Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for Un(answered) Prayers

The Miracle of my daughter is through un(answered) prayers.

All the unanswered questions of our life became the rock and sand that formed the concrete under our steps today. We now hold hands and celebrate these days of walking together. How is it that our daughter was born 5 years after we began the process to adopt her? We found each other across the years, across the multitudes, and across continents. Through all the turmoil in the world and in the struggle of life, our feet moved together in shiny shoes on  sidewalk today.

This particular moment was captured by my wife, Kellie. My mind was replaying the events of the past two days: Kroger, sleep, drive, ordination workshop, drive, Kroger, sleep, drive, preach, fundraise, drive, and Caleb's piano recital (stay awake). As for Sterling... well, she was just glad that she had a chance to move around after being held in various laps during all the preaching, fundraising, and piano recitaling.

Our hand-in-hand slow steps on the sidewalk gave our minds a chance to settle from the fray and re-establish perspective on the simple truths of a warm November afternoon. We are here in this place together now. Each step we take down this path brings us closer together in experience, and further along the plan that God has for our lives.

From this place along the road I can look over my shoulder and see the the Family-Circus-style-foot-print-dashes that mark my crazy, chaotic, and wandering path. I have driven trucks, volunteered in church, worked in mental hospitals, brokered mortgages, worked trade shows, sold shoes, trained to be a COP, butchered meat, and managed grocery stores. Memories fill my mind of the experiences along the way that unknowingly prepared me for this moment... and made me the man I am today that holds this tiny hand.

These days are beautiful. Our mission from God is breath-taking. We're finding that we love to tell our story... how adoption has changed our lives. We are adopted as children of God, we are recipients of the miracle of adoption on earth, and now we have become evangelists of God's love & agents of earthly adoption. We celebrate each time a person or a church takes our hands to walk this incredible adventure of joy with us.

There is room for you. This is your invitation to allow your heart to be filled overflowing. There are children to be sponsored, trips to be made, monthly support to be pledged, and renewed faith and hope that can change the course of your life.

I spent years questioning God and being frustrated that He wasn't answering my prayers... not realizing that He was shaping me along the way to become a holder of tiny hands. 

Wherever you are today, take heart. Your un(answered) prayers are laying the foundation of who you are to become. Come and walk with us. I can use your help to hold tiny hands.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life in the Waiting

Her name is Aleksandra and I am hopelessly and forever in love with her. She changed my life when I realized how much she loved me. Suddenly the goodness of the entire world was bound up in the strength of her eyes locked onto mine. Making this girl cry feels like the greatest wrong I could ever do. She looks to me for her place in the world. My steps matter far greater than I had ever imagined. She is beautiful and I want to give her the best shot at life possible. She is somehow altogether my daughter, my muse, my salvation, and my Mona Lisa. She is the masterpiece that I am desperate to protect.

This past October she took the knife in her hand and carved her own pumpkin. I was thrilled with her initiative and terrified by the possibility that she could slice her hand. I showed her the safest methods, told her of the risk, and then handed her the instrument. Her creativity seemed to flourish as she held the knife and began to carve her jack-o-lantern. She impressed me with her imagination and her safe behavior. I was ready to bandage and compress... but she kept the blade away from her skin.

I thank God daily for my children. They keep me focused during these days of waiting. God kept Ezekiel waiting in the wilderness, in a cave, and on the edge of a cliff. Ezekiel had to wait while the winds blew, the earth shook, and the fires raged. As his life seemed to shake apart all around him... Ezekiel simply was asked to wait. As all this chaos swarmed... the still, small voice of God spoke to him in the wind. 

I feel the wind softly blow across my back now.

This is a critical time for us. We are nearly 6 months away from our one way ticket to Guatemala. My hours at work are long and they have given me unexpected opportunity to touch lives. When I have a day off... I am exhausted and I feel guilty that I am not out pounding the pavement for our mission. And yet... I have seen that I can not force the timing of God. When I have listened to His Spirit, He has moved mountains. The timing of God has been astounding.

Kroger was meant to be simply a method for me to get through the remaining months... and yet God had other plans. I am being challenged and stretched in ways that I never foresaw. Hours of my days are spent pouring into the lives of others. Somehow... beyond my own control, God has saw fit to send many my way in order that they can unload their burdens on me. I have seen God work in lives already. I am honored to be here to be a part.

This time has become a proving ground. It is a time that I am being shown like the Jimmy Stewart character in It's A Wonderful Life that my days matter. My family is a treasure in my life and the contacts I make with those I encounter ever day are the testimony of my faith that I must live without fail. 

He is teaching me patience, compassion, empathy, and showing me how much He love us each and every one. I sit in the basement of my parent's home on my day off and I worry that I am not doing enough to forward our ministry... I should be on the phone or in someone's office... but then I look down to my arms that hold my infant daughter Sterling and I know that these days are indeed well spent.

I am learning to wait on the lord.

God places tools in our hands like the carving knife I gave to Aleksandra. He instructs us how to use it and then he steps back ready with gauze and band-aids, waiting for us to sink the blade into our own flesh. He knows that I am not perfect, and yet he loves me. He finds me to be a worthy canvas on which He can lay down the first strokes of His masterpiece. 

God cares for me even more than this knowledge that I would die for my daughter. He hands me the tools that I need to succeed and then he watches as I began to make my way through my proving ground. He has given me a goal and a worthy cause... and yet, He also places a path for my feet to follow today. I will not reach my goal unless I make the necessary steps along the way. The man whose soul bleeds with the pain of his lost love from his wife, the lady who struggles with deep depression, the young man who wrestles with self-control and anger, the  mother who is faced daily with the stark reality of the loss of her daughter and first grand-baby... all these are needs that God has placed in my path. All these are moments for me to show if I am willing to simply stand where I am. 

Am I willing to remember who I am, what is important to me, where I am going, and whose I am? I have a daily reminder.

The eagle is Caleb, my son, my first-born, a spitting image of me who will carry on the Shepherd name with his children. He is compassionate, intelligent, and a deep thinker. The bear is Aleksandra, from Russia, my strong-character daughter who will move the world to chase her goals. She is loving, charming, and persistent. The dragon is Sterling, from China, my odds beater. She survived a premature birth, an abandonment alongside a road, a 3 month stay in a incubator, and against all the odds she is a person who embraces everyday life with a smile, an laugh, and an undying enthusiasm that gives us all hope. The large bird is a Quetzel, the national bird of Guatemala. This is the place where I found faith reborn. It is the place where God got a hold of me and reshaped the way I saw life.

God has made me a new creation. He has lit a fire deep in my core. He has given me a mission to pursue. And He now calls me to be patient and wait on his timing. He calls me to be on mission even now. He sends people my way and they unload their burdens on me daily as I strive to point them to Him. I simply am aware of the incredible miracles around me and also make an effort to be a compassionate, empathetic ear to those who need to find their way.

This is my proving ground. I see the miracles. I am strengthened by the beauty. I am stretched, challenged, and made better by the needs that pour down like rain on my head. I am humbled by the nature of searching people. I am given hope with the realization that God's plan for us all has been in place since the dawn of time.

Our hope is built in His love for us... and who we can touch along the way. A life spent in service for Him is better than a life spent chasing empty goals.  This is the ground that we show our metal. Let it be known that God carries the load that is needed.