Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Would you rather?

I cannot figure out how to get these pictures where I want them on this blog, so enjoy some out-of-order pictures.

The first set of pictures shows Jason on the slip-n-slide with the girls. They had so much fun. Their swimming suits were actually keeping them from going very fast, so we let them take their shirts off---excuse the partial nudity. You can see that we cannot go anywhere or do anything without the participation of the girls. They hopped on Jason's back every time he tried to go down the slip-n-slide by himself. Oh, the laughs they shared. You could have heard them a mile away, I bet.

These are some pictures of our latest visit to Freedom Fire. The first picture is our dear friend, Joey, laying on the ground so that the boys could jump off his back to dunk. You should've seen his back later that night! Ouch! The second picture shows the view from the last row, where I sat next to a new buddy, Kendren, during the message part of the night. They are all very good listeners and this week's lesson was about the prodigal son---very meaningful. That one never gets old. The last picture is of a middle school girl who was excited to get her nails done. She remembered me from last week and has quite a story to tell. I look forward to seeing her again Friday.

Finally, these are some pictures of the girls at a birthday party for their friend, Mattingly Rodgers. It was a princess dance party. Does it get more girly than that? How fun! They got to wear pretty dresses and glitter, learn a dance, and do a craft. It was a sight to see! I feel so lucky to share these fun times with my girls.

Now, on to the subject weighing on my heart this week:

On our pre-children road trips, Jason and I used to play a game called "Would you rather." It was a hilarious way to pass the time, pondering numerous impossible scenarios that would never occur, but were great to visualize anyway.

There have been some moments of "would you rather" in my heart recently.

I have so cherished, beyond expression, my summer time memories with our children. I started teaching in 2001, so this is my 10th year of teaching. I have enjoyed every summer from 2004 until now, relishing the casual-nature of summer. I get to enjoy the stay-at-home-mom model for about 12ish weeks every year. Our summers have been full of library visits, pool days, trips to Farmington, small vacations (not this year!), sandboxes, Popsicles, and lots of down time.

I couldn't have asked for a better gig. We have felt very comfortable and extremely happy with my career choice. It has allowed lots of perks, of which is my all-time favorite: the snow day thrills we get every winter. I knew that when I became a teacher, I would be able (more than likely) to bring my children to the school where I taught. That's why the Rusts moved from Liberty to NKC school district attendance area back in 2006. We knew we wanted to move before Evan started kindergarten. Oh, what a joy this past school year was! Evan and I had some one-on-one time before and after school, and we were able to see each other at lunch daily. I taped a pink construction paper heart on my classroom window, so he could see my room from the playground and remember how much I loved him. We had a super secret hand sign we gave each other if we happened to see each other's class in passing. It meant "I love you so much, but I'll give you a hug after school." I knew if I didn't come up with something like that, he'd jump out of his class line or out of his lunch table when he saw me everyday~and I didn't want him to cause that much commotion. It's hard for a 5 year old to understand why they can't hug their mom when they see her at school. The hand sign worked like magic. We still do it to each other when we are leaving to go anywhere.

When we answered yes to God's adoption plan for us, it included a not-so clear vision of the future of my career. We plan to give these children (biological and adopted) all they need. Most adopted children need to be with their parents and not put into a daycare (that really looks and sounds like an orphanage, if you really think about it~~~how scary for a little one who was just rescued from that life!). Besides their needs: who can afford 4 children in daycare? So, we knew that my job would probably go on hold for at least a year, if not more. We feel like it's part of this test of faith---do we really believe God will provide for us since we said yes to His calling?

The closer we get to a referral, the more my brain is playing "Would you rather" with me. I have gone through all the pros and cons of me staying at home and I know that is what we will need to do. However, having said that, you can see that I have treasured my job as a teacher. I have gone "back to school" in August every year since I was 5. What is my heart going to feel next August, when I am sitting at home? It is likely that we will get young ones for our referral, probably not school age. That means I will be home with 4 children, 2 of whom won't speak my language.

The fact that there are 500 applicants for 7 teaching positions doesn't give me a whole lot of reason to want to hand over my job, either. My tenure has been a safety net, if you will. Jason could lose his job, as could any person who works for a private company, while the chances of me ever losing my job is slim. If/when I want to go back to teaching, will there be a job for me? What about my nice salary? I'm no millionaire, but 10 years of teaching with a masters degree brings home a nice salary, at least one that makes you think twice before walking away from it.

I let myself fall apart over this and shed some tears with my sweet accountability group of girlfriends. I hope you all understand that this is all part of accepting the cost of following Jesus and the plan He has for the Rusts. It doesn't matter what Jesus asks us to do~doesn't it feel better to be in His plan? Is there any other place you'd rather be? Don't you think that the Prince of Peace and the Creator of the universe has a plan for our future? Either you believe that, or you don't believe that He is sovereign. And, if you don't believe our God is sovereign, why do you believe in Him at all? Who wants a God who is not in charge of it all?

Would you rather live according to your plan and your comfort, or relentlessly beg Jesus to show you His plan? I had a peace this morning in knowing that all the tedious, mind-bending, earthly, here-and-now details of our family's life-change are not eternal concerns. I have to keep my eyes on the end-goal. We want to love others, and love these children of our's into the kingdom of God. What else matters?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sophie is hungway

Just listen to what I hear 1,000 times a day. Tell me you wouldn't
give the girl what she wants......Uh, huh. Me, too. If she wants something,
she pretty much gets it these days. We are being such enablers and
usually it is totally worth it. Love these kids. Gonna have to exert some
discipline sometime soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is this Heaven?

I can't keep up with all the directions my brain wants to go with this post, so bear with me as I try to manage control of my attention and focus.

I'll start by saying that this weekend was full of so much joy, that it's hard to distinguish heaven and earth.

Our small group attends a community center where children gather on Friday nights for a Christian message, recreation, and a meal. It's called "Freedom Fire." There are roughly 30-50 children who come (more some weeks than others) to hear and to eat. Children's ages range from very young (2?) to teenagers. They walk, skate-board, or ride their bikes from their nearby homes in downtown Kansas City. Their's is not a life of luxury. They come barefooted, dirty (not all of them, but some are), and hungry for God's Word and some warm food.

Jason had gone before with Evan to play and to serve these children. He came back with funny stories of Evan shooting hoops with black boys who are 6 feet tall. That image is just funny when you see how scrawny and white Evan is.... I have hesitated to go until now, always using the all-s0-convenient excuse that it will be hard to serve these children and keep track of my own kids at the same time. I was even a little scared of what this downtown location (the 'hood') would be like: are there crazy people there? How about gang activity? Lame feelings. What a complete coward. Cowardly, especially since this is not like it's East St. Louis or something. Our friend, Kurt Geiger, shared a quote by a courageous man named CT Studd (who wouldn't be brave with a name like that?!). I remember thinking about that quote numerous times throughout the day on Friday, sort-of gearing myself up for the task of helping these people. Here's the quote:

"Christ’s call is to feed the hungry, not the full; to save the lost, not the stiff-necked…this can only be accomplished by a red-hot, unconventional, unfettered Holy Ghost religion…The fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit will change soft, sleek Christians into hot, lively heroes for Christ, who will advance and fight and die, but not mark time…Nail the colours to the mast!...To die is gain. Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell."

Don't fool yourself to think that downtown Kansas City is anything close to the definition of hell. However, it is hell compared to the life of comfort and abundance of the suburbs.

It was nothing but pure joy to paint the little girls' finger nails (dirty as they could be!) and even their toes! Claire and Sophie jumped right in and "helped." We played play-doh with the little boys and watched the teenagers shoot hoops, play dance dance revolution, and jump-rope. One of the little girls, who was probably 5 years old carried Sophie around. Sophie is very picky about who looks at her, much less who touches her. She did let this little girl carry her around and saved her tears until the little girl put her down (it made me laugh!). There was another little one I wanted to sneak into our van and take her home with us. She was not a day older than 2 and sweet as can be. She and Sophie ran around together near the end of the evening. These kids know how to have fun. I was telling Jason that it amazes me how much fun they have at this community center on any given Friday night, while the people in our suburban neighborhood sit and watch TV on their couches in the air-conditioning. Stark difference.

At the end of the evening, when the kids were making their way outside to walk home, I caught a glimpse of Jason kneeling eye-level with a little bare-foot girl (in fact, the same one who carried Sophie around). He was telling her that he'd be back next week to see her and he'd bring her some candy (his pocket full of candy ran out quickly that evening). To say that my heart overflowed with PRIDE would be a major understatement. I can't express the amount of respect and love I feel for this man of mine who has transformed his heart to be more like Jesus. He has such a heart for these children and you can't help but notice his desire to be "the father to the fatherless."

What shocked me the most at the end of the evening was my driving desire to do this every single Friday night. I can't think of another place I'd rather be than serving these precious children. We will be going back this Friday and I intend on taking pictures to post. We'll see how far I get with that endeavor.

God bless!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sweet memories

Here is a short slide show featuring a precious boy who passed away on July 4th. He had a severe asthma attack and fought for life on life support for 5 days before passing away. His precious life was able to help 3 others, as his parents made the noble and honorable decision to donate some of his organs. It doesn't surprise me, as his 4th grade teacher, that he is helping others in his death. He was loved by so many people. I truly don't know one person, child or adult alike, who didn't cherish this boy. I pray that his parents and sister enjoy the Peace that surpasses all understanding as they face the absence of Tyler.

I have so many thoughts and emotions swimming around in my head about his life and death. It has consumed me for 2 weeks now. I am at a loss for words except to seek God's wisdom and words about life and death.

John 14:1-4 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me. In my Father's house are many room; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."

Here's a wonderful song by Amy Grant that seems to help me remember to lay our troubles at the feet of Jesus. I can't help but think of Tyler and his mom when I hear this song. Please listen to Arms of Love and say a prayer for the McDowell family. I pray that they feel the presence of God during this time and that they realize that this is a time in their lives when One set of Footprints is sufficient.


Friday, July 2, 2010

In the air

Here's what I read on an email that just arrived in my in-box:

Dear Jason and Wendy,

Your dossier is now on its way to Ethiopia, and should arrive there in 3-4 business days (we'll let you know when it does). Congratulations! That puts you on the waiting list for a referral.

This is an email from our dossier case manager, who we've worked closely with for several months now. All those hours of hard work poured into the paperwork, all the hours spent earning and saving and scraping the ransom money, all the blessings from the various agencies (and family and friends) are up in the air on their way to Ethiopia as we speak!

There are few words that explain the feeling this puts on my heart today. I am relieved that we made it this far. I am excited to be that much closer to our children. I am in awe that God has allowed me live out this part of His plan.

Friends, read the following link to another mother's blog post before flying to pick up her children from Ethiopia. Heidi is so eloquent and completely, 100%, puts our thoughts into words. I hope it resonates with you. I pray that you allow God to break you and that you can begin to enjoy a new vision for your life.

I pray that Satan never again convinces me to live for ME.

May God's timing prevail. May our children, who He set aside for us, have His peace until we can bring them home. May the court system continue to work smoothly for the benefit of the children. May our family continue to grow closer to Jesus. May God be pleased with our hearts. May society never burden us with its expectations and vision for our lives.