Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is Joy?

I've spent much of today in tears, either letting them roll down my face or trying desperately to hold them in for fear if another slips out I will end up know, the ugly cry. From the first words spoken this morning until the last before we broke for dinner, my prayer of wanting to be stirred during this time was answered. To say that my heart has been stirred today doesn't sound goes far beyond being stirred. Today, my soul has been rocked.

You can hear something a thousand times and often never really hear it. If you do hear it, you may never really "get it". Sometimes you believe something so strongly that you can't even put it into words. You go along feeling so passionate about this, always looking for the right words to explain it, but always feeling like you just can't get it out right. And then someone says exactly what you feel and you know that there are no better words to describe it.

"Total joy comes not from total togetherness, but from utter brokenness." ~ Emily Richards

According to the dictionary, the word "broken" means reduced to fragments, reduced to submission, rough or irregular, not complete or full. As children, do any of us want to grow up to be "broken"? I doubt any of us would have been OK with not feeling complete or feeling reduced to fragments. But as an adult, I want nothing more than to be be reduced to fragments for God and to sumit completey to the Lord. I want nothing more than to be seen as "irregular" in hopes that more people will see just how good a "different kind of normal life" can be. And while each day I feel a little more complete and a little more "filled up" by God, there is always room for more and that room leaves me longing for it which means I am never completely full. I am broken....I'm slipping away from the ways of this world, "the norm", and am being broken and pieced back together by God.

I have been so excited about the Summit, but didn't know exactly what to expect. The moment I walked into the church this morning I was hit with the feeling of overwhelming joy. For the first time EVER, every where I turned, every person I passed or spoke with, every person there was just like me. No one thought anyone else was crazy. No one thought that what we all have been led to do is too much for us to handle because we all know that it's not about us and that if we take even the smallest step of faith, He will make sure that His work is done through us. And we all know that none of us really have a special calling to provide orphan care. This isn't something special that only a few of us have been called to do. It's not something that only a few churches should be working on. We are ALL called to do this. During the beginning of the day, I was hit hard knowing that I was sitting in the middle of the body of Christ. THIS is what He wants....for individuals, organizations and churches to rise up to care for His children. He doesn't care about the name that is on our letterhead or the logo on our shirts. It makes no difference to Him where we came from or who we think we are. All that matters to Him is that there are children, HIS children, suffering. He made it clear...this isn't an option. James 1:27....we all know it. He doesn't ask us to do this. He doesn't simply hope that we do. He commands it. We must care for widows and orphans and not let the world corrupt us.

Did I believe all of this when I walked in this morning? Yes. Did I hear any thing today that I've never heard before? No. Did it feel different? For some reason, yes. Maybe it's because I needed hear all of this in a different way and to be surrounded by people that believe the this moment. Maybe I needed the encouragement that says, "You're on the right path. Keep going." Or maybe I needed to see that there are so many people, organizations and churches that are REAL....that are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that these children are cared for. Today, we all knew that what we do doesn't matter. The title we hold, the amount of time we spend working, how "big" or "small" our organizations doesn't matter. I've come to learn that so many organizations say that it's not all about them, but they actually make it that way. We CANNOT be the hands and feet of Christ if we are concerned about making a name for ourselves and making ourselves out to be more than we are....we aren't the saviors....He is. If every person working in orphan care would come to the realization that the children they are working with aren't "THEIR" children and if we would all realize that we NEED each other to truly care for these children of God, maybe there wouldn't be so many children going to sleep hungry tonight and fewer would have died today from things that could have been prevented.

"Believe God for too much, rather than too little." - Dennis Rainey

How long have I said this same thing in my mind? To hear someone say out loud in these's striking. How can you believe God for too much? You can't because there is nothing He can't do. It's easy to believe that for others, but don't we all question whether He can really do such big things through us? He can and He's waiting....He's waiting for us to say yes and open ourselves up completely to Him....He's waiting for our surrender. Can you imagine what that would look like....Christians around the world rising up, forgetting about their differences and joining together to truly serve God by caring for His suffering children?

"We're never closer to the heart of God than when we care for someone who can give nothing back to us." ~ Dennis Rainey

It speaks volumes, doesn't it? There is nothing I want more than to be as close to the heart of God as possible, but to get there, I've got to give it all. Today started off with me being physically exhausted from little sleep and is ending with still being physically exhausted, but now emotionally drained. I heard the truth today and it was loud and clear. This is it. This is the life He created me to live. I've known it all along and I stopped questioning it a while ago, but today was a reminder that this is the right path. To serve God in this way......there is nothing I would rather do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Christian Alliance for Orphans

Tomorrow afternoon, Amanda S. and I will leave for Dallas to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit V.

From their website:

Summit V is an opportunity to worship God by learning about how He is caring for orphans around the world through His people... and how YOU can join Him. Detailed breakout sessions and strategic networking opportunities have been designed to equip the lay person, the church pastor & the orphan care worker with tangible steps they can take to love the orphan in their home, in their church, and through trusted organizations.
Please join us in Dallas as we offer ourselves as God's extension of compassion to the fatherless:
YOU can speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Pv. 31:8
YOU can defend the cause of the fatherless. Deut. 10:18
YOU can connect with others to better serve orphans’ needs together. Jn. 17:22-23

YOU can prepare to join the army of believers who are caring for the least of these. We need each one of you. Mt. 25:40

I am so happy to be able to attend the summit and grateful that Amanda will be attending with me. We believe that this will be a great learning and networking opportunity for us which will greatly benefit the mission of AAB.

Even though I am excited about participating in Summit V, I would rather there not be any orphans in the world which would mean this wouldn't be necessary. I find it kind of hard to be excited about being at such an event knowing that I am there because there is an orphan crisis. But knowing that we (individuals, church leaders and organizations) are there because we are willing to do whatever it takes to do something about this crisis brings me joy and I can't wait to meet some of the people that I've been hearing about and/or communicating in some way with for a while. This is going to be a great couple of days! Amanda and I will arrive in Dallas late tomorrow night (actually...probably after midnight) and will return home Saturday afternoon.

I am praying (and I know she is, as well) for safe travel and that the Lord will use this time to stir our passion for orphans even more than He does every other day of our lives. Amanda and I are similar in many being this passion...which is why she agreed to be involved with AAB. I am thankful for this opportunity to get to know her better and spend this time with others that share our passion for orphans.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let's Try This Again

Last week's yard sale fundraiser was a washout. It started raining Friday night and didn't really stop until late Saturday morning. Unfortunately, most big yard sale people (is that offensive?) are out early in the morning and slept through the storms. We did make a few hundred dollars, but that isn't close to what we could have done if it had been a sunny day. So we're trying it again this weekend and in a different location. We'll be set up in Crystal Springs, MS before dawn Saturday morning and hope to sell at least most of what we have left from last week. It looks like this weekend will be perfect yard sale weather and we're hoping for a good turnout.

Friday, April 17, 2009

AAB Yard Sale Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the AAB yard sale. It looks like April showers are going to hit us off and on all day, but we're open rain or shine. If you are in the Baton Rouge area, check out The Advocate for our ad (it will be obvious which sale is ours) and stop by. Thanks to every family that donated items to sell!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weaving Families - Forever Families Friday

This week's Forever Families Friday topic:

"My favorite adoption resources (i.e., parenting books, children's books, web sites, videos) are...."

Favorite Books:
There is No Me Without You
The Connected Child
There is another book that I remember really liking, but I let someone borrow it and I haven't gotten it back yet....if I think of the name of it I'll add it later.

Favorite Carrier:

Favorite Website:
Guatadopt (the site I visited almost as often as our agency's message board)

Rebecca Caswell (I told you I was going to do this! What? You thought I was joking! Ha!!)
-Rebecca started giving me adoption info before we were even considered "in process". Actually, I think she started sharing information the day I posted on our little message board that we were going to adopt. And she still sends stuff (as we prepare to start our second adoption), which I SO appreciate! Every thing I posted above, I probably heard about from her. Check out her blog for HER favorite resources.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

AAB Yard Sale - Last Chance for Donations Pickup

The last day we will be able to pick up donated items for the yard sale will be this Saturday, April 11th. If you planned to donate anything and have been unable to get it to us, please let us know and one of us will pick it up. We would like to have all donations in by that day, as well, but will gladly take whatever you want to give through next Friday afternoon.

Thanks to everyone that has contributed items so far! With the amount of things we have, we are sure to have a great sale.

Amanda has graciously offered to give up part of next week, her spring break, to help sort, organize, price and host the yard sale at her house. (Thank you SO MUCH, Amanda!)

The sale will be Saturday, April 18th.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What is Weaving Families?

I’ve had several people ask me about Weaving Families lately. Is this a part of Across All Borders? Who are they and what do they do? Are they an adoption agency? Why do we talk about them and link to them often on the AAB blog? Basically, why do we think Weaving Families Adoption Ministry is so important?

No, Weaving Families is not a part of Across All Borders. We are two separate organizations started by different families….they are an adoption ministry and we are an orphan care and family outreach ministry. With that said and while we are separate, we very much support the work of Weaving Families and they do the same for Across All Borders.

Weaving Families is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. They are NOT an adoption agency. They provide professional counseling, both in their office in Charlotte, NC and long distance consultations. They currently counsel adoptive parents, children (adoptees), adult adoptees and hope to soon begin counseling birth mothers. They help with a variety of issues and concerns, both pre and post adoption. They provide adoption education, workshops and presentations at churches and other adoption groups, as well as provide comfort for adoptive families. (This information was taken from a recent Weaving Families blog post.)

We believe in Weaving Families because this ministry is something that is greatly needed and is beneficial to the adoption community. I, personally, have not heard of any thing else like this in the country and I am impressed by the concept of this organization.

RJ (a Licensed Professional Counselor in NC and a National Certified Counselor) and Rebecca Caswell, founders of Weaving Families, are the parents of 4 children that were adopted from Guatemala and Ghana, so they know firsthand what it is like to journey through the adoption process. In addition to that, they have walked through the struggles of infertility and know what that brings. When it comes to infertility, the emotions from all sides in adoption, attachment and bonding, and all other issues that relate to adoption, they are among the most educated people I know and are well equipped for this ministry. They believe the same as we do and as many adoptive parents do, (as stated by RJ in the below video) “Adoption is a two-fold calling…, to grow your family and two, to care for orphans from across the world.”

Below is a video of the Caswell’s that was created for the adoption group at their church. This video was made before their twin boys from Ghana came home. The clip isn’t about Weaving Families, but about one family that knows the miracle of adoption and cares deeply for orphans around the world. Meet the Caswell’s…

On a personal note, I support Weaving Families because I know, without a doubt, that the Caswell’s are incredible people that are simply following God’s call for their lives, which includes Weaving Families. I have known Rebecca for years and have been blessed by her constant support and encouragement through our own struggle with infertility, through our adoption and even still as Across All Borders begins working in Guatemala. Her continued support of our work in Guatemala and as we prepare to begin our second adoption means more than I can ever say. The Caswell’s passion for adoption, orphans and families that are struggling around the world is inspiring and to be able to call them friends is a blessing in itself.

As strange as this sounds, I have never met either one of them, but that will soon change. In December, Rebecca and I will come face to face for the first time in an airport while waiting for a connecting flight. From there, we will travel to Guatemala together to work with orphans and families that are at risk of leaving their children as orphans. We will spend that time working together in the country that made us both mothers. Rebecca once wrote on her blog:

“When I think of Terry and her passion for helping with the immense needs in Guatemala I continually think of Isaiah 6:8:
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
That has been one of the greatest blessings along our adoption journey- the people that we have met who don't pause long to wonder what will it cost them to say "yes" to the Lord. “

Isn’t it amazing that when I think of RJ and Rebecca, I have ALWAYS thought the exact same thing? This family that continually says “Yes!” to the Lord, didn’t pause long to think when a person they have never met called Rebecca not long ago to ask her to represent Across All Borders (as well as Weaving Families) with me in Guatemala in December and possibly other future trips. When I think of Rebecca…a calm, sensible woman… I can almost see a person jumping up and down and shouting to the Lord, “Here am I! Send me!” Her love for Guatemala (and Ghana), orphans and families runs as deep as mine and I cannot express how happy I am that she will be traveling with Across All Borders and how greatly she will benefit the mission of AAB (not to mention that I am ecstatic about finally meeting someone that I feel like I‘ve known forever).

Rebecca - I won’t go on and on which is totally unlike me, I know. I think you know how grateful I am for your friendship, support, encouragement and prayers throughout the years and I’m sure you’re starting to understand that I really cannot wait for December. All I will say is that YOU bless ME…always! You both bless us. Love you, girl! :)

Adoption and orphan care should not and cannot exist without the other. Not all orphans will be adopted, but the best way to care for orphans is to provide them with families that love them. Adoption is the best orphan care there is (in my opinion). Weaving Families is a ministry that is bringing this to light and we believe that through them many people will be blessed and more children will be adopted. Across All Borders is working to reach the children that are not adopted and striving to prevent more children from becoming orphans. We are two very different organizations with different goals, but with the same passion of caring for the world’s orphans.

Will you join us?

Please visit the Weaving Families website to learn more about their work.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Forever Families Friday

I’m still having trouble with the Forever Families Friday button, so click here to visit the Weaving Families blog.

Several people have asked about Weaving Families over the last couple of weeks. You can click here to visit their website and learn more about this awesome ministry.

Alright….this week’s question is:
How did you choose your adoption path (domestic, foster care, or international)?

For us, choosing to grow our family through domestic or international adoption was never even a question. When we decided to adopt, that raw, gaping wound of infertility was still wide open. We knew that we could not go through a domestic adoption for several reasons, but mostly because we were afraid of being chosen by a birthmother and then having her change her mind at the last minute or worse (for us), after the child was born. We decided almost immediately that we would adopt internationally.

Deciding to adopt was easy. I had always wanted to adopt and even though infertility threw a huge kink in our plans, we knew that us having biological children was not in His plans, so we moved on quickly even with the pain of infertility still lingering. Once we ruled out domestic adoption , we started researching every country that had an international adoption program. Choosing the country was the hardest part for us because we each felt strongly about different countries and could not agree at all.

I had always wanted to adopt from Cambodia or China. I’ve felt a connection to Cambodia for probably the last 15 years or so even though I have never visited that country, but adoptions from there had been closed to Americans for years and we didn’t meet the age requirement for China, so both of those were out. For a while I thought Ukraine was “it”, but Danny didn’t feel the same. We bounced around from country to country and only ruled Russia, Kaz and all countries in Africa. And we ruled out Guatemala pretty quickly, too. Danny is the one that was brought back to Guatemala and by the time he let me know that he really felt we should adopt from there, I was tired of researching and getting nowhere new and tired of thinking about it. I really wanted to move on and Guatemala did refer infants, which we wanted for our first, so I said okay. Honestly, there was no “this is it” or “we’ve been called to Guatemala” feelings for me for a while after we made the decision. I knew we had been called to adopt, but from where, I was still not convinced. I was very excited about adopting from Guatemala, but I felt no connection to the country whatsoever. A couple of months into our paper chase, when I was reading every thing about Guatemala that I could get my hands on, is when that changed. Every thing “clicked” in an instant and there was never another doubt that our first child would be born in Guatemala. Obviously since then lots of things have changed and now I can’t imagine the time that Guatemala wasn’t this huge part of my life. Thinking back to the time when I never even considered Guatemala seems like another person’s life.

We are starting our second (international) adoption soon. We have narrowed the long list of possible countries down to 2 and both are in the same part of the world. I began feeling convicted about this area while still fostering in Guatemala, but it was not until recently that both of us reached the same place of knowing that this is where we are being led.

Sadly, Cambodia is still closed to Americans, but we are hopeful that they will one day re-open at which time we will gladly start the paper chase….again. :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Little Ladybug Designs

Kim, at Little Ladybug Designs, has been an incredible supporter of Across All Borders since the very first day. She donated a lot of her time to create our business cards, letterhead and other business things we needed at absolutely NO COST to us! How she put up with me, someone that isn't interested in having an actual logo just yet, is beyond me. Her generosity and support mean a great deal to us and we will always be thankful for her help in creating all of our first business products.

Kim creates adorable invitations, announcements, holiday cards, business stationary and more. Check out Little Ladybug Designs to see examples of her designs and remember her whenever you need to order invitations, cards, etc.

Kim - THANK YOU for everything! You are incredibly talented and we appreciate you using that talent to help us.