Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tapestry of God: Finding Our Way Home

(This is part five of the series, The Tapestry of God)

Lawson, Marion and Lincoln have been trying to find their way home for the past two years.  Their hope of ever finding their way lasted as long as the days of winter.  It was winter when their security of home became as bare as the trees, with their hope falling to the ground.

These inseparable children wear contagious smiles.  But behind the smiles, a feeling of despair strangles the hope inside, the hope of ever finding their way home.  "Who would ever want to bring home three children?" is a haunting question.  That question finally has an answer from a couple living in Georgia.

Suzanne grew up in Louisiana country with grandparents living on both sides.  She moved once, only half a mile down the same road.  It was a simple, God-fearing home that took pride only in the powerful bond of family.  It was a stable home that lived on love, with little need for lots of money.

Unlike Suzanne, Frank lived in many places.  The family moved where the jobs moved.  Frank spent most of his childhood living in mobile homes, only to personify the mobile lifestyle.  It was a home of practical jokes and laughter, with little to no realization that lack of money was a problem.  This only grew their faith stronger in the Lord.

We (Frank & Suzanne) did not grow up in fancy homes, drive fancy cars or eat fancy food.  The houses in which we lived were either built by family or had wheels.  The cars were always pre-owned with an occasional dent or missing hood.  (Another story.)  Our steaks were chicken-fried with ketchup as our sauce.  We are not fancy people.  But God was leading us to buy a fancy house.

About three years ago, we moved to Cartersville, GA to work alongside wonderful people in ministry at First Baptist.  We were looking for that modest, not too fancy home.  With the housing market in despair, we had an opportunity for a major upgrade.  Was this right?  Was this something we were suppose to do?  This house was more space than we needed.  However, we felt a peace about what God was showing us, but did not understand.

We now understand.  God has made it clear He wanted us in this home, for this time and purpose.  He wanted this home inflated with love for God, for family and for the orphan.  As a family of eight (and a big, black lab), we can now say every inch of this house will be used.  Many people reading this blog have contributed to making this house work for all these kids.  The love of our friends and family is overwhelming.  And the love does not stop there.

There is love waiting in that home.  Love not just from a mom and dad anxious for home, but of two brothers and a sister anxious to meet their new siblings.  We have talked so much about Lawson, Marion and Lincoln, but waiting at home are three siblings who have made us extremely proud.

Madison, Landon and Logan have been a part of this adoption process for two years.  They were on board from day one.  They never questioned that God was leading us to adopt a child.  And when the news from Ukraine arrived that three children were coming home instead of one, our kids back in Euharlee were more energized and excited.

Tears are falling as words are being typed about these amazing kids, who have been playing ball games with stands empty of cheers from mom and dad.  Landon has given up his entire matching bedroom set for a brother he has yet to meet.  Logan and Landon have given up their rooms to move two flights of stairs away from the family in the basement.  Madison has given up her matching bedroom set to a girl named Marion, a girl whom she has prayed for while lying in that same bed.  And the most amazing part?  These kids are sharing the intimate bond between mom and dad with three young strangers.

We could not have done this without the help of friends and family members.  We could not have done this without the Lord.  And we surely could not have done this without the three most amazing kids in the world, who are waiting to welcome home and celebrate the journey's end for Lawson, Marion and Lincoln.

Last Sunday was International Orphan Sunday.  Our mandatory 10-day waiting period was officially over on Orphan Sunday.  They are no longer captive to the haunting questions or hopeless despair circling in their dreams.  They have been released.

Tomorrow is a special day.  We will throw a party for their orphan friends and teachers.  We will say our goodbyes and walk away one last time.  We will begin our way home, a home full of God's love and the mercy of His Son, Jesus.

It's winter here in Ukraine.  The leaves have fallen and the snow is beginning to stick.  But under the cold, hard ground is a seed of hope.  A seed that will find it's home in the warmth of the Son.  Welcome Home.

(Come back to our blog for: The Tapestry of God: Thanksgiving in Living Colors)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Tapestry of God: The Story of Lawson, Marion and Lincoln

(This is part four of the series: The Tapestry of God)

Almost two years ago three children were found in a park in the southern part of Ukraine.  They had seen their mother make bad choices for her and themselves, and ultimately waste her life away.  The beautiful lives that called her "Mama" were taken from her.  She lost them because of addictions she could not shake.

Vladislav, Anistasia and Maxim were sent to an orphanage in a village outside of Simferopol, Ukraine.  There they would wait and not receive a visit from any relative for the next 18 months.  They were outcasts.  They were strangers.  They were orphans.

We were peering through the fogged windows of a taxi as we made our way down a muddy road.  The village showed signs of new life as homes were being pieced together brick by brick using tools not seen since the early 1900's.  But one could also see remains of homes that had seen many years of transition in this country.  People walking their goats and working their gardens squinted to focus in on the visitors coming into their village.

Our taxi passed through a large gated entrance protecting the inhabitants.  Metal playgrounds mixed with tall trees bordered a wide sidewalk leading to the orphanage.  In the center of the estate was a mansion dating back to the early 1800's where a wealthy family once governed the village.  The broken windows mocked the rich history, a time before wars tore through this land.

We made our way through the dark, narrow halls of this orphanage to the director's office.  She was pleasant, yet a strict protector of the children who call this place home.  Three children were escorted to the office for us to meet.  We spent a few minutes with them, communicating through our facilitator.  We agreed to come back for a couple days to see if the children were right for us.  But in our hearts we knew we were where God wanted us to be.

We spent the next week visiting with the children.  The characteristic about these children that shined above the rest was the amount of smiles that frequented their faces.  They were happy children.  But there were times when we asked ourselves, "Is this what we are suppose to do?"  We realized we were going through a crisis.  It's only natural to go through a crisis of belief when following through with something God has told you to do.  To get through this required faith and action.  The prayers lifted up by hundreds of people helped us through this time.

In the meantime, our facilitator was working to get the right paperwork in the correct hands at the appropriate deadlines.  Our schedule was moving right along, thanks again to the prayers of the saints back home.  It was soon time for our court date, a meeting I will never forget.

Vladislav and Anistasia were dressed to look their best.  All the children in the orphanage share clothes, but this special day was reserved for special clothes.  Maxim stayed back, for he was not of age to stand before the judge.  These two little ones made us very proud.  The judge asked them if they wanted to have a new father and mother, a new life, a new name and to leave the past behind.  During this encounter the parallels were leaping out of this story.  We could only smile at the what God was showing us.

When someone puts their faith in Christ, they have to accept Him and confess Him. (Romans 10:9-10)  When they do, they are agreeing to a new life, with a new name and to leave the past behind.  They are no longer a stranger, an orphan.  They have a Father in Heaven who loves them and is preparing a place for them.

There are people back home helping us to prepare a place for these children who have confessed to the judge and accepted us as parents.  They are getting to know their new father and mother.  On the playground they cry out, "Mama, Papa".  And they are answering to their new names.

Thank you for helping us celebrate the new lives of Lawson, Marion and Lincoln.

(Come back to our blog for: The Tapestry of God: Finding Our Way Home)