Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Comfort in The Wilderness

WE love because HE first loved us.
 1 John 4:19

 This is part two of three of a special guest post by my beautiful friend Nancy Tate. Part One is here: Backspace ~ Moving Toward Brokenness

Nancy and Bryon

"Even though my illness was a trial to you,
you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.
Instead, you welcome me as if I were an angel of God,
as if I were Christ Jesus Himself."
Galatians 4:14

I could tell by the photo that Bryon was more broken than I had realized. His legs were all twisted and his head was thrown back and to the right. His mouth was wide open. Immediately, I felt a warmth flow through me and tears of love and compassion poured out of my eyes. I could almost hear an audible voice whisper to me in that instant. All of My children are broken. Some damage is visible to others, but most is not. I adopt every seeking, broken child and bring them into My family.

It was love. It was even deeper than I had realized. I was being taken to a new level spiritually, and could feel a bigger heart growing inside of me. I could not wait to get my hands on this little boy and smother him with love. My heart ached, knowing only pieces of the pain he had endured so early in life. I couldn't wait to show him how deeply loved he was by Jesus.

The timing was amazing. Kelley had to fly to Indiana on business, and that was where Bryon was staying at the time. I went with him on the trip so we could meet him. It worked out that our meeting date was his birthday too! Kind of amazing to be placed in the arms of your forever mommy and daddy on that very date! A year later, but better late than never.

I remember being surprised by how arched and stiff his back was, and being struck by his lack of eye contact. I remember how difficult it was to have him drink from a bottle as we sat at a table in Don Pedro's Mexican Restaurant with Heather and Michelle from Giving Hope Rescue Mission in Haiti. His legs were twisted strangely. He was nothing like the three healthy, bouncing biological children to whom I had been blessed to give birth. But he was precious. Precious not only to Kelley and me, but to Jesus. I knew this deep within my being. Taking on this life, with so many significant medical problems would challenge us deeply, but above all, it would honor the One who had sacrificed so immeasurably for us - Jesus.

We had to return to Philly, but were making plans to return to Indiana in few weeks to bring him home with us. We had been approved to become his “Host Family” for the duration of his medical visa. We concurrently began the adoption process. We decided we should drive to retrieve him because we were not sure how he would handle travel and that would give us some flexibility. We stayed in a hotel halfway back to PA that first night. I remember it was so difficult to feed him. We barely slept, as Kel and I found ourselves the parents of a baby again after our youngest had just turned twelve.

As soon as we arrived home, I took him to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to the International Adoption Center there (per the advice of a fellow adoptive mama, Heather Beals). That day was eye opening for me, to say the least. I heard the words “Cerebral Palsy, brain injury, dislocated hips, poorly-healed femoral fracture (how does an infant sustain a broken leg????), visually impaired, cleft palate, physical therapy, occupational therapy, wheelchair, non-verbal, DISABLED.”

Now, let me say this. I have several friends who have disabled children. Some severely disabled. Others mildly. It became clear to me on this day, that life as we knew it was over. We had stepped into a world that many parents would never choose. (I meet these parents all the time at CHOP. They think I am crazy.) Yet, God had asked us to come here, to this place. Realizing this would be more difficult than we had known, I felt a wave of peace come over me. I remember exactly where I was sitting as it washed over my spirit that day. God's peace reassured me that HE values the disabled. He loves them and uses them as a “stretching machine” for those of able body and mind. He uses the disabled to teach US compassion and love. And boy, do I need to improve in those two areas.

In January of 2011, we had two hospital stays. The first lasted only a week. The second lasted into February – 33 days to be exact. The first week stay began with an ER visit with a non-responsive baby, after his blood sugar had dropped to 50 and he would not wake up. Terrifying. This brought the NG (nasogastric) feeding tube. He was unable to consume enough calories orally to sustain him, let alone fight malnutrition and help him gain weight.

We were able to go home for a week, but had to return for a sleep study. He cried all night long every night, because his airway was so obstructed and he would wake up constantly. January 13th was the sleep study. He failed it. He had almost 200 interruptions to his breathing due to his collapsed airway, during the first HALF of the test. The test was stopped early, and he was admitted to the hospital. This began the first of many long hospital stays as we worked with doctors to solve this little puzzle wrapped in the cutest little shell. His breathing was worsening while we were there waiting for surgery. It was a weekend, and for some reason Bryon's case wasn't seen as emergent. He ended up “coding” two days later. This means an alarm was sounded and a team of about 20 rushed to his bedside to do whatever their specific role was to prepare him to be put on a ventilator and moved to ICU. I'd say that was emergent. He was intubated and sedated for three days waiting for surgery.
I was terrified. Numb. Alone. I had never seen anything like this before. I had been taken to a wilderness that I was not equipped to be wandering. 

"I will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfortingly unto her." 
Hosea 2:14

I remember sitting on the awful, rock-hard, vinyl couch bed near the window. It was the middle of the night. I was praying and crying softly. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid. I felt completely incapable of the task Jesus had given me. I must have managed to drift off to sleep, because I saw him. I saw Bryon as a teenager. We were all in heaven. He was so handsome, and he was RUNNING all over the place, laughing and TALKING. He came running up to Kelley and me, winded and beaming, and said, ”Oh THERE you are, mom and dad! I just wanted to say 'thank you'.” He hugged us both and then he ran off. I have never had such a vivid dream. It was a gift from God that night for my soul.

I remember waking suddenly and looking over at the fragile boy in the hospital crib who was not even breathing on his own. I remember asking myself, Who does something this crazy? How have we fallen so in love with a boy that isn't even ours?? But I had a renewed strength in seeing the eternal value of what we were doing. It changed me right then and there. 

My mission became clear. The fragility of Bryon's body and the events of the next year, would serve as a daily reminder to our family that we are also fragile and broken, in other ways. We all need a Savior. This Savior is as crazy about us as we are about this baby. He went to the cross to prove it, and we were willing to go to the ends of the earth for Bryon.

This hospital stay is where we tackled phase one of Bryon's airway issues. There were countless other hospital stays and surgeries to tackle feeding (which now is done solely via tube) and orthopedic surgeries and castings.
When I hold this boy and smother him with kisses it is because I love him. But it is also because I know Jesus. I know this God who loves us the same way. He wants to smother you with kisses and fix your broken spots. He wants to perform surgery on your deep, broken places and make you new.

Unfortunately Bryon will likely always struggle, barring a miracle. But he is happy. He is well-loved. He has had nine surgeries this past year which have corrected many things, but his brain had been injured in Haiti. His muscles and eyes may never work like they were intended to. This makes me sad.

But I know this. We will do everything humanly possible for this sweet boy. We will work hard to help him lead a happy and productive life. He will likely always need to live with us. That is OK. I welcome the heart surgery I have received.

Many people have said things to me when they hear Bryon's story. Many people have cried and told me I am an angel. I am not. Not even close. I place obedience to God above all else. That is the only answer I can really muster. It is that simple. I was given a choice. I also know that many mamas do not get to choose a child with disabilities. They are given them. I have also met a few mamas that ONLY choose to adopt these children. THIS is the heart of God. This is moving toward brokenness.

In Scripture we see Jesus move toward the disabled all the time. He healed the paralyzed, the blind, the deaf, the leper. His compassion was never-ending. The people who brought the disabled to Him were consumed with love and wanting the best for their friend or family member. I know this love.
We can not understand why some children are dealt such a difficult hand in life. We may be tempted to feel sorry for them. We may be tempted to feel sorry for ourselves sometimes. We may be angry with God. 

But you see, God has used Bryon to give me a glimpse of His heart. Special needs require special love. Caring for someone with special needs or physical disabilities requires a suspension of self. One must ask God for help in functioning outside of selfishness. I have learned that in giving of myself and placing someone else's needs ahead of my wants, there is true joy. 

Joy is not fleeting like happiness. Joy is deep and abiding. It stays with you. It is a sense of knowing you are where you have been asked to go. Knowing that someone who can not help himself is totally dependent on me for care and love helps me understand the depth of the care and love Jesus gives. “WE love because HE first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Who can I step out of my comfort zone to love? God, teach me obedience through sacrifice. Challenge me to move toward the brokenness and value the seemingly invaluable. They are all around us. The disabled. The homeless. The elderly. The loner. The most effective way to show Your Son to this hurt and dying world is through Your perfect LOVE. May Your love change all our hearts.

Please continue to lift our family up in prayer. There are more surgeries to come this year. Hospital stays are challenging for us. Pray for Bryon to become strong and healthy! Pray for miracles with his vision! (We are already seeing changes there.) Pray that he will hold his head up completely! Pray that he will say, “mama” soon!!! Pray that he will sit up! Pray that he will walk!!

We believe God can do miracles. May His Name be glorified in our lives and in the life of precious Bryon.

For Part III click here. 

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house
the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.'"

Isaiah 58:6-9

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Confident Heart ~ Give-Away!

"For You have been my hope,
Sovereign Lord, 
my confidence since my youth."
Psalm 71:5

Confidence. We all want it. We all need it.

The beauty of godly confidence is that it is all about Him. Our humble and insecure hearts are met with His perfect love and empowered by His undeniable Word. Each chapter of Renee's book is filled with scriptural truths.

Have you ever felt unlovable, not good enough, smart enough or valuable enough? Sharing her own personal testimony, Renee shows you how to rely on the truths of God's promises for the security and confidence He desires you to have! You will see who He is making you and who you are becoming in Christ. You can embrace your God-given purpose, passions and personality. Renee will point you to God's Word, which fills you with His hope.

Our honest doubts. God's honest truths. A Confident Heart!

I am honored to be giving away FIVE of these great books! They are perfect for individual reading or a small group topical Bible study. Just leave a comment with your contact information. The winners will be announced later this week!

"Do not throw away your confidence,
it will be richly rewarded."
Hebrews 10:25

"So we say with confidence,
'The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?'"
Hebrews 13:6

Saturday, March 16, 2013

SerenDIPity Saturday ~ Yes to God

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, 
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
1 Timothy 4:12

Today is SerenDIPity Saturday. Not just here on Joy In The Truth, but in our home. Today is the day of our annual SerenDIPity party. We are excited and very busy making final preparations to welcome our guests this evening.

But I wanted to pause and share a surprise blessing with a few of you! After all, it is SerenDIPity Saturday!

Earlier this week I was tickled to receive a serendipitous gift in the mail by my loving friend Lysa ~ a copy of her newest book co-authored with her daughter, Hope ~ "What Happens When Young Women Say Yes To God". I will be reading this book with our daughter, Gabrielle, at the right time and as the Lord leads. And I would LOVE to share the blessing and give away a few copies of the book to share the joy and the wisdom.

As a young woman reads this book, she will be equipped to:

*Understand how to hear from God personally so she can resist the confusing pull of the world and stay focused on His calling for her.

*Develop a hunger for God's Word thus deepening her convictions to stay pure and focused on God as she makes decisions affecting the course her life will take.

*Find encouragement for living out her faith commitment through testimonies from teenager Hope Terkeurst and realize she is not alone in taking a bold stand for God.

My personal daily prayer for my children and for this generation of youth is that God would raise them up to be a generation standing bold for Him, His truth and His redemption. This book encourages young women in truth and points them to God's Word, which equips us to live our lives blameless before Him in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Just leave a comment with your contact information and the first name of the special young women in your life with whom you would share this book. THREE copies are up for grabs. Winners will be announced next week.

Happy SerenDIPity Saturday!

"I remember the devotion of your youth..."
Jeremiah 2:2

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Backspace ~ Moving Toward Brokenness

I am truly honored today to have a special guest post at Joy In The Truth by my amazing friend, Nancy Tate. I know for sure that the Lord has allowed our lives and paths to come together. I am inspired by her life, her quiet obedience and her bold stand for truth. Her testimony of even just the last few years is an incredible one of surrender and obedience to the Lord. Her life personifies love for God through obedience. Grab a cup of coffee and be blessed by part one of Nancy's story.

Kelly and Nancy Tate
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, and took him to an inn and took care of him.”  Luke 10:33-34
"Religion that God our Father accepts 
as pure and faultless is this: 
to look after orphans and widows 
in their distress and to keep oneself 
from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

Here's Part One of Three from Nancy ~

I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and I remember being one of the only (if not THE only) future teacher in my class who PLANNED on going directly to the inner city to teach. For five years, before I became a mommy, I taught. My cities of choice were Newark, NJ, and NYC (the Inwood section of Manhattan, to be exact). I will spare you the details of all the exciting things that routinely happened to my car while I was up in my classroom, but suffice it to say, it was never boring. The inner cities of America are rough. Life there is hard. It is often violent. It is often BROKEN.

Fast forward eight years. I am the married, mother of three great kids. Our family has been asked to take in the fourth child of a single mother about to give birth. We go through the whole process, only to have it fall through at the end. She changed her mind. My heart is broken wide open. 

I tell God, “Our heart is to adopt, but You will have to do it. It will have to fall into my lap. Only then will I go there again. Only then CAN I.” 

I pushed the idea to the back of my mind in an effort to heal. My husband's company relocates us 700 miles from home, so I quickly forget and busy myself with new things in Charlotte, NC.

Fast forward six more years. We have been relocated again. This time back to the northeast, which feels much more like home to me. (Philadelphia - the home of CHOP - #1 Children's Hospital in the country – this will come in handy shortly.) I am wondering what I will do with myself here. I am a stay-at-home mom, with three big kids (affectionately referred to as “the BIGS”).

October 5, 2011: I sign into Facebook to check in on my friends all over the country. A friend I taught across the hall from in NYC is holding a baby. He doesn't have a baby, so I just have to ask. “Who is the baby?” There I go, sticking my nose into everybody's business again. 

Or maybe it was just me, taking one step toward the brokenness – without even knowing. 

This ten month old boy had just arrived in America on a medical visa from Haiti. He had been rescued in Haiti, severely malnourished, disabled, and near death. He needed donated medical care and a family to stay with. There was no donated care to be found. His issues were too extensive. There was no family willing to “go there.” He had no family to whom he could return. He had been abandoned. It was not looking good for him. He would most likely return to Haiti, to a friend's orphanage...

...and he would die.

I began typing a response we Christians tend to use a lot. It is quite passive actually, and tends to make us “look” concerned. I said, “ I will pray and spread the word.” 

The problem with this statement was that I could feel myself actually being disobedient as I typed it. I could feel myself putting down good words, with good intentions, but I was actually squishing out the obedience to the Spirit of God that I was being called to right in that moment. 


I heard the Spirit say, “Backspace.” What? Backspace? But I said I would pray about it. That's good enough, right? Then the whole “hands and feet” thing flashes before me. 

I hear the Spirit again, “This boy is for you. He is broken. He needs a family.” 

Um, LAP MUCH?!?! 

God, is this that “falling into my lap" thing I had mentioned years back? Sheeesh! I think a boy has just landed in my lap.

In a series of emails between my friend and I and the orphanage director, I hear the words: deformities, broken femur, fixable, developmental delays, fragile. Let me just say right here and now, those words did not BEGIN to touch what the next 15 months would bring to our family. We moved into the role of “host family” within a month and are in the adoption process right now. We have endured over 100 days and nights in the hospital and nine surgeries and several horrible, stinky casts. We have three therapists a week in my home, and night nursing. Feeding pumps, feeding tubes, and CPAP and suction machines.

Bryon and Jason

There were times where my flesh crept up and said, “Nance, you should have cut and RUN while you had the chance!!!” But immediately following those moments of weakness and lack of eternal focus, there would be the random person who would email or text me and say that I had inspired THEM to adopt or that my life was an inspiration. Or the hospital employee that would pull me aside and ask me how I had found him. They would always end up crying. I started carrying Kleenex with me. Crazy. 

How did I get here? 

How did I become this walking billboard for Jesus?

Does Bryon have any idea how many lives he has reached already? 

You see, the problem is this. Any part of me that would have or COULD have said “no” to this lap moment from God would have been shellacked with selfishness. There is no getting around that fact. Selfishness drives a lot of what we DO and DON'T do. We had put our Bible knowledge to the ultimate test. As my pastor says, “You really only believe the parts of the Bible that you DO.” 

Hmph. It was our moment. Our moment to step into obedience. To show my Bigs that we put our Christian money where our mouth is (or hands and feet are). We have been brought to our knees in exhaustion and tears many times. 

But the bottom line is this. Do I, at the end of this life, want to be remembered for my stuff, or my fun, family trips, or better yet, my “me time"? 

Nope. I don't. Will my children remember a life that was lived for a greater eternal purpose, rather than the fleeting stuff we all tend to strive for in the life? Have we demonstrated to my Bigs that mommy and daddy are serious about the Word of God? Do we show them it is real by the choices we make? I sure hope so.

Marinate over the passage from Luke 10 above. Look up the whole passage to refresh your memory. Where do you find yourself in the story? Are you the injured man on the side of the road? Are you one of the many who walked by and pretended not to see him there? Or are you the Samaritan?

Oh, that my life would reflect a sacrifice on some weak, human level, to show my gratitude for what Jesus did for me. May there by obedience daily to His heart's cry for the poor and needy, and may my hands be DIRTY at the end of this life from helping the needy in tangible ways on earth. He is there when I am uncomfortable. He prefers me to be uncomfortable, because that is where I am desperate for His presence. Outside of my flesh. Dependent on the source of my strength.

This story is long, and huge, and so detailed. This is a tiny piece of what got us here. If nothing else, please ask yourself these questions today:

Am I living courageously? 

Am I looking for ways to tangibly move toward the brokenness? 

When I see broken people, do I make excuses for why I can not be the hands and feet? 

At the end of my life, will I be so poured out of myself, that I look much more like Jesus? 

I ask myself these questions often. I re-adjust and re-evaluate, and with His help I get back to the business of sacrificing MY wants for HIS. In the words of Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil 1:21

(Bonus: when we said,”yes” to this boy, we had no idea how we would pay for all of this. Bryon was able to be added to our private insurance, and within months, God gave my husband a huge bonus that would pay in full for his adoption. Wow God!)

"The Bigs"
Megan, Joshua and Jason

Part Two is here: Comfort In The Wilderness