celebrations, legacy, testimony, Uncategorized

Easter 2020:

A Week of Improv

 This Holy Week has been such a strange one – a Holy Week with the script massively edited.

I think most holidays have a script, whether it’s written or unwritten, stored in gray matter, or pixels or printed and bound in hardcover on the family bookshelf. Over the past dozen years or so, Jason and I have been editing ours. We’ve been writing and rewriting, trying hard to choose the right actors, sets, and action, cutting and adding what gets into the script, and trying to keep it short and focused on the thing we are really trying to celebrate. But even as we are working on this, it’s so easy for the scripted celebration to compete with the thing we are celebrating.

Palm Sunday communion at home

We are blessed to live in an age with so much creative content available at the flick of our scrolling fingers. There are just.so.many good things to help us keep our eyes on the journey to the Cross: beautiful art, moving music, hands-on activities and coloring pages, videos, recipes, blog posts and devotionals and carefully planned worship services. I love to curate and adapt and sometimes write these resources. Every year, Jason and I choose some things to do that we think will help our family make that journey from life to death to new life. It’s not always the same, but the worship services form the skeleton for the week: Palm Sunday with a processional, Maundy Thursday fellowship meal and worship, Good Friday service, and Easter Sunday celebration.  

But this year, as we stay home, it has been different. Different than usual, of course, but also different than what I expected. I thought we would have more time to do some of the things we don’t always have time to do – more coloring pages and kids’ activities, more acts of service, more all-family worship and devotional times. I thought the script would include some rewrites and some new scenes. I knew the dinner scene would look different, because we are functional cooks, not celebratory cooks like my parents. I didn’t know that it would look like we lost the script for most of the week. But we did, and it gave me pause to think about the disciples in a new way.

We used a script for a simple, beautiful Maundy Thursday liturgy that was a gift from Patti Gibbons at The Spacious Life https://instagram.com/thespacious.life?igshid=11hkvf0yf0a4b

Even though Jesus had prepared the disciples, they really didn’t get a sense of their roles until they were right in the middle of it. They thought they knew what to expect with the entry into Jerusalem. They thought they knew what the week would hold. They thought there was a script for Passover. But Jesus did some completely unexpected things at the Passover meal. And that was just the beginning of their realization that their roles were being rewritten.

They quickly found themselves saying lines they didn’t intend to say, doing things they didn’t think they would ever be doing. There was no neat order, no preparation, no planned menu, no supplies and materials gathered, no practice for how to huddle together in a locked room to avoid being executed, no rehearsal for how to celebrate and mark the crazy good news that your Lord who died right in front of your eyes has been raised from the dead. No menu for that celebration meal, and no order of worship. No florist delivery, no carefully hung wreaths or flower crosses or practiced orchestras. I am seeing that it must have been all higgledy piggledy for them, too – chaotic and scary, unprecedented, unpracticed, and unprepared.Those disciples were improvising, responding to each unexpected thing that happened with nothing but the preparation that Jesus had been doing in their hearts the whole time they had been walking together. Their world was upside down, and they were a scattered mess.

But Jesus used that mess to build his Church and to spread the good news of his love across the world. And He can use this mess in my house – this unprecedented, unpracticed, unprepared band of followers in each of our houses – in the same way to accomplish his purposes. But like the disciples, we aren’t unprepared for the important things. He has been preparing us as long as we have been walking with him. So now, may how we respond in our homes – even when our scripts have been tossed –  build the Kingdom one line at a time. And when the lines we deliver are wrong, when we and the other actors misstep, when the props aren’t at hand, and when the sets fall down, may we then give and receive the grace He offers the disciples and us by coming and sharing our everyday meals cooked over a campfire or served in our usual dining rooms. May this week of improv be used to spread the good news of His love and hope far and wide on whatever stage He gives us.  

adoption, family, fundraising, legacy, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago – before an enormous garage sale, a sudden and successful surgery, and out-of-town friends coming – I wrote about my doubts about how this adoption could really happen, and about God’s answer as to how He would bring it to pass here, if you missed it.  Today, as I continue the idea of how this adoption is happening, I’ll tell you four little stories that each came at exactly the right time to remind us to trust Him for reassurance, resources, restoration, and relationships.

Reassurance

The day we decided to go ahead with sending in the initial paperwork to our agency and the first of the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) forms, not having any clear answers to the litany of “How” questions we were each still trying not to obsess over contemplating, we received an unexpected gift in the mail. There was a note and a check – completely unrelated to this not-yet-public news – and we were blown away by the reassurance that God will provide for every need of His children, however He wants, whenever He wants.

This has happened multiple times at timely intervals in the past few months; plainly, we have a number of friends who are in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who are responding with joy and generosity! My children have seen some bizarre reactions as I have read email, opened envelopes, answered the door, received texts – crazy laughter, spontaneous tears, and audible gasps just to name today’s visible responses. It is flat-out incredible and deeply humbling to get a glimpse of how many of you are loving this child and are coming alongside her and us in this journey.

Resources

We saw that same kind of supernatural provision again as we started educating ourselves about parenting a child who was adopted. Multiple friends recommended that we read The Connected Child, so I ordered a copy and immersed myself in it. Jason also read it, and we both realized that not only is this going to be crucial for Rui Shan, but also we can be better parents to the children who are in our home right now by beginning to implement some of the principles outlined by the authors. Figuring out how to do that was a huge and daunting task, and just as we were asking, “How can we do this?” we became aware that a magical solution conference called “Empowered to Connect” was being broadcast at a local church, so I signed up, found cheerful helpers to spend the day with our kids, and got coached in some of the basics of implementing the connecting principles that Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross identify as key.

Some weeks later, when we were stumped by how to implement some of the things we learned, we received an email from Show Hope, an adoption advocacy movement dedicated to restoring the hope of families to waiting children around the world.  We had not been selected to receive one of their grants as we had hoped; nonetheless, they were offering us free access to the very resources we had just been needing – DVDs covering the topic we were struggling to implement, as well as a copy of The Connected Child, which we had been wanting to share with someone we know. In spite of not being able to give grants to each family, they wanted to help us in the way they could to prepare our home for the child they knew would be coming into our family through God’s provision in some other way.

Restoration

In praying and considering how we might earn some additional money to funnel toward the adoption, I applied for a temporary position which would have fit my skills and timeline exactly. For God’s reasons, I was not chosen for the position, and as I was working through the disappointment, I had two friends call to tell me the Lord had put me on their heart to be praying for me that very day.  One of them specifically had called to ask if we were fully funded yet, because the Lord had placed it on her heart to be praying for me, and as she did, she had heard the Lord telling her a particular figure to send toward our adoption. It was a tremendous balm from God that He had impressed it upon friends to be ministering to me, and further that He knew that not only was I battling disappointment, but also that I was wondering where the money was going to come from. It was a humbling lesson to me that as much as I like to be capable, in control, independent, and resourceful in my own right, He is doing something bigger in this adoption by requiring us to be dependent on Him and to do this according to His plan.

Relationships

As important as anything else in this adoption, what we are seeing  – and knowing Jesus, this is no surprise – is that His plan seems to be very much about building relationships. The piece of paper we sent in to assure the CCCWA of our plan to nurture Rui Shan read, in part, “Our family and friends are all aware of our adoption plan and are happy and supportive of it. She will be loved by all of our extended family and friends.” What we have seen, as we have begun to share this need, is that we are getting to know and understand that each one of us has gifts to offer. Because of this adoption and the kids’ fundraiser, Operation: Adoption, we have met a number of beautiful,new friends in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. Through the garage sale, we met countless (literally – this will be a separate post!) people who wanted to be part of this journey. As we have interacted with people throughout our city and beyond all summer long, we have been excited to share what God is doing, and have been amazed and delighted by so very many people sharing with us their own, or their family’s or their friend’s story of an adoption journey.

James 1:27 teaches us that we are to care for widows and orphans in times of need, and we are seeing how very active our community is in living this out. We have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination both by having financial resources available as we need to send in a payment because of the faithfulness of loved ones and new friends, and equally by knowing that people who love and shower this kind of care on a child whom they haven’t yet met are standing ready to love a child who will be coming home to join our community. Because of these amazing interactions, we had not even one doubt when we signed the care and nurture plan that our little daughter will be loved by a welcoming and supportive community: we are already seeing it, and it is crazy amazing! Thank you!

family, investment, legacy, Uncategorized

Two weeks ago yesterday, we went and spent the evening with my centenarian grandfather, knowing it was likely going to be our last goodbye. We shared a time of worship, of sharing scripture, of talking to him and thanking him for his teaching in our lives. He knew we were there, and in the way he responded to each of us, I am certain that he was able to hear the words of blessing and gratitude we each got to speak to him, after the many years he has spoken life-giving words to each of us.

I am sad. I miss him. He was my friend, a wise counselor, a perennial storyteller and a beloved mentor. For the four years I was in college, while my own dad was in Kuwait, while my parents and sister were half a continent or more away, he and my grandmother were my intimate family nearby. He rescued me when I was sick in the middle of a class, when I fell and went to the emergency room, when I needed to make sure the young man I met in my first days on campus was worthy of my time. My grandfather gave gentle, sage advice, founded on the bedrock of his faith in Christ. His influence is one that helped shape and guide me from my tiny years until this past weekend. And I suspect it isn’t over. Good teaching reverberates.

What I didn’t realize was that his impact was so long-lasting in other people’s lives, too. His last few birthdays have brought cards from former students, neighbors, colleagues, nieces, nephews, and church friends, so I knew he was treasured by many, and that his legacy was broad. But this past weekend when we went to his funeral in the town where he taught , where Jason and I went to college, met, and were eventually married, we spent an afternoon walking our children around the college campus that was the scene of all these events.

We had an amazing revelation when we went into the building that had housed my grandfather’s department. It was the Friday afternoon before spring break, and the entire campus was pretty quiet, so we popped in to the administrative offices so they would know why strangers were walking through the halls. When I started with, “Hi! We’re in town for my grandfather’s funeral and wanted to show our children where he had spent so many hours and years,” I was fine and steady-voiced until one of the women in the office said, “You’re Warren’s granddaughter! We were just talking about him at lunch today.”

Friends, he retired from that department 35 years ago! My tears bore witness to the fact that I just couldn’t believe that they not only remembered him, but that they too were touched by his life. One of the women who had known him when he used to spend time in the department after he retired offered to spend her time walking us through the building so we could see not only where he used to spend his days and evenings teaching and advising students, but also could see the ways that his department’s foundational post-war years made way for the current offerings. It was unbelievable, and Brenda’s kind remembrance and sacrificial time-gift were an amazing blessing from the Lord.

That tour and the memories we exchanged teed up the next morning at the same church where I often sat in the pew with my grandparents. Shortly before the service began, I had the privilege of meeting the current senior department member whom my grandfather often spoke of with deep respect when he introduced himself, identifying my grandfather as his mentor. There were Sunday school class members, current and retired faculty members from his department and other departments, neighbors from 50+ years ago, “kids” who had lived with him and my grandmother while studying at the college…

Our kids shared the scripture. One read Psalm 61, in which we hear “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”  One read Proverbs 3:1-18, which sums up so much about my intelligent, faithful, humble grandfather. One of our children shared John 14:1-7, pointing to the truth Grandpa knew so well, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that we can each know where we are going to spend eternity if we choose a relationship with Jesus.

The pastor at my grandparents’ home church arrived after my grandparents had moved to the metro to be closer to their family, but his message was spot on – that although he hadn’t known my grandfather in person, he knew him through the scripture passages, and that we can all learn one more lesson from this consummate teacher.  Grandpa loved his subject matter, and he loved teaching and preparing teachers, but it wasn’t ever the subject or content that he loved best about teaching. Above all, he was always most interested in the people, in knowing and investing in people, in sharing stories to inspire people to rise to achieve their fullest potential, in helping each person he spoke to grow to be the best he or she could be. And as the pastor pointed out, Grandpa has one final lesson – this time about the Rock who is higher than he – to teach.  Like all his stories and lessons, we can choose to receive and learn or to dismiss. He always hoped his students would catch what he was telling them, but like Christ, he was a gentle teacher, and he would leave the decision to learn up to each of us.

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This was a typical scene in my grandparents’ home; Grandpa loved to teach and tell stories, and we could listen and learn for hours. He was good at investing in people, and it was a privilege to get to sit at his feet.