I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
Psalm 119: 111, 112

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One Year Together

One year ago today we sat before a beautiful, Ethiopian judge in a small, modest courtroom in Addis Ababa. She peered at the picture of our sons before her. We watched her face light up with a sweet smile and she said to us, “They look so happy”. I remember watching my surroundings become foggy as my eyes welled with tears. I knew it was a mixture of emotions ranging from simple physical exhaustion to mental weariness to complete elation. We had already been asked on penalty of perjury if we had spent time with our boys; if we liked them; if we knew that this process would make them our sons forever… irrevocably; and if we still wanted to adopt these two little boys and make them Gregersens forever. It was as simple as responding, “Yes. Yes. Yes…” Just like that, our family grew by two more children!

Today I recall the knowledge that our day in court was simply a mere glimpse and “notch” on the stick in what had already been set in place – and time – by God Almighty. Simon Getinet and Elijah Bizuneh had been planned and destined for our family since before they were formed in their dear birth mama’s womb. The same Father God that adopted me when I was yet a wretch gave me the privilege of living the gospel through earthly adoption. Oh, how I pray that He is glorified through our family!

There is yet much healing to take place and thankfully I’ve met with peace knowing that the healing is not mine to accomplish. It’s all about God and his saving work. What is the gospel? It’s the truth! Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and then gave that life as ransom for us, the true sinners. He died the death of a criminal; suffering beyond belief and spilling righteous blood on my behalf. And that wasn’t the end of the story! He stepped out of the tomb, alive and exalted, in a glorified heavenly body! He did this for us so we can be with Him forever, with His Father in heaven. Amazing grace and mercy! How sweet indeed.

Healing is a process; longer for some than others, but it comes. In God’s timing, it comes. It may not always look like what we want it to look like, but when He reveals it… Wow. It is way more beautiful and timely than we could ever imagine. Healing here has been a journey. It is happening in spurts. In seasons. In mysterious moments and words. In joy and humor. And always in love. The love I feel for my youngest sons runs so deep… The only way to explain it is to assure all you mamas out there that the love is truly the same as if my two youngest grew in my womb.  There are times I forget that we “look different”. I don’t know that I even notice looks or comments anymore. I’m just not there right now. What I notice are the times when Rhyan, our 15 yr old daughter sits with 5 yr old Eli to work on a puzzle, and when Ty, our 12 yr old takes Simon, our 7 yr old, out to the backyard to work on his catching or play whiffle ball. I see the sparkle in everyone’s eyes when we crack jokes at the dinner table and even our two littles get it! I find rest and hope in the hugs, kisses, “I love you”s, thumbs up, brother handshakes, piggy back rides up the stairs…

The truth is that one year ago today, my boys met face-to-face with the gospel. They were adopted by a daddy and mommy who loved them simply because we love. Not because they did anything to earn our love. There was no “work” or “task” for them to accomplish. They didn’t ask us to adopt them. It was all our choice. They had absolutely nothing to do with it! They didn’t even know us. We reached out to them and drew them near. We brought them into the fold, just as our Good Shepherd brought us in. We chose to bring them into our family, just like God chose to make us His own, by no striving or asking of our own.

So, now we reflect on what that means for our family. When God saved me, He set me apart. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m still a sinner, BUT I’m now clothed in His righteousness and others should know that by my fruit. I’ve been filled with the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit and in Him I leave behind the darkness, death and misery of a life without Jesus. And our sons? They’ve been set apart too! They’ve been drawn into the Gregersen Family. They’ve been called out to leave behind the loneliness, grief, despair, and emptiness of life as orphans. The past is gone! A new life has begun! Just as God calls us to the light and beauty of a new life in Him, I believe we can expect the same transformation from our children – all in God’s timing. The old must pass away and the new life as Americans and Gregersens brings beauty, joy, and glory to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

In no way do we wish to forget or dishonor the birth country of our boys. We love Ethiopia and the people who call it home.  It’s funny that as the one year anniversary of us meeting our boys has come upon us, our little Eli has finally begun to talk about Ethiopia and ask questions about his birth father. He literally NEVER vocalized anything before 5 days ago. Ever. Every day since June 6th (the day in 2013 we learned we were cleared to travel to meet the boys!) he has asked about going on an airplane together again, and why his birth father is sad, and how come there isn’t fun stuff in Ethiopia. There it is. More healing! He is releasing the ties he has to his birth country in what I believe is a healthy and honest way. We love talking to him and Simon about our adoption. We love telling them how blessed we are to be chosen as their mom and dad and family. We love knowing that their birth father gave us his blessing and gratitude and that we can tell our boys how much we love him too. And to reassure them that they don’t have to cut off the love they have for their birth parents is healing for all of us. They can enjoy the gift that God gave them of having two earthly moms and dads!

We continue to pray that through adoption our children get to relive the gospel each day. In their hearts and minds, they need to be aware of the fact that they are new creations. They don’t have to live as if they are in the pit anymore. And truthfully, we won’t accept that as an excuse for behaviors that reflect lost souls. They are lost no more. God’s children – all of us – can rest assured that He strengthens and equips us to live the life He calls us to.

Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for partnering with us in so many ways throughout the past year. Thank you that even when you may not have agreed or understood why or when or how, you were still there. Thank you for still being there. We are humbled at the knowledge of the friends and family God has brought into our lives and the ways He has made you all a part of our story. He writes every story, and we are honored to have all of you written in our book, and to be in each of your story books in that immense, amazing library in His heavenly mansion. J Yes, I believe there is one of those in heaven! And that gets a resounding, “AMEN!”

Grace and Peace to You Always,

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every single THAT is so worth all of THIS

Simon saw an automatic ice dispenser in the Dulles airport on our way home from Ethiopia. There may have been an invisible shove from his inner core that made his little body fly backwards in stupor when his new daddy placed that cup under the dispenser and pushed that lever. Then he slowly crept close and looked up the shoot in wonder. "What - in this little world I have known - was THAT!?"

I watched this event unravel as I was still reeling from our trans-Atlantic flight. My mind was already getting a preview of what our family would experience over the next few months as we would transition to a family of 6. A family God was already very aware of and familiar with. A family we had all been praying for and one in which God would teach me through experience about sacrifice, humility, service, unconditional love, and trust. He would teach me more about Him.

I watched my baby who was still merely 4 years old cry from fear and stress until his nose bled. Bless the dear man who gave up his seat on our tiny commuter flight from DC to Charlotte so I could sit in front of Eli and Paul in an attempt to offer warmth and help to my little boy who still wanted nothing to do with me. All he could relate to was the need for a father who wouldn't abandon him, and his trust in that at the time was nil. I watched my sweet and amazing 15 year old daughter sit with her new 7 year old brother stepping in as a pseudo-second mama, yet desperately trying to keep her weary eyes pried open for the last two legs of our trip home.

The first leg was from Addis through Rome and over the deep, wide ocean to America. On that day of our lives, my new sons stared in awe as the flight attendants placed trays of food in front of their hungry little faces. Simon ate his food as if it would sprout wings and fly off his tray. I finally realized I needed to slow him down. After I recovered from another moment of "this is reality" shock.

The mood certainly took a turn for the different as we set off on our last legs home. The final flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was the roughest. By this time, not a one of us could give a darn about food. We had to race from one gate to the next and barely made it on the tail end of the boarding line. Our seats were all over the place. Again, we were blessed by a kind woman who allowed  me to sit across the aisle from Rhyan and Simon and in front of Paul and Eli. It was all Paul and I could do to keep our baby in his seat and remain buckled. Mere exhaustion was our right hand man. Each one of my family members passed out. Finally.

I had quiet. I had "me time". I was numb. Though there were a small handful of smiles and kind words nearby, I had already noticed the cold shoulders and the critical stares. I am choosing to believe that I remember it as worse than it really was. After all, I was saying to myself, "What have you done?" I can't help but wonder, though, what some of the cartoon bubbles over the other passengers' heads read... "Control your kid, woman." "Don't bring foreigners to our country." ??  Part of me was sad. I felt an icy, self-centered climate that I hadn't noticed on our flight in Africa. The people on Ethiopian Airlines smiled, talked, played with the children, listened to music. The Americans... read their iPads and pulled out their laptops. They disengaged all they could from anything other than self. Yes, I'm generalizing, but I can't help but remember feeling a peculiar sadness as I contemplated what our society has become in America. We live in a nation of ME, MYSELF, and I. So counter-gospel. So scary.

Our boys have now been home for 19 weeks. Yes, I still count. :) It's like the birth of a new baby! You state their ages in months until after their second birthday! Yesterday, I sat with all three of my sons at the Social Security office in downtown Phoenix for nearly two and a half hours. It was one of the many administrative chores that come with adoption, that make one feel like their children are merely numbers in a country where there are so many different views on parenting, family, faith, morals, religion... A middle-aged man and a woman sat in the aisle across from us. They must have known that I have learned to tune things out. You mommies know what I mean! They must have thought I would tune them out as I heard the man say, "I love children, but geez. How and why would anyone want to do that." My little guys were watching Learning with Leapfrog on my cell phone. Quietly. My twelve year old was keeping guard. Basically, being the big brother on-call. I looked straight at the man who turned his gaze my direction. I smiled. He didn't smile back, but instead chose to avert his gaze elsewhere. He had absolutely no clue about anything. He had no idea about the hours and tears poured out as we parented our children; teaching each of them what it means to live godly lives - and for Simon and Eli - what it looks like to live in America and with a family. Then I smiled to myself thinking that I knew exactly "how and why". GOD. If you don't get the gospel, you truly don't get "how and why". My heart broke for that man.

uHear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, v“Seek4 my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”5
wHide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
xO God of my salvation!
10 For ymy father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will ztake me in.

Psalm 27:7-10

That is exactly why adoptive families can walk through the "how and why" each day. We all know, this is no walk in the park. Though the boys have bonded beautifully, and my baby who wanted nothing from me for the first month home is now my kissy face, mama's boy, we still have rough patches of learning to trust each other and giving in to what God is teaching us about trusting Him.

See, my boys have experienced being forsaken by their father and mother. It wasn't something they asked for, and I don't believe for a moment that it was something their biological parents asked for or wanted. It just is what this world dealt them. All of them. But, the good news is that Jesus would never forsake them.

Whose voice and face do we SEEK; long for when we are mere infants? Mom. I wanted so badly for my sons to have that immediate desire for me as Mom from the moment we brought them home. I thought that if the attachment and love was immediate, it would make life in transition so much easier. Of course it may have. But even a birth mom who holds her newborn in her arms from day 1, finds life with her new little human hard. Why is that? Because as humans, we fail. Every. Single. Time. We are not perfect, and inevitably, human will fail human. Hence, our need for Jesus. Exactly why we need to SEEK His face. His grace is the only sufficiency we need for life, and He is the mother and father who will NEVER forsake us.

As I learn each day to let go of the need to be the perfect and only mom to my boys, I grow closer to them each day. I know in my heart of hearts that God is the parent who has and will save them. The awesome thing is, this reality is true for ALL my children; not just my two youngest. God wants my kids... and ME, to desire His arms. To look to Him for everything. To know that He will never forsake us. To remember that this life and this world is temporary and the eternal is close at hand. This is the truth, and when I remember that serving His kingdom and making disciples for Him should always be number one on my radar, the pressure to be the perfect mom fades. After all, it's a pressure that comes from this world, not God's.

From our coming-home day through now, there have been beautiful breakthroughs of God's love and faithfulness. Watching Ty greet his new brothers with gifts and hugs and huge smiles was priceless. Seeing the tears in my mom's eyes as she embraced her new grandsons and the pride in my dad's smile when he met them for the first time made my heart skip a beat. Listening to Eli ask for "Sitoo" (Sister) when she isn't with us is...well, so stinkin' sweet.

We've gone from THAT to THIS!

"That" was touching, grabbing, and pushing absolutely everything every button, every switch and lever, every dial and knob within reach; impulsively. OH the frustration and exhaustion! "This" is both boys knowing that light switches are simply for lights to be on or off, and knowing that water refills at the frig are by permission only.

"That" was not being in public for fear we may be dragged to the nearest prison cell as we attempted to train our youngest children. "This" was sitting in a crowded restaurant and the woman in the next booth leaning over to tell us how well-behaved our children are.

"That" was 5:30 a.m. wake up calls complete with busting through closed doors and opening shutters before Mom and Dad's eyes are opened. "This" is knocks on doors for permission to enter and staying in bedrooms until 8:00 a.m.

"That" was gated off entrances to our kitchen since little boys didn't know how to keep hands off and stood at the gates chanting for "dapo" (bread), "moos" (banana) and "chai" (tea). "This" is needing to be called to wash up for meal time. AND communicating in complete English sentences!

"That" was "embee" (no) with accompanied shoulder shrugs and screaming, kicking tantrums. "This" is "Okay Mom" and smiles and "I love you"s galore.

We had to experience THAT to get to THIS. It has and still is leading us into a new life. A better life! Jesus knows exactly how it feels. He gives us the privilege of a new and better life through Him. If our family's contribution to spreading the gospel in this lifetime is through our adoption journey, Amen and Alleluia! Every single THAT is so worth all of THIS!