Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Thankfulness in Suffering

I started my New Year's resolution of reading through my Bible early thinking it was the only chance I had of actually accomplishing it...this time! I have a wonderful One Year Chronological Bible that places everything, well chronologically! I got to Job than I got stuck! I just didn't understand everything I thought I knew about the Book of Job. I thought Job was considered righteous but I was pretty sure there was some complaining in there. I was confused about what was wrong with what Job's friends said to him and why God rebuked them. I could tell that they weren't gentle in their approach but come on they sat with the guy for seven days and seven night before they said a word. That was more than Job's wife had given him! Anyway, I was stuck and determined to understand it better. Pastor Ritch directed me to Pastor John Piper's Desiring God website. Aaahhh, there I found a 5 sermon series on Job. I'm so grateful for Bible teachers! Anyway, the point of all this info is to share something that I think I knew but finally accepted today.

One of the advantages of excellent Bible teaching is that we have a wealth of Bible knowledge in our heads. However, I think sometimes we confuse the knowledge with acceptance. For instance, I know that God is sovereign. I know that He loves me. I know that all He does is good for me and His glory. But do I really accept it? And even more importantly am I grateful for it? Today, God's word snuck past my brain and crept into my heart . Today, I realized that my response to God through our year of struggling has been much like Job. I accept that God is who He is. I'm grateful that He is who He is actually. But I have resolved to get though because He is God and I resolve to trust Him. I don't think that is a necessarily bad approach. It seems much better than shaking my fist at Him. The problem is it only begins to scratch the surface of what God desires from me. Resolve is not the same as gratitude.

John Piper wrote about the type of sanctification that can only come through suffering. The walls of pride and self righteousness that can only be broken when we are humble and completely dependent on God. I started to reflect on the spiritual growth I have seen in my home this year. The stirrings of spiritual understanding my older children are expressing. The continued child like trust my younger children have despite the worldly stress that knocks on our door. I have seen my husband grow in ways I never imagined. I have seen him broken and yet striving for God. I have seen a dependence on our friends, family and church that has caused us to accept their love in a much deeper way. In myself, I have seen God develop a more consistent walk and hunger for Him. One that is not dependent on being stressed out and dependent but one that seeks because I actually desire Him. As I contemplated all this I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I mean overwhelmed! My heart started singing and I started thanking God for all of it! Thank You for the secretary that steals. Thank You for the lost business. Thank You for the opportunity to work outside of the home. Thank You for the crazy homeschooling schedule. Thank You for the brokenness. Thank you for the desperation. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

I'm so thankful to my Lord that not only loves me enough to allow me to suffer but continually reveals Himself to me. I will never understand the depth of His love but my prayer is that I will never take it for granted. All the times, I might perceive He is tearing down, He is actually building up. All the times, I might believe He is silent, He is actually speaking to me in a way that transforms. Today, I feel 50 pounds lighter because has brought me to a place of not only being willing to carry a burden but to be grateful for it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Crescendo of God

In the Old Testament they have a tradition of leaving a pile of rocks as a monument in a place where God has done something amazing. Something were He displayed His power, mercy, strength, justice or love to His people. I may have to leave a pile of rocks next to my bed.

We have had a tough year. This fall, we learned that John's secretary of 10 years was stealing from him as well as from a client's account. As a result, we lost a substantial amount of fixed income. More importantly, it has shaken my husband to the core of who he is. His confidence in himself and those around him has been damaged. We have had to humble ourselves in ways that have been challenging.

Through the majority of it all I have felt that my years of Bible study had been paying off. I was focused on what God might be teaching us and attempting to encourage John however I could. However, last week I reached a breaking point. I can't even remember what set me off but I finally reached the end of myself. I went to my bedroom, got down on my knees and wept in a way I haven't done in a long time. Earlier in the week we had gone to Good News Club where we showed the kids a video about Jesus' life. The scene where the blind man desperately wanted to see made such an impression on me. All he did was touch the cloak of Christ and it was enough. While I was weeping, I begged for "just a touch". I desperately wanted to be in the same place, the same time as my Savior. I wanted the comfort of knowing that His power surrounded me and I begged forgiveness for being so limited in my faith that I needed to physically have Him "walk by" for me to be able to persevere. I yearned to be in the crowd and just reach out and touch Him. I don't know if any of this makes sense but this is where I found myself. After my melt down, I felt better. I had told God exactly where I was and we both survived. I thanked Him for loving me even when I'm a mess and went back to my life. The release felt good and I believed my prayers had been answered. God still was who He said He was and I still trusted Him. Venting just helped me refocus on Him instead of on our circumstances. It was sufficient. But God had more in store for me.

It wasn't enough for Him that I had come to the end of myself. It wasn't enough that I felt clarity and focus after our heart to heart. It wasn't enough that I recognized that He is God and His sovereignty was sufficient. He also wanted me to know so much more. He wanted me to experience His provision. He wanted me to be certain of His fatherly love. He wanted me to claim "what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge..."(Eph. 3:19) He wanted me certain that He doesn't mess around. I thought my "knee time" was the crescendo of a difficult year. It was actually just the interlude.

This is how God responded. In the matter of less than 10 days God has showered me with blessings. It started when we met with Bethany's orphan ministry as part of a process to receive financial assistance to complete Austin's adoption. It was something I had been dreading and avoiding. It seems silly now because it was a time of encouragement, honesty and acceptance. Then I opened the mail to discover a financial gift from John's sister and husband. I was speechless and overcome with gratitude. Those two events combined would have been enough to encourage me but God had more. We then had the privilege of meeting with the leaders of our new Sunday school class. It was an answer to prayer for me to see men come along side John and encourage him in a significant way. Then for whatever reason, I forgot to get the mail on Sat. I remembered it tonight after a great day of worshiping, learning and bonding with a sister in Christ. In my mail I found a letter of encouragement from our Sunday school teacher and another envelope with an anonymous note saying "We love you guys" with money enclosed. I wept again! Just being able to fall on my knees and talk to God was sufficient. I was fine when I was done. But God chose to shower us with His love. I don't know how He prompted the chain of events and the timing but I'm completely overwhelmed. He is just NEVER, NEVER, NEVER done with us! At the moments when we feel like we can't take another step He carries us. I don't have words to explain what God has taught me this week. For many of my years knowing Him, I have struggled with the reality that although I'm confident in my faith of what He has done for me on the cross, I still have a fear of trusting Him completely because of what might be required to refine me. I have recognized Him as a Sovereign Creator, Savior and Lord but now I feel like I also understand a bit of the Abba Father. Some might say it is just coincidence. They might say that people who cared saw us struggling and reached out to help. But I know better. I know that the God who knows the number of hairs on my head walked by and I didn't even need to touch His cloak. Thank you, Father.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No one said it would be easy!

I had an epiphany this week! Now that I have analyzed it a bit I've discover how slow I am. It was a "duhhhhh" moment! Any mom you talk to no matter what stage they are at will tell you that it is so frustrating to have to repeat yourself over and over again. How many times is it necessary to tell your child, "Chew with your mouth closed", "Look before you run out in the street", "Don't hit your brother"...? It could go on and on. And yet, ever time I have to repeat myself, I'm frustrated, exacerbated and put out! Last week, God revealed to me that "This is it"! This IS what we call parenting! Yes we have to do it over and over again. Day in and Day out. Repeatedly, consistently and on and on! We are not alone. All the parents around us are doing the same thing. I was thinking about when I'm worried about a child's illness. I go to the Dr. They explain it to me and I feel calm. I know how to go forth and handle the situation. Somehow it makes me feel better to know that everything is normal and will pass. I realize now that I need to take the little daily frustrations and put them in perspective. THIS IS IT! THIS IS PARENTING! THIS IS NORMAL! My kids aren't rotten. My parenting is completely flawed. It just is what it is. Then the humbling moment came. God asked me, "Why do you make me repeat Myself?". Ouch! Is there anything that will help us be compassionate parents more than realizing God's love and patience towards us? Sometimes I wonder if the reason we get so frustrated when our kids expose their sin nature is because it exposes a bit of ours as well. Maybe the reason we can recognize theirs is because it is VERY familiar to us! Anyway, I feel better knowing that constant repetition is normal. Kids forget. We remind them. I'm making a choice to just write it down as part of my job description and plow on. I'm praying that God will show me how to extend the grace to my kids that He has so lavishly supplied to me. Can you hear Him repeating Himself...."I love you. I love you. I love you."?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday update from Hams

Sorry it has been so long since we've had time to update. Our days here have been very full!

We are very emotionally spent. What we have seen and heard has definitely changed's hard to explain the heartache we have felt for so many of the people here. I can't help but cry now as I even think of it. Last night Sammy, a wonderful young Christian man that drives/translates here for our guest house took us over by Kora, the leper colony. Sammy (and also his friend that accompanied us) grew up there and mostly lived at the nearby city garbage dump because they were so poor that was where they got their food. We went to the dump...........Sammy knows all the people who live there now because he tries to minister to all of them. Just these huge massive mountains of filth and garbage............... some piles are burned as they are dumped and the stench was more than I could bear! There were mothers living there with babies strapped on their backs.........there are pigs and dogs that live there, too. All the children there had on two different shoes on.......whatever they find in the piles of garbage. It's just hard to process it hard to believe people really live like this and children grow up digging for scraps of food in a garbage dump.

Over the weekend, it was arranged for us to go and visit Leku, 5 hours south of the city where Hana's birth family lives. Hana's birth mom had been brought into the city to meet us, and so we were given the option of going with them to take her back home. She is just the most beautiful Christian woman who is very, very destitute. Actually, the entire community she lives in is very poor. She attends a protestant church in her community and her faith is very strong. She told us she had been praying for a long time that a wonderful Christian family would adopt Hana. She was so happy to be able to meet us. It was such a huge blessing to all of us to be able to meet together! I really feel like the details of our meeting were ordained by God. But also, it was one of the most difficult things emotionally. Eric and I just wept and so did all of her family as we said goodbye. Meseret, Hana's mom, and her older brother and sister all live in a very small little dirt floor room ( maybe 6 x 8 ft?) with a small grass filled mattress on the floor where they all sleep. Everything they own is in a little corner of that room. The walls and ceiling have large holes everywhere so there is no shelter from the rain. This is where Hana lived before her mother brought her to the orphanage. It was so much to take in emotionally.........I felt like I was going to break in two from the pain of seeing it. We also met Hana's aunt, Meseret's sister, and her children and husband. Please pray for them. They hugged us and didn't want to let go as we wept. We were able to take Meseret to the local store to get some groceries for her family............mostly dried beans, rice, and corn and some spices. As diffiult as all of this was, we feel SO very blessed to have had this time. It was priceless!

Today we have our Embassy appointment and we'll be bringing the kids back to stay with us for good tonight. We've really enjoyed getting to vist them twice and spend time with them. Edilu, I think will be a fairly easy transition.......he is such a sweetie. Hana has done pretty well. She's taken to Eric and I pretty well, but for SOME reason she is not so sure about Caleb. Poor Caleb keeps trying........but she doesn't really want anything to do with him. Hopefully it's short lived! They told us she gets homesick sometimes and can be a little bit sensitive. I think with time she'll be just fine, but she has so much to process. She is old enough to remember her mother and brother and sister. She's been moved to different orphanges 3 times........ I think I would be feeling much the same as she is . Confused, sad and wondering if THESE people (us) are going to go away after a while, too, just like all the others do. Please pray for her little heart. I can see sadness in her eyes and I can tell she is thinking/remembering.

That's all for now. Love to you all! Nancie

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday update from the Hams! (Read Thursday's first!)

Today was quite a day! We were SOOOO happy to be able to spend a few hours next to Hana's birth mom at Tikuret orphanage (where Hana spent about 8 months before she was moved in January to the care center). Definitely an emotional time, but SO SO wonderful to have the chance to meet and speak with her. She was so happy to learn we were Christians and said she has been praying for a good Christian family for Hana and was thrilled to meet us. We learned so much more about the family situation and see clearly that she loves Hana with all her heart, but only wanted a much better life for her. We of course will share many more details when we see you all. It was just a precious time, even for Caleb who spoke up all on his own to tell her we will always be praying for her and that we will love and take such good care of Hana. She loved hearing those words from the boy who is to be Hana's older seemed to mean a lot to her. Tikuret also planned a special coffee ceremony and lunch ( I'm trying to like ET's interesting). Unfortunately we weren't able to get hardly any video of Hana's mom b/c the battery had gone dead. But we did get several pictures, and those will be priceless.

Tomorrow morning we are going to go meet Hana and Edilu at the care center and spend a little bit of time with them. In the afternoon, Tikuret has arranged for us to go South to the area Hana is from, and it sounds like we may have the opportunity to go with them as they take Meseret (her mother) home and to see where they live. From what she told us, she and her other two children are renting out a corner of a kitchen. Hopefully we will get the chance to meet the older siblings and see where Hana lived before being brought to the orphanage. We'll be spending the night about 5 hours from the city for tomorrow night if everything goes as planned, and then we'll drive back home Sunday morning I think.

Please continue to pray that our health will hold out for the remainder of the trip. We both had bad headaches when we woke up this morning and just felt a little icky. Maybe some of it is just from the huge time change on our bodies.

Won't be here tomorrow night to update, but will be back and can hopefully update you Sunday eve.


First Ham Update!

Date: Thursday, February 18, 2010, 3:32 PM

Wow! After 30+ hours of travel we are finally here and are at our guest house!!! I've actually spent 30 minutes just trying to access our blog to post an update. I will never ever complain about our internet connections being slow at home again! I gave up on the blog, but for now wanted to email you guys and let you know we arrived safe and sound. We appreciate EVERY prayer lifted up on our behalf! Everything with our flights really went well, but it truly was an exhausting trip. Caleb was especially looking VERY weary tonight, and I thought at first he had a fever. I think though, really, it is just sheer exhaustion. He's been in a fog the last several hours and hasn't had much sleep at all and is SO tired. It's REALLY hard to sleep in those airplane chairs. We're praying we'll all wake up feeling rejuvenated tomorrow!

Thankfully I had gone to that prompt care to get that antibiotic for the sinus infection before we left, because as soon as we boarded the plane from Minneapolis to head to Amsterdam yesterday, I knew I had a fever. I had had the chills all morning and just couldn't get warm, then I'd feel like I was burning up and would take all my layers off. I was really glad I had also packed a thermometer and all sorts of meds in our carry on. Today has been better, so hopefully that antibiotic is working!

It was SOOOO neat seeing the Sahara Desert and the Nile River today from our airplane window!

I know there are many more details to tell, but for tonight just wanted to let you guys know we arrived safe and sound and that all is well. Please keep praying that we will all stay fairly healthy. It seems impossible between lack of sleep, stagnant airplane air for hours on end, airplane food, etc... We are SOOO thankful that ALL of our luggage arrived with us.......hopefully we didn't forget anything major!

Tomorrow, we are HOPING to meet Hana's birth mom at the Tikuret orphanage where Hana was for 6 months. We are hopeful it will happen, and yet we know there's the possibility that she won't/can't make it into the city. Pray for wisdom for us either way. We still haven't decided for sure if we are going to try to visit the area the kids were born in. We'll keep you posted. It's looking like we'll get to meet the kids on Saturday am for the first time. Then Monday, Hana will come back to the Guest Home with us, and Tuesday Edilu will be handed over to us.

We'll keep you posted and will try again another time to post on the blog. In the meantime, Becky, can you let my parents know about this message? I'm hoping they'll get it in our inbox at home, but often times messages end up in Spam.

Love you all,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adoption and The Scouting Party

I love the way you can read the Bible and apply it to every situation in your life. Recently, I rediscovered the story of Caleb and Joshua. I can't help but compare the faith that they demonstrated to the faith that is required to pursue adoption and fostering.
Moses entrusted 12 men to go out and gather information. They were to assess the situation and report back to the tribes of Israel. Only two came back with their eyes fixed on God. How can that be after all that they had seen? Then the negative reports spread like wildfire in the camp. By the time it was done, the Israelites claimed to prefer slavery and desired to stone Caleb and Joshua. Caleb and Joshua must have been stunned. They were so fixated on God they didn't even see the enemy. They cried, "Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid."
In the midst of longing for, providing for and caring for an orphaned child how many enemies (circumstances) do we encounter? Where do we fix our eyes? Do we see the circumstances or the God of Heaven and Earth? Sometimes the circumstances are our own hearts longing to be safe. Sometimes it is a system. Sometimes it is family that hasn't yet appreciated where God might be calling you. Sometimes it is the very child that you longed for fighting against your love or worse yet, The Father's love. Sometimes we don't even see the milk and honey, only the giants that inhabit the land. How much does God have to do for us before we trust Him with all abandon? Trust despite sense, reason and facts. We spend so much time trying to protect ourselves from physical and emotional pain that we forget that is those very emotions that will drive us into Our Father's protection. I'm praying for faith like Caleb and Joshua. I'm grateful that when I don't have it, I'm surrounded by people who don't throw stones but point me back to the source of my strength and protection.