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Adoption: The opposite of Truth is a LIE

Lately I’ve been processing Scripture from this perspective:  Assuming the Word of God is Truth, and the Bible is the Word of God–I take a verse from the Bible and re-phrase it to say something totally opposite, so that I can then see the correlating LIE(S).

The reason I’m going to such great lengths to re-read the Truth in comparison to its direct opposite, the LIE is because I want to know how and where to apply the Truth directly so that I can combat the lies I let replay rather frequently in my life.  The longer I hear the lies with no true defense that speaks directly to the LIE(S), the more susceptible I am to living in ambiguity with my ever-so-lovely feelings at the wheel.

You can re-read Scripture by not only changing the verse to say something completely opposite, but by changing your assumed “meaning” of the verse to something completely opposite.  One thing I’ve noticed is that I carry a lot of interpretive baggage along with me.  I have all of these deep seated beliefs about what God thinks of life and sometimes I even have an isolated Scripture to back it up.  But when I read verses in the entirety of their context, well, at least as far as my own brain will reach, it calls my initial understanding of TRUTH into question.  Scary, but normal I suppose.  Because If I’m not mistaken, God does say that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways.  So in my new reading of Scripture, in order to identify the LIE with which I more readily relate, I would re-read that particular verse to say “Our thoughts are higher than God’s thoughts and our ways are higher than God’s ways.”   Well then, there’s the LIE.  Duh. But how often do we live in a way that more accurately depicts a belief that “Surely our way of thinking is higher than God’s?”

If we take it a step further and look at one of my assumed meanings of the true version, “God’s thoughts are higher than mine…His ways are higher than mine,”  another way of saying that might be “God knows best.”  A few contradictions to that particular meaning would be:  “Anna knows best.”  “We know best.”  “Other people know best.”  “God does not know best.”

So in summary, this method allows me to more clearly identify how I’m living my life opposite to the Truth.

What spurred me to write this post is because lately I’ve been noticing A LOT of negative press about adoption.  The reason this negativity jumps out to me in such a startling way is because I’ve adopted and I know firsthand the struggles/negativity that seem to be inherent with doing something that is in line with God’s truth revealed about adoption.  I have two responses when I read the negative press about adoption:

ONE:  I agree.  People should stop adopting.  It isn’t worth it, especially if it doesn’t turn out right.  Why take the risk?  Are you REALLY helping the children?  Why would you put yourself in a situation of trying to be a father or mother to children who may turn against you?
TWO:  The opposite of God’s TRUTH, MUST BE A LIE!!!  As ugly and demented as some of these adoption stories sound…as negative as the details that seem to shroud any goodness at all that comes of adoption, the current focus on the negative aspects of adoption HAS TO BE a tool of Satan himself to dispel what God meant for good.

The negative press about adoption all seems to be given with the noble tone of “Justice for all.”  But to me, it seems more like a ploy to play on our FEARS, so as to push us to collectively ignore the fact that there are STILL many who live day to day with no family that cares, there are numbers upon numbers of children who are completely abandoned with no hope of their biological parent EVER stepping back on the doorstep to claim them as their own.

And now I’ll leave you with the very FIRST verse that led me to begin re-reading Scripture in the first place.  “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  My thought process:  If God has NOT given us the spirit of fear, then my spirit of fear needs to go.

The verse gets even clearer, as we examine our own fears.  If the fear is not of God, then it must be of Satan.  If the fear is of Satan, then it must not be of God.

There you go, BAM.  If your FEARs are keeping you from doing what God says is good, then those FEARs most certainly are not from God.

Adopting is a fearful prospect.  Knowing then, what I know now, if I listen to the “fears” that are perpetrated by the adoption news stories, my own insecurities and Satan’s clever scheme to promote evil in the name of a “better good,”  I would definitely NEVER EVER adopt again.

Do you consider the opposite of Truth to be a lie?  Or are you out there fishing in the middle of nowhere, not sure where truth ends or begins?  How do you go about identifying when your “thinking” veers to the left or the right of God’s Truth?

What “fears” rooted in “lies” paralyze you so that you’re incapable of doing what God commands?

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11

Proud of what LOOKS like a Failure

Has YOUR failure ever turned into someone else’s success?

Have you ever tried to run a marathon and failed to finish, but the very fact that you tried, inspired others to start getting physically active?

Have you ever pushed to get a promotion, only to have someone come in along side you and say, “If YOU can make that much money, I can too.”  You actually don’t get that promotion, but the other person does?  Somehow what turned out to be your failure, turned into their success.

Ever since, we adopted, I’ve seen this effect in play SO many times.  We have 7 children in all now.  When one of them makes a good decision, it clearly has a ripple effect on the other six.  When one of them makes a bad decision, the others relax because they feel as if the bar has been lowered.

My children, can even affect my husband and me.  Their positive actions challenge us to do better, to strive harder, to make sure we’re taking the lead as positive role models in our children’s lives.

A small example of this, was when our 21 year old came in from a run last night.  She doesn’t run on a regular basis, so we definitely took notice when she came in all sweaty with her gym clothes on.  My husband sat there for a few minutes, and said, “Ndolo, if you can do it, I can do it.”  So he asked if I wanted to go out and run.  I opted to stay comfortably on the couch.  But then, my husband came inside all sweaty too.  There was a certain bounce in his step that said, “I just did something good for myself.”  Five minutes later, I got up, put my exercise clothes on, laced up my tennis shoes, emerged from the bedroom and said, “If you did it, I can certainly do it too!”

All of this, based on ONE person’s SINGLE decision to go out and run.

Another larger example of this is when I recently applied for a fairly good paying job that was significantly out of my comfort zone.  When I got to the third and final interview, my husband publicly announced that if I make THAT much, he should be making more.  So he applied for a few jobs.  Oddly enough, he ended up getting a phone interview at the SAME place where I applied.  They didn’t even call him in for an in-person interview and yesterday was his FIRST day, making a 50% increase in salary. (O.k. maybe we’re just a competitive family?)

Long story short, I did not get the job.
But my efforts, inspired my husband’s actions.
What turned out to be my failure, inspired my husband to success.

(On a side note, I was disappointed that I did not get the job, but I’m thankful for the insight into the power of our actions, EVEN when they don’t turn out to benefit US directly.)

What about you?  Maybe you try to be a better Christian.  Maybe you work really hard to be an example of Christ.  Perhaps everyday you try to help someone who is down and out.  Maybe you try really hard to keep your life pure and free of temptation.  Maybe you’ve fallen.  It could be that you consider yourself to be a miserable failure spiritually.

Sometimes, I worry about what “unbelievers” think of me and I feel like a fraud, because I keep failing.  My life is not a victory.  They see me fall.  They see me get angry with my children and nurture roots of bitterness.  They hear me talk about God’s love, but sometimes they see me mistreating my neighbor.  And I think about giving up.  “I’m failing at this thing.”  “Why am I even trying?”  “Is this path that I’m on, really even a path to ANYWHERE?”  “I’m knocking, but someone keeps slamming the door shut in my face.”

I wonder if perhaps I’m doing more harm than good, when I share my faith with my children, yet turn around and undo all my words with my actions.

But, just maybe, my spiritual failures are inspiring someone else to spiritual “success.”  Maybe the fact that they see me “trying” to do right, will actually inspire them to try too.  And maybe they will make it to the finish line!

6

The Ugliest Parts of Me

‘Adoption’ is Googled around 6 million times per month globally.

adoption

Me & Mother of Children I adopted. I had no idea that 3 years from the time of taking this picture, she would pass away.

Pic in Village

Picture of me and orphaned children, two of whom I would adopt five years later. The two boys in the front are still orphaned, now around age 12-14.

I’ve often thought that adoption has brought out some of the ugliest parts of me.  I never dreamed that doing something that I considered, and that most consider to be good would bring out so much bad in me.  No single thing from my past has caused more personal pain or growth for me than adopting.  I know that God often speaks of adoption, how He adopted us into His family.  This would mean that before Christ, we are actually all orphans waiting for a “forever family.”  From a distance this picture of being welcomed into a family of unconditional love seems so warm and cozy.  But I had no idea that sometimes it would feel like getting too close to the fire, almost past the point of no return.  Because unconditional almost always turns out to be conditional, with unspoken rituals that just can’t fill empty shells of lost love.

Since day one, once the mystery of mission work disappeared into thin air, I’ve been so self consumed with how I feel, how my privileges have been taken away, how inconvenient it is to share with other human beings who seem to be just as needy as me in their own insatiable ways.  I thought that it would all end with the approved paperwork, with the final stamp of proof that they are no longer living alone in this world.  But sometimes I see that they’re still alone.  I don’t know how to reach out to them, how to talk to them about what they feel.  I try to be a mother to them as best as I know how, but it seems like I’m just acting, like they know I’ll never get the part right, like they just humor me the best they know how, all the while their heart aching for the true love that only their birth mom could give.

I wonder if they want me to love them as much as I want them to love me.  Do they wish I could love them as much as I love my four biological children, like I wish they could love me as much as they love their biological mother, and talk about her with such distant wonder in their eyes?  I know it’s so selfish of me to want something in return.  I mean I still have my mom.  She is living, breathing, being there for me whenever I need her.  I probably do not even show my mom as much love as I’m hoping for my adopted children to show me.

What was I expecting?  A gold medal?  A return on affection that I, myself cannot even give?

No.  I had no idea that adopting would be such a tangle of emotions, constantly trying to get worked out, only to be balled up again in a twisted little mess that only God’s grace can hold in delicacy until I come back to my practical senses.

5

International Adoption Paperwork

‘adoption application’ is Googled around 10,000 times per month globally.

I was really offended the other day when my husband complimented me by saying I was awesome at filling out paperwork.  Do I really want my legacy to be “paperwork guru?”  Even if that’s what it takes at times to make it to the next seemingly impossible level.  What if my destiny is filling in the blanks, re-checking the facts, researching the requirements, reading the fine print, choosing the correct postage envelopes, and waiting for a response?  What if someone else’s destiny hangs on your next deadline for filling out a form?  The international adoption process, as I’m sure is the same with domestic adoption, requires a ridiculous amount of filling out forms and interpreting documents to make sure that you’re including the correct information, especially if you’re adopting from a country whose adoption requirements are not clearly defined.  And is this what God called me to do?  A lot will be left up to interpretation, so it’s your responsibility that you understand the “interpretation” that will be most beneficial for the child and fight for it tooth and nail.  But still, can filling out paperwork be considered a talent? a skill?  Who was going to fill out the paperwork if I had not?  Yes, I’ll have to admit that it feels good to get some credit for having done the work, because it’s the fine details of adoption that go unnoticed.  What makes me think I’ll be a good mother anyway?  But, it seems like people from the outside, see the most important decision, as the one you made in the first place to adopt.  In reality though, the decision to adopt has to be made again and again, every single time you’re required to fill out an additional form that will determine if you’ll make it to the next level of screening.  It’s like you’re mailing out all of your little insecurities, nicely organized in a frail little envelope that will ‘God knows how’ make it to destination only to be scrutinized by objective eyes and ears who will weigh your innermost thoughts and motives from a cruel, cold and unemotional distance.

Waiting for the response to one of those applications was excruciating.  Maybe it’s best if the paperwork gets lost in the mail after all.  One time, an application that had to be sent to the department of homeland security immigration services was returned to us with a package of pages printed straight off the internet about adoption requirements in Cameroon.  We were advised to read those pages (Um, we had already read them probably 100 times) and our application was basically at a standstill unless we provided proof of a lot more money than we had.  At that point, instead of sending in that proof, I sent in one of many emotional appeals that would be used during the process, to the email address provided.  In short, I explained the situation, that the sibling group we were trying to adopt was my husband’s younger siblings and that they were living alone in Cameroon right now, as both parents were deceased and that there was no one there capable of taking care of them, and is this really what the system of checks and balances is about?

Shockingly we received an email response that requested we send in the birth certificates of each child, my husband’s birth certificate and both death certificates.  Now, THAT was something we could do.  I was elated at the victory and scared to death of success.  We were allowed to send those in through email, as attachments.  The application was forwarded to the embassy in Cameroon, and we were not required to send in any additional financial documentation to support that part of the application process.

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Larger Than Life

‘mid-life crisis’ is Googled approximately 135,000 times per month globally. Thanks for identifying it as a mid-life crisis, candidkay.com!

I always felt somewhere deep inside that I’d become someone larger than life.  That I’d succeed.  That I’d speak in confidence in front of groups of thousands about what I’ve learned and how what I’ve learned has turned the world around, at least my own little world where I used to be stuck in one place watching everyone else move around me.  When I was 10 years younger, I felt very wise.  Everything was really deep and I knew it was, so that is how I kept going.  That is how I justified my actions, because there was something deep, buried really deep inside each of us that will always remain a mystery and nothing is capable of prescribing our own disease away.  So I thought, this is me and this is you and we’re all doing the best that we can and there is something more, we just don’t know what it is yet.  But then as the years passed, that knowledge gave way to panic.  The this is me and this is you was no longer good enough because I wanted to be more than I was and I wanted them to be more than they were.  It got to the point where it seemed like everyone was wise, like the whole world was reflecting, creating art and making themselves stand out just by being average or even by being above.  And what is special when everything is.  So larger than life turned out to be life and I spend a lot of time reading other people’s stories about how they’ve made a difference because the difference I’ve tried to make was not at all what I thought and now my faith is on the back burner boiling away.  Eventually a dry pan, with darkening bottom, waiting to catch on fire, because I’m not putting anything else in, and I forgot it was there and that there was something we were all going to eat.  It was going to feed us.  Make a difference in the large scheme of things but we all still act so hungry, like we’ve never been fed and that even if you tried it’d never be enough.

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Biblically Obligated

‘real religion’ is Googled 33,100 times per month.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…..”

Someone recently asked me if I was doing what I was doing out of guilt or out of a good heart. I responded by asking if it mattered? The Bible says that the heart is desperately wicked above all things and that God weighs our motives. Even if I dig down really deep to the roots to calculate my motives, would I really be capable of honestly discerning whether my intentions — at any given moment, are good or bad? Religion that God looks at as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress. Nowhere in this passage, does it talk about doing good because you feel good about doing it or because you feel motivated to make a difference. Most of the time I do what is right because I feel obligated to do so. Because there are so many things that get in the way on the journey toward our destination. There are so many obstacles to keep us off course. There are so many mind games and heart problems that make our palms sweat with resistance against just doing what is right. Emotions that we can’t quite pin-point, logic that seems to spin out of control, people and circumstances that make us want to stop putting one foot in front of the other, just in the name of doing good.

So we do not need to be convinced that our sacrifice is going to be a good thing. We do not need to reason with ourselves until what we are about to give up finally makes sense. In fact, the Bible says that “To obey, is better than to sacrifice.” God says He accepts our religion as authentic when we look after widows and orphans in their distress. When I first heard this passage, I thought, “Hey, cool…an easy ticket into the glory of the cross.” I’ll just hand pick my orphans and thank my lucky stars I don’t know any widows. Then I’m good to go with God.

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And who knows…..

One of the Bible stories I’ve always found intriguing, partly because my middle name is Esther and partly because of the rags to riches theme, is the story of Queen Esther.  Esther was once an orphaned girl who found herself orchestrating the redemption of her people through a single act of bravery followed by a well devised plan that simultaneously required confidence and humility to carry out.

Early on, Esther’s fate could have been sealed at the death of her mother and father, the point at which she needed them most as a young girl vulnerable to the mandates of a patriarchal society.  But, her first big break was being saved by Mordecai, a relative who by all accounts of the story, seemed to have had Esther’s best interests in mind when he chose to adopt her.

However, after she had been taken in and was assumingly safe from a “life on the streets,” a national turn of events dictated that she along with several other young girls would become a part of the King’s harem, a group of females to be groomed for the King’s own picking pleasure.  The whole setup reminds me of our modern day TV show “The Bachelor.”   Esther 2:17 says “Now the King was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.  So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”  So, essentially, Esther had been ‘given the rose’ based on her exceeding external beauty and maybe a little bit of feminine flattery along the way.

As the Bible story takes what appears to be quite a shallow turn, I wonder what Esther must have felt and how she might have reflected on her life up to this point.  I mean, she had no mother…no father.  She was relying on the advice and guidance of a male relative (Esther 2:20) who apparently had the biggest influence on her life considering he was the one who had been providing for her since the death of her parents.  And then she finds herself undergoing expensive beauty treatments within a wealthy Kingdom that had little knowledge of what was happening with the “real people” outside its walls.

Maybe Esther was scared.  Or perhaps she saw this as her chance to emerge.  It could be, that she was worried about her adoptive father, Mordecai – who had been left outside the Kingdom to contend with ordinary life.  How could she possibly keep all of this from going to her head?  Or did her life just seem like one continuous succession of being transferred from hand to hand, based on her outward appeal?

No matter what her inner thoughts and feelings were, we do know that after learning of the death plot against the Jewish people, Mordecai was prompted to get frank with Esther by reminding her that she was not exempt from yet another turn of tragedy in her own life.  “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:13-14

It’s funny how life can get serious so quick–how we can be laughing or chilling out within the context of a shallow society that lives like death is never around the corner,  and then suddenly be forced to suffer a family tragedy or worse yet, look our own mortality straight in the face.   Within the snap of a finger or a blink of an eye–our manicures/pedicures, shiny cars, fancy houses and 401K’s can shrink into the distance to make fools of us.

Within the four walls of our “church Kingdoms” we’ve built to enclose the best of our intentions, we get shallow real quick—forgetting that we might actually be here for a reason, other than putting our names on the church role and participating in what often times becomes ritualistic and ultimately meaningless.  It’s o.k. and “It’s life” for us to stumble upon a personal destiny that seems questionable in comparison to what we would all collectively label as “Christian” and “spiritual.”  But it isn’t o.k. to stop there.  It isn’t enough to attend church because it’s the convenient church on the corner.  It isn’t enough to occupy a seat on Sundays because it makes you feel good about the rest of your week.  It was o.k. that Esther stumbled upon the opportunity of competing in a beauty pageant to win the position as Queen.  But ultimately she had to answer the question that led her to her true destiny—so that she could fulfill her purpose, not only in an earthly Kingdom, but God’s Kingdom.

So, I’d like to rephrase the question that Mordecai put to Esther.  “And who knows but that you have come to exactly where you are for such a time as this?”

As it’s been said from the pulpit many times, it isn’t what’s happening inside our church walls that counts so much as what we’re doing for Christ and our community outside our little church Kingdom–that will ultimately make the meaningful difference.