HOPE

How we can hope when we’re not sure dreams really do come true

In case you’ve noticed, it’s true, I haven’t talked much about our little Mya. The truth is, love is hard.  There are days I have to work at loving this little lady. As with all children, she has her days; the ups & downs and ons & offs, the highs & lows- oh my! She is a girl of extremes sometimes.  So rest assured, I have not forgotten the littlest Schuiteboer, she is just in progress; and that is the most difficult of all things to share. Our Mya has so many stories and miracles to share and I fall more in love with her every day. And so finally, I have A Mya Story

My dream since I was a mere ten years old has been to adopt. It’s a lovely picture really. There are children all over our country and the world needing a family and a home and safety and love. I wanted to be that. I wanted to fill that need. Like so many other admirable persons, I wanted to change the world for just one… at a time. I wanted to make a difference and I still do!

The problem with a dream is this: It takes guts to reach it! AND it isn’t always dreamy. A dream doesn’t feel so dreamy when you’re ALMOST there. It’s not even dreamy when you finally “arrive.” Up close the reality of the dream can see pretty terrible even.  About 3 months after Mya came to us, I had such a moment. She was not doing well with the adjustment to a new family, our “honeymoon” period had passed. Mya was in no way attached to any of us, yet she demanded full attention at all times. She cried, screamed, hit other kids and threw things and NEVER SLEPT. I found myself looking at her with glazed eyes and thinking “This is it? This is that dream I’ve waited my whole life for?”

It seems obvious, I suppose, that to win a child back from an orphaned or abandoned spirit takes a lot of hard work and diligence, and certainly poor behavior and sleep issues should be expected. Of course I knew that, but  I’m afraid in that moment and with no reprieve in sight, I was hopeless. This was NOT, in fact, what I wanted! I did not want to fight ENDLESSLY to see joy in her little face. I did not want to guess wrong EVERY time as to her current need or comfort. I did not want her to feel like someone else’s child forever.  I was a puddle on the floor after three months, how many more years would this “season” last?

Then, of course there is progress. Moving forward. Leaving the old behind… Is that even possible? So many days we have celebrated one small victory; a 10 hour stretch at night, a smile after breakfast, a timeout without endless screeching, a giggle or a hug. Yay for victory! We feel so accomplished, we share with the whole family and jump for joy only to be brought down the next day. Not only have we lost this new skill or advancement but we’ve also lost everything else we’ve gained in the last 6 months! Aaaaaand she’s a one year old again refusing to speak or walk or sleep and she wants to be held while she’s crying. How can a dream be celebrated when it doesn’t seem like a dream anymore?

I know you feel it too. How can I celebrate victory over cancer when I may face it AGAIN? How can I celebrate a birthday when my child is STILL sick another year later? How can I celebrate God’s goodness when I see and feel so much pain?

I was worshiping at church just this morning and God showed me the change in seasons outside is just like the change in seasons for Mya and I. We have gone through a cool and unpredictable fall, and goodness, the intensity of winter was long! Now we are entering Spring. Just like in Michigan, we have to fight for spring. It does not come easily. New life and growth, hope and sunshine are just around the corner. Ugly and past-it’s-welcome Winter does it’s best to reappear, but I will fight for spring. I know Summer is on it’s way and I cling to that hope. I will not rest until I feel it’s warmth and breathe in it’s promises. Beach days and splashing in the sprinkler, climbing trees and sipping lemonade, open windows and fresh backyard produce: there is hope! I will embrace you once again. But in springtime I hold to the promise of a warm rain shower and daffodils poking up though the snow. It tells me there will come a day when everything will be green and the snow will finally stay gone. The dreary clouds WILL leave and the sun WILL come out.

Mya and I WILL play pretend someday and she WILL sleep at night every night. Her laugh WILL be sweet and silly and my tears will be of joy. I know the promise of a grown up, compassionate and caring little lady WILL come to fruition. She WILL be a sunflower turning her  face to Jesus and following His light day and night. I know she will do big things for the Kingdom and this fight we’re in IS worth it.

Can you look for a Springtime promise in the midst of your season?  Is there hope peaking through for you also?  My God is a God of dreams come true and I promise He has hope for your dreams!!

2015 Schuiteboer kidsShe may not be grinning, but she’s just as silly as the rest of us!

Community, HOPE

Come-Unity

I’m kind of on a story-telling kick. I hope that’s ok. I appreciate the chance to shout out some of the crazy-cool things God has shown me through His people.

This story begins one day when I moved into a new house. It was a lovely house; almost 100 years old and in the sweetest little village. It did have a fully functioning toilet at the top of the stairs. No walls, no sink. Just a sweet little farmhouse landing with an original bead board linen closet, a floor-to-ceiling window, a couple bedroom doors and a toilet. (My nephew was the first to use it, much to Carter’s chagrin.) So the house needed a little work… It had enough charm and character to make up for that!

While Collin and I were looking at buying The Toilet House (as it was apparently nicknamed by the neighbors), we noticed a backyard fence with a gate leading into the neighbor’s yard. We could “fix” that after the toilet had walls around it, no problem. Of course, on moving day a neighbor came right through that fence and welcomed us to the neighborhood. (Let me just say that I’ve moved a good number of times and never have I ever had a neighbor welcome us or even introduce themselves!) This neighbor, her husband and son were kin to the folks we had purchased the house from and the kids used to run back and forth between the yards. I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with this set up having a 3 and a 1 year old myself, but thanked her for the welcome.

Well, let me tell you, I have learned more about community from this friendly neighbor than anywhere else! She came through that fence without reserve, but also without judgement or agenda. She walked into the house like she had known it her whole life (or at least a long time). And she had! She knew why the toilet was at the top of the stairs. She knew the neighbors’ frustration with the fence-sharing situation. And she knew why the family had to sell this house to us. She had a heart for this neighborhood and especially for this block; and so she made it her business to know us, too. And we became friends.

It didn’t matter that I was in the middle of muck and mire with a chronically (Celiac) sick baby or that I didn’t have a car of my own to get out during the day. She didn’t mind having all of our playdates at my house so I could regulate baby naptimes and she didn’t mind packing a (gluten) lunch for her kid and then de-contaminating my kitchen afterwards so we could hang out longer. She never judged me for my crazy Jesus-loving commentary or church-going even though she had already made up her mind on the matter. And she openly “watched over” our house at all times and commented on our comings and goings without shame. (I just love her utter honesty!!)

When I think of my new neighbor popping over or calling as soon as we walked into the driveway, I realize the crazy grace and acceptance we had for each other. She tried over and over to quit smoking and I tried over and over to plant a productive garden; but we did it together. We talked about potty-training and husbands and church and budgets while we walked the streets of the village to go to the library, grocery store, and park. We taught our boys to ride their bikes across the street in the open parking lot. We drank a lot of coffee with even more creamer. It was the simple life, in a sense.

Unfortunately, now I realize how complex that kind of community really is. I have not yet been able to recreate that way of doing life together since we moved away from that neighborhood. During our time in the Toilet House, I learned what it meant to BE WITH someone. To show up and sit. To traverse the highs and lows without wavering in friendship. My neighbor came over and she was beside me AND for me! (and vice versa!)

What if we all sought to create that kind of community? One where we came along side each other and united in spirit for a life season? What if we all embraced COME-UNITY?

Fostering, HOPE

Love Is Hard.

This whole love thing.

Man is it hard.

Actually, when I asked God what I should write about next I heard a cuss-word. Now I’m not saying God has a potty mouth. I’m saying my brain is so toasted that I often think in overly-descriptive words. (And the Conservative Christian in me cringes.) Oh well. I meant it when I thought it. This love thing is more difficult than it seems.

And some days I’m just over it.

Done.

Why does God’s call on a life seem so dreamy and full of roses and then… (oops, cuss-word again.) Then it isn’t. It gets hard. Of course, God never promises that it will be easy. This is an oft quoted truth that has lost it’s meaning to most of us. But how come that calling can’t be satiating at any (or most) moments of the day?

I have to say, I’ve come to my wits end more and more recently. I want to throw in the towel and say:

“Uncle!”

“I give up.”

“I’ve changed my mind.”

“Where is that dang easy button!?”

One can only pray that this is just a deeper understanding of myself and my limits, not the undoing of every last thread of sanity. Love is hard. Some days I don’t want to do it. Some days I just don’t do it. Some days I do the opposite. I’m not at all proud of those days. I WANT to want to love people! I want people to experience the freedom that I know exists. Complete freedom to be themselves. To live a life on purpose. Freedom to love and be loved; and in that love, to experience the Father. That’s what I want. I don’t want to forget that.

In case you think this is going to spiral any further, I have a solution. Eventually I make it to the same conclusion every single time I hit rock bottom. Every time I say “I can’t take another _______!” God reminds me so gently: “I miss you.” Oh yeah. I guess we haven’t talked in a while. Or even if we have, I need more conversation with Him! I guess I got too busy handling it all MYSELF and drowning MYSELF and loving people in MY OWN love, I forgot to look up and get refilled.

Have you ever read the book “You Are Special” by Max Lucado? I had a Math teacher in high school who used to postpone class once in a while and read to us. He made it a priority to remind us all of the value God sees in us. He would read us this story and pour into us the wisdom that he had gained from years of an intimacy with God. It’s an incredibly powerful book for so many reasons, and I have thought back on it hundreds of times throughout my life. This time I am reminded of the importance of visiting “the woodcarver” regularly.

Please take a minute (or 8 1/2) to listen to the story even if you’ve heard it before!!

I’m sad to admit that I haven’t been to visit the Woodcarver in much too long (of course, “too long” is defined differently for each of us and for each season we’re in…). I’ve been relying on myself without making the conscious decision to. I also know that when I am in the presence of my Papa (even for just the tiniest (or frequently interrupted) moment!) I am changed. The dots and stars (and cuss-words) of this world no longer stick and I am able to reflect onto others that very same freedom.

Thanks, God, for being so gentle with my burnt-out heart.

And Thanks for inviting me to spend time with you even after I’ve been away for a while.

Exodus House Orphanage, HOPE

Extravagance

God is so stinking extravagant!!

I’ve spent days and weeks laying certain needs before the throne of God. I know He knows my needs and I know He is so glad when I give them over to Him but I’m seeing a little pattern here. I lay them down and He leaves them there only to walk over to the other side of the throne and pick up something even better-even bigger-even more than I would think of- and He delivers. Not only does God seem to be filling my needs, He’s fueling my dreams!

For example: last week. Friday to be exact. I needed $550 for application fees for the adoption. I told Him “Hey, you got this, right? It’ll be in the checking account?” And He said “Actually, I’d like to take you out to coffee since you haven’t done that in a while.” (Free Coffee? Well, OK!) “And while we’re out to coffee, I’d like to remind you that I haven’t forgotten your dream kitchen that’s been put on hold indefinitely. I’m working on that, don’t worry. Here’s a multiple-thousand-dollar appliance just to remind you. Oh, and those family pictures you dream of updating but couldn’t quite bring yourself to do? I’d like to offer the best photographer at the lowest price. And don’t get all worked up and crazy about outfitting and coordinating. Let’s just do it now before the crazy sets in and you scream at your family and their hairstyle choices making the experience miserable AND documented for eternity. I know you. I love the things you love. I like making your wildest dreams come true.”

And just like that, literally within 4 hours I had the beginnings of a kitchen makeover and the first glimpse of our finished and practically stress-less photo shoot. To top it off, my family was eating gifted pizza from our favorite pizzeria to celebrate by 5:00. BAM! Extravagant, no? That $550 has nothin’ on my Pappa.

My friend from Africa tells me all the time how much “I owe her.” She “charges” me for translating at each judge and government office and every restaurant we eat at. I go with her to the market and she “charges” me for recommending the best vendor. I offer her a compliment and she says “Well, you DO owe me.” When I say “How could I ever repay you!? (wink wink)” she says “You can’t. It is too much! BUT I know your Pappa and He is very rich. I think maybe He will pay me with…(wait for it)… a car. Or maybe a nice house. I think maybe He will pay me 1 million US dollars and I will be very rich too.” Of course I laugh and say yes and her response is even more honest. “But if your Pappa does not pay, I know MY Pappa will. You see, my Pappa is very rich too!” ha ha ha. Of course we die laughing at this point. And I agree that yes, I owe her everything and thank goodness our Pappa pays up so we don’t have to.

I have such relief to know it’s not on me to bring in this $550-or the kitchen renovation for that matter. It’s not up to me to force something or to scrounge and figure and add and subtract. I will do as much as I possibly can, and the rest is up to Him. Not only that, but He WANTS to do it.

Now the enemy is wiley and I have to admit I’ve had a moment or two where I thought “BUT God…. that’s not what I asked for! What I need is money and these pictures won’t pay an adoption agency.” But how selfish is that!? Who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Who am I to demand what I want and nothing less? And what kind of big picture do I have-to know that this is not the best and what I was asking for was 2nd rate? Humility takes a step back and reevaluates. Do I really need the thing I was asking for? Is there nothing I can do to bring that money to fruition? And is His provision already what I was asking for on another level?

When I asked God, I knew lots of places the money COULD come from (in my I’m-the-center-of-the-universe dream world), but my real worry was whether God saw the whole enchilada. $550 is nothing compared to the tens of thousands we will still need to pay. Does God see all those zeros? Is He going to come through for each one of them? And is He going to do it quickly so my boy doesn’t have to wait eons for me to come back to Africa?

Yes. His answer was a resounding yes.

He’s going to come through for this adoption and also for all the sacrifices we’ve made to get this adoption to where it is. I’ve sacrificed lots of coffee and that might as well be my love language. He knows that. I’ve sacrificed other dreams and plans and hopes for this thing and God knows that too. And He doesn’t forget. Instead He promises MORE. Because He’s extravagant like that!

Summer 2015 578
My friend Patrice with a rich Pappa (who loves to pick blueberries in Michigan!)