Learning to Be Guided

“Why do I so quickly forget the euphoria that often follows a time of intimate walking with Him through blackness?  Do I not remember the ways in which those victories encouraged my heart to step out in faith and follow Him into the next unknown adventure?”

Scott and I are still just beside ourselves with joy over the news that we can now move forward with Lilyan’s adoption. But the reality of what we’re now facing is beginning to set in as the holidays draw to a close. We’ve already been through this process about twenty times. We know how hard it is—how consuming, how overwhelming, how exhausting. I woke up this morning, feeling almost paralyzed by the work ahead of us in the coming weeks as we try to compile all of the paperwork and raise all of the funds needed to make this child our daughter, while also continuing to run a non-profit for the other waiting orphans of the world; manage a household of nineteen; juggle the needs and appointments  involved in raising many children with special needs; and school all of our school-age children.

I wanted to whimper and beg God for some kind of a shortcut this time. But I know what He’s calling us to do. And I know that I have to step out in faith and follow Him through this process again, one step at a time.

Additionally, no two adoption processes are exactly alike, and they all come with surprises—usually not good ones. Sometimes I feel weary of these surprises, and I wince at the thought of encountering more of them. I can’t see what’s ahead and I don’t know exactly what to expect.

These thoughts reminded me of something I wrote over two years ago. Here I am, two years later, still trying to learn the lesson God showed me that day. And it struck me that the beginning of a new year, as well as the beginning of a new adoption, is a good time to revisit this lesson. I’m posting this here today in case someone else is feeling a little afraid of the unknown as they follow God into 2014. He’s got this. I will try harder to listen to His voice and follow His loving instructions.

Learning to Be Guided
(Written November 2011)

 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…”
Deuteronomy 33:26-27

 Yesterday my blind son, Colin, did something he had never done before. He climbed a tree. One of his brothers coached him as Colin tried to figure out how to even begin his ascent and then searched for hand- and foot-holds to support himself. I have to admit that I was just a little apprehensive about this, but Scott and I made the decision a long time ago to encourage our disabled children to reach for their dreams, and to do our best not to let our fear stand in their way.

My apprehension rapidly approached panic, however, when I realized that Colin had suddenly become fatigued and disoriented and couldn’t figure out how to get back down. Scott, my always-steady partner in this crazy life, calmly walked to the base of  the tree and began giving Colin very clear instructions: “Colin, hold on with your left hand and slowly slide your right hand down the branch that you can feel under your elbow. Now let go with your left hand and move it down and slightly to your right until you find another strong branch just in front of you. Now lift your left foot and move it down behind you just a bit until you find where two branches meet. Slide your foot into that spot…”

Colin has always been a very strong-willed child. He came home to us with a fierce independence well established in his heart. This is probably much of what helped him survive his very premature birth in Bolivia with virtually no medical care and then his next two years in an orphanage, as he gradually lost all of his sight and his world became very dark. But this same independence often gets him into trouble when he fights against help that he sometimes needs in his journey to learn how to live blind in a sighted world. It proved to be a huge stumbling block for him when the Holy Spirit began to woo Colin and call him to accept God’s plan of salvation for his life. Colin resisted this for a couple of years until his heart could no longer carry the burden, and then one day during the summer of 2011, he literally grabbed our hands, began to cry, and exclaimed. “Mom, Dad! I feel like there is so much sin covering me that there is no way out. It’s like someone is just shoveling more and more dirt over me so that I’m not able to ever get out from under it! I’m ready to give this to God now.” Then he prayed to accept Christ as his Savior, and it was definitely one of the most beautiful and dramatic conversions I’ve ever witnessed.

Since that time, he has gotten better about accepting needed help from others, and watching him listen and trust and willingly follow each of Scott’s instructions while I stood under that tree and held my breath was actually pretty amazing. Colin had no idea how far off the ground he was. He had no choice but to trust the voice that was guiding him to safety—a voice that belonged to someone who could clearly see the path Colin needed to take but couldn’t see himself.  His arms were trembling from fatigue, and part of me wanted my strong husband to jump into that tree and just try to carry Colin down. I’m so thankful that Scott stood his ground and insisted that Colin do this himself, trusting the voice of his father to rescue him. When he finally got to the point where he was hanging from his arms, and his legs were dangling just a few inches from the ground, Scott said quietly, “Now just drop to the ground.” Colin responded, “Are you sure?” I don’t know how far away the ground is.” And Scott said, “But I do. Just let go and drop.”

Colin’s first reaction when he hit the ground was intense nausea. This sometimes happens to blind people when they become severely disoriented, and he had to sit on the ground and pull himself together for a few minutes. Then, as we sat together discussing his adventure, he told me that he had dreamed often of climbing a tree and that actually doing it felt a lot like it had felt in his dreams—only scarier. Within a few minutes, he was feeling exhilarated by his accomplishment. Confident that he could trust his dad to help him if he got stuck again, he begged to repeat the climb. He said, “It won’t be so scary now that I’ve already done it once.”

Colin, climbing a tree for the first time in his life

He spent the next hour or so climbing around in the tree with his siblings, exploring a world that he’d only managed to find in his dreams before.

Yesterday, Colin grew a little stronger and moved a little further down the path toward whatever plans God has for an adopted, blind, American/Bolivian man in His world. And the bonding and trust between father and son grew even deeper.

There were so many powerful lessons for me in this incident. How often do I fear trusting God’s voice when I can’t see what’s under me or around me or ahead of me? Why do I ever doubt Him when He promises all through Scripture to guide me (Is. 48:17; 58:11), that His plans are to give me “hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11)?

Why do I so quickly forget the euphoria that often follows a time of intimate walking with Him through blackness?  Do I not remember the ways in which those victories encouraged my heart to step out in faith and follow Him into the next unknown adventure?

How can I so quickly lose sight of His trustworthiness after I have watched Him prove to me over and over again that He knows how far I am from the ground, and that if I will trust Him when He says, “Just drop now…” then He will continue to make something beautiful of my life and my relationship with Him. He has already shown me in so many ways that His plans for me are more incredible than any life I could dream of for myself (Jer. 17: 7-10).

I thank God regularly for the lessons He teaches me through parenting my children, and as the end of this year approaches I am asking Him, one more time, to help me store up these lessons, remember them, and learn from them how to trust Him more and follow Him better in the coming year.

Do You Believe in Happy Endings?

“Do you believe in happy endings? I do. I want to.”

Lilyan Moriah
Lilyan Moriah

Miracles. Especially Christmas miracles. Renewed courage; refreshed faith; blessed, beautiful hope.

Two weeks ago, pain flowed from my heart onto my computer screen through “Dancing with My Creator” as Scott and I, along with our children, grieved the loss of a daughter and the loss of a family for a child longing for a place to belong. Two weeks ago. It seems like months.

Since that time, Scott and I have tried to focus on preparing for Christmas with our children, to drink in all of the joy that comes with parenting this family God has built, and to wait patiently for healing peace in our aching hearts.

Wrapping Finished

We did feel peace, but under the peace, and all tangled in with the joy and excitement of the coming holidays, a sad sigh was never far away. Tears stayed just under the surface. And always, there was this feeling that this little one was supposed to be our daughter; the memory that God had clearly given us her name; the almost intangible, nagging whisper that maybe—just maybe—it wasn’t over yet even though, no matter how hard we searched or pushed, all doors and windows of hope appeared to be closed and locked.

We tried to resign ourselves to accepting that this child was one more who just wasn’t going to make it home to us. But somehow that feeling of finality didn’t come. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it was over. That she wasn’t coming home to us. While all around us, like an elusive mist, there was this feeling of expectancy. As if we were waiting for something; holding our breath.

Then it happened. Softly, quietly at first. We looked up and sensed that a locked door had creaked open ever so slightly. I wish I could say that I charged through that door, tearing it off it’s hinges with all of the passion of a mother set on saving her child. With all of the confidence a follower of Christ should have and the courage and assurance that He was saying, “It’s time for action. Come. Watch Me work.”

I wish I could boast that my faith had been strong enough to obey with the innocent trust of a child—like the one we were longing to hold and make our own—certain that no matter what lay on the other side of that door, it was part of the dance He had for me and that He would be with me.

But I have to admit that I moved slowly, cautiously. I timidly approached that door, fearful of the disappointment and hurt I might find if I opened it. I didn’t want to encounter any fresh pain. I didn’t want to let Him lead this dance that might involve more surrender of my heart.

I did follow, though. Whimpering and afraid, but I followed. And He took my hand and so gently led, breathing loving encouragement into my every step, whispering assurances of His desire to dance with me and bring beauty—His beauty, the only perfect kind of beauty—into what still sounded and felt like a broken mess.

“A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish. . . “
Isaiah 42:3

I cherished, in my heart, a smoldering ember of hope that it could be possible. That on the other side of that door, we might find the warriors we had been seeking to fight with us for this precious one.

So Scott and I grasped hands, looked to God for the strength to hope one more time, and together, we tremblingly pushed on the door.

For several days, it refused to budge past that tiny crack. Then yesterday . . . it opened. Light poured forth.

Yes! Waiting there for us, moving to His perfect timing, was a band of warriors willing to enter this battle with us. It didn’t matter that they weren’t dressed like warriors. They were dressed like social workers, trained and officially certified to do homestudies for families seeking to making sons and daughters of orphans in China. And they represented the hope our hearts have been longing for. The hope for someone else who would finally come forward to add their voice with ours in proclaiming that this precious little girl is worth saving.

The ecstasy we experienced as we basked in this light is inexpressible. All throughout the rest of the day, the joy would sneak up and surprise us and fresh tears would flow. We gradually became able to wrap our fingers, and then our minds, and finally our hearts around the reality that there is now new, real hope that our daughter is coming home to us.


To mark this day and our commitment to trust whatever God is doing, I ordered her Christmas stocking for next year. A stocking that will match all of her brothers’ and sisters’ stockings hanging in a very long, crowded row in front of our fireplace. A red, knit argyle snowflake stocking with the name Lilyan embroidered across the cuff. A stocking that we feel certain will be hanging here at this time next year.

During these past two weeks my heart broke over and over again as I tried to absorb that our little Lilyan’s story would end like the little one’s in this video made by our son several years ago. Then yesterday, the line, “Do you believe in happy endings? I do. I want to,” played over and over again in my head. Everything had so very suddenly changed. Lilyan’s story would now be one with a happy ending.

Watch the video. It’s only four minutes of your time. You’ll be changed by it—even if only a tiny bit.

And as you watch it and cry and pray for those who are left behind and search your heart for ways to enter into the fight for the fatherless, also pause for just a minute to look up with us and praise God that there will now be one fewer of these broken little hearts.

For those left behind. But also because one more is coming home.

Dancing With My Creator

“But what about when the dance doesn’t feel beautiful; when it feels hideously out-of-sync and disconnected, and the accompanying music seems to be made up mostly of minor chords and a discordance that’s dreadful to my tender ears? Like yesterday.”

“For you created my inmost being . . .” Psalm 139:13

Teddy bear waiting for the daughter who's never coming home now

Teddy bear waiting for the daughter who’s never coming home now

This past summer, Scott and I took a few dancing lessons together. We had talked about doing this for over twenty years and then finally decided that this would be the year. It would be our anniversary gift to each other.

Dancing with Scott at our son's wedding

Dancing with Scott at our son’s wedding

At our first lesson, the instructor told me that one of the hardest things for women to learn is to relax and let the man lead. I didn’t believe him. I’ve never been a strong leader or even had the desire to lead, almost always preferring to be led. I’m much more a follower than a leader. But when he started dancing with me, I was shocked to find that he was right. Over and over again, he would stop and reprimand me, saying, “Relax! Stop trying to lead. You don’t know the dance.” I would answer that I wasn’t trying to lead; I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing or which way I was supposed to go. And he would always respond with, “That’s exactly why you have to let me lead. I know the dance. You don’t. Relax and let me take you through the steps.”

I learned that I could do this better if I closed my eyes and just tried to feel the dance without anticipating any next steps, and the first time I was able to do this, the difference was staggering. This talented teacher made it seem like I could dance! It was fluid and smooth and exhilarating.

It reminded me of when I first learned to ride a bike as a child. I still remember, almost fifty years later, what it felt like to glide along all by myself that first time. It was almost exactly the way I’d always imagined flying would feel.

Dancing with this instructor who knew all of the steps and effortlessly guided me through them was very much like that, and almost immediately, I was struck by the relevance of the correlation between this experience and the spiritual walk in this very earthly life.

Over the next few months, this became a regular part of my life. I would continually focus on relaxing and allowing God to guide me through the unknown steps of each day. When I would unexpectedly find myself in the middle of a situation that was filled with uncertainty, I would whisper, “God, You created me. Hold me close and dance with me. You know my dance. I don’t.”

I became more able to believe the truth that He not only intimately knows, but even designs, every step of the unique dance for each person’s inmost being, and that He, and only He, can faithfully and safely lead me through mine every time. This concept catapulted my ability to trust God to a new level. And over and over again, I found myself in places of rapture as I would float along, feeling so in-sync with His will as I sensed, on a deeper level than ever before, the reality of His guiding me beautifully through each step.

It was so much easier to trust God after being led through a few of these blissful dance routines.

But what about when the dance doesn’t feel beautiful; when it feels hideously out-of-sync and disconnected, and the accompanying music seems to be made up mostly of minor chords and a discordance that’s dreadful to my tender ears?

Like yesterday.

About two months ago, after weeks of discussion and prayers for clarity, Scott and I had made the decision to commit wholeheartedly to the adoption of a little girl who had been born with significant medical needs. This little one with her shy smile and soft hair and tender eyes had never, even once in her four years of life, been seriously considered by anyone for adoption. Some adoptive parents had taken a look at her file, but each one had disappeared after reading the sections of that file which described the severity of her deformities and disabilities.

Scott and I knew we had the experience needed to care for her and help her reach her fullest potential. We knew that she would fit perfectly into our home, would be deeply loved by all of us, and would bring her own very special gifts into the mix that comprises our family to daily help shape each of us into better people.

Almost as soon as we began her adoption, we hit opposition at every turn—even as our love for her grew by leaps and bounds. Within a few weeks, it began to look very unlikely that we would ever be allowed to adopt her.

As the weeks passed, every time we hit a dead end, we would search for even the tiniest crack where we could try to force our way through the obstacles that stood between us and this child who had already become our daughter in our hearts. And we would press on until we hit another dead end, then search for another crack.

The problems almost all stemmed from the shifting attitudes in her birth country toward large families’ abilities to care for and truly love so many children. We continued hoping we would find that one brave warrior who was willing to face the giant and acknowledge that this child was worth fighting for. And over and over again, we encountered defenders of orphans who would state that, while they didn’t question our family’s ability to provide for and nurture one more little one, they feared the risks involved in tangling with the powers-that-be. Even though we could understand the importance of treading lightly so as to prevent anything that might affect their being allowed to continue reaching other orphans, we were desperately hoping that someone would have the courage to enter this battle with us on behalf of this very needy little one.

I began each day asking God to dance with me, showing me exactly where to place my feet, how to move my arms, when to twirl, when to sway as we trusted Him to clear, and lead us along, the path that would result in her salvation.

The child we were planning to name Lilyan Moriah

The child we were planning to name Lilyan Moriah

But yesterday, the last door slammed closed. No matter how we searched, there were no more cracks anywhere. No warriors ready to wield a sword for the sake of this precious one. Only a loud and definite and resounding “no” in response to our cries that we be allowed to give this little girl our name; bring her home; provide all of her medical care; tuck her into bed each night; bake her birthday cakes each year; love her forever. For hours after that, I felt nothing. Just a kind of numb exhaustion.

Then gradually, as I tried to sleep, I began to hear what sounded like the unsettling sounds of dissonance; my soul began to feel that I was caught up in what seemed to be an appallingly unchoreographed and completely random dance.

Somehow, even in the midst of this feeling of uncontrolled hopelessness, I sensed that God was still leading me through the steps. But in the pain, I found myself wondering why we had been asked to take this path, dance these steps, fall in love with her, before finally learning that all of our efforts were in vain. If we weren’t going to be allowed to make any difference in her life, after all, wouldn’t it have been better if we had never known about her and had never even tried to make her our own?

Our family loves C.S. Lewis’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Book four, The Silver Chair, contains possibly my favorite passage in the whole series. As the main characters in the story frantically try to decide their course of action concerning a command they believe they have been given, in spite of the fact that it could lead to their own destruction, they ask for advice from their guide, Puddleglum. His reply is based on deep Biblical truth:

 “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”

God didn’t ask Scott and me to pursue this child’s adoption as casual onlookers, but as her parents. This dance involved my accepting the responsibility of fighting for her as her mother. I have learned through the years that, if I won’t love the children He brings across our path with a mother’s heart, and if I won’t pray for them with a mother’s cries for her babies, then I’m not fully obeying or glorifying Him or fully loving them. And I know that He asks me to do this regardless of the pain it might bring later in the process. I want to get better at seeing that it’s an honor to be given the opportunity to cry a mother’s tears for these special ones of His. Even if I never hold them in my arms.

I know in my head that God is worthy of my trusting Him no matter how “not beautiful” the dance seems right now. Only He knows the whole dance. But my heart wants to cry out because of the pain of losing this daughter, the seeming injustice of the whole situation, and especially the probable future she now faces as an unwanted orphan who will never know just how much she really was loved by a family who tried to fight for her right to belong and to live a full and happy life. I have to keep dancing. I know this. I even want to keep dancing. Eventually. But maybe not today. Maybe for now, I can just sit and cry for awhile and try to find a way to ease the pain oozing from the new hole in my heart; a hole that will never, ever completely heal.

*********** This is NOT the end of the story! Read on to find out what happened next! “Do You Believe in Happy Endings?”  *********