Monday, February 28, 2011

A sleepless night ......

It was one of those nights- I don't know why.  I never do.  I guess something triggered the movie that played over and over in my mind - well at least every time I shut my eyes.  It was a movie of one of the happiest times in my life and one of the saddest as well.  All day I've battled on if I should post this on here or not.  I decided it is part of who I am and always will be.  I don't write it for pity or sympathy... really I write it because it helps my heart.  It is part of who I am and one of the chapter's in life that has shaped me.  Enough of all that and back to the movie that played over and over last night....

It took me to a far away place, although not really that far away.  A lusciously green land whose country side is filled with beautiful scenery.  Although parts of this country are something you would see in a travel magazine if you look closely you see evidence of a war that ravaged this land.  Poverty is all around.  Partly due to political battles that engulfed the people for way too long.  Natural disasters have also left much devastation to this place- a place I fell quickly in love with on my first mission trip.  It was the first time I looked into a person's eyes and saw true desperation.  I am not speaking of a spiritual desperation- although it was there as you looked deeper.  I am talking about true desperation on having your basic physical needs meet.  I am talking about literally having nothing to eat- not just something you "like" to eat.  After that first trip my heart was broken and Mike and I returned many times.

It didn't matter if we were in the barrio's (villages), the schools or at the orphanages- most all we encountered had (has) that look.  Each time my heart was broken as I returned to my comfy American lifestyle.  If you've ever seen or been to a place with extreme poverty you can relate.

At the same time in life Mike and I continued to walk the path of infertility.  We desperately wanted a child and had been open to the idea of adoption for a while.  Many people wanting to help in our desire to become parents would share with us a child (or children) that needed a home.  Each time we would walk through the door as long as it was open.  This time was not any different.  I sat down with Mike after Wednesday night church at a local restaurant, and said well you are already sitting down and began.  A friend in ministry had a lady in his church who was not going to keep the twins she was soon to deliver and he wanted to know if we were interested.  As long as I live I will never forget my precious husband's response.  He said sure we will always have a open door for any children the Lord may bring to us.  Tell "RJ" yes to give her our name.   And then the words that would really set us on a life changing course..... But we have two girls waiting on us and they are ours.  I believe we are suppose to go get them (meaning begin adoption procedures).

You see when we first began serving on short term trips to this country it was closed to Americans adopting but had recently become more open.  We had met two sisters on one of our trips and had seen them again just the month before.  I will actually never forget standing over "JG"'s crib and crying out for God to rescue her.  I vividly remember Mike coming to tell me the team was already walking out of the village.  I couldn't move.  My heart was riveted to this precious child who although was several years old could not sit up.  We were told she had special needs - although they were not really sure what.  She had to be propped up in her crib.  The little girl whose orphanage caregivers told me they had never seen her smile until that day.  It was when I was holding her close and singing "Jesus Loves "JG" into her ears.  Her eyes darted towards me and smiled.  A little girl that was left alone with her 1 1/2 old sister for they believe at least a week.  Their mom had left them and the uncle brought them to the orphanage.  There was no way their family could feed anymore children.  It didn't immediately enter my mind -at first- they we should adopt them.  It wasn't possible when we first meet them.

So last night the next several trips (over two years) played in my mind.  The times we spent with them at the orphanage, mission house, zoo, McDonald's, playing, trying on clothes we had brought them, hearing their laugh when they receive the Build-a-bear and puppy with our voices tell them we loved them, feeding them, watching them grow and learn and hearing them call us ma ma and pa pa.

Then the movie is taking a's a turn toward a ending I don't like or even want.  We are at the necessary offices thinking our paperwork is going to be reviewed and given the "nod" to get the official seals on it.  However, as the sweet kind lady who has helped us from the beginning leaves the room and is gone for a period of time, a longer period of time than necessary, my heart begins to panic.  As she enters the room- I know- I don't need the translator to translate.  When her eyes won't meet mine, I realize it is not to be.  They called it political red tape, they are sorry.....policies changing.  The words are just a jumble in my mind and on the screen.  I am not sure how I will every move from that chair.  You see "our girls" was what had kept me going for the past 11 weeks.  The 11 weeks I physically and emotionally healed from an unplanned hysterectomy.  You see even though I had been told I would most likely not have a baby- I secretly held out hope all those years for a miracle.  How could I look at Mike in the eyes.  The movie is playing but it brings back to many intense memories, I can't watch.  Somehow we cling to each other and make it to the car waiting to take us to the mission house.  Our precious friend who is driving us is visibly upset for us.  I go through a range of emotions but mostly just intense pain with lots of crying.  We are told we can see the girls one more time.  I can't even begin to imagine saying goodbye. 

As we went back to the mission house - I am thankful that our dear friends Laura, Elizabeth and Jami were there to love on us.  They talked if we wanted to talk and just sit quietly if that is what we needed too.  It was a hard day.  Mike made arrangements for us to see the girls the next day.  He and our driver went to pick them up and I began to work on setting things up.  We had brought quite a few gifts to give them each day and since this would be our one last time to see them- I wanted to set it up like it was Christmas.  I had always been so excited to do as my parents had done for me and set up our gifts for that special morning.  Here they came in all excited- I hold as a portrait in this movie playing - their faces when they rounded the corner.  It was priceless.  I had prayed and had lots of people praying I could enjoy this special, last visit with them and not cry.  He answers prayers-we had an incredible time together but when it came time to let go that last time was hard.  It was if part of my heart was being ripped out.  My incredible husband rode alone to take them back -  to spare me the pain.  I knew his heart was breaking too and we had cried many tears together but he was forever trying to protect my heart from any pain he could at this point.

The movie is in it's final scenes.  As I know I need to watch to the end last night- I'm hysterical.  I am crying so hard I am trying not to shake the bed so I will not wake up my husband.  I begin to pray the Lord will give me the peace only He can give me- peace He brings me whenever this movie is showing in the darkness of the night.  Here it comes...............
The Lord's gentle reminder that He asked us on this journey for reasons - some we know why and some we will only know in heaven.  However, a big smile comes to my face as I see "JG" and "JL" playing and laughing.  I am reminded of the miracle of it all.  Lots of things that I can not share here happened (due to our process to adopt the girls).,  One of them I can- "JG" was given medical treatment.  She did not have a rare disease that we were told would end her life just a few short years after she was to be officially "ours" but rather a simple problem that could be solved with medicine.  She was already becoming a different little girl the last time we saw her- the disabilities were being solved with therapy.  She was so much happier and smiled a lot.  Her quality of life would be different.
Before the credits were to play- the final scene.  One of my precious husband, me and the girls.  Mike is  praying over them - praying someone would water the seeds of His word in their life, asking Him to allow them to accept Him as Savior - so that even if not here on earth we were every joined together we would be in heaven.  The credits roll - although it is just one large groupings of words.  I strain to see what it says because I am falling in a deep sleep as I wrapped tightly in in the peace of God.  I can't read it - I am too sleepy and just then the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear- PRODUCED BY GOD THE FATHER PURCHASED WITH JESUS CHRIST AND ARRANGED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT................ the last picture rolls and it is Mike and I in heaven...........we are not's our girls!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Missing a Sunday

Sometime on Friday I realized the sickness I had somehow seemed to avoid, well it had caught up with me.  Two days later, I wake up and realize I am still not fully well.  So that means I will miss the main thing of my job.  You work all week to prepare for Sunday.  You look forward to seeing all your friends- young ones and young at heart.  When you don't see them it throws everything off.  It just doesn't seem right- all day, it just hasn't seemed right.

Missing a Sunday also means you must make phone calls and extra work on the Childhood Ministries staff.  I work with some incredible ladies and one awesome man who leads our kids each week in Worship.  Well to make a long story short- some of them had sicks kids and that creative and crazy man who leads worship was fighting sickness himself.  I appreciate each of you who made sense of a crazy morning and evening.  I am so thankful for you!

I missed seeing my church family today.  I missed my friend and colleague's 5th anniversary celebration (congrats Asble family!).  I missed seeing little faces excited to be in the incredible space God has blessed us with at First Baptist of Cleveland.  I missed being in God's house on God's day.  However, I am pretty sure it was best for my germs and myself to stay at home.  It will make me look forward to this coming Sunday even more.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Things we allow to estrange us from God

 You may remember that in January I attended a couple of conferences.  In clearing out a "stack of stuff" today, I found the notebook.  As I thumbed through the conference notebook, I came across one of the main session notes I took.  The speaker / preacher was Britt Merrick .  I am obviously paraphrasing but read some of his points from that day---- I pray you are encouraged and challenged.

  • We are valuable because we are loved by the Supreme One! 
  • In Ezekiel - we see idols estrange people from God....... we are estranged by much lesser things. 
  • Ask yourself- is He enough? 
  • Anywhere we find more joy than God it will estrange us.  
  • Christ is not a means to heaven but a treasure! 
I looked up the word estrange.  According to Webster's this verb means ....
  1.  to remove from customary environment or associations
  2.  to arouse especially mutual enmity or indifference in where there had formerly been love, affection,  or                  friendliness

The Synonym for estrange is alienate.  

Wow, am I saddened to think of the ways I let crazy, silly, stupid things estrange me from experiencing the fullness of God's love and grace.  May I allow the things to never alienate from all God wants me to experience until I receive my "treasure".  I remind you the treasure for one who has trusted Christ is HEAVEN!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a pair of shoes..........

This week I have been reminded two things about a pair of shoes.........

First, is to remember you never know what a person is going through unless you've walked in their shoes.  I mean you just don't know.  You don't know what hurts and struggles they may be walking through and sometimes they don't know how to tell others they are having a hard time.  There are many reasons we don't share our struggles or even that we are at a point in our live that we need help.  When those who pass by us in the hall at church, work or at a ballgame could be experiencing a time in their life they may need a smile, an encouraging word, a friend to say "how can I help?", etc.  I've been reminded this week to ask the Holy Spirit to make me sensitive to His prompting me of when I think someone around me needs that smile, hug, kind word, offer to meet a need, extra prayers, etc.  I have asked God to forgive me for times I am too quick to judge those around me.  I've begged forgiveness for the times I have been too busy to realize when someone is hurting around me or even "hear" his whisper / prompt to reach out to others.

The second thing I was reminded this week about shoes is rather somber.  Did you know there are places in this world that a pair of shoes could not just change a child's life but a whole village?  A member of the team I am privileged to serve with shared this week of a pastor in Ethiopia.  When asked by a mission team from our church- what can we do to help you- what needs do you have?  His response was our kids need shoes.  The disease and illness that are spreading throughout our village is in part due to the children not having shoes (they are passing things along this way).  The children Pastor Sammy (I believe this was his name) ministers to everyday are not only being feed and educated but are hearing how their spiritual needs can be met as well.  I look forward to a project our Missions Pastor - Jake will be introducing in the near future to attempt to put shoes on every child in that village's feet.  I mean really- should this even be a need that we can't accomplish?  Although I have seen this first hand in Nicaragua as well, this week I was reminded of the poverty in Third World countries.  I don't know if I can even walk near my closet - first of all when I walk in my closet I am reminded this area could be doubled and be the size of an entire house in some areas of the world- I promise I've seen it.  Not even to begin to think I have so many shoes I can't even begin to count them all.

It is my prayer that the things the Lord has broken my heart over this week about shoes will not soon be forgotten.  I pray that when I go to my closet in the morning to decide which pair to wear- I will be lift up those around me hurting and ask the Lord to show me those I have no idea the path their shoes are walking right now- especially for those needing a kind word.  May I be faithful in giving to help Pastor Sammy cover Ethiopian children's feet with quality shoes as he continues to plant their feet in the truth of God's word.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Turning back time

Sometimes in life you wish you could turn back the clock. You want to begin a day or week again. This week has been one of those weeks. It started out a great week and I was sitting in staff meeting laughing and cutting up with the FBC team. Then Bro. Jim received a call and shared with us our friend and brother in Christ, C.C. Conway, had collapsed at work and was being taken to the hospital. The mood immediately moved to a very somber one. We prayed as a team. Bro. Tom, having just moved into the Pastoral Care role (having just retired after 25 years as music minister at FBC) headed to the hospital. We continued to go through the motions of staff meeting but our hearts were heavy as we awaited Bro. Tom's call to give us an update. I literally could not focus and really can't tell you much we discussed that day. Bro. Tom called and gave us the sad news that C.C. has passed away. As we all sat there, I believe we all experienced a range of emotions- most definitely beginning with shock. Many of us had seen and spoken to C.C. the night before at church. A man who is 44 years old and doesn't have health issues is not suppose to collapse and die. We ended staff meeting and many of us headed to the hospital. As I walked away the tears began to flow. Still five days later they are flowing freely.

My heart was heavy as I began to think of his precious family- his wife Keri, his sons Brandon and Sean and then I wept even harder as I thought of his little girl- Emily. I can't even imagine the heartache, pain and extreme grief they are experiencing now.

The Conway Family

This is one of my favorite pictures- although Brandon was not there and Emily's face is blurry. I love it because it took me back to the day it was taken. Oh how excited their family is (and was) about our new church. C.C.'s smile as he looked at all the Lord had blessed us with is one I will never forget. What a special day. What a special memory. As his family gathered for a meal after the funeral service in the very room they had written that scripture on the floor (before the carpet was layed), my heart smiled. What a memory for his precious family.

I also was sent messages from parents of children who had Mr. C.C. and Mrs. Keri as their mission teachers or Cubbie teachers. They shared how sad their kids were. They also shared of the great impact this couple has had on their child's spiritual development due to their faithfulness in serving.
My heart has also been heavy for C.C.'s mom and her husband- Mary and Maylon. His siblings- Joe, Julie and George. Each member of their family are walking through hard and sad days. Please continue to lift each of them up in prayer. As time moves forward, we often forget. Please don't.
I named this post "Turning back time" because at first I wanted to do just that - go back to early Monday morning. I wanted God to change the events of that morning. My pastors- Bro. Jim and Bro. Allan- shared that even though C.C. would never want to leave his family, friends or his church...... that he is with Jesus. I was gently reminded that the moment C.C. left this world, he saw Jesus face to face. Wow! What a day of celebration it was for him. I am so thankful for pastors who shared it is okay to be sad and grieve and we should do that as long as we need to do so. I know that grief is a process and am thankful for a family of faith who I know will continue to join together to love on and minister to this family for the "long haul."
Will you join me as a part of the family of faith who loves on the Conway's? Will you pray and as the Lord prompts you with specific ways to minister to the Conway family- will you do so? If you would like their address you can email me !
I am thankful for a family of faith but most importantly the hope we have in Jesus of eternal life.
My heart continues to be sad but I am thankful I will see my friend C.C. again one day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Staff Leadership Development

Yes the setting for the Children's Pastor's Conference was gorgeous. Coronado Springs was beautiful. As I sat outside during a break the above picture was the view.
As I headed back inside- here are the three I passed. I will never cease to be amazed at the handiwork of Disney cast members. One of the sessions I attended was by Alan Nelson. It was on leadership development. You can go to his website and actually download the power point he shared with our class here!
Here are some of the things I took away and just reviewed tonight. It was a good review in light of the fact I am in the midst of praying through putting together some leadership teams for summer ministries.
  • Just because someone has a passion for ministry doesn't mean they can lead. Team them someone who can lead.
Wow- isn't this true. I think this is true of myself sometime. Some of the things I am passionate about I need help with someone who can help me get it accomplished. This makes me think of a conference session I listened to years ago from a Fellowship Church conference - Elevate. It talked of dreamers, developers and doers. Each team needs some of each.

He also spoke of Other People's Influence. He encouraged us to think about the following and reminded us we all need people with influence in our corner.
  • Power is a resource, tap it!
  • ID (identify) influencers.
  • Develop them! - Create a booster team! Empower them to cast a vision! Unleash them to run interference.
  • Get to know the gatekeepers.
Just think of those who influence others in your church. The people who motivate others and those who others follow. Find who they are and let them champion Children's Ministry. I love the thought of making them cheerleaders- I am thankful for these individuals in my own church who champion the area of ministries I am responsible for- what a blessing!

  1. Thou Shalt empower leadership.
  2. Thou Shalt ID others with influence gifts.
  3. Thou Shalt clearly define tasks and talents.
  4. Thou Shalt not micro-manage.
  5. Thou Shalt lead up (that thy ministry might be blessed).
  6. Thou Shalt do everything in teams.
  7. Thou Shalt not pursue trivia.
  8. Thou Shalt facilitate leadership training.
  9. Thou Shalt manage by wandering around.
  10. Thou Shalt not neglect thy soul.
Wow what great stuff!

I encourage you to check out conference websites, seminar speakers, etc. Often just because you can not attend the conference doesn't mean you can find session downloads, MP3s etc. Sometimes you can find these free or for a small fee. Personally I could be a conference junkie- I love conferences- the networking, the learning and the dreaming.
I also encourage you to network in your area with other Children's Ministers - you can share resources from conferences this way too! I am thankful for the Cleveland Children's Ministry Network - glad I can attend this month's lunch. If you don't have a network in your area- find an area that does or pray about beginning one in your area! I'm so thankful that Jonnie Shumate felt led to begin one in Cleveland. I'm also looking forward to attending the group in nearby Chattanooga when I can.
Have a blessed week as you look for those influencers, leaders and those with a passion at your place of ministry!