Summit 9 and Divine Intervention

When I was a child I wanted desperately to see a real, Divine miracle.  The stories of Jesus and his disciples doing miraculous works were the ones that captivated me the most, and so I became so watchful!

What I didn’t realize was that the chances of God feeling I need to walk on water like Jesus or Peter, were pretty slim.  And no matter how hard I prayed,  He did not go for making a chocolate cake appear out of nowhere like manna. It would have been very cool though!

Last year at Summit 8 it really hit home to me that most of the time God moves, and is working in our lives in small ways.  If we are vigilant, we will see Him. 

I went to Summit 8 based on a desire to go.  I was the non-existent director of a non-existent Orphan Care ministry at my church.  All I knew was that God wanted me to go.  That was something I knew for sure.  But as a stay at home mom, extreme introvert, with a general fear of new people, mixed in with zero experience in leadership, I was clearly the obvious choice to start a new ministry {please don’t miss the sarcasm}.

This would be a very long story if I don’t get to the point.  Once I arrived in California there were four very clear instances of God being in complete control of my destiny.  I told my husband and friends when I returned that it was as if I had been led around by an invisible hand for 3 days.

1. My husband and I had scraped together the money for me to go fly from Ohio to California, used his business Marriott points to book my hotel, and a very trusting missions director at my church had paid for my registration.  There was not a lot of wiggle room in my budget.  So when I found that the conference was a bit farther away from my hotel than it appeared on a map I was in a bit of a panic.  I didn’t have money for a taxi and there was no shuttle.  As I was asking the hotel desk clerk if she felt it would be safe enough for me to walk this busy highway at night, a couple behind me overheard.  They were from Ohio as well and offered not only to drive me that morning to the conference to but to meet me every morning and evening to drive me back and forth!   They were a gift to me.

2. The one and only book that I had read about starting a church based ministry was, “Launching an Orphan Ministry in Your Church,” by Jason Weber and Paul Pennington of Hope for Orphans.  Because of this, this was the first workshop that I went to.  I was having a hard time getting my Orphan Care ministry off the ground and so I wanted to see what they could help with.  Their focus of the workshop was the importance of working all the steps.  I, in my self-centeredness had skipped the most vital step of all.  I had taken the job onto myself and neglected to establish a prayer team.  But where God’s hand comes into the picture was the next morning.  I was in line at the hotel to get some coffee when a man ahead of me introduced himself to me, noticed that I had a conference badge and wanted to chat!  It turns out he was from Hope for Orphans.  To which I replied that I had been at their workshop and read the book.  He wanted to know what I thought and so I told him that it didn’t work for me….. crickets.  Then he got a huge smile, shouted to a bunch of other Hope for Orphans staff, “Hey guys make room at the table! We need to talk to this lady.”  What proceeded was a sit down with the staff and authors full of advice for me. And me explaining how if you skip a step, especially the prayer one… the whole thing falls apart.  Their kindness and generosity didn’t end at breakfast but extended through the rest of the conference. 

3. The third instance that I felt God’s leading was at lunch the second day.  I was getting very lonely.  Most of the people had come with at least one other person.  At lunch that day I had walked past many tables and benches of people eating and chatting together.  As I mentioned, I am terrified of talking to new people.  I worked my way over to one of many lunch lines and stood in line for a salad. After a few minutes a woman in front of me turned around, said hello, where are you from etc.  She was very sweet and so I asked her where she is from.  She said Hillsboro, Oregon.  I was excited because this is where most of my family lives.  I asked her what church, and the one she named sounded so familiar, so I said “I think my aunt and uncle go to that church.”  To which she asked me what my aunt’s name is.  As soon as I said it her face lit up and she exclaimed that my aunt is a dear friend and taught my cousins Sunday School class for many years!  She immediately invited me to join her and her friend for lunch.  If you could understand the massive size of the Saddleback campus and the thousands of people there, and for me to get in line, lonely, behind the one woman in thousands that was from the town I was born in, who is friends with my aunt…. God at work. We had so much fun and chatted so long that I was late for my next workshop… which led to my 4th encounter.

4.  As I was hurrying away from lunch to find my next workshop, I noticed on a grassy hill, a woman sitting who looked very familiar.  As I drew closer I was almost positive that it was Adeye Salem.  The woman who had started it all for me.  One year before I had started reading her blog. No Greater Joy Mom.  Her heart for adoption, that is lived out in her own family, and on her blog advocating for other orphans (especially with special needs) is unparalleled.  It was from reading her blog that I had felt the Holy Spirit moving in me to rise up.  I did not want to let this moment go by without meeting her in person and thanking her for the work she does.  Without Adeye, I would not be at Summit.  We had a very nice visit, which led to dinner together later, sitting at the final general session and Steven Curtis Chapman concert, and then she drove me back to my hotel!  Adeye was as genuine and kind as she is on her blog and today I call her a friend.  One of the things we talked about most was a lack of special needs focus at Summit.  We agreed that we would spend a lot of time praying about it, and I’m so pleased to say that Adeye and her husband Anthony will be speaking at a workshop this year in Nashville!  Again, I cannot emphasize enough the fact that the Saddleback Church campus is much like a college campus.  There were multiple tents and buildings, many different paths to get places, and thousands of people there.  There was just no way I should have encountered Adeye on that path, late for my workshop, without divine interference.

This is why I will be returning this year to Summit 9.  I have seen God hard at work in people and organizations this year.  Because of the faithful work of the many people, families, organizations and churches, people like me get to go and be blessed and encouraged in our own journey.  I’m so very thankful for the many people who are living the call to care for the fatherless, and I can’t wait to see how God will use Summit again in my life this coming year. As the prophet Jeremiah says, “is this not what it means to know God?”  And I want to know God.  And as for those miracles I wanted to see?  Well just last night, I received word from a friend who had a HUGE miracle happen for the adoption of her new son from Latvia.  On this Easter weekend, God is still proving that He reigns.

Inst-Friday and a Fundraiser

Hey there!  Who else is so awfully relieved that it is Friday?  We made it through a week of school without police involvement, tantrums, bullies or illness!!!  That is something to celebrate. 
I’m linking up for Inst-Friday with Jeannett, {I’m Marijmarks if you want to follow on Instagram}  but I have a matter heavy on my heart first.

My sweet friend Michelle and her husband Mike are trying to raise the remaining adoption funds to bring their 12 year old son home from Latvia.  He was able to visit over Christmas with New Horizons hosting program, and they miss him so much!  It is vital that he come to the U.S. as soon as possible because he has cerebral palsy and needs surgery on his legs yesterday.
Adoption is expensive.  But if everyone, gave a little there wouldn’t be any more lonely children. I’ve known Mike and Michelle for years and I cannot say enough about their hearts for following Jesus and obeying when it doesn’t even make sense.  Mike is a 5th grade teacher at my daughters’ school.  He chooses to stay in a low income school district, when there are better jobs at better schools. And Michelle stays at home to take care of their 3 daughters.  I love this family and I love that they have chosen to obey God and adopt, even when it seems impossible for their family.  So please join with me in supporting their adoption and give.  We cannot rescue every one of the 160 million orphans.  But we can help this one boy.  This one boy who is sitting, waiting in Eastern Europe for someone to love him and give him a family.  Every penny counts and matters to them.  I know they will rejoice the same over $1 as they will over $100. This donate link goes directly to a secure PayPal account.

And now for our week:

St. Patrick’s Day was so fun.  Did you know he was a missionary?  We taught our kids the real reason to celebrate him, and then got into some fun and legend of Ireland with “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” leprechaun traps, rainbow cake and it. was. a. blast.  I hope my kids will remember our little traditions when they are grown.

I sent D to the construction site to get a job.  He grows out of pants too fast, and Alex won’t let me pass down the big sisters’ clothes to him.

Reading “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” at bedtime under the dining room fort.  Love these memories.

We had to get new glasses for the big sister so I took the chance to try on some new glasses.  Lovely right? Well, I’m off to the grocery store to get ready for an 8 year old sleep over.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who was praying for Layla this week.  We felt it for sure, and she (so far) hasn’t been bullied at all this week!!  Praise God. 

 life rearranged

Letter to my Daughter’s Bullies

Dear 8 year old girls,

There are some things that I think you don’t know about bullies. 
Maybe you don’t even realize that you are one. 
Maybe you were whispering and telling each other secrets during the bully assembly at the beginning of the year.
Maybe you were distracted by your stomach growling or you were picking at your nail polish. Or maybe someone had sparkly shoes and you are easily distracted by anything that glitters.
Perhaps the video was lame, and didn’t fully explain what bullying is. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

But I am here.  Every day I am here when my girl comes in the door sobbing with heartbreak in her eyes.
I was here last week when you all decided to lie about her and get her in trouble with the teacher. 
I was here to hold her as she clutched onto me like she was about to drown in sorrow. 
You caused a little girl who had never once, in her entire school career broken a rule or gotten detention, to be punished for 3 days. 
You caused the sweetest little girl on earth to suffer the humiliation of being punished in front of the class.
Your lie caused her to eat her lunch alone at her desk, as tears streamed down onto her peanut butter sandwich, while she suffered through the embarrasment of a lunch detention she did not earn. 

So let me tell you what bullying is. 
*Bullying is whispering about someone behind your hand as you stare them down with an icy glare.  She knows you are talking about her.
*Bullying is telling every impressionable girl in your class that they are forbidden to be friends with my daughter.
*Bullying isn’t always pushing or hitting.
*Bullying is following her around on the playground intimidating her.
*Bullying is calling her names that she doesn’t even know the meaning of because they are so awful.  Names that I am so sorry that you have even heard, because no 8 year old should know these phrases. I am hoping and praying that no one in your home calls you those things.
*Did you know that bullying doesn’t always look like how its portrayed on tv? 
*Bullies don’t only pick on kids with straight A’s and big glasses. 
*Bullies don’t only pick on kids who don’t look the same or wear hand me downs. 
*Sometimes bullies pick on skinny blonde haired girls with beautiful blue eyes.  Sometimes bullies pick on girls who spend 3 hours a week at dance class,  because every fiber of her being feels music.
*Sometimes bullies pick on the girl who is hilarious.
*Sometimes bullies pick on girls who dream of being movie and rock stars

Did you know that this girl you have chosen to torment for the last 6 months, was giddy with excitement on the first day of school?  She could barely contain her excitement to go and make 20 new friends.  Did you know that she doesn’t care about height, weight, color of skin, grades in school or clothes?  Did you know that her main goal was to have an entire class of friends and make you smile and laugh every day?

I know that no one is perfect.  My 8 year old isn’t perfect.  She doesn’t like to do her chores until I’ve asked her 12 times.  She is sometimes a grumpy bear in the morning that moves like a snail to get dressed.  She loses patience with her siblings, and most often wants the bigger serving of ice cream.  I know that there have probably been times when she hurt your feelings.

But I also know that she would never, ever call one of you a hurtful name.  I know that she would not relish in the fact that you were sent to the prinicpal’s office, and greet you with a smug smile when you returned. 

So the point of all of this?  The point is to tell you that the things that you are doing and saying today, will have an effect on her for the rest of her life.  I know this because it happened to me.  There is a good chance that she will forever feel like she doesn’t have real friends.  She might be eternally scared that she is one day or conversation away from being told she is unworthy, unloved, and disliked.  Your words today might cause her to question other people’s ability to love her forever, to trust that they aren’t going anywhere.  Your pointed looks, your eye rolling, your swearing, your intimidation tactics, might leave permanent scars.  Because of your heartless behavior, she might feel insecure in her relationships with other people for the rest of her life.

I hope that the love her daddy and I will lavish on her, will make up for the hate that you poured on her.    I hope that the God she loves will all her heart will take this ugly hurt and use it for good in Layla’s life.  That she will overflow with love, and not build up a stone fortress around her heart. And I hope that someday, you will realize you missed out on the kind of friendship that may never find you again. I hope that you will learn from your mistakes and teach your children to have love, compassion and kindness for everyone they meet.  I hope you can learn to love and not continue a cycle of bullying and harrassment.  Mostly I pray that God can redeem and restore the happy, joy filled spirit in my daughter that you tried your hardest to crush.