Sunday, July 27, 2014

When Life Doesn't Turn Out How You Planned or Hoped

I have sat down to try and write this several times, but just couldn't. It has just been too fresh & overwhelming.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I am from a big family. I have 15 brothers & sisters. I am the oldest & have one biological brother. When I was 9 years old, my parents began to adopt other children. Lots of people have asked me what I thought about it, has it been hard, would I go back and change anything, etc. And I will answer that later.

Growing up in a family that big was definitely an experience with many fun times and many hard ones. As each child became part of our family, whether a baby or a teenager, boy or girl, my heart stretched a little bigger as love grew and I accepted each of them as a real brother or sister. There were many children that my parents were asked to take in that they had to say "No" to and yet others that the Lord led them to say "Yes" to. And I believe with all my heart that each of them were chosen specifically for our family. Over the next 12 years, 14 precious people were brought into our family.

Over the years, one question has been more common than all the others- "How did your parents do it?" I have wondered that myself actually. I really have wondered if they were the real Superman & Wonder Woman in disguise. What I do know is this. They got up ridiculously early in the morning to have time with Jesus & went to bed crazy late listening to everyone talk about their struggles.  I have watched them laugh, cry, triumph and be brought low. They have poured every ounce of everything they are into their children. They were Christ to us. They read us His word, taught us His ways, showed us how to live. They gave us all a chance at living a wonderful life for the Lord & gave us everything we needed to do it. They had wonderful plans for us & had every reason to believe that we would be mighty men & women for God. They gave up careers, friendships, money, comfort, sleep and countless other things for the sake of love. For after day.

But life hasn't gone as planned or as they hoped.

Almost all of my brothers and sisters have totally and completely walked away from Love. They chose to give into their desires & sin & are living lives completely apart from the Lord. They have broke my parents hearts. Said unimaginably horrible things, told lies about them, cursed them...the most recent one, within the last 6 weeks. A little girl that we got as a 1 year old baby. We have all loved her from Day 1. Now she is a beautiful 18 year old girl who walked out into the world and left my parents, family, & the Lord in the dust... Half of them, I don't even know where there are, how they are, if they have food or a place to sleep, if they are safe or hurts enough watching your brothers and sisters do this, but imagine being their mommy & daddy!

It is so incredibly hard for me to watch. WHY??? I do not understand. The very hardest thing for me through all of this is watching what it has done to my parents. Having their hearts broken over and over. Heart wrenching pain of betrayal, worry to the point that you're not sure you even want to go on. Dragging themselves out of bed day after day, keeping going, taking the next step, washing the next dish, preaching the next sermon, because that's all you know to do. The onslaught of pain hasn't stopped for years. It continues to this day. No rest. No pause. And still children in their home that they continue to pour out and love. They are the icon of faithfulness. As one leaves and they stand and watch their lives work walk away, they gather the ones still around in their arms and continue on in the calling God gave them so many years ago when a two little blond & red headed boys walked through our front door.

Their lives or the lives of their children have NOT turned out like they hoped or planned. We have had endless telephone conversations, tears & sobbing, feelings of failure. Hopelessness. The feeling of a life lived in vain..."Has anything we have done made a difference?"

But as I have told them many times, as I am sure many others have, our success in this life is not based on results. It is based on whether or not we are faithful & have obeyed what the Lord has called us to do. And, guess what? THEY HAVE! They continue to do so to this day. Day after day...

The Lord gave my mom a promise many years ago, that all her children would walk with the Lord. She clings to that promise and believes and knows that the Lord will keep it. Through tears, I have heard her remind me & herself of that promise, clinging onto His word for life!

What did I think about all the kids? Was it hard? Would I change anything? It was hard. There were times I didn't want to share my parents or my room or my stuff. There were times where I wished they wouldn't keep my parents' constantly occupied so I could talk to them too. But it was amazing too. We had so much fun together! As I said earlier, I believed the Lord chose each one of them so not accepting them just wasn't an option. I love each of them as my brothers & sisters and always will. And no, I wouldn't change it because I couldn't imagine life without them & God used them all in my life to make me who I am.

To my daddy and mommy, and the other daddies and mommies whose kids have gone astray-
YOU ARE A SUCCESS! You have obeyed. You have been faithful to what the Lord has called you to. You have given Christ to your children and given them a chance and all the tools the need to live a God-glorifying life. The results are HIS. Your lives have made a difference. There are people in the Philippines hearing about Christ & receiving Bibles in their language because you have been faithful. There are 3 precious little girls in Texas being raised for Jesus & their daddy & mommy living for Him in their community & church. There are thousands of people who have watched you walk through this pain & seen JESUS. You have shown them how to be faithful and there aren't many examples of that anymore. I love you both so very much. Your reward in heaven will be great!!!

So...when life doesn't turn out how you planned or hoped? You keep being faithful and obeying what the Lord has called you to because that IS success in God's eyes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Half A Decade of The Changeable & The Unchanging

July 2009
So today, July 8th, marks our 5 year anniversary of living in the Philippines. I think "half a decade" sounds better. Makes us sound more mature and wiser or something...(ha!)

When we said our goodbyes & tearfully walked away from our family, friends, & everything familiar, we boarded the airplane with high expectations & excitement as we moved halfway across the globe to a new world of jungles, islands, & oceans. Our babies were 4 and 2 years old. We experienced culture shock, a new language, and city life for the first year while we lived in the capital city of Manila to learn Tagalog. The view from our window changed from the rolling hills of a Texas ranch to the 9th floor of an apartment building in the one of the most crowded, smoggiest cities on earth. Instead of being in the majority, we suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of beautiful, dark-skinned, dark eyed people.

July 2010
But slowly & surely, with the Lord who called us always there, "home," in our minds, became less and less the place we had left and became more and more our new island country in the Pacific. Our "normal" changed. The way we looked at things changed. Our expectations changed.

After a year in Manila, we packed up once again and moved to the island of Palawan which has been our home for the last 4 years. We have flown the airplane on hundreds of flights, bought cargo, flown in Bibles, visited the missionaries in the remote locations, learned the language of Tagalog, homeschooled our kids, had 3 people live with us, had lots of people over, & clung to the Lord with every ounce of our being.

July 2011
We have had glorious moments- witnessed people come to Christ, read His Word in their own language for the first time, attended baptisms & weddings, moved people into new villages, laughed & celebrated with friends, & seen the fruits of years of labor.

July 2012
We have had hard moments- gone through water shortages, power outages, been unappreciated & talked about, have dealt with hard news from home, seen people hurting, people die, devastation from typhoons, felt very lonely, and often lost our vision.

One day, you feel so encouraged & the next, so defeated. There is no stability or predictability in the life we live. It is always changing.
Our kids are now 9 and 7. They have lived more than half of their lives here. We have spent almost half of our married life here.

We have changed. I will always remember what someone said to me when we were home for our furlough- "You are not the same people as when you left." I like to think and hope to think that we have changed for the better- that we have changed to look more like Christ.  It is our hearts cry to be changed-to love like He does, to hate what He hates, to see like He sees.

July 2013
We have changed because Christ is The Unchanging One. He has been there & led us through every one of those glorious & hard moments. He mends & tears, pulls & holds, loves & allows pain. He shows us how love looks (very rarely what we think it looks like), how to be strong & resist the enemy (mostly by lying prostrate on the floor), & removes the blinders of judgment & lies (usually seen as conviction & godliness) from our eyes to see Truth about ourselves & others. We are no better than the next & we are here to show the world the glory of The Unchanging One by being changed.

We look forward to many more years of our missionary journey serving in the Philippines or wherever the Lord will lead. We look forward to more change (mostly) & are excited to see what all the Lord will do. We are so thankful for each of you who have been on this journey with us, by holding us up in prayer, giving to us financially, & being encouragers through the "half decade of change."

July 2014