Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And He Walked

It's been a month of consistently walking with them, sharing their smiles, singing songs, and meeting together. For four years I have known faces. For a few, I have known names. Now, I am learning their stories.

There is my best friend, the little one who has been close to me for about a year. We share hugs and smiles, a few phrases in Tagalog, and then we squeeze hands and stay close.

There is the sibling group with the sweetest smiles. They keep adding siblings to the mix, and I wonder how many there really are. Even as they stood in the hot sun, they still wore their smiles.

And this little one… the three year old with the small face and dark eyes. She came one day to our little group crying, so I picked her up and held her close. And she melted. She continues to snuggle close each time I hold her. If I could, I would take she and her brother in a heartbeat. I wonder how often she is snuggled.

I look at the mothers, lining up with the little ones to grab extra food and presents. While the little ones look with fresh faces and bright eyes, I see the tiredness and years of wear on the faces of their mothers.

I have learned in my time here not to judge… when the mom gets angry and snatches the child too hard, for the little one who needs to be held, for the crying that won’t be soothed.

The reality is that life is hard. Life has been hard. And when you live in a slum with few options for how to earn the next meal and safety is a luxury, it tends to stress.

I look around at the dirty feet and faces smudged in charcoal, the sores and runny noses that indicate deeper problems.

And I can’t help but remember… the Word that became Flesh, and lived among us.

The God who bent low… the God who wrapped himself in skin… our skin… this skin so prone to scratches, sores and bruising, this tired flesh that bears the weight of years and hardships.

The very Word himself decided to take our flesh and make it his own.

And he was humbled.

He humbled and bent low. And I can’t help but imagine that if I could have seen his flesh in this slum, then I would have seen him bending even lower.

Never mind, I am sure I saw his flesh. I saw reflections of him in their eyes.

And as the Word became flesh, he lived, breathed, walked among us.

And the company he kept? The little ones like my sweet friends, covered in garbage, they would have been his treasures. He would have stooped low to scoop into his arms and hold them tightly. He would have sat amongst their circles, laughing and sharing stories.

The tired mothers? His devoted ones who wrapped his body and welcomed his re-entry.

The fathers in the corner observing at a safe distance? His best friends.

He chose to walk among us, to experience the aches and the pains of this life so we could draw closer.

Maybe that’s what I needed this Christmas… to be reminded that real love became flesh and took on my skin. To be shown that ultimate sacrifice and perfect peace comes from the body of a newborn who would grow into a man, stretching his arms to welcome my sin.

Stretching his arms to welcome me.

Not only did he walk among us, but he considered the joy before him and endured the cross. The story never ends with a baby in a stable, but with a God who conquers death.

And I look at the little faces of the ones I have come to love so much, and I can’t help but be in awe of a God who made himself like us so we could be close to him.

Who else is there like him? What other deity would stoop so low to welcome the lowly?

My precious Jesus.

The one who leads the celebration in heaven when his little ones say yes to him. The arms once made small and weak, then broken, now stretched to welcome all who say yes.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

                                                                                    John 1:14

Saturday, December 7, 2013

For the Ache, The Wait, and The Joy to Come


I think that's the only way I can really describe this feeling. I think it's the only way I can accurately assess the feeling of urgency in my heart that presses me to search and search.

This will be my second Christmas away from home. My second Christmas away from what is familiar, what is comfortable. Once again, the presents were ordered online instead of handpicked, to be opened via Skype with smiles instead of hugs in exchange for what is given and received.

I have described this separation as akin to having a hole in my heart. Some days the hole is small. I am busy with the daily activities of life, and the hole doesn't really hurt. But other times, the hole feels larger... birthdays, weddings, holidays, and one more picture that no matter how much I search, I simply cannot find myself.

There are times I have been accused of being flippant... of not showing emotion when I say good bye or brushing off the desires of family members and friends to visit, to return.

It's self-preservation really. I say good bye a lot, and with that comes the need to shut down because if every loss was mourned, then I would never recover. Is it healthy? Maybe, maybe not, but it works.

Yet sometimes I simply cannot ignore the ache... especially when life gets harder than usual, and I find myself longing for what is familiar.

And it is this desire that has left me with a hunger... a hunger for something more this season, this Christmas. Maybe it's because Christmas is the representation of all that is familiar and routine... the traditions, the family, the decorations, the stories.

I find myself listening to, craving Christmas music, wishing for the bitter cold and an occasion for hot chocolate, watching every Christmas movie I can get my hands on.

I am not sure why I feel like I need this so much.

It could be homesickness. It could be the body and the mind hitting a cultural wall.

Maybe it is a combination of the two.

Or maybe, just maybe, my heart longs for something deeper. Because I know that there should be something deeper... Christmas is a time meant for something deeper. It is a time to remember magic. It is a time to remember there is a deeper beauty in this world than I could ever imagine... a deeper beauty that my soul is desperate to grasp.

It reminds me of the longing, the ache of the world before the first Christmas. Four hundred years of silence before He spoke again. A people living in oppression. A world in darkness.

And then, the longing fulfilled with the entrance of a child to peasants, welcomed by the lowly and wrapped in rags.

In one entrance, the darkness was lifted and "a people walking in darkness have seen a great light".

In the past, there are different aspects of the Christmas story I focus on... the light of the Savior in a world of night, the story of a young girl who said yes even if she may not have understood.

Maybe this year, He is reminding me of the longing... what was the world like before the arrival?

This ache, because yes, this life is meant for so much more than what I am settling for... this life finds itself in the story of a God who became a child, grew into a man, and through death from redemption for one such as me.

This heart was meant to bend at the edge of the lowly stable, to rejoice in the glory of what began that night.

And I realize that so often I choose to live like a manger never happened and the silence is still ongoing.

Because yes, there is pain and despair in this world, but there is hope. And Christmas was meant to remind me that no matter how great the darkness, there is always hope because there is a God who whose to wrap my injured flesh around himself, breathe this air, and walk this ground.

I feel it as my heart learns to take the unfamiliar and draw it close... to find my new normal... to rejoice in my adopted family, realizing that I have been blessed with a heart attached to more than one place.

There will always be an ache as long as the heart must wait... because this wait is just a shadow of the ache all creation still awaits for the ultimate grand entrance that is still to come.

So I wait. I live, knowing the joy that has come, the joy of the present, the joy still to come.

But the longing will be fulfilled because the fulfillment has come.

And for this, even an aching heart can rejoice. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Light... A Short Story


That’s the first thing she noticed. At first, it was just a small strand, nothing to render a second glance. She had seen the pieces of light before, but they always faded away. Still, it was something new in the darkness that surrounded her. So she watched.


The small strand began to grow. This too was nothing new. She instinctively pulled back to the corner, the deepest blackness of her dungeon. The light always grew before it was extinguished, followed by her master.

The Master.

The mere thought of him sent shivers down her spine. Sweat broke out on her forehead in spite of the dungeon’s cold. Her arms and back began to ache in anticipation of the beating and humiliation to come.

“Not again”, she whispered, pleading to the darkness. Tears fell silently down her cheeks. She watched as the light grew and waited.

But the light never stopped.

Instead, it kept growing and growing until the room was almost flooded with it. It moved throughout the dark cell, replacing the darkness with its golden rays. It stopped just in front of her, in the deepest corner.

She almost reached out to touch it, but quickly thought better. What if it was a trick?

Nothing happened for a few moments. The light stayed where it was, and so did she.

And then she saw him.

At first she thought it was her master, and she froze, trying to become invisible in what darkness remained. If she had looked closer, she would have noticed he was at least a head taller than her master. The master was really a scrawny and gangly man, yet this one was powerful and impressive with strong arms and broad shoulders.

But she didn’t. Instead, her eyes remained fixed on the ground, trying to fight off hysteria.

He began to walk closer to her, slowly, as one would approach a frightened animal.

Her hands covered her face, but she could hear the thud of his boots as he approached her. Then he stopped, and she almost fainted from fear. She expected him to grab her by the hair or neck and drag her away for another beating.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he knelt to the ground in front of her.

“Little one”, he whispered gently. His voice startled her. She was expecting a bark or a yell, but it was so… soft. Not weak, definitely strong. But there was something so… comforting about the sound of his voice. She looked up.

His hand was extended, holding something. A bottle maybe?

“Water, little one”.


Her mind struggled to comprehend the word. It had been so long since she had tasted water. Her throat used to ache at the thought, but now she was just numb. Dry and numb.

Trembling, her weak hand reached out to take the bottle, but then she pulled away. What was she doing! This had to be a trick. She tried to look around him, expecting to see her master standing in the doorway, laughing at her, the glimmer in his eye that would signal her doom.

“He’s not here anymore, little one,” he said, knowing what she was thinking.

She wrinkled her eyebrows, looking at him in disbelief. Her mind did not even begin to try comprehending what that would mean.

“It’s true. I defeated him. This is his sword and shield, covered in his blood. He is gone, and he will never hurt you again.”

When she saw the sword, her mind almost began to believe it. Her fingertips stretched and traced the seal on the sword’s handle, a skeleton wrapped in chains. She smelled the blood on the shield… a mixture of smoke and sulfur. She knew it was his because once, when she was stronger, she hit him in the cheek and drew blood. She never forgot the smell… or the beating that followed.

He offered her the bottle again, and this time she snatched it, tore open the lid, and gulped the contents.

It was so sweet, cool. She felt her mouth and throat coming to life again, as if a fire inside were being extinguished. It came so quickly that she began to cough and choke.

He took the bottle from her. “That’s ok little one, there will be more”. He smiled at her.

Then he reached out and grabbed her hand. In shock, she let him do it. Had she been thinking, she would have pulled away. Her hand was so small in his.

She could hear cloth tearing, he took out another bottle and poured it on her hand.

“Ahh!” she screamed at the burning sensation and pulled the hand away.

“It’s ok little one. It’s just a balm, medicine for your wounds. They will feel better, I promise.”

She stared at him for a moment and then at her hand. It had already begun to feel better.

Giving it back, she gritted her teeth, waiting for it to sting again. Really, compared to everything else she had faced, this sting was nothing and normally would not make her even flinch. But her nerves were raw at the moment.

After pouring the balm, he wrapped her hand in the cloth. She offered him the other hand. He smiled and repeated the process.

After bandaging her hands, he reached for her face, cupping her chin in his hand before she had a chance to react.

She couldn’t look at him. She knew there would be revulsion in his eyes, disgust. Always ugly, with a crooked mouth and nose. In fact, the master called her the Crooked One. He would take a look at the crooked face, covered in scars and bruises, and walk away. Everyone else did.

He remained there for a few moments, her chin in his hand. Willing herself to look up, she saw his face, eyebrows wrinkled in… anger! He was angry! Why?

Perhaps he had been told she was beautiful, and he was angry someone had lied.

Perhaps she was the wrong one he had come for.

 Perhaps this was some mistake.

He lifted his other hand, and she braced for the blow.

But the hand didn’t form a fist, and it didn’t find her eyes or cheeks. Instead, it rested on the top of her head, gently brushing the hair back from her face. He looked down into her eyes, and his face softened.

The anger melted away.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you little one.”

His eyes… That’s what convinced her. He was genuine, really sorry she had been wounded. His eyes were so tender, so… there was something else in them she couldn’t place, but she liked it. His eyes were safe, offering no judgment or humiliation.

He smiled at her.

“Little one, I have defeated your master. You are free. But now you have a choice to make… You can either remain here in your dungeon, or,” he paused, “You may come with me.”

Somehow she knew, deep in her soul, this decision would change everything. Her mind could not comprehend it. Her soul could not grasp the fullness of this concept, what this would mean for her…


The word had been offered to her before, dangling like jewel, only to be taken away, snatched by his mocking eyes and bruising fingers.

“You want freedom?” He would laugh at her, pulling the chains on her wrist tighter. He would toss her to the floor like a rag doll, hitting her head on the cold stone floor. And then, he would grab her hair in his hand and pull her up until his ice blue eyes met hers.

“Freedom only comes to the beautiful ones," he would hiss. "And you… stupid, ugly little whore, what would you do with it? Do you think the beautiful ones would let you join them? No… they would despise you. They would push you right back into my arms, if you hadn't run back to me already. Freedom is a price you cannot pay.”

And with that, he would release her, shaking his hands free of the pieces of hair he had pulled out. She would crawl back to her dungeon, back to the darkness, back to her pain. She would curl into a ball and wait for the blood to clot, the pain to subside, the thought of freedom to escape her mind.

She shook her head at the memory and looked around her dungeon.

The light had illuminated everything around her, and for the first time, she could see…the cobwebs and spiders along the ceiling and in the corners, the rats scurrying in and out of holes, puddles of mud and waste scattered about the floor, empty chains attached the wall, various bones here and there (how long had those been there?).

She could stay here. It was comfortable, safe. She knew the sounds and had grown numb to its scent. But did she want to? Was this freedom?

His hands had moved from her chin to her hands. He was still inspecting the bandages around her palms, studying the scars on her fingertips. She stared at him. Who was this man? Why did he want her?

He saw her filth, her rags, her wounds… what could possibly make him want to save her?

And what if she said yes? Would he now own her, have some sort of claim over her? How did she know she wasn’t just going from one dungeon to another?

Yet, in spite of the doubts that filled her mind, she knew, oh she knew, somehow, he was safe. She noticed that her breathing had slowed, become deeper. She was no longer gasping for air, trying to soothe a raw throat, panting in fear.

No, she was relaxed, her heart steady. And the hands did feel better. She wiggled her fingers, able to move without pain.

He looked up, looking into her eyes once more.

It was the eyes… they finally convinced her. There was no hint of cruelty in them, no hint of humiliation or malice. His eyes were so…protective, gentle, peaceful, safe. And she knew, he would never wound her, never destroy her, never try to break her.

In his eyes, she found home.

“Well?” he whispered.

She nodded her head.

“You must say it little one. Coming with me will be difficult for you. You will have to learn to live in freedom. But you must say it out loud.”

Taking a deep breath, she replied, “I want to be with you.”

He smiled. “Alright then, let’s go home.”

He lifted her to her feet. She stood for a moment and tried to take a step to follow… but she couldn’t and instead cried out in pain, crumpling to the floor.

This it is, she thought as she lay on the floor. He will leave. I can’t even walk out of here. And her eyes began to close, darkness looming in around her.

“Please, please”, she begged, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. “Please don’t leave me.”

She felt him beside her, kneeling down.

“Oh little one, I will never leave you.”

He scooped her into his arms, cradling her like a small child. He was warm.

They left the dungeon, it’s darkness, the cold, and walked out into the sunlight. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

For The One I Call Mine

There is only one thing I would ever change about you.

Really, there is nothing because you are perfect, but there is one thing I would change.

I would change what you see…

Not what you see when you look at the world around you, or even what you see when you look at me.

I would change what you see when the person staring into your eyes is you.

Because you don’t see it…

I know you don’t see it because you are a woman, and in the world we live in, we must always strive. Strive, push, pull, pluck, transform.

Always trying to be better, to change what we see in the mirror.

And I have heard your words… the words you speak over yourself, and to be honest, they break my heart every time.

So this is me, trying to find the words to say to show you how truly special you are.

It is you who also urges me to speak life over myself, but you fail to call out the beauty others so quickly see.

You fail to see the eyes… those sparkling green eyes that reveal the joy deep inside. Those eyes have wept in sorrow, the moments of pain. But they have also wept with joy, with pride. Some of my favorite moments I remember looking into those eyes and knowing how loved I am, how proud you are of me.

Your arms… you say they are too big, too much, but there are moments when all I want is the safety of your arms. Those arms were the first place I found myself when I came into this world. They are the arms that assure me everything will be okay. They are the arms that give strength, encouragement, that open to welcome and close to protect.

Your stomach… my first home. I know it is not where you would want it to be, but four little girls were formed inside. I would not trade it for the world.

Your smile… Good gosh, I love that smile. I love how your face lights up when you are happy. I love how it smirks when you are trying not to laugh. I love the lips that have kissed my cheeks a million times, soothed countless bumps and bruises, hummed tunes and formed funny voices.

I wish you could see the lines on your face like I do… The lines tell a story, the story of you. You have fought battles when life became heard, travelled across the oceans, welcomed love into your life, and loved enough to let go. They tell the story of a woman who has faced fear and won.

I wish you could see yourself as He sees you… uniquely and wonderfully made, bought and ransomed by precious blood, set apart for his purpose, created for such a time as this.

When He looks at you, He calls you Beloved, Chosen, Redeemed.

My prayer for you this year is as He calls you and captivates you, your heart will be ready to hear. My prayer is that you will hear His voice, his love and encouragement, through the words of others.

And not only will you listen, you will receive.

There is a difference between knowing and believing. I can tell you how beautiful and special you are all day long, but I cannot change your heart. I cannot undo the lies and abuse the world has used to break you.

I wish I could, but I can’t.

Instead, I can pray.
I will pray that this is the year your heart will come alive in ways it never has before.

I will pray this is the year of incredible leaps of faith and incredible joy.

I will pray that when others speak life into you, you will receive their words as precious gifts.

I will pray that you will draw closer to His heart as you never have before.

And I will speak life into you, as you have taught me. I will tell you how grateful I am that I am yours, and half of me is you. I will tell you how you are the most beautiful person in the world, not just because of looks, but because of your heart.

You are beautiful because your heart reflects His.

You are beautiful because you serve selflessly in every situation.

You are beautiful because you are a woman of honor.

And You are beautiful because you are mine.

I wish that you could step out of yourself for just a moment and see what others witness when they look at you. I wish you could see the joy that overflows from your heart when you are completely focused on others.
And I wish that this year is your best yet.

And I wish a Happy Birthday to the most beautiful woman I know, the one I call mine.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

For Those Who Wait

I watched as she explained the news in Tagalog. The room was filled with people, Filipino and white. English would have been understood, but news like this must be shared in the heart language.

I watched their faces… the embarrassment at being the center of attention, the mind trying to comprehend and process what they were being told. Their eyes moved from her face to the pictures in front of them.

This is your family.

How could a heart so young understand something like this?

How could they possibly know what this will mean when their world has consisted of the dumpsite they used to call home and now these four walls.

And I watched the rest of their faces. The other little ones who will still be here when they are gone.

Some cried tears because they will miss their best friends, and as beautiful as it is, adoption is hard.

And some cried the tears of the left behind. The pain of it’s not yet my turn.

They pray for families.

Each child, regardless of whether or not he or she can fully understand what this will mean… they all pray for families.

And they wait.

One little boy verbalized his desire for the first time this week… at least, it’s the first time I heard him say it out loud.

This little boy is ten years old. He loves to play cards, basketball, and action figures. He wins medals for running track, is vice president of his class,  and he is brilliant in school.

And he just wants a family.

There is the large sibling group of five with the big brother who wraps his arms around his sisters protectively. He watches over them, holding their hands when they go to the park, always on his guard to defend them. He’s the kind of big brother I wish I had.

And they just want to be together.

They will. They will stay together because we don’t separate sibling groups.

But they don’t understand how much harder this will make for someone to say yes.

And they’re waiting for someone to say yes.

I can give you 74 stories.

I could show you 74 pictures and give you 74 names.

God knows there will be more.

But to you, those stories, names, and pictures will remain that way unless He grabs a hold of your heart.

Do you understand that these precious little ones are waiting?

Living with them, seeing them every day, one would think that I would always be aware of this fact. But sometimes I need to be reminded, too. 

I have seen more clearly in the past week how His heart beats for them. Our God stands in the gap on behalf of them, restoring them in the deepest places we cannot even imagine.

One of our big girls sang a song for our visitors. Six months ago, she never would have done that.

One sweet baby boy let himself come near the new faces in his space, and he didn’t fall apart. Three months ago, he would have screamed in agony.

They are healing. Yes, there are issues and moments of pain. Yes, the issues resurface as the little one cries out, “Will you still love me if I am like this?”

But there is beauty. So much beauty that I miss.

God, help me see the beauty.

Oh, how His heart beats for them.

He sets the solitary in families. He defends the fatherless, the ones left without someone to defend them.

Why would He not move mountains on their behalf to bring them the families they deserve?

You may not be ready to welcome a little one, but maybe a little one is ready for you.

Maybe God is tugging at your heart, asking you to put away the excuses and trust.

Maybe He asks that you take the first step and simply follow, allowing Him to do the rest.

Now, I know it is not really that simple. There are finances to consider, things to get in order, budgets to plan, and the next 18 years that will require more commitment and sacrifice.

And it’s going to be hard.

Of course it is going to be hard!

Adoption is one of the most visible representations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Enemy will do everything He can to plant the seeds of doubt…

You can’t afford this…

What about your retirement plans…

Your  “real children” will suffer…

You have enough issues as it is. How could you possibly parent a child like that?

You aren’t good enough…

You will never get approved…

You are too old…

Your adopted child will hate you…

What if he/she has problems beyond your control?

Oh, He loves to plant doubt and destroy the dreams of the Lord.

And do you know what the Enemy will whisper to their hearts?

You are not worth it...

A new family will abuse you, too...

No one will ever want you, love you, choose you...

You are too much...

You will always be an orphan...

If your own mother couldn't stay, why would someone else...

You can't trust anyone...

God doesn't hear you...

 But my God is bigger than the lies. 

My God is able to supply all needs.

My God is Mighty to save.

My God will move heaven and earth for the sake of His little ones.

I can tell you first hand that when children pray, mountains move.


I can also tell you the story of a little boy who was placed in my arms three years ago. This little boy has a piece of my heart that will never be replaced. He is my buddy, my special friend.

And for three years, I have been praying for his family.

I prayed for a mother and father who would love Jesus. I prayed that they would be tender and loving, understanding of his needs, devoted to their family. And I prayed that he would have a big brother.

Two weeks ago, I met his mother and father… and his big brother and sister. The mother is gentle and firm. The father is warm and loving. They are devoted to their children, solid, consistent, beautiful. And they love Jesus.

Three years ago, almost to the month, they began the process that would lead them to this little boy.

My God answers prayer on behalf of His little ones.

I don’t know what is standing in your way, what doubts, what fears you might have.

But I know my God is bigger.

I believe that every believer has a role to play in caring for His little ones, a way of reflecting His heart beat whether it is praying for little ones, supporting adoptive families, caring for His little ones, welcoming them into your life. Where do you fit? Where can you join?

And maybe you are not yet praying for someone. Maybe adoption has not even crossed your mind. Maybe you just aren’t ready.

But maybe someone is getting ready for you.

Maybe, someone is praying for you.