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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Defining moment.

I had one of the biggest, most critical defining moments of my life yesterday.

This actually wasn't something new.  I have heard this before.  But this time...a light bulb went on and everything was different.

I was straightening my hair and I turned music on.  It was loud and I was loving each song.

Then...a song came on that I haven't heard in a very...very long time.

But this time...something was different.  It hit me like it was God speaking directly to me.

"You Can Have Me" by Sidewalk Prophets.  

If I saw You on the street
And You said come and follow me
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams

Would I love You enough to let go
Or would my love run dry
When You asked for my life

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me


I paused it right here. I put the straightener down.  And I was completely stunned.

So...I've been very transparent about my journey with Taizi.  It's hard. I find it extremely hard.  The emotional side of the daily surrender required...feels overwhelming.  I haven't asked God "why?" but I've asked Him everything else.
 "How...?"
 "Who...?"
 "How long...?"
 "Really....?"

You know how you have said what you personally could and could not handle...? And you bless those that can handle what you can't...?  Well that's been me, my whole life...with mentally disabled children.  Love them.  They are precious. They need love and care and a lifetime of a special heart...but that's just not me.  I'm not that person.

And then God called us to Taizi. In the most crystal clear way...He called us...to him.  We knew. Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

And at first it was so unknown.  He was so unknown. His physical disabilities were so unknown.

But now...we are 2 years in and there's a lot more 'known'.

I don't know what I thought...but I never ever thought this would be our life.

Fully deaf yet so mentally disabled that teaching sign is not possible.  No communication.

Drooling. Burping.  Hitting himself.  Chewing his tongue.  Biting his tongue.  Bruises all over his ribs from jabbing himself in his ribs with his thumbs all day long.

Then, in our small house, finally finding a small break in the afternoon where we could put him in his playpen with his toys.  It's all he did downstairs in the living room so this was perfect. Just a few hours without the burping, hysterically giggling, humming noises, hitting himself, watching him rock back and forth for hours... this was just the perfect plan.  Until I went to get him and found him naked...his every piece of clothing off...his diaper off and ... yes.  Everything saturated.  And this was his new pattern.  So there was no more break.

And that was hard.  Really...really...hard.

Perhaps for you...it wouldn't be.  But I promise you...the day in and day out...drain of this is hard.

No progress.  No return of affection.  No attachment.

Just work.

Emotionally, physically...draining.  Work.

This is our life...?

Many of you have asked (well-meaning) what life will be like with Taizi in five years. In ten years.  In fifteen years.  And the very thought of that would tighten my chest and I could feel the panic.  I don't know.  Our mission has been one day at a time.

Dean and I would often talk and he would consistently said "Janice...this wasn't about Taizi.  I don't believe it ever was.  It was about you and I."

That never sat well.

Couldn't I learn these hard lessons another way...? I've learned faith in the hardest times. I've learned surrender when I couldn't see around the corner. But no end in sight...? Each day harder than the day before...?

This is really about me?  What...?

I believed it in my head. But that's as far as it went.

This was 'too far'.

'Too much'.

Going through the motions and feeling like I was dying a little bit more each day.

And then the song.


If I saw You on the street
And You said come and follow me
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams

Would I love You enough to let go
Or would my love run dry
When You asked for my life

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

Oh Janice.  Oh...Janice.  If He said I had to give up everything.  Everything I once held dear...and all of my dreams.

Would I love Him enough to let go?
Or...would my love run dry...when He asked for my life...?

Oh...this was the biggest, clearest, brightest light bulb...defining moment. Ever.

Do I love Him (Jesus) enough to let go...? Or is this too much...? Has my love for Him run dry...?

Oh...Janice.

When did my love become unmoving...?

When did my love become unconsuming...?

That's it.  This IS consuming.  This IS taking all of me.  This IS the biggest stretch in my life.  This IS that far.  It IS that much.

But I love Jesus that much.  Yes. Yes I'll give up everything.

If You’re all You claim to be
Then I’m not losing anything
So I will crawl upon my knees
Just to know the joy of suffering

I will love You enough to let go
Lord, I give you my life
I give you my life

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

I want to be where You are
I’m running into Your arms
And I will never look back
So Jesus, here is my heart

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

I'm not losing anything.  It has felt like it for two years.  That I'm giving everything.  But no...no...if Jesus is really who He claims to be...then I'm not losing anything.  I will love Him enough to let go.  

And it hit me.  This has all been about surrender.  For two years I've blogged that this journey was all about surrender.  And it was. But it was all about bringing me right here.  To this point.  To realizing...my love had become unmoving and definitely unconsuming.  

I came downstairs and everything was different.  I hugged Taizi differently. I fed him differently.  Now I'm all in.  Because it's not a negative that this feels 'hard'  'the ultimate sacrifice' and 'totally consuming'....no...it is that big. But now...now I'm willing to go that far.  

Click to listen to the song here:



Monday, November 24, 2014

A bigger tool box.

Do you look back on your life...and see pain? Like...a lot of pain?

Betrayal...?

Rejection...?

Loss...?

Pain...?

I recently went through something...painful.  As in...a lot of tears. A lot of questions.  A lot of hurt.

It was my husband who came to me with this thought: "What if pain...builds you a bigger tool box?"

Hmmm.

He then went back and reflected on our three babies that we lost early in pregnancy.  These are some of the lowest points of my life.  I still feel the knot in my stomach when we talk about it.  How can anything good come from losing your baby? Losing three of them.  No. There's nothing good in that.

Right...?

Dean reminded me how many moms that I've been able to encourage through that same loss...years later.

He then said "You'd never have that tool...had you not gone through that pain and loss."

Hmmmm.

He was a contractor for years so he kept bringing it back to construction lingo. "Everyone has a hammer, screwdriver, you know...the basics.  But when some strange pipe bursts in your house and you run out to grab this specialized tool...that you would never ever have had...had that random incident not occurred....

That tool that you don't know if you'll ever need again...

but you will.

He didn't need to go on.  I got it.

Could betrayal give you a tool that you would never ever have needed otherwise?

Could you learn forgiveness, coping, and healing from that horrible incident in your life...that you never would have had otherwise...?

Could I even let myself go to this place of truly seeing purpose in all things?

There's a line.  I do not believe that "God gave you a cheating husband so that..." No.  No He's not the giver of bad things. That's a fact.  Sin is the reason for the pain. But could He allow the pain so that we can learn the skills, acquire the tools necessary...and someday...yes....some day...you will see a greater purpose.  A need for those tools that you might even be able to say "I'm so glad I have something to help..."

Hmmm.

Instead of asking "why? Why me...?" instead of screaming "I'm done!" "I give up!" what if I really saw pain...as a way to build my tool box. Of rare, but yet...oh-so-usefull tools.  That someday...perhaps years down the road....I'll see a greater purpose for.

Hmmm.

Life is hard. Full of hard things.  Pain.  Deep...cutting...pain.  Fighting the sting of lies...gossip...forgiving over and over again...choosing to overcome when it goes against every part of your being...fighting a disease that might take your life...hard...things.

Then I saw this. You know. Just-so-happened to see this online.

Yes.  A broken life...is what can change the world.  Our brokenness we so want to run and hide from...that's what offers hope to a hurting friend.  Pain filled nights...survived...give hope to a friend going through unimaginable loss.   

Pain.

Hurt.

Loss.

Brokenness.

Healing. 

Overcoming.

Hope.

I feel...like I have a full toolbox.  I can honestly say...I don't want any more tools in there.  Yet...I have a feeling...there's more to come.  Pain can be such a powerful teacher.  If we let it be.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is He good?

Tirzah came with me yesterday. She didn't come in...but she came to the hospice center. She knew where we were and she knew what happens there.

I told her about my friend. I told her how old she was. My daughter is 11. So at first...as we all thought at 11...she said "oh, I didn't know she was that old" but then I told her that 41 is only 4 years older than Daddy. That changed everything.

She knew how many kids she has. And how old they are. She listened as I told her how sad this was.

My friend is dying of cancer.  Honestly...I should have expected what I saw...but I didn't.

My poor friend who was with me. She all but had to close my mouth for me as I stood in total shock.  I could see no resemblance of the beautiful lady I had seen not that long ago.  She looked thin. Frail. And really old.  It was heartbreaking.

Her breathing was so spaced that there were a few times my friend and I thought she had just breathed her last.  Awful. We stood there in total silence.  In awe of what cancer can do to a young, healthy, vibrant woman.

So...very...sad.

On our way home, Tirzah and I were silent.  There wasn't much to say.  I couldn't really talk. Tirzah knew I had just seen my friend and she said several times "I'm sorry, Mommy".

I looked at her and said "Tirzah...is He good...?'

There was no gap.  In fact, she whipped her head around from looking out the window and said, without hesitation..."Always Good, Mommy"

Me: "Always....?"

Tirzah: "Always.  He can't be anything else."

Me: "But she's dying. She's laying there dying."

Tirzah: "I know Mommy...but He's good."

Me: (taking this as far as I could to stretch her as much as I could) "If it was you in that bed...would He still be good....?"

Tirzah: "Oh Mommy...yes. He would still be good"

Me: "If it was me...?"

Tirzah: "Yes!"

Me: "But why would He..."

Tirzah: (she cut me off) "You know He doesn't make Cancer, right...? He doesn't give bad things"

Me: "Could he stop it though...?"

Tirzah: "Oh He could have stopped it long before it started!!"

Me: "but...He didn't"

Tirzah: "I know.  He didn't"

Me: "and if it were you in that bed..or me...or my friend. Why. Why didn't He stop it? Is there purpose in everything?"

Tirzah (At this point we had just pulled into her driveway and I'll never forget this moment...) She put her hand on the handle of the door...she looked over at me boldly and said " I don't know what His plan is...but I do know He's always good. He can't be anything else. And sometimes He says YES when we pray sometimes He doesn't. I don't understand it all but I know He's always good Mommy" and she hopped out of the van, smiled over her shoulder and skipped into the house.

Yes I was pushing her.  I was trying to see what she really believed.

I sat in the van for 5-10 more minutes. Still so sad for my friend's family. But struck with the raw faith of an 11 year old girl.  Who had just entered into the horror of that being her or her mommy in that hospital bed.

And THAT...that...faith.

Understand it...? No.

Waver in His goodness...? Not a chance.

He is always good. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great things.

A friend wrote me tonight and it got me thinking.  Thinking.   In my closet.

Thinking about that verse again in John.

Trouble.

If only we could see what God sees...then I truly believe we would see the trouble...as a gift.

Yes.   A gift.

I can still hear the pounding of the waves at the Oregon Coast.  Dean and the kids all sitting by the fire...and I walked to the ocean.  I could feel my heart skip a beat as I got closer to its roar.  Oh...the ocean holds a special place in my heart. I...can't...quite...explain it.  I can feel His presence there.

I walked close to the water and I said out loud..."It's so hard. It's so...very...hard".

And I heard Him speak.  

"Oh Janice...".  I knew it was my Father's voice. I could hear it so loud...I couldn't tell if it was audible or not.  Somehow it was louder than the roar of the ocean....yet quiet like a soft whisper that was anything but startling.

"Oh Janice...I have great things for you..."

Great things.  Did you hear that? He has great things for me...!

And then I knew there was more.  It was like I had stopped Him mid sentence and he was letting me wander off ... but there was more. So much more.

"Great sacrifice.  Great surrender.  Great reward."

Yes. Great.

I don't see sacrifice as "great" in that way.  It's GREAT as in it's huge and it's oh...so very hard.  But GREAT? That's the kind of great things You have...?

Great surrender...? Wait...haven't I already surrendered...? There's more.

Oh...so much more.

Great reward.

Yes. Great things.

My mind still goes to Jonah 2:8. When we were battling with God...about adopting Zihao 2 years ago.  "Not us. Not now. No....not us" and we were praying so desperately for clarity. And I laughed as I heard Him quietly say I was to read Jonah.  Jonah? We all know the story of Jonah!! What was He going to give me there...?

Oh...Jonah.

Jonah 2:8

Those who cling to worthless idols...forfeit the grace that could be theirs....

There's so much more He has for us in surrender. No clinging to what we feel is it....letting go and surrendering to Him.

In doing that...the "grace that could be ours"...

I don't know for sure what that is...but I do know I don't want to forfeit it.

I love verse 9.

But I, with a song of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Ahhh.

Great things.  Could His gift of 'great things' be found in the trouble...?

Hmmm.

28 days in the heart of Africa.  Losing our precious baby. The grief. The devastation. The sorrow...I still can't talk about without crying...

Great Things....Lord?

Great things.

Those 28 days changed me.  Turned me to Jesus like I never knew.  He was all I had.  And His presence was almost tangible.

Great things.

Peace. Trouble. Overcome.

He does have great things for you.  In the middle of the fire...I know all too well...it looks anything but great.  But He sees the end.  He knows how the fire can change you.  Can mold you.  Can bring you closer to Him.

Great sacrifice.  Great surrender.

But don't miss the end...great reward.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Peace. Trouble. Overcome.

I sat in our bedroom closet at the end of a long day.  I picked up my Bible and started to read.  I'm reading in John.

Oh...yes...I do sit on my closet floor each night with my Bible.  I know. Random. It used to be on the edge of our master bath...now it's the closet floor.  Whatever works.  It's quiet.  I'm alone. There are no distractions in there.  It's my spot.

John. It's familiar. I've read the Gospels dozens and dozens of times.  It's hard to read what is familiar.  My mind was skipping ahead...I would reread verses just because I was having a hard time really paying attention.

You have been there...right?  It's so familiar. We know it so well.  That...perhaps...we miss it.

I almost missed it.

John 16:33.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)

Yes.  Peace! He came to give me Peace!!

Quickly followed by "...you will have trouble."

Wait.

What did you say...?

You tell me these things so I can have peace.  And then You quickly tell me I WILL (not might...) have trouble.

Great.

This is so often what we miss.

No promises of a smooth path.  So many times we read and we see what we want to hear.  PEACE. He came that I would have PEACE.  Close my Bible and move along.

No. There's more.  In this world...you WILL have trouble.

(insert heart sinking feeling here).

But take heart.  I have overcome the world.

I get it. Maybe that's so familiar to you as well...that it's not hitting you.  Or maybe you didn't have a  day of "trouble" like I had.

Maybe you don't know a beautiful mom of 3 children...in hospice right now dying of breast cancer...begging God for Christmas miracle.

 I do.

Maybe you don't know of a young child...who's parents are fighting day and night for the strength to fight for her life...just one more day.  Just the hope of one more day.

 I do.

Maybe in the busy-ness of your life...you don't see the mom who's made mistakes she can't see how to fix.  Choices...she's vowed she would never make...in moments of despair and desperation for value...after years of being told she wasn't good enough...wasn't beautiful enough...wasn't thin enough.

 I do.

Trouble.

Peace...?

Take heart...?

I went to bed with peace. Praying for my friends to find their peace in Him tonight.

In fact...all through the night...I heard that verse over and over and over again.  It wasn't even  a quiet whisper.  It was louder than that.  It spoke right to my realist self where I needed it most.  I don't do sugar coated well.  Give it to me straight.

I will have trouble.

Not what I wanted to hear...but if that's what's ahead...let me know.

Take heart.

He knew what our very next thought would be.  I love this.

Like He's saying "no...no...no don't go there...it's ok! Take heart! I have overcome...!"

We aren't in a bubble.  We WILL have trouble.  Maybe your name won't be flashing in lights...here.  You won't be named "Hero of the day"....here.

But...Heaven is taking note of your trouble.

Peace. In Him.

He overcame.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gotcha Day.

I can still remember how hard it was to sleep the night before...

I can still feel the quivering of my stomach that ride into the Social Welfare building...

I can still see Azlan's excitement about meeting Taizi for the first time...

I still remember being so shocked that 18 month old Izrael never cried, never showed any emotion of distress at all that I was holding this screaming child for so long...

And I still remember knowing in those moments...we didn't know the half of what his special needs were.

Gotcha Day.





The day we met Taizi for the first time.

The overwhelming smell of something wrong when he was placed into our arms.

How extremely tiny he was.

How when we got back to the hotel ... he showed pure delight in banging his head as hard as he could on the wooden legs of the furniture.

How we knew...that first day...that he was deaf.

How much I didn't sleep that first night that he was with us.

As Dean fed him...I escaped into the bathroom and sank down on the floor...speechless. I can still see the ugly wallpaper covering the bathroom wall...I can still feel my stomach swirling...I started to cry.  I cried. I cried. And I stood up...looked myself in the mirror and said "Janice...you can't ask what you have done. You obeyed God.  That's what you have done.  He's got this. He's got you."

Oh what a journey it has been.   In the beginning we saw the most progress. Because so many of the things we taught him...were things he was simply never taught.   We hit that ceiling pretty quickly.

He has never grown.  He still wears the same Robeez baby shoes today...at age 5.5years ... that he wore that day in China.  His feet are size 03.   His clothes...he still wears those jeans and overalls that we brought in our suitcase to China. 

He's had heart surgery...he's had palate surgery...he's had scans, MRI, tests, bloodwork, you name it.

And in the end...my favorite doctor ever...says "Taizi...he's a medical mystery".

What we know...?

He's deaf.  He's mentally disabled.  He's not growing.  He's not attached or bonded to us more than he would be to you.

He's well fed. He's happy...I think.  He shows no sign of happiness. He doesn't "enjoy" life.  He sits. He rocks. He hits himself.  He will wander to different parts of the living room, picking up a block and staring at it super close to his eyes.

His nights are not fun.  He goes to sleep quickly. And wakes quickly.  Screaming.  He's hard to settle.  We can't tell if he's had a nightmare...we can't communicate in any way.  Every night we put him to bed...we sit and wait...and like clockwork we hear him kicking, hitting himself, freaking out and screaming.

And the thing I love to hear the most is...how we are special. We are better. We are gifted. We are so good at this. And how you...couldn't do what we do.

And you must...have no idea...what the daily surrender looks like in my life...if that's what you think.

I'm not stronger. I'm not better. I'm not more capable.  I'm not gifted for special needs.  I don't find this journey easy.

It's hard.

The strength it takes every day...to surrender to God's grace...is so extreme.

I'm a goal setter. I'm driven. I love a plan. I'm a realist.

Taizi forces me to have no goals.  Have no plans.  Know not at all...what tomorrow looks like.  And every day....feels like "ground hog day".  All over again.

What does tomorrow look like? I don't know.

Neither do you.

What does life look like for us when Taizi is 12? 14? 18?

I don't know.

My goal everyday...is to have a great day. That day. One day at a time.

The gift of God's grace.  For one day.

One more day.

There's no five year plan.

When asked...his doctor isn't sure he'll every grow.  Based on these last 2 years...it's unlikely.  His nutrition is now what most 5 year olds eat. Table food. High fat. High calories. No growth.

Right now...I see that as a blessing.  I can carry him. I can bathe him. I can handle a tiny Taizi.

The sadness of the reality that 2 years later...Taizi would go home with you and show no sign of distress...abandonment....rejection or anything else.

We don't know what God has in store for Taizi...or us.

But we do know that was His decision ... that day.  When we signed that paperwork...I was absolutely feeling uneasy and terrified.  But we knew...this was exactly who God called us to.

He's asleep now.  The screaming has stopped.  Tomorrow...as I stand beside his bedroom door...I'll stop and again pray...for the grace...of another day.  For my goal driven personality to surrender again...to only have a goal...of a great day. Even if it feels like yesterday. Even if there's no progress.

Surrender.


Friday, October 31, 2014

My Crossroads.

Every day in my life I'm faced with the question...

Do I surrender...?

What does surrender really look like?

Will there be any of me left...when it's all said and done?

Should there be any of me left...?

It's hard.  It's just plain hard.

Life with Taizi gets harder.  As he gets older...it gets harder.

The gap of where he should be ... and where he is...becomes increasingly obvious.

This is who he is. This is where he is.  And...it's hard.

While it looks like regression...it's not.  It's...actually...progression.

As his brain grows and develops...it learns and does new things just like a healthy 5 year old's does. Except...except...it's different.

It's not new and exciting to us. It's not things you cheer on as a parent.

The fact that he's learned to swallow air and burp...often...isn't the kind of progression we had in mind.

That he's hitting himself over..and over...and over again in the chest...to the point of bruising and even breaking the skin until he bleeds...no, not that either.

When he has to put his spoon down and take both hands and repeatedly hit himself in the head, over and over and over...before picking up his spoon and then doing it all over again...

It's not how we have always measured 'growth'...'development'...'progression'...

But the hard reality...is that it is. It is for Taizi.

As what is really happening inside his brain is revealed more and more as each new day dawns...the reality that this IS his progression hits.

And it's hard.

It's hard to embrace it. It's hard to like it.  And it feels near impossible to love it.

How...?

But...really...?

God saw ahead. He knew. No...we didn't know. But neither did we walk in blindly and make a huge mistake.  He knew. He called. We answered.

And more than ever before...in my entire lifetime...I'm constantly standing at the crossroads.  Surrender or Fight.

While Surrender may seem like the easy way out in your mind...trust me...fight is what is natural.  Fight...question...resist...go down kicking and screaming...that's my go-to.

Surrender...? That's against my grain.  And likely against yours.  I know. You don't have a Taizi.  But...you do.  We all do.  My Taizi just happens to be a very mentally disabled 5.5 year old boy.

What's yours?

Surrender isn't easy.  It feels more like a freefall off the cliff.  I'd rather hold on. Tight. Yes...even to the weakest branch of the weakest tree...than to let go.

Yet I know...

I know that the freedom is in the surrender.

Oh how many times does He have to show me...? The hands up...head high...surrender.  Not out of defeat. Surrender isn't about defeat.

Surrender is about winning.  It's about choosing not to fight.  Choosing not to struggle.  Choosing to let go.  Hands up.  Heart...perhaps trembling.  Letting Him fight for me.

Standing at the crossroads of Surrender and Fight...tonight...tonight I choose Surrender.