Thursday, August 1, 2013

"God sets the lonely in families..."

I said goodbye to my girls last Friday before heading to Hyderabad. Its been almost two weeks, but it feels like far too long ago. As I sit here in Nashville, I'm struggling with sorting through all the thoughts going through my mind. My emotions are all over as I love seeing family and friends but miss these sweet faces so very much...

Alesa, Nora, and Phoebe

Every time I return to America, I'm amazed by how much "stuff" I have. As I look around my bedroom, I'm awe of all the things that serve no real purpose but to take up space. As I have laid my head to rest in my queen size bed this week, several nights I've laid here counting how many of my girls could squeeze into it to sleep like they do now (I decided 5 or 6 in case you're wondering :)...which is a very normal Indian thing to do). I know its silly, but it just reminds me of how much space so many of us have for those who need it shared with them. But do we have space in our hearts?

Our last night in Ongole, Caroline and I sat downstairs and ate dinner with the girls. As we were talking about us going home to America and a couple of my girls who will eventually join their adoptive families in America (thank You God!!), Hannah (my oldest- 15) looked at me and said in broken English, "Sister, what children are you taking to America? You take me? Please sister." My heart and my voice broke as I responded, "Oh baby, I can't take any children to America with me. I'm not old enough to adopt (you have to be 30 years old for Indian adoptions). If I could though, I would take all children with me, but that's why we pray for mommies and daddies." To this, Hannah replied, "But sister, who is going to take me to America? Who wants me?"

Her words continue to ring hollow in my ears and bring tears to my eyes as I sit and ponder them. Who is going to take her? Not just to take her to America but to take her to be loved and cherished as part of their family?

This week, as I've looked at pictures of my SCH kids, tears come to my eyes as my heart longs to be with them. "When coming back, sister?" was the question that I was asked over and over again when I said my goodbyes. Every time I would respond, "Soon, I just can't stay away for too long." But when is "soon"? When will I get to hug their necks again? When will I hold these babies close once more?

Christine, Genevieve, Hannah, and Zinnia

Honor

Gabe

Naomi

Zinnia
Jamila

As I've wondered these things, I've clung to Psalm 68:5-6a:

A Father to the fatherless,
a Defender of widows,
is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families.

...God sets the lonely in homes...I'm holding onto this promise and trusting God to fulfill it in my babies' lives. These words are the only things that bring me comfort at this moment. Selfishly, my heart longs for the day when I needn't travel all the way to India to see my girls. I daily ask their Father to give them an earthly father and mother. You see, I fully support and believe in everything that SCH and ND are doing in India and China, but my heart cries out for the day when their existence is unnecessary. I long to see the day when children aren't abandoned, but if/when they are, that the world, more importantly the church, loves them into their homes as their own children.

Thinking back to Hannah's questions, I'm faced with her story. At age 15, she's never known what most of us know as a "family." No mother or father, sisters or brothers. No grandparents to spoil her or cousins to play with. The only family she has really known are the girls she lives with now. And this little family she has is a beautiful thing indeed. Its wonderful to see how these girls look to her for so many things. As the oldest of the group, they ask her for advice. They follow her lead when praying and many of them even walk around calling her "Hannah-ama" ("Mother Hannah") when they're playing house sometimes.

Hannah finger painting at English Camp
Hannah trying a marshmallow at English Camp

I love my Hannah. And as much as I love having her within arm's reach when I'm in Ongole, I pray for the day when I can look at her with an answer to her questions about a family. I long for the day when she is no longer called "Hannah-ama" but instead has an "ama" (Telugu- "mother") to call her own. I truly believe that she and every child at SCH and throughout the world deserves to have a mom that helps her tidy up her room, who pulls out her school uniform every morning, and combs her hair for her when she just needs a mother's touch. Hannah only has one year left before she "ages out" of the Indian system to be able to be adopted (a child can no longer be adopted after the age of 16), but I am choosing to believe that God can provide a family for her in His perfect timing.

I know that adoption is a calling. And I know that not everyone is called to it. But I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to pray for these children and for the families that God is preparing for them, whether it is our own family or not.

So as my journey comes to an end once again, I ask you to dream, hope and pray with me. Dream of these children's beautiful smiles and praise our Father for each one of their lives. Hope for the day when they don't have to be "moms" and "dads" for one another. And pray, above all else, for the day when God gives them and all the forgotten and abandoned little ones of the world, families with moms and dads and brothers and sisters. But until that day, I give thanks for places like SCH and the opportunity to be a part of their family and love them like they so dearly deserve to be. And until next time when I get to hold these girls again, I continue to agree with the psalmist who said:

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders You have done,
the things You planned for us.
None can compare with You;
 were I to speak and tell of Your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.
Psalm 40:5 

My 12 :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grains of sand...

Ah...the beach...the sunshine, the refreshingly cool water, the warm breeze...you just can't go wrong...one of the wonderful things about Ongole is its close proximity to the Indian Ocean where one can go to relax and enjoy a short break from the craziness of India. A real treat for our kids is when we have the opportunity to take them to the beach to play and forget about all the worries of the world. So when we were given the chance to take my schoolgirls to the beach for the day, Caroline and I jumped on it!

We found everyone some Indian beach dress code appropriate clothes (dress and pants), loaded up the car, and set out for the day with windows down and singing songs at the top of our lungs. If only I could find the words to describe the smiles that were on the girls' faces as we drove along, knowing that once we reached our destination they would be able to laugh and play in the ocean...

Stacy and Zinnia
As soon as we stepped out of the car, several of them took off running to the water, and we were all soon having a wonderful time in the ocean!

 

The girls loved it and the smiles were plentiful! 

Rachel's smile could be spotted from a mile away...


Honor was like a fish! She played all day in the waves!


The smiles on Victoria's, Christina's and Genevieve's faces describe how they felt perfectly!




Phoebe loved playing in the sand...


And Zinnia went on a hunt for seashells...


Reflecting back on this wonderful day, God brought to mind His Word in Psalm 139:17-18a that says:

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
They would outnumber the grains of sand.

How perfectly this verse describes our Father's thoughts towards these precious little ones. The sum of His thoughts would outnumber the grains of sand on the beach??! If they were to outnumber the grains of sand that we brought home with us in our clothes that day, that would still be a lot! But He says they are infinite; they are incalculable.

These children are the forgotten ones of this world. They are the ones that someone didn't want. But, oh how their Heavenly Father longs to show His love to them. For He loves them and remembers them when they might feel forgotten. His Word promises that He hasn't forgotten them and He will never stop thinking about and smiling upon them daily.

I couldn't be more thankful to have the opportunity to be part of God's redemptive work in each of these kids' lives. I know that their Father thinks the world of them, and myself along with the other people at SCH love reminding them of that every day because they deserve nothing less than to know that they are loved. After all, we know that when they're aware of God's thoughts towards them then this is what brings out those beautiful smiles that we love to see!

Just as I pray for the kids, I pray that you would also know the vast sum of the Father's thoughts towards you. He loves you with an everlasting love that spans further than the eye can see. He smiles upon you and me just as the warm sun shines down at the beach.

And so I dream. I dream of the day when the people of this world know God's great love for them. I dream of the day when my SCH kids know with all their hearts that they are valued. And I rest in today, with the knowledge that our Father's loving thoughts towards you and me and all the SCH kids outnumber the grains of sand...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Teach me how to move...

I've been thinking about you lately,
What I'm thinking is that you're crazy,
But I love to watch you dance...

There's a couple in the corner,
They've been watching you for hours.
Envious of your fame,
Like your laughter,
Its contagious, when it has a name...

You are fearless when it comes to
Lighting up a room.
I can love and I can hate,
 And I know how to hesitate,
So teach me how to move...
-Alli Rogers, Fearless

Just finished listening to this song multiple times after spending time with my girls tonight. As it came on my iTunes shuffle, I couldn't help but smile and laugh as I thought about those silly little girls dancing around. We turned up the Telugu Vacation Bible Schools songs on the TV, and we danced and danced. And I'm still smiling about it an hour later.

The joy all over their faces makes my heart sing. I'm realizing that as they would look at me and ask me to dance with them in the midst of all my hesitations about me looking silly,

They're fearless and they light up the room.

video
(Please excuse the mess! 
We're in the process of packing and moving the girls and all the SCH kids to new apartments!!)

How freeing to be a child and have no hesitations because you are so secure in yourself and in the reality that you're loved that you don't have to wonder about how silly you look. To see my two littlest girls with deformities of their hands and feet and my wonderfully silly Victoria with her blind eye and autistic traits spinning in circles is such a beautiful thing. 

It makes me want to be more like them. It makes me want to dance around and sing at the top of my lungs in the knowledge that I am dearly loved by my Savior and Lord. I pray that you can do the same today. May you remember that you're so deeply loved by your Heavenly Father. May you take a step out on the dance floor and be fearless when it comes to lighting up a room. May these amazing girls to teach us how to move...

Monday, July 8, 2013

I am wonderfully made!


"I praise you because I am wonderfully made!" Psalm 139:14

It's a verse that we teach to kids hoping that they know they are perfect. A verse that I learned when I was little. A verse that I've heard a million times. But though I have heard it time and time again, I couldn't help but tear up at hearing them say it.

When our team started thinking about what Bible verse to teach the SCH kids during English camp, no one disagreed that Psalm 139:14 should be it. For kids who have been given up because of their physical or mental disabilities, there's nothing better for them to know. As we planned, all I could think about was what a perfect verse for kids who are just that: perfect.

When you first meet the SCH kids, it would be easy to notice some of their disabilities, but when you get to know them, all that fades away and you recognize just how amazing they are. God certainly made them wonderful. He stitched them together and knew their lives before they were even born. He knew the struggles and heartaches they would face, but I think He gave them an extra helping of strength and perseverance to get them through it to where they are today.

I can't get out of my mind them learning that verse at camp last week and hoping that they understood what it said and never forget it. I loved watching my schoolgirls learn it as Phoebe who is blind would repeat it fully believing that she is wonderful, and Paula who is physically handicapped learned that God made her perfectly.

Phoebe finger painting

Paula
It was sweet as we worked with the schoolboys and watched them teach each other in the ways that they knew their friends needed to learn. For Jason who is hearing impaired, Judah would sit close to him and repeat each word for him in his ear. For the smaller boys, Christopher, who is older, would repeat it one word at a time until they could remember it. It was beautiful.

Jason
Judah and Jason eating mac 'n cheese
Christopher
Reflecting on last week, I pray these kids never forget how wonderful they are; that there never comes a time in their lives where they question whether God made them perfectly. I pray the same for you and me also. As we go through this life facing all the pressures of society to be perfect, I hope we never wonder about God's perfect plans for us. I fully believe that He orders our steps, whether we know it or not, and that we can never go where He is not already there. His plans are good and for that reason I hope that I will praise Him all the days of my life because like Phoebe, Paula, Jason, Christopher, Judah, you and all the SCH kids, "I am wonderfully made!"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Where to begin...India Round 2

It's funny as I sit here and look back at my past posts on here, several of them begin with something similar to: "Well, where do I even begin?" And so, here I am again, wondering what to even begin to write...

I guess I could start with the fact that I am currently sitting on a couch in Ongole...

The thought blows my mind as the reality of it sinks in. The last two months seem like a blur. This morning, I sat with my journal and God and tried to process life a little, and I was in awe of how I'm back here. May and June were crazy but wonderful months; filled with Heath's undergrad graduation, my grad school graduation, Heath and Kelsey's wedding (Yay!!), and...India??

When I left here about 14 months ago, I had no idea what the future held. I left with a broken heart wondering how I could survive with the possibility of never seeing these silly and beloved faces again...


All I could cling to was God's promise that He had good and perfect plans for them and for me. And over the last year, as I talked to them on the phone and got updates through other wonderful SCH volunteers, I continued to cling to that promise, wondering if I would ever get to hold them close again.

And God, in His infinite goodness, has graciously given me the longing of my heart and almost two weeks ago, I boarded a plane with these lovely women and lots of luggage, bound for Ongole with a plan for doing English camp for the SCH schoolchildren and the knowledge that I would soon be hugging my girls' necks once again.


The whole plane ride, I did everything I could to try to distract myself from the anxious excitement that bubbled up inside of me...I just couldn't get to Ongole soon enough. So after almost 50 hours of traveling, we arrived in Ongole late Saturday, June 22. And on Sunday morning of the 23rd, you can only guess where I wanted to go...

Right here:


The moment I stepped foot in front of the house, all I could do was run up the stairs and yell for them like I had done so many times before. Their beautiful smiles and sweet yet absolutely silly spirits caused me to sob tears of joy as I held them close in a moment that I had only dreamed about for over a year. As I sit here and write about it, I still tear up at the idea of God's goodness in allowing me to be here with them once again.

Now I have the privilege of going to see them whenever I want and play and sing with them. Its wonderful.

I even got to spend all day last Monday and Tuesday with them as our team spent last week teaching English camp and loving on a total of 33 kids. It was exhausting but wonderful work...







We taught them about colors, numbers, body parts, animals, American foods (PB&J sandwiches, Jello, marshmallows, and mac-n-cheese...all of which they LOVED!), manners, and direction words; as well as a Bible verse (Psalm 139:14 "I praise You because I am wonderfully made!") and a song based on Mark 12:30. We even got to take them to ice cream! It was a great time, and I think the kids loved it! I'm not exactly sure how much English they learned, but I pray that they walked away reminded that they are so dearly loved. That was our purpose throughout this whole process and I believe that God fulfilled it.

And so four members of the team left last night to drive back to Hyderabad overnight to catch their flight this morning, and Caroline and I have been left to continue to work with SCH for the next three weeks. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us and am thankful to have a friend to share this adventure with :)

As I think about the time since I left, I am reminded of the Father's goodness in fulfilling His promise to me from Psalm 107:7-8 when I first left America in September 2011 and boarded a plane for China: that my feet had been "put on a wonderful road" filled with His "marvelous love" and "miraculous mercy". And when I look at my girls and all the children of SCH, I am filled with hope as I see the "wonderful road" upon which God has set their feet as well. From children who were unwanted and unloved, they have blossomed into vibrant individuals full of life and personality. Individuals who like us, God has His hands all over if only we will allow Him to guide us towards that road full of life, love and joy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

105 in 105


After being home for home for almost four months, where do I even begin?

I guess I would start with the faces in the photo above. The beautiful faces of children who were once forgotten but now are so dearly loved. Look at their smiles, stare into their eyes and see the joy that comes from knowing you are loved. As most of you know, from January 2012 to April 2012, I had the privilege to love on these children and see their beautiful smiles firsthand. Looking back at this blog I'm reminded once again of just how special each of them is.

Just the thought of these faces still brings tears of joy to my eyes as I remember their smiles, giggles, and hugs and my heart aches to have them back in my arms again. Since returning to the States, I have struggled with sharing about my experience at Sarah's Covenant Homes in Ongole, India and what my role is now in their ministry. When I was there, it was so evident, but since I left, it became a little more unclear. As I have asked God what He wants me to do (secretly hoping He would say to jump on a plane), He has gently reminded me that my role for now is to advocate on their behalf, to be their voice in a world that is so much louder than they could ever be.

Daily I am overwhelmed by the blessings that God has granted us in this amazing country. Look around you- our homes, education, jobs, cars, family, and friends- countless things beyond what we could ever imagine. And none of those things are bad. In fact, they're great! But I have to remind myself that with all we're given, we're not called to keep it to ourselves. Yes, you've worked hard for it, but what about those who can't work for themselves? What about those faces above who rely upon people like you and me to provide for them and care for them because they simply can't?

I wish it were not the case but the need at SCH is urgent and great. With 105 children, you can only imagine the budget that its operations require. Things like diapers, Pediasure, food, shelter, medical supplies, and staff do not just appear from nowhere. After scrutinizing the budget, the administrators of SCH have developed a budget of $200/month per child. I know, it sounds like a lot to me too, but then I think about the money that I have spent on myself this week alone and realize that it might not be so much after all.

This is where we come in. I don't believe that God has blessed us so that we can build up our bank accounts for a day down the road when we might need it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think we're called to something much more than that. When visiting Mother Teresa's organization in Kolkata, I was convicted of the need to go out and find my own Kolkata in this world. And I firmly believe that is something that we are all called to. And in order to have a Kolkata, you have to be willing to invest in it. I know so many of you are already giving to wonderful organizations and you've found a Kolkata, but for those of you that haven't or you have room in your heart for one of these smiling faces, I beg and implore you to consider making SCH a regular part of your monthly budget.

Just this week SCH started a sponsorship drive with the vision of having all 105 children sponsored within the next 105 days (#105in105). There are three levels of sponsorship:
  • 1 sponsor at $200/mo.
  • 2 sponsors at $100/mo., or
  • 5 sponsors at $40/mo.
The image is beautiful as people all over the world have the opportunity to come together and envelop these children with love through their giving. Our prayer is that people can come together in solidarity and purpose to provide for the children there.  What better picture than that of 5 family members, or 2 co-workers, or a small group Bible study, coming together to provide for a child like Charlie or one of my schoolgirls Christina, to pray for him or her and be connected with his or her story and life?


Charlie
Christina
So what do you think? I know its a lot to ask, but would you be willing to step up to the challenge and live above what this world tells you is important? I'm praying that you will.

If you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring one of these beautiful children or want more information, please let me know and I would be happy to tell you how! Or just visit their website: SCH Child Sponsorship. And PLEASE tell everyone you know! The more people SCH reaches, the better!

I look forward to praising God together at the end of these 105 days as we "thank God for His marvelous love, for His miraculous mercy to the children He loves" (Psalm 107:8).

***Also- an SCH volunteer has put together two AMAZING videos highlighting the wonderful things God is doing in and through it, check them out here:
***And one more thing- along with finding funding for the individual children, there is a tremendous need for things like Huggies diapers (Kimberly-Clark), Pediasure (Abbott Laboratories), and medical supplies that encompass a large portion of these costs. If you or someone in your life knows of a way to connect SCH with large quantities of these items at discounted prices, please let me know! :)

Sarah's Covenant Homes
SCH Child Sponsorship


Monday, April 16, 2012

My littlest princesses...

Little kids are just funny, ya know? You just never know what they're going to do. But you can always count on them bringing a smile to your face. 

Here at the girls' home, we have three little girls that never fail to make me smile:

Genevieve,


Esther,


and Zinnia


These girls have such an innocence and joy about them that can't be missed. Everyday they attend preschool at a local school in the morning and then they come home at lunchtime for an afternoon abounding in whatever adventures their imaginations can come up with. They're such curious and creative little ones that never cease to amaze me in what they find to do. Some days its coloring or playing with clay or drawing on a Magnadoodle; some days its bumper cars with our laundry baskets; some days its "helping" by taking the clean laundry off the clothesline and "washing" it in a bucket of water that my air conditioner drips into or even "cleaning" the outside chairs with dirty water; and some days its just singing multiplication table songs or watching Barbie movies. No matter the adventure or mischief they get into, there's always some kind of joy that can be found in it.


 

Its been sweet watching them as they have grown in the last few months- watching them learn to speak new words (especially in English), learn the ropes of the apartment, and even grow in friendship with the other girls and especially with one another. I love seeing them giggle and play together as they have the opportunity to understand friendship and be the little girls that they couldn't be in an orphanage setting.


 


When I think about them, I can only imagine the smile that must come to their Heavenly Father's face as they laugh and play together. I think about a favorite childhood song that says:

Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Oh how true this song must be. I think Jesus holds a special place in His heart for all the children of this world. I think He laughs when they laugh, smiles when they smile, and even cries when they cry. I think He really and truly loves them more than we could ever imagine.

In Mark 10:14-16, it says:

Jesus said to them,
"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God
like a little child will never enter it."
And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.

What a sweet image. The God of the universe holding His children in His arms. He valued them and knew that their simple, innocent, childlike perspective on life was the key to the kingdom. Too often I forget to have that simplistic view on life. I get bogged down with a million different things that I think are important, but that God must shake His head at. On countless days have I found myself feeling like I need to do a million things but being caught up in playing with my little princesses. I couldn't be more thankful for the reminder that they provide about taking time to enjoy life and the simple pleasures that it provides.

So for today I pray that you would find the faith of a child. May you let your imagination take you to new places and let you recognize and enjoy the simple joys of life. May you walk in faith trusting that you are a child of God and that He wants to take you in His arms, put His hands on you and bless you every day. And at the end of each day after all the busyness and adventures, may you rest peacefully, just as these little princesses are doing, in the knowledge that you are loved and are walking in the steps of the kingdom of God...