Friday, December 25, 2015

Emmanuel (God With Us)

It's past midnight on Christmas Eve and I'm sitting on the couch in my pajamas staring at the lights on our tree. I'd like for you to think that today (and the days leading up to it) have been full of reflection and meditation on Christ and His birth... but it has sadly been busy-ness as usual again this year. *sigh.

I bought a beautiful devotional that has touched my heart... the handful of days I've found the time to read it. And I have looked forward to being home for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but after traveling 6 hours today I've had little time to enjoy it. Right now, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, I've found the first few minutes to truly slow down and set my heart on Christmas. And once again this year, I realize just how much we need Jesus to come.

I turn on the TV and hear about bombings in Paris and shootings in California and I realize, we need Jesus.

I scan my Facebook newsfeed and it only takes a few minutes to be overwhelmed by posts full of anger, hatred and fear. We need Jesus.

I read tragedy after tragedy of mommies and daddies taken away from babies much too soon and my heart cries out for Jesus.

I feel the frustration well up when I hear my friend Kayla (who is battling cancer herself) share about another little boy who lost his fight and I know... we need Jesus.

I weep with a group of fellow mothers who ache for their adopted children to be home in their arms, and I think about how much we need Jesus.

I look into the face of poverty and injustice again and again and as much as I try to help - so many days I feel helpless. It's much too big for me... I need Jesus.

If there is one resounding line in my heart this Christmas it is this...

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

It's true the world desperately needed Jesus to come as a baby on that blessed night 2000 years ago... but the truth is, we desperately need him to come too. Today, and every day... we need Him to come in our hearts.

We don't just need a Teacher, a Savior, or a King. We need Emmanuel. GOD WITH US.

We need a God who is WITH US through cancer. A God who heals and a God who sustains... and a God who leads us to a cure.

We need a God who is WITH US through infertility and adoption... a God who holds our aching hearts and gives us the strength to HOPE.

We need a God who is WITH US as we grieve the loss of those taken too soon, and try to put our broken lives back together.

We need a God who is WITH US, because He is the only one big enough to truly end poverty and injustice in our broken world.

We need a God who is WITH US,  to drive out anger and hatred, and to teach our fearful hearts how to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

And THAT is who He is. He is not just a lowly babe born in a manger. He is more than our Savior King. He is EMMANUEL - which means "God with us". And He is with us, if we will only let Him be.

He willingly came down to our broken world not just to make an appearance, but to truly enter our mess. And then to stay. And stay. And stay no matter how messy it gets. Because He promised to never leave us or forsake us. He promised to stay WITH US.

And more than another sweet story, or sentimental tradition this Christmas, I need to know that God is here, WITH ME, in the midst of my mess. And that He is never going to leave.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel! We beg you! Come Jesus. Come and be with us. We need you.

(I love the lyrics to the original hymn, but these updated lyrics really touched my heart this Christmas.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Your VOTE could change a child's life!

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while probably know that I'm the Executive Director of a children's charity called The Sound of Hope. My husband and I founded this non-profit in 2010, and it is extremely close to our heart. We work around the clock to provide rescue, protection, and holistic care for more than 200 children in 4 countries. This weekend our organization is in a competition for THOUSANDS of dollars in funding, and we need your vote!
For those who may have missed it last year – "Project for Awesome" is a video competition started by an AWESOME community on YouTube. On this weekend each year, people take over YouTube with awesome videos about awesome charities – and ours just happens to be one of them!
Last year was our first year participating, but we have the BEST supporters. So many of you voted and shared our video, and at the end of the weekend we were in 20th place out of 960 videos! WOW! Because we placed in the Top 20, we won more than $15,000 of education funding for the children in our care. Isn’t that AWESOME?
Want to know how we spent that 15K? Then watch our video BY CLICKING HERE and please VOTE for us right now! Our kids need to go to school again in 2016, and your vote could help us win the funding they need! It only takes a second to vote - no registry or email required! It's simple!
Please help us give some very deserving children the gift of education! Just 3 clicks could change a child's life! 1 click to watch, 1 click to vote, and 1 click to share the link with your friends! We need people posting this on FacebookTwitterInstagram, G+ – you name it! The contest ends Sunday at 11am, so email your friends right now, call your co-workers, and tell everyone to VOTE! Education IS hope for these children. So watch, vote, and help us get the word out – and you’ll be changing the lives of some really awesome kids.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

We're praying for a Christmas miracle...

I cried myself to sleep last night after another very frustrating phone call with our adoption agency. In April we were told that "while nothing can ever be guaranteed" - they were "confident" we would have a match "by the end of the year if not before". We have held on to that timeline for months - just waiting and hoping and believing.

Unfortunately, after last night's conversation they didn't give us any hope of a match before Christmas. They told us everything slows down in December, and if it didn't happen in October or November, it won't happen now. Then they said, "maybe early next year... I really think it could be January or February! But who really knows? There's no way to know. Don't bet on any timeline." *sigh. 

The vagueness and complete lack of a "finish line" is so hard on my heart. It's hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. We have been pursuing this adoption for 46 months. All our paperwork has been in Thailand for 18 months - just waiting for a referral. We are still not matched with a child. We don't even have a photo of our daughter's face. And the wait just drags on. 

I know they said not to hope for a match this month.... but I can't help but hope and pray anyway. What do we have if we don't have hope?!? 

This season makes the wait very difficult. I can't even begin to express how painful it is to have an empty house at Christmas when we've been waiting to be parents for so long. How we wish every night of December that we were curled up with a little brown sugar skinned toddler in Christmas pajamas watching Christmas movies. How we imagine her brown eyes dancing beneath the twinkling lights on the tree. How I long to have a messy kitchen full of sprinkles and sugar and flour from making Christmas cookies with my daughter. How much we dream of the day we'll be putting toys beneath the tree and hearing laughter on Christmas morning. But instead, we will hang a stocking one more year, in a quiet house, for a child we've never met. The wait is hard all year, but the longing is palpable at Christmas.

So we're asking you to join us in HOPING and PRAYING for a miracle - that we'll be matched before Christmas. I know it's a long shot, and if it's not God's timing then we will trust Him and wait some more. But would you pray with us anyway? Pray that God will constantly put our family on the heart of the Thai woman matching us. Pray that our adoption agency will advocate for us and make us a priority. Pray that God will advocate for us! Pray that He will open doors and speed up vague, lengthy timelines. Pray that He will protect and prepare our daughter to come home - and that He will renew our HOPE and prepare us to be parents. Pray for Him to move mountains! We know these are big prayers, but we serve a BIG God. As our babies in Africa sing, "My God is so BIG, so STRONG, and so MIGHTY - there's nothing my God cannot do for you!" 

Jesus, this is the season when YOU came - in an unexpected way - to bring HOPE to the hopeless. And so, this Christmas, we're asking you to come again and waiting with expectant hearts!