May 13, 2015

In Over My Head

If you've read many of my blog posts you've probably gathered how often our Father speaks to me through music. "In Over My Head" from Bethel's We Will Not Be Shaken album has been the anthem for the last two weeks or so, the lyrics more or less read:

I have come to this place in my life, I’m full but I’ve not satisfied 
This longing to have more of You, I can feel it my heart is convinced
I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched, You already know this but still
Come and do whatever You want to

I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where never been
I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind 

Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in
Let love come teach me who You are again
Take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You
Come and do whatever You want to

Further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head 
And You crash over me, I'm where You want me to be
I'm going under, I'm in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim 
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
I’m Beautifully in over my head
I’m Beautifully in over my head

There are so many moments in my day to day life that I feel completely in over my head, and not in a good way! There are so many needs, so many people, so many babies, so many desires and I am just one broken person who often feels like I'm barely treading water. But I know this is where God wants me to be. It is His grace and love that keeps calling me further and further from the shore of comfort and self that I can easily cling to. My heart has been divinely encouraged and reminded that I am not in over my head in life's struggles or the complexities of this calling. I am in over my head in grace and love, peace and joy, mercy and forgiveness, faith and power… all of the delights that Jesus died to bring me. This life is messy and there will be many days where my head hits the pillow and my heart will be heavy with the reminders of when I sank rather than swam. There will be days where I will feel like an olympic gold medal winner who just knocked out a record breaking 500 meter race (figuratively speaking, of course). Either way at the end of either day what matters most is that I find myself hidden in Christ, buried in His the beauty of the Cross and loved beyond all measure. If you have committed your life to Christ, you do, too. 

It has been a full two weeks, but here are some of the highlights: 

Lots of newborn snuggles … Celebrating Baby M's first birthday

 

A visit to the Lion Park with my friend, Andrew, who was in Joburg for a few days

 

Sharing at City Life Church on Mother's Day … Leading worship during Sunday Night service

 

Lastly I celebrated another Mother's Day too many miles away from my own mommy. When I was home last we were sorting through some old family pictures and we came across this one. And it is my favorite! I am that itty bitty baby being held so capably in the crook of her daddy's arm. I love the look on my mom's face. A joy that even sleep deprivation and the age of an old photograph can hide. I am so blessed to have been so well loved even from the very beginning of my early arrival. I am beyond grateful for my wonderful mommy and the amazing footsteps that I get to follow in with these babies-of-mine-for-now. Happy Mother's Day! I love you!


Apr 29, 2015

Nothing Like a Newborn


We welcomed our newest baby home this past week! A six day old little princess who is doing wonderfully in her new home-for-now. She has an adorably sweet disposition and is already putting on weight and settling in well. It has been quite a few months since we've had a newborn and all of our older babies are quite intrigued with this new little person who is taking up so much of "their" time with their Aunties :) 


One of the favorite parts of my job at the Baby House is participating in what I call "bonding initiation" with our new babies. I do my best to spend the first 24 to 48 hours with each of our new babies welcoming them into our home. I do "kangaroo care" with each one, taking off all their clothes and sticking them underneath my clothes so we are skin-to-skin. For our smallest and youngest babies this helps them maintain temperature and helps regulate their heartbeats. For all of our babies it begins to lay some of the first pathways of bonding in their precious brains and helps welcome them into the heart of our home: love! 

 

I love getting the opportunity to delight over every little, sleepy coo… listening for and witnessing sensations that belong exclusively to brand new babies. The weight of a little body completely surrendered to molding into the perfect space underneath your chin. The adorable uncertainty of first sneezes and itty bitty hiccups. Marveling over each newly heard sound, delighting in the softness of skin unweathered by time, soaking in the reliance of someone completely dependent. 


I know it sounds overly sentimental but I am convinced that there is something intangibly sacred about feedings and cuddles that happen in the still of the middle of the night. It is a privilege to soak up one-on-one moments unhindered by the busyness of our joyfully chaotic home. It is such a unique and fleeting treasure! It is just a snippet in the life of each of our babies that won't be easily forgotten. 


I always sneak a few middle of the night photos with each of my new babies. The photos typically end up grainy and poorly lit and I usually look like a new mom: extremely happy and a bit haggard looking! They are never the best (or most flattering) pictures but I want the Forever Families of each of my babies to know how loved their children were from the very beginning. There was someone who delighted in their baby until they could delight in them for themselves. And there is Someone who loves and delights in them even deeper still. The One who made them, knows them and loves them more than anyone ever could or ever will. Our good, good Father who is perfect in all of His ways. 

Apr 17, 2015

Distance Means So Little When Someone Means So Much



My friend, Sarah, sent me this reminder today from Holland via whatsapp (side note: all my American friends you have to find this app and download it so we can chat more). I have been back in Jozi for a week after spending a glorious three week whirlwind of a trip back in the US. I don't know if I can rightly describe how humbling and surreal it is to have found myself "at home" with so many precious hearts scattered all around the globe. 

 

Packing my bags and saying last goodbyes to my babies always feels unreasonably difficult; choking back tears and reminding myself again and again that three weeks will fly by. It's not that I am worried for them, our babies are blessed with amazing Aunties and a completely qualified support system, but I miss them when I can't kiss their precious faces every day. As I board the first of many flights, I feel the Holy Spirit gearing up my heart for all the goodness that awaits me 10,000 miles away and I start to truly get excited to be near to all my treasured loved ones on the other side of the globe. 

 

And my heart was not disappointed :) I don't think there could be enough words or pictures to describe what a blessing it is to be with my biological family, my home church family or my longest time friends. Day after day I was met with the grace and beauty of hearts who are united with mine in our precious Jesus and all the good He is authoring in our lives. 

 

I had opportunity after opportunity to share stories and pictures of the eternity shaping work God has been doing in and through His love in the lives of the littles that live in Johannesburg in the past 15 months. I was encouraged by the stories of His grace and provision in the lives of people who I hold so close to my heart. I got to give my niece and nephews dozens and dozens of kisses for them to store up until the next time we get to go on Auntie dates and have Auntie sleepovers. I laughed with my siblings and spent quality time enjoying the peace and presence of my parents in their new home. I recounted stories of adventures with dear ones who are walking in footsteps the Lord allowed me to leave behind in California. I was humbled with affirmations and support of this calling the Lord has placed on this season of my life that takes me so far from those who love me.

 

All the while I eagerly awaited news from the good things happening back at Refilwe. I heard of grumpy and teething babies and of a big boy K getting ready to take his first steps (I resisted the urge to tell the Aunties to push him over so he'd wait to take his first steps until I was back to witness them). Sweet smiles and baby babble words made their way to me across the waters as I soaked up time with American littles  who are nestled tightly beside my African babies held in my heart. It is strange to feel like I have family all over the world who will only meet one another on the other side of eternity. 

  

I love being an Auntie and I love that I get to be an Auntie to so many! I am thankful that God has provided me with the ability to hop on a plane and be near to those who live so far away. I am grateful for technology and FaceTime and pictures.  I am amazed that I can hop on a huge hunk of metal that hurtles itself through the sky so that in 24 short hours I can be on another continent and back to my African home. 

  

Only after being back a few short days I had the privilege of being reminded of the immense blessing of this season of my life when I got to participate in our 12th adoption! Baby boy S met his forever family this week and his placement reminded me of the sacred beauty of this journey called adoption. S's placement cemented another layer of trust and hope in my heart in the divine sovereignty of a good, good Father… trusting that God will always be the One who knows and loves all of us best! 

 

One of the awesome perks of being in America is having access to free, unlimited internet! I used the opportunity to purchase new music and one of my new favorites is "Deliver" by Matt Maher. The bridge sings:

And now I’m like a child at night
Who never has to think of why
We’re free to love and live and die
And there’s no need to justify
The sinner that’s inside of me
Has lost all his control of me

My God, from the flood and from the fire
You brought me out, I am alive
With a faith, just like a child
I’m not afraid, I’m running wild
For everything that will be done
I am yours and you are my
Deliverer

I am being convinced day by day that I can only do what I am called to do because of the Jesus living in me. It is because of my great Deliver that I am free to love and live and die to myself in a dozen little ways each and every day. It is because of His immense love that I am free to lay my head on my pillow at night and not have to lose sleep over all of the "whys" that I encounter living out this calling. It's because of the security Jesus purchased for me on the cross that I have hope for my real Home that awaits me on the other side of eternity. A place where the whole of my family will worship the King of Kings side by side and it is then that my joy will be made complete. I'm counting the days. Come, Lord Jesus, come. 







Mar 11, 2015

Dancing Through It All

By nature I long for consistency and am typically content with the status quo. For example, I think I've eaten yogurt and granola for breakfast out of the same clear glass tumbler almost every morning for upwards of five months running now… and I love it. When I find a TV show, an artist, an author or band that I enjoy, I am all in. I want to ingest every thing about said program, artist, author or band (thanks IMDB and Pinterest) and I will stick with them to the bitter or disappointing end (I'm talking to you, Veronica Roth). I wear my favorite shoes until they are all together finished, holes through the soles and all. 

Sometimes I marvel at the fact that despite my original operating system that longs for consistency God has called me to a life that revolves around transitions, adjustments and an endless line of changes. I am grateful and humbled to say that my good, good Father has continued to recreate my heart with a willingness to welcome hellos that that will surely end in bittersweet goodbyes. He has given me peace to invest in relationships that automatically have an expiration date of the nearness and proximity I instinctively long for. 

In the last two weeks God has held me tight as I walked through some pretty significant transitions. Last week (after Baby P's adoption) we returned a sweet little princess baby E back to her biological family. Baby E is a little one who was identified in our community as someone who was in desperate need of intervention and TLC. Although she is not a candidate for adoption we invited Baby E to come stay with us for one month in an effort identify her immediate needs, set her on road to health and help support her family to care for her with the proper tools needed for her survival. For the last month we've been able to see her grow and blossom in to a happy and settled baby… she put on over 1 kg and learned some new skills including rolling over and chatting regularly. I was able to work with her parents with a return plan that includes weekly check ins and donations of needed supplies. Although she was only with us for a month it was a difficult goodbye to say. God continues to pull me into deeper waters of obedience where I have to cling to Him more tightly and trust Him more completely. Loving on Baby E and returning her to circumstances that I cannot control has been difficult and honestly I'm still working thorough it. Here are some "before and after" shots of Baby E. 


We also celebrated our 11th adoption just this week! Big girl E was placed into the arms of her patient, loving and ridiculously adorable mommy and daddy on Monday. Big girl E is funny, sweet and reserved little lady who had her Aunties praying fervently for a peaceful and tear-free placement. We were fortunate enough to be able to do her placement at the house and after she said her goodbyes to her Aunties I was able to spend the next hour slowing introducing her to mommy and daddy. As I slowly inched further from our girl her parents slowly moved closer and by the time they climbed into the car to leave she completely herself, chatting and smiling as they drove away. God answered our  worldwide prayers for a contented girl who felt safe enough to leave with her new family without any tears or anxiety! 


My most recent goodbye happened today… I had one last lunch (for now) with my sister and dear friend, Lisa. Lisa and I moved to Johannesburg within days of each other to volunteer at Door of Hope. I was planning being here for a year and she was just going to be here for six months. I persuaded her to stay for a year and then God called us to both stay indefinitely! We served together side by side at Door  of Hope, linking arms and serving through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Words cannot rightly describe the myriad of seasons God has allowed us to walk through together… all the while seeking to see God glorified in each one. She has been a fabulous assistant, a splendid roommate, a faithful friend, a beautiful bride and now she is moving (with her delightful husband) back to the US to work on her Masters Degree in Social Work. She is married to a South African so I know we'll have them back at some point in time but I will miss having my "South African" sister just a 45 minute drive away! 


One of my recently favorite author, Shauna Neiquist shares in her newest devotional "Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are":

“Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we're not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we've barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we've said we'll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”

Lord, may I see every transition, each and every goodbye as a surprise filled with great hope… as an invitation to dance with You into the colors of each and every dusk you give me! 

Mar 4, 2015

#eternallybittersweet

Yesterday was a historic day for our family at El Roi! The first baby we received in our home was placed into the loving arms of his Forever Family! I fetched our little Rockstar at two weeks old after he had been found abandoned in a rubbish bin. His hospital tag read "Baby Unknown"but we know that he was known by his Creator from the moment of his conception! 


From our very first hugs to our very last kisses this little man has been nestled securely into my heart. I was thinking over my time in South Africa thus far and because of his individual needs this little man was the longest time period that I've been able to call a baby "mine". Those of you who know me well know how I've always longed to be a mother… since before I can remember. (When my mom used to take me to the shops when I was small I would carry around a bag of beans pretending it was my baby… talk about divine programing, haha!) And this little man has satisfied my heart's desire to be a mom longer that any of my babies have. 

  

It has been a privilege to celebrate so many of his "firsts"… first bites, steps, holidays, milestones, friendships, yoga poses, explorations… I am grateful that God gave our family the privilege of caring for such a precious, clever, kind, brave, bold and loving little man. I am convinced that I've held one of this generations brightest stars in my arms. Whispering God's truth into his heart every day that he's been with us. Truths like: "You were made for amazing things" and "You are wanted and loved" and "Listen and obey your Aunties so your heart can learn to obey God" and "Jesus is the One who will always know and love you best"

  

             

             

Yesterday I dressed you for the last time in your skinny blue jeans and new shoes. I gave you last kisses and whispered last sweet words. I watched with a full heart as your older brother took you by the hand lead you into the guesthouse and marveled at God's goodness and provision for you, my precious boy. I smiled brave smiles as I gave final advice and instructions to your loving and attentive parents. I laughed as the four of you sat on the floor playing with newly purchased toy cars, trucks and planes all purchased in duplicate in hopes that you and your brother won't fight over them. My heart broke when I announced my departure and stood to leave because you immediately came to my side and reached up for my hand. But I was proud when you walked me to the gate in your mother's arms, gave me one final kiss and watched me leave, bravely trusting the new arms that held you tight. 

   


[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in 
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere 
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done 
by only me is your doing,my darling) 
                                                      i fear 
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want 
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) 
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant 
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud 
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows 
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) 
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


Goodbye, sweet love, I'll see you on the other side!

Tiny but Mighty -- Part Three

Jokingly I told J when we finally got home after two long weeks that we had just gotten home from our very first short term mission tri...