious comments about "road safety week" and other such things :)
~ watching Vandora and Becky L. sign and communicate with the children at the deaf home
~ spilling my guts to Tori in her room one night
~ seeing how hard Angel works despite what she's up against... loving her for every bit of it
~ hearing Dora belly laugh at what the kids were saying in the van :)
~ Becky P's comforting of me when all I could do was cry as we pulled away
~ seeing Tommy with his son, Prince - and watching him dance in church w/ the Liberians
~ knowing Jason was right there, in this with me... all the way

Little Things:
~ pineapple and Liberian donuts
~ watching Kelvin and Hawa brush their teeth
~ the feel of a fan when you've been so sweaty that you don't remember what it is to be dry anymore
~ the beautiful outfits that the Liberian women wear to church
~ Oretha's scrumptious Liberian food!
~ watching the kids share their gum at the homes... many children enjoyed just one piece

The strange things:
~watching my kids eat their chicken, bones and all. Yes... bones...
~ the fact that I wasn't in the least concerned about the large cockroach in our room
~ driving, ALL of it ... 'nuf said.
~ realizing that the kids at the mission were playing with a rat
~ the generator for the church that drowned out the abilty to hear the people speak... and the rain that was even louder than that!
~ trying to find things in our room without lights

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Falling in Love

So, I've been in love with my man for a long time... I'd say about 15 years or so. Married for over 12, and I can honestly say that I cannot imagine a better husband, even if I ever wanted to try. He is as steady as a rock, he is kind and gentle, he's patient with my faults {and there are many...}, he's a man after God's own heart, he is helpful and thoughtful, he is an excellent communicater and listener, he's a consistent, involved and loving father to our kids, he forgives me, hears me, loves me, and desires me... my heart trusts him. I have no idea why the Lord would bless me with such a man in a world where so many people struggle in their marriages, but I am deeply thankful.

Certainly, we have our moments. We are two imperfect people trying to live together... who doesn't struggle? But throughout the years, God has replaced some of our filthy, stinky selfishness with the desire to serve one another and to pursue greater causes than our own gain. Wow... SO glad.

Marriage is one of our "things"... we just each have a heart for seeing God bring health and joy to marriages. Parenting is another. Adoption is one more. What's funny is that when we got married, we really didn't have all that much in common. He liked sports, I liked to read. He loved being outdoors, I preferred being cozy inside. He claimed to not have a creative bone in his body, I liked to scrapbook and do almost anything that required artsy-fartsy genes. Now we find that those differences don't matter much. The really beautiful, cool, and incredible thing is that God has brought both of us together in our excitement about the same things now. It hasn't always happened at the same time, but God has always brought unity in the issues and things that mattered most. It is so awesome to know that we love each other now more than ever.

My whole point is this... I have been falling in love with him even more since our time in Liberia.

I love...

... to watch him as he holds Hawa in his arms, and parents Kelvin with patience and love...

... to see him surrounded by children, making funny faces and laughing...

... to hear his heart when he talks about how empty American life can feel after being able to truly serve others all day long...

... that his heart breaks over orphans the same way mine does...

... that he wants to find a way to get back to Liberia...

... that he so desperately wants to communicate love to the deaf children that he wants us all to learn some sign language, and even taught us the alphabet via the internet last night...

... that he is captured by God's love, and ruined for this earthly life forever... he has bigger goals in mind.
How could I not fall in love with that?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Liberia Part 7: Praises

I need you to understand that everything good and beautiful that happened before or on this trip took place because my God is trustworthy and faithful. He is good and he is just. He asks much, but he is a rewarder of much. The heartache that we have experienced over the last few years, and the deeper heartache of saying goodbye to our Liberian children, are things that are refining us and bringing us ever closer to the understanding that we are nothing without HIM.
We can do nothing on our own or in our own power. We are weak, but he is strong. We are empty, but he fills us. We are tired and broken, but he breathes life and hope. If you don't know him, you need to ask him to reveal himself to you. I cannot imagine walking this life, with all of it's deep, dark sadnesses and hurts, alone. He sustains me. He dries my tears. He gives me joy in place of sorrow... and sometimes right along with it.
I am never alone.
I am never alone.
I am never alone.
I cannot praise him enough for that. This is real life, abundant life, life that rests in peacefulness in the midst of the storms. I would not know the power and might of my God if these storms did not rage around me... and if I were not protected under his wings as the wind raged on. Thank you God for these hard things... I am broken by them, I am deeply saddened by them, but I am sure of who you are because of them. Keep me depending on you... always.

"But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints." Ps. 52:8-9

"Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things..."
Ps. 119:35-37

"When I called you, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted." Ps. 138:3

"Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. ... Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Ps 112: 1, 4-7

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust'. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Ps.91:1-2, 4

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing..." Ps 68:5-6

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him..." Ps 37:4-7

Liberia Part 6: Beauty

Liberia is beautiful, but the people are stunning. Yes, physically, they are just incredible, but I'm referring to their hearts. We had so little time to get to know those around us because of the things we needed to get done, the time spent in transit, and the fact that we were also parenting our sweet kids. We needed more time! But... we still were able to see the hope and joy that so many Liberian people have to offer. They could teach us a thing or two... or ten. Many have stories of the war; scars both literal and emotional. They have little to put hope in, so guess where they place it? In the Lord... wholly and fully. They thank him each and every day that they are alive. Do you pray that? I don't, I have never even thought of thanking the Lord that I am alive and able to wake in the morning. I hope I remember to do that. They praise him like they mean it, because they do. They give offerings joyfully during their church service... literally dancing up to the front to put their money in the basket. Like I said, we could learn a thing or two. I'm thinking of so many names and faces right now... and it brings me great joy to have come to know them.