Heartbroken over Russia

As we have begun to investigate agencies and read requirements for different countries for our own adoptions, we have been more in the loop with international news involving those countries from which we could adopt.

We rejoice with encouraging news we hear from our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.  When members of our church come back with tales from abroad, our hearts long to travel there.   (Check out the ministry we are associated with here:  http://www.indigenousoutreach.net)

On the other hand, the horrors that have been going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to devastate us.

And the recent news of the Russian anti-American adoption bill has left us heartbroken.  I’ve been reading article after article about the bill trying to wrap my head around it:

This has a clip to watch that gives a good overview of the happenings.  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec12/adoption_12-27.html 

This one shares how there are 46 families well underway in the adoption process whose cases must stay in Russia.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/28/us-russia-usa-adoptions-putin-idUSBRE8BQ06K20121228

This CNN article gives a little glimpse as to why Putin signed the bill.  http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/28/world/europe/russia-us-adoptions/index.html?eref=edition&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=cnni

John McCain spoke up about this bill. http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=e2081fd6-ee11-2fe8-8f6c-1fb5cf0456c9

This Washington Post article shares how Americans are viewed to some Russians and why they support this bill.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/28/the-real-reason-russia-wants-to-ban-adoptions-by-dangerous-american-families/

Here is a blog I found about a family who has adopted from Russia and is trying to do what they can about this bill.  http://goodtimesdelgadostyle.blogspot.com/2012/12/russia-banned-adoptions-to-us.html

And finally, this is a precious blog I stumbled upon about a families plea to Putin to allow their siblings to come home.  http://impassionedpurity.blogspot.com/2012/12/dear-president-putin.html

All in all, as we read and hear more about grievous bill may it spur us on to action for orphans.  May we, as the church, speak up for those whose voice is not heard.  May we be the light we are called to be.  May we pray for those who do not know the love of a mother and father, sister and brother.  May we go out into our communities and share the gospel and truly care for the least of these, near and far.  May our adoption into the body of Christ as sons and daughters of God continually remind us talk about adoption and help the millions of orphans around the world.

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Christmas and Painful Memories

Four years ago I spent Christmas morning in the emergency room with my parents.

Presents and stockings, a hearty breakfast and time of rest with family usually characterize Christmas morning.

But a few days before Christmas I began to have a sharp pain in my lower back.  And then I woke up on Christmas in an extraordinary amount of pain.  As the oldest child that hardly ever complained, my parents knew it was serious. They drove me to the e.r. and we waited to hear what was going on.  The doctor immediately said it was a pilonidal cyst.  None of us had ever heard of that before, so we didn’t know what was to follow.  That initial procedure in the e.r. was excruciatingly painful.

One of the hardest things about it all was seeing my parents hurt for me.  Having to watch them watch me in such pain was so very hard.  They wanted to take away the pain.  They wanted to jump across the table and take it for me.  They wanted to make it all just go away.  But they couldn’t.  At 21 years old I was still their little girl.  Thus we suffered together.   I couldn’t have had imagined how much more my mom and I would face as I healed.

I vividly remember that morning.

It led to two surgeries, great amounts of pain, a home nurse, hundreds of doctor visits, and an entire year of healing.

What should have taken a month ended up taking a year.  2008 will never be forgotten.

It will forever remind me that my God is my Healer.  He is good and faithful.  He always walks with me through the valley of the shadow of death.  His presence can comfort me when I feel alone.  His Word can give me strength when I don’t have the energy to press on through the pain.  His grace is always sufficient and His power is indeed made perfect through my weaknesses.

Every Christmas morning since then I can’t help but praise God for healing me and sustaining me.  Jesus is Emmanuel.  He is with us.  That offers the ultimate hope, peace, and joy.

Christmas might be hard because of the reminder of certain loss or pain.  But it also should be the perfect reminder of our God being with us.  (I talk more about that in this post: https://spencerandsarahc.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/third-advent-candle-joy/)  He never leaves.  He knows our pain, weaknesses, hardships.  He sees our tears. The Father never forgets His children.

May we hold fast to Emmanuel after all the decorations are put away and family returns home.  May we always remember that God came down, dwelt among us, and can sympathize with us. May we not let pain rob of us the joy of our Savior’s birth, which led to His death on the cross, which in turn led to His glorious resurrection from the grave and ascension into heaven.  The gospel should take us from complaining to gratitude and from mourning to rejoicing.

God is good and faithful.  No matter the pain and loss that might be associated with it, Christmas is the perfect reminder of that.

6 Months of Marriage!

On the 16th of December we celebrated 6 months of marriage!!!  Time has just flown by.  We have already learned so much about each other, ourselves, marriage, and the Lord in this short time together.

God has been gracious to let us stay in Jackson surrounded by our church community.  They let us sit in their homes and see their family dynamic.  They let us ask questions.  They let us be ourselves and share our hearts.  It is an honor to be able to learn from each other and be able to be part of a church community that truly resembles the church in Acts 2:42-45. We know this type of community is not promised and is not found everywhere, so while we are here we treasure it.  We are grateful to be able to be part of it during this early time in our marriage.

We constantly learn better ways to communicate.  Communication is so very important in any relationship and all the more so in a marriage (in every aspect of marriage).  We make the choice to talk.  It’s something that seems so simple, but in America today it is so easy to get involved in other things and be consumed by technology.

We choose to have fun.  Life can get busy.  Trials always come.  But in the midst of the chaos that can easily engulf us in western culture, we make the decision to laugh; we make the decision to spend time together; we make the decision to appreciate the little things.

We quickly established a budget. Early on we were on the same page financially and set financial goals together.  We choose to live simply and not extravagantly.

We choose to forgive.  In marriage, your flaws and selfishness seem to be illuminated.  No matter what is said, what is not said, what is done, or what is not done, we choose to forgive each other.  This always points us to our Savior and grows our love for Him and each other.

We really love marriage.  It is pretty awesome being married to your best friend.  Getting to share life and discipleship and this crazy journey together is a complete blessing.  It has been a joy learning about each other and marriage.  The Lord is always working in us.  We can’t wait to see what He has in store for us in the future!  No matter how hard the road gets, it’s going to be a great ride together!

Yayyyy for 6 months of marriage!

Third Advent Candle: Joy

Today we were blessed to be able to light the third advent candle at church:  joy.  And this is what we read:

Isaiah 7:13-14  “And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David!  Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Matthew 1:18-23 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

 

What amazing news.  Surely this announcement would bring joy.  God declared his coming.  God would dwell among His people.  God would fulfill His promise.  God would no longer remain silent.

 

But joy does not walk alone.  Just as we can’t have hope without darkness and peace without turmoil, today we are reminded that we cannot have joy without suffering.

 

Suffering is the avenue by which joy arrives.

 

God became man.  Immanuel.  God with us.  Jesus crashed through the divine silence that had been hovering over Israel and came to redeem His people.  True joy comes from Jesus alone.

 

Glory came down and resided in a human body.  A body which hurts and scars, decays and dies.  Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, endured the cross because of the joy set before Him.  He could walk through the valley because of promise of His Father’s presence.  He could pass through the darkness of God’s wrath because of the dawn of redemption that would break through.  He could go to the grave because of the victorious power that would conquer it.

 

Therefore we as the church can declare that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  We can claim joy in this dark world.  As we continue in our costly discipleship, we can trust that God is with us.  We can hold tight to Psalm 30:5, which says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  Perseverance through the dark and cold and dreadful night brings about the beautiful sunrise that is joy.  This momentary suffering must be endured for true joy to take its eternal root.

 

The beginning of Romans 5 gives us freedom to rejoice in suffering because God will use it to bring endurance, character, and a hope that does not disappoint.  James 1 tells us to count it all joy when we face trials.  Ultimately those trials will make us full and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Suffering can bring glory to God, and it will prepare you for the complete joy to come.  May the joy that is to come give us a holy perseverance to keep pressing on. When a believer suffers, that holy trial declares that the Spirit of God resides within him.  It is a testimony to God’s presence, His dwelling with us, His name of Immanuel.

 

God is good and faithful.  He is joy.  He has gone before us.  He is with us.  He is Immanuel.

“Waiting for Superman”

Last weekend Spencer and I watched the documentary called “Waiting for Superman.”  It is a full length documentary about America’s public school system.  I happened to come across the title recently, and I had remembered people talking about it at my Memphis Teacher Residency interview weekend a couple years ago.

The film dives behind the scenes of America’s lacking education system.  It reveals the politics involved with the unions and school boards.  It uncovers the faults of tenure.  And it shows how economic status dramatically affects one’s education.

It was quite eye opening as it followed a few different families in various cities trying to get the best education they could for their children.

The documentary reminded me of my passion for urban areas and underprivileged children.  It stirred up so much within me, I’m still processing it and trying to figure out what to do with those soul stirrings.

I definitely recommend watching it.

Hopefully it will stir you into action for some of the least of these here in America.

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Our First Christmas Tree

It is always exciting to experience the “firsts” in our marriage!  There seem to be a whole lot since we are in the advent season and are approaching Christmas.

We ventured out to the Home Depot last weekend and bought our first Christmas tree!  We had a blast picking out our tree and sharing Christmas memories.

Picking out a Christmas tree was always a big ordeal for my family growing up.  We would look at dozens of trees until we found the right one.  Once we brought it home, my mom meticulously placed lights on practically every branch.  After the many hours it took her to put the lights on, we were able to put on the ornaments.  We had to make sure each spot was filled with a glittering globe or heralding angel, old-fashioned airplane or handmade wonder.  Once we were all finished, the angel was placed on top.  Every year we alternated who would be lifted up by Dad to put the angel in her place.  It was always a big deal.  It’s funny to see how certain traditions have kept up through the years.  The Christmas traditions seem to stand first in line in importance.

Spencer and I get excited starting our own traditions, adding on to ones we grew up with and beginning our own.

We wanted to make something to remember it by when we put our ornaments up on the tree each year.  So when they cut the tree at the store, we had them cut a small bit off the bottom so we could turn it into an ornament.

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It’s simple.  But it’s special.

Much like our Christmas tree.  It is simple.  Just 5 feet tall.  It is eclectic with a wide variety of ornaments ranging from olive wood ones I got in Israel to Harry Potter to crosses my mom gave me over the years to “our first Christmas” ornaments we’ve received as gifts to a hedgehog.  And we don’t have a tree topper or tree skirt (hopefully I’ll be able to make those at some point).  We are using colored lights because we hung out clear lights out on our back patio.  But it is our first tree and we love it!  It smells lovely and it makes us smile!

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