A Scroll of Remembrance.

After the birth of our now 14-year old Larsen, I experienced several years of secondary infertility.  Losing our first babe and then the miracle of our oldest son, we wondered if perhaps we would have only one biological child.  I remember those years.  Lars would lay his little hands on my tummy and pray, with that breath-taking faith of a child, that a brother would come forth.  It got to be so the sight of a pregnant women would cause a pain in me that would start in my chest and radiate out to my fingertips.  I wanted to hold a baby of mine again; I wanted our family to grow.  My husband and I both had the feeling, when we sat at our tiny supper table, that someone was missing.

Every month became a let-down with our desire on the tip of our minds.  It is strange to feel a loss for something you have never had, but the grief was real.

I poured myself into nurturing Lars and to finishing my BA degree.  We believed (and still do) orphans are very near the heart of God, the idea of adopting out of US foster care appealing to us both.  We decided we wanted a Latino boy, not much younger than our son.  Through the mom of one of my husband’s music student’s at the time who worked for an agency, we began to fill out paperwork for our home study.  A little boy we saw online, through the foster care system in Texas, caught our hearts.  The two of us began to pray for Joseph every evening after we tucked in Larsen.  We prayed around the world for this little boy, into his past, his present and future as we laid hands on the computer screen.

One weekend, in the early spring, we visited Wheaton College, past Chicago where we had met back in 1995.  I gathered up information and spoke with professors about attending the next year and earning my masters.  We had it all figured out:  Lars and hopefully Joseph would attend a little school together, Ben would work for the college and I would take classes.  We had a plan!  Our family would move forward!

Ten years later, I chuckle.  Sometimes it is a good thing we cannot hear the chuckles of God.  I’d rather hear His patience and see Him in the circumstances He weaves together.

We came home from the weekend (our old car broke down twice on the road and we hobbled home to Michigan) and that week found out Benjamin had lost his job.  And our medical insurance.  Our home study was scheduled for the next week.

A few days later it was April Fool’s Day.  I went to a dollar store and bought five pregnancy tests.  Driving to the house that some friends had just purchased where Ben was helping with the trim work, I handed him the bag. He grinned, the ever-optimistic man now without a job.  I took them all and, as has been our custom for I cannot stand to look myself at such things, he did.  All five of them were positive.  I looked at them all lined up and did not know whether to laugh or cry.

We had made a plan.  Now, this was not a part of that plan.  I had relinquished pregnancy.  And it was April Fool’s Day of all days!  Now what?

We canceled our home study.  We prayed another month or so for Joseph, but now felt we were to pray  for his future, apart from us.  Prayers are never in vain and sometimes God has an unusual way of calling us into an intercessory assignment and just as quickly bringing us out.

That May I walked the isle in Chicago to receive my diploma.  A 4 1/2 year old boy raised his arms up in victory when he saw me look up at him in the balcony.  Six-week old Anders was nestled and growing, like a wonderful secret in my womb, as I walked with tears in my eyes (this had been a ten-year journey, but that is another story).   I remember having a vision of the long arms of the Lord, rolling up His sleeves and hearing the words, “Oh my child, I have just begun!”

Indeed.

The end of that summer found us riding our 1973 classic tandem bicycle we had purchased on our honeymoon (we had to sell it to move here to Mexico), pulling 5-year old Larsen in our bike trailer.  He held in his hand a sealed enveloped containing a card which the ultrasound technician had indicated if our baby was a boy or a girl.  We stopped at our favorite little Mexican restaurant and sat down to order.  None of us could wait much longer.

Ben opened the enveloped, read it and announced with pride, “Our baby is a boy!”.  Larsen instinctively stood up on his chair, held out his arms wide and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” It was a celebration I have never forgotten.  Dear reader, that is how God feels about your life, about your birth.

I would hold a baby boy again.  My son would have a brother.  My husband would get to yell “C’mon boys” when it was time to go.

Larsen started school in the fall.  My baby went off to kindergarten while a new one continued to grow within me.  I had heard the Spirit instruct me, shortly after I graduated, to start writing a book.  So every morning while Larsen was in school, I drove to a little coffee shop and wrote.  It seemed crazy to write a book when I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was to obey.  So I prayed more than I wrote, listening in to the Father’s direction.

Most of my life I had not known what I am doing, only to listen, to trust and to obey.

We kept our baby’s name a secret, promising Larsen he would be the first one to learn his brother’s name.  And he was, though it took him weeks to remember it.  We had to pin it to his shirt so every time people at school would ask him, he could point to the note and smile.

Anders was due the week of Thanksgiving, the week of my father’s birthday, but he was a week late. We had some help putting up a wall upstairs to make him a little room and to pass the time of the waiting, I had painted bluish-colored fish around the top border of the wall and carefully folded and re-folded every tiny article of clothing that had been given to us.   I remember sitting quietly in that room, in that little house on the edge of the highway that Saturday morning, praying for our new son.  I had not felt him move in a few days.  I sensed the Spirit whispering, “It is time to go to the hospital, go now.”

Strange.  I was not in labor.  I called Ben who was working a job and told him what I believed I had heard from the Lord.  He came home and we drove immediately to the hospital, which was 45 minutes away.  As soon as I stepped through the doors, labor began.  An hour later and a snowstorm hit the area, so bad that no car could have safely driven the distance we had come.

Anders Ezekiel Blycker was born after midnight.  The lights were dimmed in the darkness and snow fell outside the window next to my bed like bits of white confetti celebrating something wonderful.  My amniotic fluid was quite low and the cord was wrapped around Anders’ neck three times.  His heart rate was irregular and falling, so they monitored it with three wires in his little head.  He will never grow hair in those spots.  Benjamin cut the cord and handed me our son.  I remember holding him up and we looked at each other eye to eye.

Love at first sight is more than possible.

When he was cleaned and we were left to ourselves, Benjamin took out his guitar and sat on the bed and quietly sang worship songs over us.  He then took out a small vial of oil, made a sign of the cross on Anders’ forehead and anointed him, telling him what his name means, “Courageous disciple of Christ, strengthened by God” and then bestowed on him his life verse:

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not their measure.

 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.             -Psalm 71: 14-18 

The doctor that delivered him came in shortly after, she also a follower of Jesus.  “I came to pray over this little guy, may I?  I believe the Lord has a special calling on his life.”  I wish I could remember her words, for the blessing moved me and confirmed in me what I had felt I already knew about our son.

So, our Zeker, the only one of us born in the winter, in a snowstorm.  He moved to Florida when he was just one and to Mexico when he was seven; he does not have any memories of snow that falls from the sky and piles up in great cold mounds.  One of his longest and dearest hopes is that he can go back to the place of his birth, where his grandparents and aunt still live, in the winter to make snowballs, taste snow and go sledding.

He told me just today when we were studying the story of Joseph in school together, “Yes Mom, God does work all things for His glory and our good.  Could it be for His glory and my good that someday when I am still a boy I can go to Michigan in the winter, even maybe have a white Christmas?”

Yes, my son.  You just might have to wait a bit.

But it’s all for His glory and our good.

Anders turned nine years old last Thursday.  Meet my Master’s Degree:

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A Child Shall Lead Them.

Because these are the things I want to remember.  The little things that might actually be the big things…

Anders and Angel

Me:  C’mon with me Doctor Anders to the hand doctor.  Brush your teeth, change the shirt you have now worn for three days in a row, tie your shoes, make sure you have underwear on and buckle into Ebeneezer (so we name our vehicles),

Anders (age 7): Alright!  Let me grab Larsen’s camera so I can get some close-ups of the stitches on your hand. We’ll just call this a date. Let’s hope it involves food.

So we drive 25 minutes, on the way singing together every worship song we can think of with him really wishing he was strumming his guitar (not that he knows any chords yet but the feel makes him glad).  Enter into the waiting room where he reads a read-aloud booklet to me.  His reading is coming along, but I am still waiting for the “click”.  I love the clicks in parenting.  I am sure God must love the clicks in me, slow as they come.

Me (while the doc examines my hand):  So, the pain and slight swelling is still there but it is coming along.  When can I swim and when can I play basketball with my boys?

Doc:  You know, I cut down quite far through several layers almost down to your bone to get to the root of the cyst.  Because I went so deep the healing will take longer.  Ten days until you can immerse it in water and four weeks at least until you are throwing any balls.  Healing does not happen with speed.

Me (thinking):  I know this truth and as long as I can remember I have been impatient with this truth yet without the process, healing remains incomplete and full function never returns.  He binds us the broken-hearted like the bandage around my hand not to cover it but to heal it, intending wholeness.   Thank you sweet Jesus that you use all things to instruct me about who You are.

Anders:  Hmmm…be still Mom for the camera.  This is interesting.

Me: Doesn’t it make you feel faint?

Anders:  Pain that is not on me doesn’t bother me as much for some reason.  But when it comes to me, oh boy I really feel it!!  So where are we going now?

Me:  A library. I need a few good hours with you to go over your schoolwork.  You take the Stanford next week for the first time and I want you to feel prepared.

So we drive to a library we have never been too and get giddy at the sight of all the books, the quiet, the sunlight.  Call us weird.  Books with my kids is to me one of life’s sweetest things.

Me:  Okay, let’s sprawl out on this couch-type things and get started.

First we read biographies.  He loves a good biography.  This time around we delve into Louis Braille, George Washington and Harriet Tubman.  We spend a lot of time on Tubman and the Civil War.  He is listening like a laser would point.   Then we go into reading flashcards, onto his phonics workbooks, a review of spelling words, then into double and triple digit addition and subtraction to finish it all up with a review of how to tell time.  He’s a quiet learner, usually co-operative if there are no interruptions and focused if there is not activity around him. We stay until the library closes, happy together.  Then we get hungry.

Me: What are you hungry for?  Let’s imagine what would taste really good to us right now.

Anders:  Chinese.  They have the white rice you never buy with sweet and sour chicken.  Or a nice cafe or coffee shop because you know I really like those sort of places. they feel nice and cozy inside.

So we drive with no luck in finding any sort of these places that are appealing enough to walk into and sit.  We come upon a Wal-Mart which always reminds us of Grandma Blycker.  She loves Wal-Marts Anders quips.  Let’s just wander around and pick out some food.  Sure. I say, nothing wrong with “seeking our fortune” sometimes.

He picks out raspberry Greek yogurts, pretzel crackers, strawberries, mango sorbet and orange juice for us.  I have a fruit fly for a son.

We pay for our funny dinner and sit in Ebeneezer together in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  He is smiling quiet-like as if this is a night to remember and I give him a big kiss on his head and tell him maybe tonight will be the night he’ll loose those two loose front teeth that are flapping back and forth like a trap door.

Me:  So, how are doing Zeker (his middle name is Ezekiel and sometimes we call him Zeke) with us almost being ready to move to Mexico?  Anything about that you want to chat about now we have some time?

Anders:  He leans back and looks at the stars and says kinda slow -I have not thought about all of it at all until a couple days ago.  I lay on my bed and stared up at the ceiling and told myself that now I would put some thought into it all.  So I did.  And the more I thought about it the bigger it got.  This is all big, really big.  I’m small and I don’t think I even understand how big it all is, but that is okay.  I know God is with us.

Can’t we all say that about the world we find ourselves in?

His biggest concern is about the school he will attend in Mexico–can he sit still that long?  Will he have a good friend?  Will the teacher be kind and warm?  Will the work be too hard?  Will he miss me too much?

Me:  We’ve been talking and praying about your relationship with your brother and sister.  And so have they.  How do you think your friendships with them are going?  Any thoughts, concerns, victories?

Anders:  Well, I’ll tell ya the reason Lars and I are doing so much better as brothers lately is because of me (I try not to smirk at this point). I’m holding back real hard on not seeking revenge when he makes me mad or annoys me.  The self-control thing and giving a gentle answer is killing me sometimes.  I gotta give Jesus my thoughts right away when I just wanna grab his neck and pin him to the ground.  He did not used to be so feisty as he is now and I know is must have to do with those hormone things I hear about that happen when you are almost a teenager.  He didn’t used to be like that at all.  It’s like I started growing up and he started growing down.  I tell ya its hard work but I really want us to be good friends.  We are still praying together at night in our room, but sometimes when I pray aloud for him I am actually telling God what to tell him. I suppose that isn’t really praying but then Lars has to listen to me.

Me: (the hormone part about had me choking on my fruit…he’s right!)  You know, when you grow up you have these same feelings about others and sometimes do these same things.  It’s called being human but as the Spirit controls your life more and more you become the real idea of what God meant when He made us to be human and reflect who He is.  But I sure hear you and I want to encourage you to keep on and try to notice the ways Lars is helping your friendship grow too and don’t get too puffed up about yourself and what you are doing–that is not very humble if you know what I mean.  Am I talking too adult or do you get what I am saying Zeke?

Anders:  Yea, I think you mean I should think about him more than me.  It is just so much easier to think all about me.  Sigh….

Me:  So how are things going with Kiersta?  I think I can guess, but you tell me.

Anders:  Well, you know, you hear her everyday!  She never stops talking and she screams and yells so much.  She is even daring to dis-respect you and Dad and that is not right.  You would think for all the times she is disciplined she would stop those annoying tantrums.  I mean I want to be her friend but she always yelling “AAAANNNNDDDEEERRRSSS!”.  It makes me nuts!  She is gonna have one hard life is she doesn’t cut it out.

Me:  I understand completely.  But you know how you and I are talking everything out here together and you can tell me your thoughts and feelings?  Well, she can’t yet and she is feeling some “transitional stress” which just means she knows things are a little different, she knows we are moving and the only way she knows to deal with it is to act like she is.  I am not saying it is right or we will let her, but we do have to answer with a gentle word and pray for her.  Sometimes it is okay if you need a break from her too.  We all do.

Anders:  Yea, that’s the truth.  I am just smack in the middle.

Me:  You know I was too.  I get it.  But God planned it for a reason and our family would be lonely without you right there in the middle.

Anders:  So they have pet stores in Mexico, huh?  Hard to believe for some reason.  I hope they have finches.  I want a finch room.  One wall I want to cover with my paintings of finches and the other walls hang Indian stuff and set up my guitar and keyboard.  I’ve been thinking about that.  And in my times with Jesus in the morning, I have been talking with him about a new home for my finch-bird Calvin because I know we can’t take him.  He has to go to someone who has a cage and would really love him because I am taking my cage for Calvin II.  I just don’t know who that would be and I am getting concerned.

So we pause to pray about his beloved bird.

Me:  What else have you been talking with Jesus about?  What He been speaking to you?

Anders:  Oh I mostly thank Him for life.  To be alive is so amazing, you know?  He tells me I am His.

Yea, son I know.  I know.  But I needed to be reminded again.

Anders:  Okay, I have to ask you something really serious.  The God of the Universe is sitting right next to you so you have to tell me the truth.  Does the tooth-fairy really exist?

Me:  Well, what if I told you I became the tooth-fairy?

Anders starts laughing so hard he can hardly breathe.  Between his howling I manage to understand that he is imagining me in a tu-tu with wings, a wand and fairy dust.  The vision of this for some reason is hilarious.  I suppose it doesn’t exactly fit my personality.

Anders:  So you are telling me it is you.  And if it is you or Dad then sometimes you must forget, huh?  I mean one time I had a tooth under my pillow until it rotted away!  That got me thinking!  That just was wrong!

Me: Opps.  Sometimes we forget or we don’t happen to have cash or coins.  You know, the tooth-fairy needs to get more work or she’s on vacation.

Anders:  Hhmp.  It wouldn’t hurt to make a note to herself.  So, it’s you but I still like to pretend.  Is it okay to pretend this?

Me:  I think so.  I think when we imagine things like this when we are children it helps us to believe more as we grow older in a God we can’t see though we see the effects all around us of His presence.

Anders:  So believing in the tooth-fairy builds your faith!

Me: ( laughing) You might say that, but you know what I mean.  Remember I told you before how the older CS Lewis got the more he read fairy tales   The beauty, the mystery, the battles of good and evil led him more and more to the greatest most truest tale, the story of God.  All good stories are His and our imaginations are holy.

Anders:  I like that.  I still think I’d like to see you in wings with a wand!

And he laughs again hysterically all the way home and when we arrive there he runs out and around to open my door and gives me a hug and a kiss on my cheek.

Then he takes my hand and leads me into the house.

Molting.

I have often thought that marriage is the laboratory where the sufficiency of God is put to the test; it is no less true for mothering. I can either cooperate with this grace, or I can resist it and spit at the dumb-founding significance of the beautiful bloody cross.  All this truth rattled me today and I stood at a crossroads, yet again.    

You see I raised my voice at my oldest son this morning. That sounds too sanitary. Surely you mothers will see right through that!  I screamed. Long and loud. It was out of frustration with our dear oldest son whom, instead of getting ready for class that started five minutes ago and which was a twenty-minute drive away, was pestering his younger brother in the mudroom, oblivious yet again to all time and space.  It had been a long week with our beloved ten-year old. Last week I had found he and his brother on a nearby roof playing cards during recess! He claimed that he was pondering how air changed at different heights and wanted to see for himself.  It took 45 minutes to get our 5-year old down without injury. Earlier that day he had scaled down the side of the house to practice a fire escape out the window.  With his brother again. A low window, but still ( confession: I put my own mother through many similiar antics).  When asked to finish his math yesterday and do nothing else, I found him trying to roast an apple over a scented candle I had placed on the table.  Distractibility and inattention are typical among boys this age, but it seems that my boy can really dwell in this land of la-la.  In case you think we let him thrive in this excessive creativity, no worries.  We are firm in our belief that now is the time to discipline and train. Must we all learn law before grace?  Truly, “folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” 

With a diarrhea baby girl and another boy with a hacking cough and being weary myself from a night of long dreams, I simply was in no mood this morning to have to give minute-by-minute reminders to a fourth-grader. I stuck arrows in my own child and he climbed into the mini-van rightfully convicted but wrongfully condemned.  Last evening he’d been excited about his oral presentation on crustaceans he was to give today. Now it seemed like he wanted to molt himself and scamper away, suddenly made new.  I drove off feeling rather tough and crusted over myself. It was as things were, but not how they are meant to stay.

Fast forward to later this afternoon, classes done, younger ones down for a nap and he and I alone on the couch.  All morning I had been in the posture of communication with the Spirit, this One I had not treated so well by both grieving and quenching the transforming power at work within me. I confessed that indeed I had spewed forth garbage and I allowed the forgiveness to wash over me. Our God is One who can make all things new and can reclaim with beauty and force any ground we give away.  The negativity we speak against ourselves only slows this process. I am learning to make it a practice not to go there.  I want to operate out of the humility that acknowledges that I fail, but in my failures are places for redemption to fall out like ribbons of life-lines to those around me.  I cannot extend the grace if I don’t receive the grace. 

And so we talked. Not too long, but directly to the heart of things. We mutually confessed as proper, he spoke of his heart and let me look through his eyes to where he is now as this boy-getting-ready-to emerge-as-a-man stage. I offered words of assurance and hope.  We reflected on the fact that who we are is not in what we have or in what we do; true identity is in who He sees us to be.   Oh, we His children ought to hold our heads high, I told him, for all the benefits we have in all He is! 

We recalled what he and Benjamin had read just last week about when we fail, to never lie down and quit but to restorereconcile, rebuild and get up!  He smiled and sat back, basking in the goodness of my now gentle and true words. I know the bridge to his childhood will, in not so many years, give way and he’ll feel rather hollow inside for awhile until he finds his new bearings. It is the way with all of us. 

He wrapped his strong and stringy arms around my neck and hugged me while we prayed. My boy-child  for now.  And me, his mother. We are both ever-molting. It is all grace.

By the way, the chapters in my book I go back to the most (we write to remind ourselves lest we forget the revealed truth) are chapters 11 & 18  (Practicing Simplicity: One True Word and The Space between Us: Guilt Crucified). 

“Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: When I fall, I shall arise [emerge]…” – Micah 7:8

What Is That To You?

Nothing undermines and deflates our growth as women, our relationship with God, our marital joy and our vision in mothering as much as falling into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Consider this a personal confession.  

Several weeks ago a young woman asked me how to stay focused each day with energy, passion and purpose. I replied, ” Know your race well and know where you are going.”  When I was a girl, I was a runner. Competing in races offered a tangible way to know my areas of athletic strength and weakness, identify my opponents, the particular terrain and to visualize the finish line. It presented the opportunity of intentionality, the thrill of challenge and the hope of victory.  My legs were brilliant white strings; that’s what I was given to work with. It was a temptation to envy the girls with short, muscular and bronzed legs.  As much as I fought the reality, I am built for a certain type of race.

We each are.

In my book I wrote, “The ageless and universal metaphor of the race and the inevitable prerequisite of training are made tangible.  We can see it lived out before our eyes, and it evokes the fresh resurrection of the truth we all know deep within; every one of us was created for a race. We were made to follow, to train, to become fit to go forward and make history, clearing the way for the generations. When we lose this focus, we swim around in nonsensical ways and something within us slowly dies. We live as though we have no vision, as though our unique race is too small and too short to mean anything.”  (p. 82-83)

Nothing distracts us more in our race than playing the comparison game. We become immobilized and unable to forge ahead, fearful to act, second-guessing ourselves and constantly seeking validation. Our idols are exposed. We feel “behind” or cheated or clueless.  I could give a lengthly list that would detail what my race entails. Add to all this the particular culture of our family, the melding of our personalities, giftings, struggles, passions, experiences, assets and desires.   I know well my race.  And I know we are a wonderous creation in all our brokeness and glory. God sees our race full of exquisite and eternal meaning, a testimony to His ability to create each one unlike the other.

How often do we compare ourselves to others who aren’t even in the race that we are in? Frequently those around us are living with completely different sets of values and goals, obstacles and challenges from our own, but yet when we look over and see them “getting ahead”  or “lagging behind” in some way we get frustrated or envious.  When we compare ourselves with others we easily make judgements. We assess with such a limited perspective of the bigger picture that our comparisons are fundamentally flawed. How I long for the day that all our races will be made clear! For now, I am convinced they matter and I am determined that I will run it with all that is within me, for in heaven the chance will be gone. It is now that I have the oppourtunity to live and love in imperfection. As the German poet Rilke penned, “I want to love the things as no one has ever thought to love them, until they are ripe and worthy of You.”

There is a reason the apostle Paul admonished us to “fix our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith” and the prophet Isiah promised us “He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee”. In John 21 the disciples are having breakfast with Jesus by the sea. He describes the way by which Peter will die. Peter, not recognizing this, turns around and points to another disciple and says, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  My friend Wendy has accurately written, “Am I wrong to understand in this an implication that Jesus is saying, “Whatever I require of someone else, what is that to you? This is what I ask of you. So you follow Me.”

Jesus has asked you to run after him and immerse yourselves in His depths.  He requires that you pay no heed to the race He has set out before others, except to cheer them on in the variety of ways that demands. No doubt that often requires rebuke or compassion, but don’t stop your run. Races only work if everybody is running. The great cloud of witnesses needs a moving race to keep cheering!  What is your race and where are you going?   What are your strengths and weaknesses, who are your opponents, what are your challenges and obstacles and what is your destination?

Know your race well and know where you are going. Run! Your race is beautiful.

 

 

 

God Asks Us to be Risk-Takers.

Are you willing to risk it all for the purposes God is summoning you to? Will you allow his perfect love to so fill you that there simply is not an inch for fear to creep in, poisoning your confidence in who he is and what he has said he will do?  Would you gather up courage to move forward in faith even though there are no guarantees?  The life and teachings of Jesus never herald a cautious way of living.  He does not purpose us to live in safe restriction, rather he longs that we walk in abundant liberation.  He wants us to live and love with flamboyance pouring ourselves out, not clutching our thin souls in self-protection.  This is one of the things I love most dearly about him; he beckons us to run to him with utter abandonment.  What we find in the immersion is that the water is fine, utterly freeing.

There is a woman I know, I mother I wrote about in my book who lives like this.  I know she goes through the questions and frailty as much as any of us, but those do not have the longest victory in her life; truth reigns.  I’m moved again by her latest long obedience.  Cheering for her and her precious family, I see again more of who God is.  He loves me like he loves this precious new baby of theirs.  Her family is screaming all of our stories yet again. We are all abandoned orphans but our father came back for us.  Let him reclaim and release you, as you read her family’s story. You belong, you are wanted, you have a home.

“When we left the US mid-March our hearts were full of sadness and confusion over the failed Frozen Embryo Transfer.  For the past few months we have been praying that God would clearly show us what he wanted next for our family.  When we returned to Uganda our hearts were again touched by the amount of orphans and the suffering that they endure.  Our hearts grieved and we knew that God was giving us the desire and courage to adopt from Uganda again. 

We spoke to the director of the local children’ shelter where we got our little son from and told her that we were interested in adopting another child.  After that conversation we began praying that God would clearly direct her to the child He wanted for us.  We asked that He would give her wisdom and guide her to the child that was to be ours.  We waited.  We watched many children come in and out of this place and wondered if any of them would be ours. 

Almost 4 weeks ago, out of the blue, the director called and said that she they just received a 3 month old baby girl and she wanted to talk to us.  Tim was in Kampala, so I quickly called him and then went to the children’s shelter.  She told me the sad story of 2 attempted abortions, an attempted murder, a Muslim family, a missing mother, and an abandoned baby.  She told me that at first they weren’t going to take Zulea into Amecet but as she held her, Zulea looked up at her and smiled and she immediately thought of us.  Zulea has survived much in her precious little life and we all agree that God must have a very special plan for this little girl.

I was then brought me to meet Zulea.  Tears quietly fell and I longed for my husband to be there with me.  Tim came back from Kampala the next day and we immediately went to see Zulea.  She was perfect and truly everything that our hearts have been silently praying for.  It was all perfect, except that the birthmother was missing and therefore could not sign over her rights to us.  We need to foster Zulea for 3 years before we can adopt her (as we are doing with Moses) and there is a chance that IF the birthmother comes back and wants Zulea she can take her from us.  God was asking us to risk again

We then took 2 weeks to “investigate” the situation.  The grandfather, aunts, sisters, and local councilmen all told the same story and reassured us that the mother was not able to care for Zulea.  Zulea is her mother’s 6th child and the mother is not caring for any of them.  The grandfather simply cannot take care of another child and asked that someone adopt her.  During those 2 weeks God spoke to Tim and I separately that Zulea was ours and that God would take care of the rest.  He was giving us our hearts desire and would walk with us through whatever is to come. 

We spoke with with the director on Monday, June 14 and told her that we wanted Zulea.  We then quickly filled out the foster care application and on June 15 at 4:30pm we took home our daughter, Zulea Marie Sliedrecht.  Zulea was born on March 7, 2010 and currently weighs 8.6 lbs.  Avalien and Moses love Zulea and are so good to her. Zulea smiles whenever she sees them.  She is full of smiles, giggles and coos.  So, now our house is filled with bottles, spit-up and sleepless nights and we are loving every minute of it!

We wish that all of you could meet her!  She is a true gift from God.”

Resources We Like.

The below information provided is to answer some recent questions I have had about some favorite resources our family uses throughout the year in terms of spiritual formation and developing a passion for the nations.  Please comment in and share some of yours! I don’t usually get so nitty-gritty in these details here…

Books:

YWAM Heros of the Faith and Heroes of History Series; historical fiction by GA Henty; grade-level reading guide from Classical Academic Press; Jr. Great Books Anthology; The Usborne Book of World History; The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia; A Child’s History of the World; A Child’s Geography of the World; Window of the World: Kid’s Prayer Guidebook for the Nations; God’s Little Devotional Book for Boys; Five-Minute Devotions for Children (based on animals); Understanding the Faith-Doctrine for Kids; Biblical Studies Curriculum for Children from Classical Academic Press; The Mission-Minded Child; The Mission-Minded Family (both through my publisher, Authentic); The Story of the World; The Dangerous Book for Boys; Harp & Laurel Wreath (poetry for all ages); The Victor Journey through the Bible; Apologia Science; Operation World; En-Gedi Resource Center (can’t get enough of the Jewish roots of our faith); God’s Global Mosaic; Let the Nations be Glad; The Well-Educated Mind, World Magazine and more.

Audio:

Radio Theatre: The Chronicles of Narnia; selections from Great Hall Productions, Inc.; Jungle Jam; Geography Songs–Sing Around the World; NIV Kids’s Club (download all four CDs for $6-best way I have gotten scripture in my boys’ heads).  We have a fondness for Patsy Kline, Sara Groves, Trisha Yearwood, Tito Puente, Sting, Norah Jones, U2, Steven Curtis Chapman, Phil Collins, Rich Mullins,  Nichole Nordeman, Sarah McLaughlin, Andrea Bocceli, Placido Domingo and classical music. 

Visual:

Yes, you might call us weird but we don’t watch TV; we don’t like the intrusion and we are not exactly fans of pop-culture.  Call us irelevant. Oh no. But we are real and we do believe in the other “r” buzz word of redemption. Our house is too full of books and projects and people with enough stories of reality and a loud baby… Ben and I order movies, especially foreign films and documentaries. We have family pasta and movie night every Fri. night and stick to classics (I am drawing a blank here, but I search through netflix), science stuff the boys like and documentaries about other countries. 

Happy reading, listening and watching.  The world is so full…

~Angela

 

~Angela

For All the Mothers: An Excerpt.

This is an excerpt from the epilogue of my book, shared in honor of the women whose lives have been transformed through the practice of motherhood.  May this gift of words enlarge the  beautiful vision of your most holy endeavor. 

Happy Mother’s Day.  ~Angela 

Several years ago, Ben and I attended a wedding reception. In a gorgeous glass atrium flooded with light and flowers, the black-tuxedoed groom rose from his seat, waiting for his mother.  She walked down the candlelit isle in the midst of the sound of clanking glasses and soft murmurs.  The room grew silent as the son waited and the mother walked to meet him. 

I wondered if she was thinking of that moment when she first felt the movement of his life within her, first saw his face, or of the wee mornings when he pattered into her room to snuggle with her.  Perhaps she remembered all those rocks she had to take out of his pockets before doing the laundry, the first time he read aloud to her, or her delight when he discovered his interests and abilities.  Maybe it was the years their relationship was tested through the fires of adolescence or when she noticed that he now had eyes for another woman.  Was she remembering herself on her long prayer walks for him and times of listening to the Spirit about how to best partner with God in his growth?  When did she know that because of his life her was so much richer?

God’s gift to her of a son was not just of having a child, but also of having more of Christ.  Now, he stood as not only her son, but also her brother.  She was probably not the same mother that she was all those years ago for she was a woman who had grown while he grew; and they both had been going from glory to glory.  Those moments together on the dance floor as woman and mother, man and son, were more than mere sentiment.  And the dance was to stand for more than a sweet photograph.  They were a symbol of the movement of all the beliefs, all the practices, all the intentions that God has created for all of our spiritual and eternal transformations.  The son led her out to the wooden dance floor, and they moved under the flickering silver ball to the crooning of “What a Wonderful World.”

I thought of my own two sons and all the times we have spun around together through the kitchen and into the living room.  Their hands in mind, their legs wrapped around my hips, twirling, laughing and singing together.  I thought of you, you women of the nations whom God is so passionate toward in his obsessive love. 

You who have chosen to run into Water, all the truth about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will be your three-pronged crown.  The enduring exquisite church, the esteeming love of Jesus, the reality of the unseen battle, the source of your significance–it will all be a part of your countenance.  You will know what you believe, for you have devoted yourself to possessing revelation and understanding.  Your immersion into Jesus resulted in your contemplative wonder, intercessory prayer, and the very rest of God.  It will be evident that your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, your life being flamboyantly poured out to others because of how much you have been truly loved.  You will be a woman who has kept short accounts and is acquainted well with not only lament and waiting but also forgiveness and mercy.  Your days have been your worship, your wisdom surer than a fleeting horse, and your gratitude for all that is will be your defining feature.  You will have lived out your beliefs with great courage and intellect.  Your guilt is washed away, your imperfections irrelevant, your vision unwavering, and your hope of heaven sure.  You will have been an intentional, intelligent, and heartfelt woman and mother, rejecting stagnancy.  The generations to come, the very nations, will never be the same.

Yes, someday we might dance with our sons, our brothers, and stand beside our daughters, our sisters, who rise to meet the world before them.  It will not at all be the end, but a new beginning as we all will still be running, running into Water.  And one day, we will attend together the wedding we each have been preparing for for our whole lives…

 

My mom and I.  Yes, I am really tall.  Especially in heels.

New Documentary to Expose “Blood Money” from Abortion Industry

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2009 / 06:33 pm (CNA).- An upcoming pro-life documentary named “Blood Money” aims to shake the viewer “to the very core” and expose the “inconvenient truth” about the money involved in the abortion industry. The documentary interviews pro-life leaders, former abortionists, and women who have been harmed by abortion.

One of the interviewees featured in the movie trailer, Carol Everett, was a part owner of several abortion clinics in the Dallas area who has repented of her involvement in abortion.

In the Blood Money trailer she talks of the unsavory practices her clinics were involved in.

Our goal was three to five abortions from every girl from the ages 13 to 18,” she says.

Everett describes a plan to “sell abortions” by using sex education to “break down” the natural modesty of children, separate them from their parents and their values, and establish the abortion provider as the sex expert in young people’s lives.

“So they would turn to us when we would give them a low-dose birth control pill they would get pregnant on, or a defective condom,” she says.

Later in the trailer she remarks: “I recognized that I’d been involved in the deaths of over 35,000 babies.”

The film is being directed by David Kyle. Its executive producer is John Zipp.

Speaking in a Tuesday e-mail interview, Kyle told CNA that the message of Blood Money is that abortion “destroys lives.”

“Not only that of the baby, but of the mother, father and families that have to deal with the consequences of what is sold to them as a quick fix. We then tie in the monetary gains that are being made in the name of helping women. This is an industry that when the product proves to be defective, you don’t get a refund.”

He explained that the business of abortion was not the filmmakers’ initial focus.

“The original title of the film was going to be ‘The American Holocaust’.  We had set out to present the truth about abortion, from the destruction of the human being, to the effect it has on the women that make the choice to abort,” he said.

During interviews, the “monetary aspects” of the abortion industry kept repeatedly surfacing.

“So while we still cover in part some of our original idea we honed in on the money that is made on the slaughter of the unborn,” he explained.

He and John Zipp had first developed the concept in 2004 because they felt that no one else was talking about the nature and effects of abortion.

“It does come up at election time or when there is opening on the Court, but only in general terms. We believed that the mass media doesn’t want to go into details because they know if they did, more people would oppose it.”

Kyle and Zipp thought a documentary would be the best way to reach a large audience and to force a conversation on abortion.

He explained that most of the film is testimony of individuals involved in the abortion industry like Everett or former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, or those who have been harmed by their abortion decision.

Pro-life leaders like Norma McCorvey, Fr. Frank Pavone, Dr. Alveda King, and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer were interviewed for the documentary and have at least one appearance in the film.

Kyle explained that he had no background in film, describing Blood Money’s development as a “crash course” in filmmaking. The filmmakers hired a professional director of photography, Jeff Butler of Cabin One Productions, to do the camera work. They also brought Roman Jaquez on board to edit and improve the film.

Asked about his decision to use the documentary genre Kyle said, “I think pro-lifers underuse filmmaking period.” In fact, Kyle said he could only name “The Silent Scream” as another pro-life documentary that he has seen.

Listing aspects of abortion that should be covered in future documentaries, he named the humanity of the baby, the harm abortion does to women and the sale of parts from aborted babies’ remains.

“Film is a way to reach a wide audience with the values you want to pass on. If they are done with an eye on quality I believe people would go and see them and could compete with the liberal attitude of Hollywood,” he stated.

Kyle told CNA the makers of “Blood Money” are planning at least one follow-up film focusing on the women interviewed for the documentary.

“We have so much compelling testimony that did not make it in this film,” he said.

“Blood Money” has no scheduled release date, since the filmmakers still need to find a distribution company that will “take the chance on something this controversial.” He said some distributors are interested in seeing the film upon its completion, which Kyle predicted would come at the end of September.

Redemption Is Coming.

My sister, another lover of the nations, called me  just moments after news of the earthquake rocked  Haiti yesterday:  “Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather.”

I wept at this.  And I pulled my children close.  I cannot imagine…

The age-old question of how a loving God could allow such a horrific thing rears its head again.  We cannot help but ask; we cannot help but to be deeply unsettled for we know this is not how it should be.  Nor can we forget that Satan may have had a role here. We attribute God for every calamity that occurs, but the the Word also tells us that Satan can cause natural disasters as well. It’s part of why he is called “The Prince of Power of The Air.”…  The ancient battle continues.

But redemption is coming.

Jesus spoke of the events that would happen prior to his second coming:

“Luke 21:25-28 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

I keep looking up. 

 

Follow these missionary blogs in Haiti–they will give insight on how to best pray and help: http://www.livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/    http://heartlineministries.org/Blog20.aspx  and  http://www.jarodandjennifer.com/blog 

I Am Here.

My new daughter cries in the middle of the night; she is hungry and needs the nourishment only I, her mother can give.  My presence always comes to her before the milk as I whisper “Mama is here, Mama’s here”.  She screams in the car seat the entire time we go from point A to point B; she feels alone and to her it seems as if we are going nowhere.  She knows not my presence in the driver’s seat.  If only she would hush her wails she would hear me saying, “Mama’s here. I am here.” 

 My preschooler does not know how proudly I peer out of the kitchen window as I cook, watching him riding his bike around and around the driveway.  I see that his curve was too sharp and I know he will fall, so I turn to run before he knows how much I am needed.  He falls hard and cries as if no one will save him.  I run out the door and scoop him up in my arms, wipe his tears and instinctively soothe him with the words that come from somewhere so deep within, “I am here, Mama’s here.”

My nine-year old is proud to run the half-mile race.  I see him searching for my face in the crowd.  His eyes find mine and I mouth those words again, “I am here.”  He grins and runs with the confidence one has when they know they are not alone and that their race matters.

These thoughts come to me in the flicker of white lights as at it is nearly Christmas again.  Coming from Scandinavian descent, my little family and I celebrate Swedish-style. I dress as Santa Lucia with a candlelit crown adorning my head, bringing sweet saffron rolls with egg coffee.  The boys set their shoes outside Christmas Eve in hopes the nordic troll will fill them with goodies; and a bowl of rice pudding  is set on the bench for the Christmas goat to devour.  Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce for dinner and delicate rosettes for dessert are ready for us after the fun of gift-giving is over.

My husband and I, with our three children bring forth the splendor of our ancestral nation on that day.  We wave the flag out of this melting pot and recall where our roots began, the land where the name of Christ, the felt presence of God first took root in our family line.  It’s a leaning back of sort to the far end of the present globalization we live in now.

We tend to want to move to the front end of things; those things that glitter and speak of newness.  But Christmas calls us back from it all.   We willingly, on that 25th day of December, go back to the furthest end from where we find ourselves now– that simple and profound day thousands of years ago when a boy was born to a teenage mother and a God proved he would not leave us to ourselves or to the bonds of the oppressor.  The harried world of the day perceived him as unnecessary and irrelevant; now we know him to be the most necessary and relevant One that has ever walked this earth.

He is the coming-down God who did hear and still hears us all crying and hungry.  He could no more stay away from his own than I can from my babies and you from yours.  He could no more disconnect his presence from the provision than any mother could.

My oldest son has asked me what the face of God looks like.  I told him the first glimpse of his features came on Christmas, for Jesus said that anyone who has seen him, how  he lived, how he treated people and what he taught, has seen the face of God (Jn. 14:9). The light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), for in Jesus all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9).

We cry for help to sustain our human needs, not ever sensing the Spirit of God’s brooding presence.

We wail and dissolve into heaviness and fear when the road is too long and the bumps too hard.  If we would just be still we would hear, “God is here, I am here.”

We finally can ride free and clear when suddenly the potholes knock the wind out of us; we never saw it coming.  And the all-seeing God whispers again, “I am here, God is here.”

We marry our sweethearts, bear or adopt our children, write that book, make that speech, get on that plane, chose a new path, start that business, persevere through the drought of unemployment and we look around to find the Face that proves there is validity in what we have done; it was not gold-covered straw but gold indeed.

All of this is Christmas to me, best recalled in the needs of my children and the God-like love of their mother who wants nothing more than to be with them.  Just another woman who wants to see her own rest in her small presence so they someday might learn to rest in God’s great one.

Shhh…He has whispered, oh He has roared through the lips of Christ throughout all the nations and all time, “God’s here, the great I AM is here.  Jesus, Immanuel, . . . God with you (Is. 7:4)!”