Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Remembered...

As I sit here reflecting on Thanksgiving, my heart and my mind are full. 

First of all - let me just say how special it is to spend this holiday at HOME. This is the first year we've been with our family since 2008, so it is extra-special! Even if it's not my home (we had an early Thanksgiving with my family on Sunday), after spending 2 Thanksgivings in Michigan and 1 overseas, I am especially grateful for Moms who cook all day, family coming together, beautiful Fall foliage, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and lots and lots of delicious Thanksgiving food!

We had a wonderful day today with Rusty's Mom & Memaw in Arkansas, and enjoyed an afternoon at the movies seeing "Life of Pi". It was really neat to be watching a movie set in India today - when last year we spent Thanksgiving Day in India! This day a year ago, I remember that I was terribly homesick (the only time I have truly been homesick in all my overseas travels). I missed my family, I missed my favorite meals, I'd just been extremely sick for 2 days, and I wanted to be HOME.

I remember all that, but watching "Life of Pi" today made me remember the beautiful things about our Indian Thanksgiving too. It's true that last Thanksgiving looked VERY different.... but we made some precious memories with some people we love a LOT.

We spent some sweet time with our kids at Asha House last Thanksgiving (as you can see in the corners of the collage above), and let me tell you - "Group Hugs" from these cuties are something I am very thankful for! I was also blown away when I was given a BEAUTIFUL, handmade, red saree as a very special gift! Simini and Sapna (bottom left corner) sneakily made it for me and surprised me on Thanksgiving. It is a gift I will always treasure.

We were excited to spend the day with Jyoti (middle left) who we've been supporting for 4 years. The last time I saw her she was only 2, and terrified of white people. This visit though, she told everyone, "MY Auntie is coming!" and covered us in hugs and kisses all day long!

And, as a special treat that night, we took the Asha House staff out for a special Thanksgiving Dinner. It wasn't a "typical" Thanksgiving meal, but we really enjoyed our time together, eating a feast of Indian and Chinese food!

And so, tonight, I find that while I am home, my heart is in two places. It is here, in the States, with our families.... but it is also half a world a way with our sweet children and our Indian partners. I re-read this blog I wrote last year and I was humbled all over again. We have so much to be grateful for.... much more than just turkey and pumpkin pie. 

So as you end your Thanksgiving night, I would ask that you take a moment to read this. And as you reflect on all your blessings... stuffed with an abundance of delicious food... together with your family... snuggled up in your warm, beautiful home... please read this. And please consider showing your gratitude for ALL your blessings by giving to those who are less fortunate.  Those precious children you see above will not have blankets or warm clothes this winter if you and I don't do something about it! So please give a donation today towards "Christmas in India", and let's bless others as we have been blessed.

Donate Now

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

9 months later... (an update & an opportunity)

Last Saturday marked 9 months since the day we announced that we were adopting a little girl from Thailand. It was a difficult "anniversary" for me. It was hard to realize that if I had been physically pregnant in February, then we would already have our little one in our arms. Instead, we are very likely a full 2 years (at least) away from that day.

It's not easy. It's not easy to have this empty spot in my heart and my life where my daughter belongs. It is confusing (and very hard to explain to others) that I am missing a child I have never met. But there are days when I almost cannot bear the ache I feel. There are days when I would give anything to have her in my arms... or even just to see her face!

If you've been following our journey, then you know it has not been an easy one. We thought we would choose an agency in April, complete our homestudy and dossier this summer, and be on a waiting list by now. But that was not God's plan. We have, instead, walked through many disappointing conversations and faced many closed doors. It would be easy to feel hopeless now, except that something truly miraculous happened last month!

For several weeks I had been putting off contacting the last few agencies on my list, simply because I wasn't ready to hear a final NO. I knew they were all a long shot for us, and I (foolishly) just wanted to hold out hope instead of actually contacting them (silly, I know). Well, I got a stern talking to from a friend and fellow adoptive mom (thank you Malerie!) that I needed to get on with it! It was just the push I needed to take the next step.

That week, I emailed EVERY SINGLE agency/contact I knew of that might be a possibility for us. Some I never heard back from. Some told me NO. And one kind man suggested I "reach out to other agencies" or "try Korea". I don't know what it was about that email that did me in, but for some reason, I decided to respond and lay it alllll out on the line. I told him that YES, we had tried ALL the other agencies and NO, we were not eligible through any of them because we didn't have "documented infertility". I told him NO, we did not want to adopt a child from Korea (not because we don't love Koreans) because we feel specifically called to Thailand. I listed off alllll our connections to Thailand - that we speak basic Thai, that we have lived in Thailand, that we work in Thailand, that Rusty has a Thai driver's license, and made it clear that it was "Thailand or BUST" for the Jackson family.

And then I told him I understood that we weren't eligible for his program, but thanks for listening.

And then something miraculous happened.

Instead of another NO - I got a different kind of email back. An email that said, "I'm sympathetic to your case." An email that said, "Call me and let's see if I can help you."

I'm pretty sure I cried - then and there! And of course, picked up the phone to call him IMMEDIATELY!

Tim shared with us that the infertility rule in Thailand is really an "unwritten rule". It's not that Thailand wants infertile families, they just want to be sure that the family is a good placement for a Thai child. They are afraid that if the family adopts, then has biological children, that the Thai child will be pushed to the side. However, he said that the fact that we have SO many ties to the country and culture, and SO specifically desire to adopt a Thai child, should also make us a "good placement" for a Thai child! In his words, we deserve "special consideration."

And so, this precious man has decided that he will give us that "special consideration" and that he will advocate on our behalf! We could not be more grateful!!! I'm sure I thanked him 5 or 6 times on that one phone call alone!

So, here's the plan. We have filed an adoption application with an agency in New York ($50). The next step, will be completing an "Adoptive Family Profile" ($300 - we are still waiting to receive it) where we share more detailed information about our family. Then, Tim will submit our AFP (Adoptive Family Profile) to the Director of a specific orphanage he works with in Thailand (that happens to be in a city very near and dear to our hearts!) At that point - we will update you all and ask you (beg you!) to FAST and PRAY with us. This woman has the power to deny us, or give us pre-approval (which would allow us to move forward with our homestudy). We will need God to MOVE A MOUNTAIN for us (and we know He is capable of that!) Once we get a response, we will go from there!

I know to some of you this may sound like a long shot, but we are SO encouraged by this opportunity. On our phone call with Tim he told us several times, that on any other day he would have just turned us down (because we didn't meet the specific requirements for his program). "But today," he said, "something just made me read past undocumented infertility and read the rest of your story." I have no doubt that that "something" was GOD working on our behalf!

There are lots of other neat details about this specific agency and this specific orphanage that I will share with you in our next update (this one is long enough already! Sorry!) but I want to be sure I can release names/locations before I do. For now - if you would please go ahead and start praying for FAVOR for us with this agency, orphanage, and the Director of the orphanage in Thailand, we would appreciate it so much!

And so, after 9 months of waiting, our hope is renewed! We are encouraged by seeing God's hand in our story, and we are eagerly anticipating more good news! THANK YOU all for the prayers you have already lifted up on our behalf. I have no doubt that your prayers were part of what made this "impossible" situation possible!

"... I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small  as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." 
                                                                               - Matthew 17:20

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Confession :: I've Been Accusing God

A few days ago, we were having a skype chat with our mentor, Michael. He asked about our finances, because he knew that we'd been looking for monthly ADMIN donors for our non-profit (those are the people who give to the things that keep our organization going - salary, travel costs, office expenses, etc.) We've been low on ADMIN donors for a while now, and we've had a couple of months this Fall where we almost didn't get a paycheck. Michael was trying to encourage us not to be fearful, because He knew God would come through.

When I responded to Michael about this issue though, something interesting happened. I meant to give an explanation of how I was feeling, but instead, a confession came out. (I'm a verbal processor, so sometimes when I speak things out loud, what's been going on in my heart finally makes it to my head.) I told him that I wasn't worrying about whether or not God would provide for us, because I'd realized being fearful about this, was me accusing God of something He had never done.

God has always, ALWAYS provided for our needs. We have had lean times, but we have never gone without. We have wondered where the next month of pay would come from through our organization - and then God would show up, miraculously, with not just a check - but a 6 figure check that would take care of us AND our 200+ kids overseas! I could tell you miracle story, after miracle story or how God has provided for us (including the time we didn't get paid for 10 weeks - and a friend who had no idea showed up on our doorstep with organic beef from her farm. PROVISION! Or the time we didn't know how we were going to get home for Christmas, and then we got an anonymous Christmas card with $2,000 cash inside! PROVISION!)

And yet, there have been times (even this Fall) that I have doubted God. I have worried, and paced, and wondered what would happen. I have gone through all the "What ifs" in my head. What if we stop getting paid - what will we do? What if our organization ends - how will we care for these kids?  What if we can't find another job - how we will care for ourselves? What if our adoption never happens - will we ever get our daughter from Thailand? What if, what if, what if.

But I was convicted - heavily - last week, when I realized my "What ifs" weren't just questions. They were accusations. When I stress out about the worst case scenario, what I'm really saying is, "I don't trust you God."

And if I believe that God is IN CONTROL of my life, then what I'm really doing is ACCUSING HIM of failing me. I'm accusing Him of not taking care of me. I'm accusing Him of all the horrible possibilities - that aren't yet reality.

If we were in a courtroom, I'd be unjustly accusing a man of crime He didn't commit. And the worst part is - God has 28 years of the proof of His provision in my life (and an eternity full of incredible character witnesses) that PROVE that this crime (of abandoning me, of letting me down, of not providing for my needs) will NEVER happen.

He has promised to never leave or forsake me, and to be my helper. (Hebrews 13:5-6)

He has reminded me how he cares for the lilies and the birds, and that I am worth even more to Him! He has promised me His Kingdom! (Luke 12)

He told me I could cast all my fears on Him, because He cares for me! (1 Peter 5:7)

He cares for me so much, that He sings over me and rejoices over me! He has promised to save me! (Zeph 3:17)

He has promised to give me good gifts, because He is a good Father. (Matt 7:11)

He loved me so much, that He sacrificed his own SON for ME! Can you imagine a love like that? (John 3:16)

Over and over again He has declared His love for me. He has proved to me that He cares for me. He has shown me how He provides! How DARE I accuse Him? And yet, I do.

We all do this, all the time in our lives. What if I get sick? What if I lose my job? What if Obama wins? What if Romney wins? - And then we follow that up with accusations of the worst case scenario. When we say, "If I lose my job, my family will probably starve!" We are really saying, "God, I know you won't provide for my family!" When we say, "The world is going to end if Obama wins! Obamacare is going to end us all!!!" What we're really saying is, "I trust my government more than I trust my God. God you aren't big enough or good enough to take care of me!"

HOW DARE WE?! How dare we accuse God of these lies, when all He has done is provide for us, care for us, and love us well? How dare we accuse an innocent man?

But we do. We did it to Christ on the Cross, and we are doing it again everyday with our fear. How much it must break the heart of God to be unjustly accused when He has proven again and again how much He loves us and that He will always care for us!  

I can tell you today, that I have been convicted of this and it weighs heavily on my heart. I don't ever want to allow fear to cause me to hurl unjust accusations at my God again. I don't want to grieve His heart! Instead I want to meditate on the TRUTH.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Few of my Favorite Things :: Fall Giveaway Winner!

Whoops! It's after 8pm and I almost forgot to pick a winner for our little blog contest! It's been one of those crazy days... you know, when you have a yellow jacket nest in your wall, and you've had 200 of the annoying little buzzing suckers inside your home in the last week, and you're starting to get a nervous twitch... and the pest control guy finally comes to kill them with a special poisonous fog he sprays in your walls... - oh, wait, that wasn't your day? Just me? Oh, okay.

ANYWAY - all our bizarre drama aside (seriously, the weirdest things happen to us!) it's time to pick one lucky lady to win A Few of my Favorite Things for Fall! And the random # generator picked...

Comment #1 was Becky Belks! She said...

My favorite fall items.... Everything, from the weather, to the trees, 
to football, to the clothes and BOOTS!!!! Favorite time of year!

Congratulations Becky! You're getting all these goodies! I don't have your email address, so you have 3 days to contact me (erickabennett (at) gmail (dot) com) and claim your prize. If I haven't heard from you by midnight on Sunday night, I'll pick a new winner Monday morning.

*Thanks for entering everyone! I can't wait to share my WINTER Favorite Things with ya'll!