Adoption = Loss and Gain

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Beautiful Novi Sad showing off her fall colors for me.

I have been asked often in the last nine years, “Why Serbia?” Sometimes people are just curious and sometimes the question is asked with judgment and usually followed up with, “But there are so many kids in America who need families.” My reply is almost always, “God.” That response is the truth. God chose our family for a little girl who happened to be born in a nation more than 5,000 miles away from America. When we learned about her we weren’t even looking to adopt and we didn’t know where she lived. And when we did find out that she lived in Serbia we had to look on a globe to see where exactly Serbia is. But, in all honesty, there was a reason we never even discussed adopting domestically in the many discussions we had about adoption in all the years before we found her. I knew too many people who adopted domestically that had messy situations with their child’s biological family. I did not want “messy”. I always thought that IF we adopted I wanted it to be with no strings attached. If only it worked like that…

April 2010, at Sofija’s adoption ceremony, a social worker handed me a genogram of her family. I was stunned and had no clue how to process all of the information on that piece of paper. I had the names, birthdates, and last known location of her three brothers, her sister, their fathers, all six of her aunts and uncles, and her grandparents. I tucked the paper away in our dossier folder and waited a long time to pull it out. As the months passed after bringing her home I quickly learned that the information I was given was a rarity. I don’t know any other Serbian adoptive family that has received so many details about their child’s biological family.

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One day I was sitting on the floor with my baby girl and playing with her cute toes (yes, she painted them herself in that picture) and all I could think was, “I wonder if they look like her first Mom’s?” And then I started wondering if her brothers and sister were tall and athletic like her. So… I pulled out that piece of paper and opened my laptop and began searching Facebook. Within minutes I was fairly certain I had found her siblings. For the next two years I would just randomly stalk their profiles and look through their photos for some connection. Someday I should probably thank them for not having all of their photos and information private. 😉

During one of my photo stalking escapades, I came across a picture of her oldest brother with his feet propped up. They looked EXACTLY like Sofija’s. I laughed and then I cried and then before I could think it through I typed out a few sentences that had been running through my head for a while. I sent them in a message, and then copied and pasted them into messages to the other three siblings. And then…. crickets. For THREE YEARS. I stopped stalking and let it go. I didn’t want “messy” and I wanted to respect their rights to not be in contact.

And then, in July of 2015, I woke one Sunday morning to messages from all of them. One of them had found my message in his “other messages” folder, contacted his siblings, and they all had a million questions. They did not know she existed, much less that she had been adopted and was living in another country. I soon received friend requests from aunts and cousins spread out all over Europe.

For the last three years we have been in contact and tomorrow I will meet her oldest brother and his wife and baby. Tonight, I am a bit emotional and if you’re reading this you are welcome to start praying that I am able to contain my emotions so we can make the most of the time we have together.

I will not lie, I went through our entire adoption process with completely selfish intentions. I wanted this little girl that I knew was supposed to be my daughter to be mine alone. I did not want any other family in the world to have any claim to her. But that’s not how it works.

My daughter lost everything when we adopted her. No matter how badly I wanted to believe that she gained the world by becoming a part of our family the truth is that she lost every single thing she ever knew and was taken away by complete strangers. The truth is that when she was left at the hospital after birth and then transferred to an orphanage at ten days old, she lost a mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and dozens of extended family members.

But…the minute I opened that first message and a connection was made, I gained family. Sofija may have my blood type and my eye color, but she shares their blood. For several weeks the chalkboard in my house said, “You will never look someone in the eyes that God does not love.” I put it there in an attempt to break the political tensions in our house and remind each of us that political views do not define a person. Only God gets to do that. We are all His creations. We are all family. But God’s creations that I get to meet tomorrow have blood running through their veins that ties them to the little girl that calls me, “Mama”. And that’s kind of a big deal.

 

 

Lessons from a Squirrel & FINALLY back in Serbia

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After a lifetime of lessons being learned through Old Testament like experiences, I have found that asking God to show me what I need to know through simple observations is MUCH LESS painful and exhausting. And because He is truly good and kind, He has obliged my request.

See that squirrel up there running along my porch rail? Throughout September and October I watched that squirrel, day and night, busily working to build and fill her nest. She would pull twigs and dates from the trees on one side of my porch, run to her nest in a tree on the other side of the porch, deposit her findings, and run back to collect more. For a week or so I sat and watched her thinking that she had lost her mind. You see… we live in south Florida. While the temperatures may drop a little in the winter, there is still rarely a day that isn’t warm enough for shorts and flip-flops. The palm dates that the squirrel was gathering will continue to be produced throughout the coming months. Nevertheless, she diligently did what she was created to do.

After I realized that the environment the squirrel happens to live in had no impact on her motivation to fulfill her purpose, I became fascinated with her. I spent weeks sitting on my porch watching her work. She would sometimes pause to look at me, but would never stop for more than a few seconds and she always continued on with what she was doing. And then Hurricane Michael formed in the Gulf of Mexico. As the weather deteriorated on October 9th and 10th, I watched her through my kitchen window. She would brace herself on the porch rail during the gusts of wind, but as soon as the wind slowed, she was back to work. And when the winds grew steadily strong, she climbed in her nest and waited for the storm to pass. The morning after the storm I went to check on her. Her little nest was badly damaged, but by the end of the day she had made great progress in rebuilding it. She just continued diligently doing what she was created to do.

Which led me to here and now.

Remember my post back in June about the transition houses in Serbia? Well, when I first learned about them in April of 2017 I connected the founder Tatjana with my internet friend Pam that founded Connections Homes in Atlanta. Because God’s networking is a little mind-boggling, He sent someone from Orphan’s Promise to visit the house in Belgrade and that someone contacted Pam and asked her to visit and long story short, we are both in Belgrade this week. Today we met with government officials, social workers, and foster parents. We discussed how to care for children who age out of orphan care and how to best prepare them for independence. We also did a news interview. Tomorrow we will be training on trauma-informed care, fundraising, and how to recruit families to become mentoring families for life to those who age out.

HOP House dinnerBut tonight… we were invited to one of the transition houses for dinner. The young people prepared a beautiful meal for us and spent some time allowing us to get to know them. Y’all, they’re amazing! And filled to the brim with potential. But also… the needs to support them as HOP is preparing them to live independently are huge.

I am brainstorming ways to best support them and asking YOU to please pray! Pray for wisdom and God-given guidance tomorrow in every word that we speak. Pray for no time wasted in pursuing the wrong avenues of support. Pray for the young people and those who are working with them as they navigate the process of becoming independent adults in a society where there is little hope for dreams coming true. And also pray for Tatjana. Just before I boarded my plane last Friday I received a message that her Father had died unexpectedly. Her plate is full and her heart is heavy.

This is who you’re praying for… HOP2

Thank you for being on THEIR team and for being the team of people who remind me to diligently do what I was made for!

I can’t wait to share more…

 

URGENT NEED!

When we adopted Sofija in 2010 , our eyes were opened to many needs in Serbia. One of those needs was the lack of life skills children had as they transitioned from orphan care to independent living. Those who spend their life in an orphanage enter adulthood with very few independent living skills. And… There are A LOT of orphans entering adulthood without finding a family.

The need for transitional care weighed heavy on me, but after a few inquiries it was made clear that Serbia isn’t a fan of privatized care of their citizens being done by outsiders. Eight years have passed and Serbia is  now a member of the Hague Convention. Joining the Hague Convention greatly improved orphan care, legalized and legitimized the adoption process, and provided an extra layer of protection between orphans and traffickers.  Even so, for the last eight years, what happens to all of those who “age out” has continued to weigh heavy on me.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017…

I had lunch in Orlando with several coordinators of Operation Christmas Child distributions throughout Serbia. I took some time getting to know everyone around the table and saved the lady to my immediate right for last. Her name is Tatjana (Tanya). When I asked her what she does she replied with, “Well, I have to tell you the back story before I tell you what I do.” I responded by bringing my hand to my chest and smiling as I said, “Oh, we’re going to be friends!”

Tanja then told me that she has four biological children and that she and her husband decided a few years ago to foster a child who was about to age out. They then learned just how many children were getting ready to age out and they desperately wanted to help more than one. Because there is a limit of five children in the home for foster families, they decided to open a transition house. From their desire to love big, HOP (pronounced “hope”) House was born. It stands for House of Opportunity. 

Before Tanja had finished telling me the story, I knew I had to partner with her. I’ve learned SO MUCH about the odds against a child who ages out and has no transitional care. It’s U.G.L.Y. We’re talking about real, precious humans who are filled with nothing but potential that mostly just disappear. Their lives are lost to suicide, drugs, trafficking… Being accepted into one of the houses is literally the difference between life and death. The kids at the HOP Houses are going to school. They are working. They are learning to cook, and budget, and care for a home, and play instruments, and make crafts and candles that they sell at various venues in an attempt to support themselves. More importantly, they are learning what it means to be safe, live in a family setting, and to be loved unconditionally. They’re not just finding hope. They’re experiencing Jesus.HOP Houses are in urgent need of support! The houses currently have enough funding to carry them through July and they will close in August without an influx of money. Below you can see the exact cost of keeping the houses operating and what their current needs are. If you would like to help, you can contact Tanja or myself and we’d be happy to tell you how to get money to them. 

I hardly know a person who hasn’t been outraged by some aspect of the situation with families being separated at the US/Mexico border. I’ve seen countless people on social media ask how they can help. Here ya go… If you want to make a difference in the lives of children who’ve been orphaned or separated from their families, this is a great opportunity.

Nine Years!

I have no makeup on and I’m about to go to sleep, but I have to share this post before June 18th is over. See that rut in my neck? Well, there’s a story behind it. Today I celebrate. 

June 18, 2009 I paced my kitchen and wiped up every single fingerprint and crumb I could find.  Willing the phone to ring.  Willing the phone to ring.  Why wouldn’t the phone just ring?!?!

The call I was waiting on was one of those fork in the road calls.  After two years of living with thyroid cancer, I was about to find out if my summer would be spent undergoing surgery plus more radiation and isolation, or celebrating freedom from the big “C”.  The phone finally rang and the doctor said something like, “I can’t explain it, but you’re cancer-free.”  God will always get the glory for that moment.  I was healed.  I am healed.  I am cancer-free.

Since that summer day in 2009, I have had the opportunity to share what I learned on my cancer journey with a few other people battling it themselves.  The first thing I always say to someone recently diagnosed with cancer is this… If cancer doesn’t change your life for the better, it was a waste.  Hearing that I was cancer-free was a defining moment.  Hearing that I had cancer was a refining moment.  That’s what cancer should always be.  It should refine you.  For me, the physical healing that was confirmed on June 18th was simply a reflection of the spiritual and emotional healing that had taken place over the two years between my diagnosis and that phone call.  God used cancer to clean out my junk.  He took away layer after layer of scars and wounds until I was something worthy of being used by Him.  And then He set me on fire for purpose.  I don’t want to ever again lay my head on my pillow and wonder what my purpose was for the day I just lived.  Be it parenting, loving my husband, writing, cooking dinner, or weeding my garden, I want to live a life of purpose.

Now… all that gooey life-changing for the better stuff aside.  Here are a few unexpected bits of wisdom that came with thyroid cancer.

1. radiation + sunshine = instant age spots

2. iodine is in almost everything you eat (thanks to the 3-week low-iodine diet required before my annual scans)

3. What I once thought was my highest weight… Not even close!

4. I now know the exact weight when my muffin-top appears.

5. I now know the exact weight when my bought and paid for chest is a size bigger than I bought and paid for…. And two sizes bigger.

6. Without synthroid it is actually possible to gain a pound a day while eating absolutely nothing.

7. The rut left in your neck when your thyroid is removed can actually help disguise all the weight gain mentioned above.

8. Every dentist office has a thyroid guard that can be used to protect your thyroid during x-rays.  Yet…not a single dentist I know of actually asks if you would like them to use it. ~ Soapbox moment: Federal law only requires dentists to have a thyroid guard in the office. There is no law requiring that it be used.  Helloooo?!?!

9. Once you’re placed in the cancer corral, you will forever hear a little voice suggesting that every ache or pain or odd feeling just might be….

10. There’s a lot of other really awesome people in the cancer corral that I may have missed out on if I had never been placed there myself.

Happy NINE YEARS CANCER-FREE DAY to me!

the show…

If you’ve been anywhere in my personal bubble in the last five months, you’ve likely been introduced to the movie The Greatest Showman. If you haven’t seen it yet, please stop reading and watch it NOW. It’s packed full of life lessons, memorable quotes, and inspiring music. One of the more memorable quotes comes from the opera singer Jenny Lind in the scene above. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone so I won’t give the context of it, but she says, “When you’re careless with other people, Mr. Barnum, you bring ruin upon yourself.”

Six years ago, on Mother’s Day 2012, our family walked away from the church community that we had poured ourselves into for the previous four years. It had been less than a month since I buried my grandmother, six years since I had buried my Mom, and we were five months into the investigation that nearly destroyed us. If I had been outside of the situation looking in, I probably would’ve advised myself to just stay put until the rest of my life was a little less painful. But I wasn’t on the outside.

When our family moved to the DC area in the summer of 2008 we quickly began looking for a church. After visiting a couple that didn’t feel like home, my sister called. She had been to a church in Baton Rouge, LA that morning and heard a pastor from Jacksonville, FL talk about a new church in Alexandria, VA. DC Metro Church was planted by a couple from Louisiana. I’m a Louisiana girl. They went to LSU. I went to LSU. The church was less than a year old and met at a movie theater. Cool. I found their website, sent a message, and the next morning received a phone call that led to another phone call, and then another, and by that afternoon dear hubby and I were walking to a small group at a neighbor’s house. The people we met that night are the people who walked with our family through cancer, a deployment, and adopting our daughter. They are the people who God used to teach me how to have healthy relationships with women, how to be bold about my faith, how to chase my dreams, and how to live in community. Many of the people we met that night will forever be considered family.

Because of several circumstances, it was nearly two months before we met and heard a sermon from the lead pastor of DC Metro. By that point we were deeply planted in our little church community. I really didn’t care about the meat of the messages and I didn’t bother to ask questions about oversight and accountability. The people we were living life with on a daily basis were doing a phenomenal job of pastoring our family. Because of them, I have no regrets about any of the time, energy, or resources we poured into DCMC in the years that followed. I could never put a price on the relationships, growth, freedom, healing, and purpose that we found there. But… there were countless red flags about the church leadership. They were our friends. We got to know them pretty well and I can still say with sincerity that I love them. Because of my love for them, I prayed. Like on my face, on the floor, snotty crying prayers. I prayed for health. I prayed for humility. I prayed for freedom. I prayed for open eyes. As I witnessed carelessness in dealing with person after person after person, I began to pray for God to intervene. Eventually the carelessness came around to hurting my family. It turned out that adopting a little girl with disabilities didn’t fit the desired image of the church. Neither did a woman who repeatedly asked for leadership decisions to be explained Biblically. For many months we felt like we didn’t belong. Outside of the building, our community of people was still ours, but every time we stepped foot in the building we felt like square pegs in a round hole. On countless Sundays I cried for the entire drive home. I didn’t want to lose our people.

And then, in May of 2012, through very clear channels, God released us from DCMC. I won’t lie. Leaving was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. I grieved. Our entire family grieved. My kids were angry and it was really hard to help them direct their anger. I kept telling myself and everyone I talked to that no matter what church we attended, we were all one family. We ARE one family. Nevertheless, we lost people. The loss hurt.

I’ve joked about writing a book on how to leave a church because I honestly believe we did it as well as it could be done. Once we knew we were leaving, my dear hubby scheduled a meeting with the pastor and told him. Me being me, I wrote a letter and mailed it to their home. In the meeting, dear hubby promised that we would not be divisive, but he also said that we would not lie if anyone asked why we left. We upheld that promise. Many people who were very close to us still have no clue about all of the decisions that were made that negatively impacted our family or how uncomfortable we were for the months leading up to our departure. They didn’t ask, and we didn’t tell. People were told to stay away from our family and people were told outright lies about why we left. It was a big huge yucky mess and each time something got back to us, we were just grateful that we were no longer under that leadership.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017. I awoke to a text message early one Sunday morning telling me that I might want to watch the DCMC livestream. I’m pretty sure I sat with my mouth hanging open and tears running down my face as I watched the Stines step down from leading the church.

“When you’re careless with other people, Mr. Barnum, you bring ruin upon yourself.”

I would like to add to Jenny Lind’s quote. You can’t step out of your own ruin until you at least attempt to reconcile the damage done by your carelessness. You have to make amends. You have to apologize. You have to humble yourself and accept responsibility for your actions or you will continue to live in ruins.

It was brought to my attention this week that the Stines are launching a new social media based ministry. Again, I’m pretty sure I sat with my mouth hanging open and at least a few tears in my eyes. Because our people have remained our people, I am certain that no reconciliation has taken place. No amends have been made.

My dear friend Julie wrote a piece Thursday in response to the news of the new ministry. It’s a powerful open letter. You can read it here. Before she published it she gave me the honor of a first look and had a discussion with me about her “why”. That discussion gave me great conviction. She explained that she feels a responsibility akin to those who are sexually assaulted and live in silence while the assailant goes on to assault others. Her “why” was the hope that by speaking out on a public platform she may cause someone take pause. This post is written with that same hope.

The six years between our leaving and the news this week of the new ministry gives me a unique viewpoint. Although I cannot count the number of people who I care about that were treated carelessly in the years after we left, my family was in a very safe church environment with healthy leadership for those years. We had the time to heal and to actually dig into the Bible and figure out what God says His Church is supposed to look like. However, around the time that the Stines stepped down I had a realization. As much as I thought I had healed, I had become a cynic about all things related to church.

cynical 

adjective

1. distrusting or disparaging the motives of others; like or characteristic of a cynic.

2. showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one’s actions, 

especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
3. bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.
Here’s the thing about cynicism. It drives me crazy! It’s one of the least attractive attributes I see in other people. I love sarcasm. I hate cynicism. Cynicism is ugly.
To quote Bob Goff, one of my favorite authors, “I’ve never met a courageous cynic.” It’s true. You can’t be brave and be cynical. The two just cannot coexist. Cynicism is just a scared coverup for unhealed wounds. So when I find myself being cynical about anything to do with church, I have to start looking for what bitterness I’m harboring and what wounds I haven’t dealt with. I just have to. Or I’ll live out my life as a scared, bitter person. Nobody wants to be around a scared, bitter old lady.
Which leads me to my second hope for this essay… if you’ve been hurt and you’re struggling with unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, pain, or fear… please deal with it. God wants SO MUCH more for us than to live out our lives miserable because we’ve been hurt by the people who hand out crap in His name. If you find yourself being cynical, spend some time with Him. Write down what hurts, ask God to heal it, and then LET IT GO. Life’s too short and there is way too much work to do for you and me to hide at home in fear, or go out in public with anger.
Also, don’t be careless with others. Just don’t.
One more thing, for those like me, who had a moment of fear or panic this week over the thought of the new ministry and more people being hurt in God’s name, remember this…
Revelation 3:7 “…what He opens no one can close and what He closes no one can open.”
Trust me. I’ve tried to force doors back open after God closed them. It’s never pretty.

marriage, a First Lady, and my guy

I haven’t written about marriage in a while, but today it’s on my mind. Yesterday America lost one of our Mamas. Barbara Bush was an amazing First Lady and First Mom and taught by example the value of investing in your family. Everywhere you look on the internet today, there are articles titled The Bush’s Fairytale Marriage and The Epic Love Story of Barbara and George. While dirty dishes sit in the sink and a pile of towels sits on the floor of my laundry room, I’ve spent my day reading everything I could find on how two people managed to survive 73 years of marriage and create a family legacy that is interwoven with our nation’s story. 

“You have given me joy that few men know,” George H.W. Bush wrote to her, according to a collection of letters published in 1999.

“I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” said George H.W. Bush.

Marriage is hard, y’all. It’s not as hard as parenting and it definitely comes with better perks. Nevertheless, it’s hard. In 2016, when we celebrated our 22nd anniversary, I wrote a list of 22 secrets to staying married. It’s a list of hard-learned, good stuff. If you’re struggling in your marriage (or you just need a good laugh) read it.

In ten months we will celebrate 25 years of marriage. We’ve started making plans to celebrate with an epic adventure. But 73-year fairytale marriages are not made of epic adventures. They’re made of daily choices to love and honor the one you’re with. George and Barbara clearly made a lot of wise daily choices. They praised each other often. She always referred to him as her “hero”. He gave her public accolades for raising their children. They have shared that they prayed together nightly and sought God in every circumstance they faced. When life was hard after losing their daughter, they drew closer. I continue to learn that kindness and honor lead to peace and contentment. Thank you, George and Barbara for reinforcing that lesson.

This week my dear husband began a new chapter with a new job and new title. He is MY hero. Just as he served our nation honorably, he serves our family honorably. God uses him to provide a lifestyle that is more than I could ever deserve. He works hard, he makes me laugh and roll my eyes no matter what circumstances we are walking through.  He’s an amazing protector. He brings me joy. He calms me. And above all, he loves me really really well.

Also, he’s pretty cute in snapchat filters. 😀 

i met a girl

Eight years ago today, after sitting through a meeting at Serbia’s Ministry of Social Welfare and listening to the heart-wrenching story of our daughter’s first five years of ife, our family drove to the little village of Velika Plana and met the girl who was about to rock our world. 

I’ve been studying Gideon and I keep marveling at the similarities between Gideon’s battle story and the story we’ve lived over the last eight years as we’ve fought for our girl’s freedom and health. Dear Hubby and I are social creatures. According to Myers & Briggs we’re both about as extroverted as humans can be. Before Sofija Bea Brave joined our family our social circle was big. Like REALLY big. We were involved in ALL THE THINGS. We hosted dinner parties and small groups every single week and when we didn’t have a crowd at our house, we were out and about surrounded by people. What we considered our “army”, was HUGE.

Judges 7:2-3MSG God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me. Make a public announcement: ‘Anyone afraid, anyone who has any qualms at all, may leave Mount Gilead now and go home.’” Twenty-two thousand soldiers headed for home. Ten thousand were left.

One of the hardest realities to face after bringing our baby girl home was that our people were quickly disappearing. Our army was shrinking. It scared me and it hurt. It REALLY hurt. But God had called us to win a war. He knew who we needed on our team and He knew how easily it would have been for pride to take over and convince us after every small victory that “I did it all myself.”

And then, a year and a half into being a family of six, Dear Hubby’s investigation began.  The fire got REALLY hot and our army shrunk again.

Judges 7:4-6MSG God said to Gideon: “There are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut. When I say, ‘This one goes with you,’ he’ll go. When I say, ‘This one doesn’t go,’ he won’t go.” So Gideon took the troops down to the stream. God said to Gideon: “Everyone who laps with his tongue, the way a dog laps, set on one side. And everyone who kneels to drink, drinking with his face to the water, set to the other side.” Three hundred lapped with their tongues from their cupped hands. All the rest knelt to drink. God said to Gideon: “I’ll use the three hundred men who lapped at the stream to save you and give Midian into your hands. All the rest may go home.”

I always thought that it was weird that God told Gideon to keep the ones who cupped the water in their hands to drink it. But let me tell you something. As our army shrank from huge numbers to a handful, I learned very quickly to appreciate those people who not only took things into their own hands but who held God’s Word in their hands and drank from it themselves. Let me tell you something else. When you’re fighting for your family and the lives of those you love, you do NOT want people advising you that aren’t passing along advice that they receive directly from God. I appreciate a good sermon as much as anyone else, but when it comes down to matters of life or death, I don’t want to hear the words, “I heard this great sermon the other day and thought of you.” Nope. I want to hear, “I was on my knees the other day and God said…” or “I was reading the Bible this morning and God showed me something for you.”  When it comes to survival and winning the war, I’ll take an army like Gideon’s victorious three hundred over the thirty-two thousand of distracted, misdirected, and fearful soldiers he had in the beginning of the story, any day.

I won’t lie. The girl I met eight years ago scared me. The thought of parenting her seemed like the most daunting task I’d ever faced. It has proven to be just that. More days than not I have had moments when I cry out to God that I just can’t do it any more. And then, He reminds me that He NEVER said that He would not give us more than we can handle. What He will do is ALWAYS be there where we meet the end of ourselves. Gideon faced an Army of at least one hundred and thirty-five thousand Midianites with only the three hundred warriors God left Him with. God made it very clear that the Midianites could not be defeated through the strength of Gideon and his army. But where their strength ended, God got to show off.

Over and over and over again, in these last eight years, God has had opportunities to show off. Piece by piece my girl is being healed. In the process, God is replacing each of my own broken and weak pieces with huge chunks of His strength. My daily prayer and anthem have become… Less of me. More of Him. That’s how wars are won.

The feral five-year old we met in April of 2010 has turned into a mostly domesticated thirteen-year old princess. She holds my heart and has her Tata wrapped around her little finger. Although there have been many times when I’ve wondered what the hell I got myself into, I can’t imagine my life without her.

Eight years ago I met a girl. She rocked my world.