in Pursuit of. . .YOU. . .

     My phone rang as I held open the door to the pediatrician’s office for my two little girls.  Annual check up’s and flu shots were on the docket.  The girls sat down in the waiting room while I stood in a corner in complete disbelief.  After learning that our birth mom had disappeared and after a few days of finally settling into the idea that it was over- we suddenly found the miracle we had waited for !  A little baby girl was already born and signing would take place the next day in a town about eight hours away.  The agency owner hopped on a plane while Phil and I rushed home to pack.  We put children, puppies, dogs and chickens to bed- entrusted the kiddos to a sitter and off we went. . .continuing on the adventure of a lifetime.

Were we crazy? What if we got all the way down there only to lose another baby.  But the agency owner’s information proved to be a 100% sure thing.  It was real. . .we were bringing home our baby.

An hour into the drive, we stopped to grab some BBQ.  At first we were planning to simply drive through to gain momentum on the road. . .but then Phil made a sobering remark.  “This is the last time we’ll be going out alone for a long time.”  We took about 20 minutes to stop and really soak in the moment.

In reality, we started our journey three years ago with the God-given revelation that we wanted to add to our family through adoption.  As of those two half eaten plates of sliced chicken and brisket, we had already endured three failed matches.  Of the three, two of those, we held.  We held those precious babies and fell in love, only to leave the hospitals and never see them again.  One boy and one girl.

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The pain and suffering we’ve endured over the years since saying yes to adoption. . .the hard work with little rest to save up the funds and get our home ready for a little one. . .and the spiritual and physical warfare on our family and friends had been unmeasurably great.

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But for some reason, God paved the way and gave our hearts the peace to continue down this road- no matter what.  And here we were. . .about 500 miles away from what we thought was the end of this incredible journey.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

– Jeremiah 29:11

God knows our plans and He allows our scheduling and planning and calculating and re-calculating; but ultimately, He is in control.  And for many of us “planners,” this is a hard lesson to learn.  When walking through life with God, He moves and allows so that we may travel light with open hands.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Our jobs, our finances, our marriages, and yes, our children are His.  I wish I was one to just travel with a life of open hands as to avoid my Lord constantly prying them open.  But as many of you have noticed. . .I’m a slow learner.  I know where I want “my” life to go.  I just struggle when the Lord leans over and whispers, ” I know that’s where you wanted to go. . .but here is where we’re gonna go. . .together.”

Trying to make it to a little town near the Texas/Mexico border, we slowed down on our intake of fluids so we wouldn’t have to stop so much.  But approaching just 27 miles to destination. . .We were both barely holding on.  Passing by a rest stop, Phil asked. . .going 75 mph. . .”would you like to stop?”  (And here it is. . .the biggest regret EVER) “NO! it’s just 27 miles. . .let’s go for it!”  

Go for it?  What was I thinking?  We’re 42 years old.  Our bladders are well beyond “go for it” behavior.  But it was so late, and we knew we just wanted to get there.  So, the rest stop came and went and well. . .we didn’t.  We decided to “Thelma and Louise” it.

Seventy-five miles per hour suddenly came to a screeching halt when out of no where in the middle of the night, red lights began lighting up in front of us.

STOPPED!!!

To make a long story even longer. . .we managed to come across a little “conflict” between the police, state troopers, border patrol and two fine young gentlemen.

No, I was just kidding. . .I’ll shorten this part for you. . .

So, just at the time I was crawling over the back seat to retrieve our two “Dickies BBQ” cups to assist in my “let’s go for it” dilemma. . .the three rows of trucks in front of us released their air breaks and the bright reds began to let up.  Praise the Lord. . .we were moving again!!!

Now, since every patrol car was behind us. . .we may or may not have exceeded the speed recommendation for the remaining 20 miles.  Yes, I say 20 miles, because just 7 miles into our escape, we saw a gas station.  But hey, we already sat through 2 hrs of standoff with full bladders. . .what’s just another 20 miles?  Right?

Yeah, if you’re shaking your head, I’m right along with you.  But when you’ve lost feeling to your lower extremities and just praised God you survived a standoff. . .you pretty much admit you’ve lost all ability to reason.

Nearly convulsing, the GPS finally led us to our hotel. . .”turn right onto South ‘P’ street.”  We wanted to laugh.  We kind of did. . .I mean, the corners of our lips turned upward.  But an actual laugh at this time would have surely been fatal.

We made it!  Yes, we made it!  And we were exhausted as we fell into the bed at 5:30am.  We just had to hold on until 9 am to go to the hospital and sign for our daughter.  We were suppose to be back on the roads by noon.  What a miracle!


. . .who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

– 2 Corinthians 1:4

9am, 9:30am, 10am. . .10:23am. . .

Finally, a phone call from the agency.  “So, um, here’s the problem. . .”  Phil came around the corner and I just shook my head while trying to take in everything coming my way.  We had just finished crying out to God on our knees to please allow this little girl to come home to us.  The missed 9am deadline sparked our awareness that something was wrong.  We asked God to move quickly as we were literally losing patience.  And then the call.  The birth mother was wavering and feeling pressured to sign.  Something you don’t want to happen since being pressured can be means to over turn an adoption in the future.  Our birth mother was in custody and gave birth to an audience of Federal Marshals.  Not our place to judge.  Just our child to adopt and rescue.  With the birth mother soon to be discharged back into prison, she had to make a choice.  Allow us to adopt her baby or let Child Protective Services take custody and place the baby into a group home about 1 hour away since there weren’t any foster homes in the area.  Basically, an American Orphanage.

CPS was in talking with the birth mother so we hung up the phone to wait.  Only three minutes had passed when the call came.  “It’s over, CPS has taken the baby. . .the birth mother is hoping to gain custody once released from prison.”

We began to pack and quickly.  We didn’t even cry at this point.  Just silence.

The drive home was unbelievable.  Especially since there was a search stop to make sure we weren’t smuggling anything into the USA- and we had to explain the empty car seat.

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But the drug sniffing dogs smiled and let us pass and we started the long journey back. . .once again. . .with that !@&* empty car seat.  Yes, the anger phase.  I do believe we experienced all stages of grief approximately every 10 minutes.

We stopped to gas up and began to sob. . .then we began to experience Tourette syndrome moments where we’d just suddenly burst into profane song and then back to pure silence again.

There was a time when we both decided we just had to turn off the Christian music station.  It had become irritating.  No, we were not running from God. . .but in that moment of grief, we had lost our footing and just couldn’t stand up or even look up to see God’s sweet, sweet grace and love for us.  We were hurt.


 “In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.””

We face-timed the kids and with every bit of the power of God inside us, we smiled and told them very causally that the baby just wasn’t going to work out and we would be home with pizza very soon.  Even though we were sure this was a sure thing, before we left the kids, we explained that this may not work, so we were gonna just check it out an then be home the next day.  Thankfully- their little hearts were protected and a nice family/pizza night at home with mom and dad holding them and smiling made all the difference.  We had agreed to keep the emotions to our bedroom or alone in the car.

Backing up a few hundred exits. . .in the midst of our anger, sorrow and deep, deep hurt came a prayer.  A moment of thankfulness offered by our friend in the Bible, Job.  Job talks about while losing everything. . .his children, wife, money and health. . .he learned to cope by dropping to his knees and offering thanks and gratitude to God.  “The Lord giveth and the Lord Taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

During those final hours of travel, we had absolutely no idea how to carry on with our daily lives.  We were clearly heading into a sorrowful depression and the very thought of even trying for another child was completely out of the question.  We had actually quit this time.  We couldn’t drag our children through this, and we ourselves were struggling to make sense of our “foolish” actions.  2015-10-07 13.11.25

Did God indeed want us to adopt?  If so, why in the world would he allow this to happen.  And in such a horrible way?  How would we get up the next day and the day after that and say yes to another child only for it to be ripped away.

The answer came to us during the final forty-five minutes before pizza.  Because God did not give up on pursuing us as His children –  THAT is why we would NOT give up.  THAT is why we would grieve, and with thankfulness, stand back up and strap on our armor once again in this battle of fathering the fatherless and FIGHT for not just “our” child, but “His” child.  This is HIS child that He created.  He thought up this child’s personality, soul, looks, and just who would deliver and raise this child.  Every child is created with a purpose by God.  Every single one is special and loved beyond measure.  And every single being is pursued by a passionate God who loves so much, that in order to save. . .he sent His son to rescue so we could be adopted.

“The Gospels record how Jesus himself spent the night before his crucifixion in unspeakable agony, allowing the anguish of his soul to spill to the ground through his tears and blood.  He pleaded with his Father, “”If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”” (Matt. 26:39)- Clayton King, Stronger

What if Christ had given up in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He asked for a way out, but asked for God’s will to be done.  His love for his children was so great, nothing could stop his sacrifices.  I am so thankful for this sacrifice.  For without it, there is no reason to live. . .and no reason to die.

And there you have the heart of the adoptive parent.  Adoption is hard.  Our adoption in Christ was hard.  It was costly.  Adopting a child is the mirror image of God’s love for us and how He calls us “His own.”  We hold His hand while walking this journey and because we are not alone. . .because He goes before us, we can trust in His care and guidance to ultimately arrive home.  This is His story.  We are just a chapter.

Our love for this child is great.  It knows no boundaries.  It is the same love we have for our other children both here and in Heaven.  We thank those who pray with and for us, who grieve our grief and who share our love for the Orphan.  Please continue to pray: Please pray for the babies that have not come home with us.  Pray the Lord grabs their hearts and protects them every single day of their lives.  Please continue to pray for our adoption journey.  Please pray for the birth parents of our children.  Pray God’s peace and comfort.  We know the Lord has our child or children and in His perfect timing. . .we will find them.

forgiving when they won’t say, “sorry”

I am emerging from a challenging season in my life.   I’ve been engulfed in waves of hurt inflicted by other Christian brothers and sisters.  For me, it seems easier to forgive the lost or unintentional inflictions over the stabs gathered by those who are suppose to be my family in Christ.  My community. . .my church. . .my friends. . .my loved ones.

One thing I know is true about being in a church community. . .if you have not yet been hurt. . .you most likely have not opened up your heart, exposed your true self and invited those around you to jump fully into your life.

The church is a hospital for the spiritually, emotionally, and physically injured or broken.  It is a safe haven of hope in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is where we can feel safe to open up, expose our broken and pray for healing.  It is also a group of sinners, just like me, clinging to God’s great grace and mercy.

I am broken. . .I am messed up. . .I am a sinner. . .I am a Child of God!

If I am a sinner and I am in fellowship with other sinners. . .just what do I expect?  Why am I surprised when others just like me sin against me?

I have spent many hours weary and wondering just why this kind of thing happens and what next?  I think relationships in the family of Christ become strained when one loses focus on God and projects that gaze on the lives of others and self.  The horizontal view overtakes the vertical view.  And when we take our focus off of God. . .we sink, we fall.

It’s funny, when I see those pictures that depict Peter who had been walking on the water with Jesus and then begins to slowly sink ankle deep as he loses his gaze on and trust in Christ- it looks so peaceful.  I don’t think this is entirely accurate.

I believe when we take our gaze, our focus, our eyes off of Jesus, we plunge furiously into the sea with waves crashing over us.  Head under water. . .we sink.  We gasp for air only to find water filling the lungs.  We thrash around violently as we panic in fear.  We fight to get head above water and we choke and cough as the storm throws us around in between swells of fear and doubt.

There is no peaceful slow sinking when we take our eyes off of the Lord.  No God. . .no peace. . .no life. . .no air.  Life is a struggle without our God.  When we try to make it on our own or fix life the way we see fit. . .we are simply gulping more and more sea water and suffocating.  The horizontal view bouncing back and forth between self and others is exhausting and a losing battle.

The fix? Look to Christ.

When we take our eyes off of our situation, the people sinning around us;  When we put down the cake at our self- prepared pity party. . .we can once again see God.  We can fix our eyes on His and guess what happens?  We rise.

We find air to breathe, we no longer struggle as we reach up to hold the hand that holds us.  And we can once again walk on the water with Jesus.  We have peace as the waters are calmed in the light of His great presence.

But what about the hurt?  What about those darts that hit so hard?

While many do not sin when sinned against- we often get caught in the sink hole of sin that is caused by our reactions to the hurt.  I have a tendency to put up my guard.  “You hurt me, so I’m boarding myself up in my little castle surrounded with my own alligator-filled mote.  Don’t even try to cross over to knock on my door.”  This hard exterior is the build up of hurt turned calloused.

We lash out at others and offer our view without care or concern.  I am more guilty here than I’d like to admit.  I could barely go a day without complaining to my husband or mom about what this person did or that person said to me.  If someone asked if I was ok, I was more than willing to share my hurt and  without care of those involved.  The hurt had now morphed into a full grown grudge and I wasn’t afraid to share that grudge like a well spawned virus.

For literally almost a year, my hurt and anger flowed like poison through my veins.   And it has been killing me.  I went under and the waves nearly carried me away.

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What do you do when others have hurt you and simply won’t say “sorry?”

1. Cry out to God!  Who better to tell your secrets, your dreams, your wants, your hurt, your sorrow to?  God knows me more than any other.  He created me.  He dreamt me into existence.  He knows my thoughts before I do.  So, instead of griping to my husband or gossiping to my mom, I can talk to God anytime and unleash my entire heart.  He knows all about hurt, about betrayal, about those who turn their backs.

God has been right where I am.

2. Look UP to God!  Wounds often turn self-inflicted when our gaze turns from Vertical towards God to a horizontal view of those around us.  Our self-centered take on the situation keeps us busy bouncing back and forth between you and them.  There really isn’t time to look up and spend time with God.  This is where the Grace of God hits hard.  No matter how many times we have sinned, fallen, quit and taken our eyes off of the Lord, he is always there for his Children.  Opened arms, his grace is greater than my deepest sin and He will always extend his forgiving grace to me and rescue me from myself.  His hand reaches towards ours and if we take His hand. . .we once again rise to the water’s surface.

3. Trade in your Fear of Man into a Reflection of God’s great light.  Hanging on a cross. . .bruised. . .beaten. . .battered. . .tired. . .betrayed, Jesus kept his focus on his father and his purpose on earth.  His perfect life and precious death is our cheat sheet in times of betrayal and hurt.  As children of God, we are to reflect the light that was sent to suffer in our place.  That perfect pure light named Jesus Christ.  He is the perfect “Adam” that paid for our sin; and our goal is to strive to reflect His light.  Knowing this. . .knowing our great God and his love for us, we can offer forgiveness to those who have injured us so badly.  We have done so much worse to our Lord than any man can possibly do to us.  We are not without fault.  Because Jesus took on our sin in the flesh and put our sins to death- because of his great grace extended to us. . .we can now offer as reflection to the light- our own forgiveness to others.

This life. . .THIS life is not about us at all.  It is about a Great creator and God that sent His beloved son to right the wrong that sin caused.  The great rescue to the perishing.  The great forgiver who forgives.  We serve our purpose in life when we give glory to God in all that we do.  And forgiving those who hurt us in this great big family of God gives glory to God.

I can forgive because God has forgiven me.  I am free to let go of the hurt because my savior died on the cross so that I do not have to hurt.  My hope and joy are in Him.  My gaze on the light of His face blinds me from all others.

In Him I live, in Him I rejoice, in Him and only in Him. . .I forgive.

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the empty on Mother’s Day. . .trading joy for loss

I was thirteen years old when I decided to become a nurse.  I spent that summer caring for my Grandma DeNeui along with my cousin in Loveland, Colorado.  Her sweet worn out heart just wasn’t sustaining her anymore.  So, I had the opportunity to stay at the farm and be by her side during those final precious days of her walk on this earth.

I took pride in the smallest of tasks aiding her that week.  Checking her sugar,  fixing her meals, making hot tea, brushing her hair with that soft white bristled brush with the silver handle; and just sitting and listening to her soft breath as it lifted her chest up and down, and up and down.

Grandma DeNeui.  My happy place.  The white farm house with red trim was small, cozy and always smelled like fresh baked bread.  I’d cuddle up to those soft aging arms and take in that Pillsbury fresh smell.  Grandma spoiled me with club crackers and when mom wasn’t looking. . .a few spoonfuls of sugar in my hot tea.

(Grandma and I walking through the flower gardens with her poodle, Sophie)

(Grandma, Mom, Sherri, and I)

Grandma worked until the day she died.  In her jean overalls, she’d tend to the sheep, hatching chickens, fresh farm eggs for sale, and turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Her gardens set my imagination to escape daily living and travel rows and rows of veggies and flowers to a kingdom far far away.

I knew Grandma couldn’t live forever.  Perhaps that’s why I’d sit and soak in every detail of her life, listen to her stories and advice and watch carefully the chapters in the Bible she favored.

Johanna DeNeui. . .known as Hannah to most, was born in Germany.  I won’t give away all of her information, for that’s another upcoming book I’m just dying to get out to you.  She was sweet, spicy, short, and plump in her older days.  Losing her husband early in life, she raised four children working the farm and making a living with only an 8th grade education.  She learned English, but argued in German.

She was my hero.

My dad was visiting that summer when we got the call from the hospital telling us she was fading fast.  One of the only times I can remember my mom and dad together. . .we were speeding with flashers on to make the 1 ½ hr drive.

Grandma was alert, but uncomfortable.  Thrashing her legs back and forth in the bed, she desperately wanted to use the bathroom.
“Just go in the bed, Mom. . .my aunt told her.”  My sister and I stood by mom as she held grandma’s soft wrinkled hand.  Mom and
her sisters were crying and with a smile each one said, “Mom, you can go home now.  Just let go.  We’re ok.”

“We love you mom!  We love you!”

My Aunt Karen, so young when Grandpa died let the tears flow as she said, “tell daddy hello for us.”

“Go on home mom. . .”

And with that, her eyes opened for the last time.  She stopped moving around and smiled from ear to ear.  The most joy I’ve ever
seen.  She closed her eyes and met Jesus face to face.

It was the most precious moment until the day my own child met Jesus face to face.  Letting go of Grandma was one of the hardest things I had to do.  My mom was all alone now.  No husband, no dad, and no mom.  Johanna DeNeui was a servant of God that
forever touched lives.

And now my own mother is that soft grandma for my children.  We travel to Colorado to visit her and the kids play with her knick knacks just as I did when little.

My mom has had four heart attacks.  She is in her 70’s and we know we cannot live forever.  I know mom has one true love in
life and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  She longs to go home one day.  But while she waits. . .she serves those around her and loves on my littles to teach them how to live by visiting old stories from the past.  They sit on the edge of their seats for each and every story.

(Sherri, Me, Mom)

Every year, we all set aside a day in May to remember, honor, and cater to all of those who possess that admirable name, “Mother.”

We often forget that Mother’s Day can wear down certain souls who have suffered loss.  The casual “Happy Mother’s Day,” treasured hand made gifts orchestrated by Sunday School teachers, and the solicited bouquet of flowers often bring tremendous sorrow instead of smiles.

I do not take this day lightly.  I am blessed to have my mother still with me, while my husband must spend yet another mother’s day without his here with him.   It’s a bittersweet day for him wondering just how his mother would enjoy being with our five.

  (Phil’s sister Michelle, Brother Byron, Dad, Mom, Philena, Phil and brother Daniel)

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me.  I do not have all of my children here with me.  We have two precious babies in Heaven and are in the adoption waiting process for our next little one.  I have five beautiful children filling my home with laughter and laundry. . .but there is now and will always be an empty spot in my heart, in the car and at the table.

The word “empty” brings out the psychologist in almost all of us.  Our diagnosis. . .Oh, yes, they feel empty because they don’t have children, a mother, or a spouse.  But one can have all of these things in their life and still be empty.  God created each of us with an empty, constant longing for something we cannot attain on our own.  God himself is the only thing that can fill an empty soul.  But do not confuse the longing for God with the vessel God creates to hold purpose in our lives.

The definition of “empty” as an adjective: containing
nothing; not filled or occupied. 
 

The good Lord creates vessels for His purpose and glory.  And when he is done with them. . .he takes them home.  Mission completed.  That vessel, or life still serves a purpose, even after they’ve gone home. Grandma’s life and death still teach me valuable lessons.  I wonder what kind of crazy she would call me knowing we are now farmers and we are adopting another. 

The peace that comes even with the missing and empty pieces in my life is knowing that God is in control.  Yes, I miss my little boy and girl.  I do not need to fill my “empty” with anything but God.  He fills me with his Joy.  But he also sets desires and longings in our soul.  The empty space at the table reminds me what we once had. . .what I wish would have been.  But it also reminds me that God knew long before I did that he would take home my William on June 6, 1997. 

For many, that empty is from the child that never was to be.  After years of infertility and loss. . .I begged God to take away the desire for children knowing I may never have them. 

The empty for some is in the loss of raising a child to adoption, or loss of custody.  

The empty and sorrow over abortion holds great for mothers who are now mature and live the would have, should have, and could have’s.

The chair that sits empty in my heart comes from a deep God given desire to bring another into our family to know and live for God.  Yes, I love with all my heart a baby that I’ve never met.  A baby that is most likely not even created yet.  I do not spend every waking moment trying to fill an empty with dreams of what could be.  I spend my day filling up. . .feeding, if you may. . .on Jesus, his promises, his sacrifice, his love, his grace, his mercy.  And through drinking his cup. . .I am filled with the love and desire to love on another.  A love that can’t help but overflow to the rescue and ransom of another child.


This mother’s day.  Many cringed as they watched women parade around with arms full of precious
ones.  Many remember their own mother and long for just one more hug.  Husbands watching others with their wives breath deep as their heart tries to mend after loss.  This day brings up the hurt, the
dirty, the empty.

God fills and mends every heart. And today. . .through sorrow, I have joy to know that each memory and dream the Lord has set in place, he knows the outcome.  And his plan. . .his story where I am just a drop in the bucket, all ends the same. With me in His arms.  Sweet, soft, safe and loving arms.  And every baby that has gone on before me will be right there. . .with me. 

Fall into His arms. . .let him take your burden, your sorrow, your shame, your desires, your longing to fill the empty.  This mother’s day. . .rest knowing the story ends one way.  His story is all that matters.  Let His joy fill your soul.