Tuesday, September 10, 2013

27 Days

This morning, I want to tell you about a boy. 

His name is Brenton.

Isn't he sweetness?
Brenton has a very important birthday coming up and he needs us to help celebrate it for him.
Brenton turns 16 on October 7th.
You read that correctly, the little boy in the picture above is about to be 16 years old.

Brenton is living in a mental institution in Eastern Europe.

He's a tiny guy for nearly 16 years old and spends most of his time in a wheelchair.
Brenton has only recently been transferred to this Asylum for Boys.
He still has a lot of joy.

The harsh reality is this: Brenton, the bright, beautiful little boy you see above has waited for over 15 years to be chosen.

Now, we have 27 days. 27 days find a way to begin to redeem those lost 15 years.

What does Brenton need for his Birthday?

Specifically, a home study ready family, who can file their USCIS paperwork prior to Brenton's 16th Birthday on October 7th.

That's 27 days from now. 27 days for us to rise up and declare that Brenton is worth choosing. 

Brenton's pictures arrived in my message box, last night, with a plea to help. Within minutes tears were streaming down my face. This precious child has lost nearly 16 years, most of his childhood, because no one has seen him, until now. No one noticed Brenton until it was almost too late. 
Almost, but not. 

27 Days...

27 days, Church, 27 days and then, this little light will be shut away for the rest of his life.

That's a lot of light to shut up in the darkness.

Unfortunately, I can tell you what will happen if we fail Brenton. The light will begin to fade. A family will miss out on the joy of a son. He will one day die alone, never knowing the love of family and friends.

Will you stand with me in the gap for Brenton?

Will you look at him and pray for him, like he belongs to you?

16 years is a long time to listen to the lie that you're unworthy, unloved, unwanted.

Let's change that for Brenton. Let's declare to the world that he is worthy, loved and wanted.

Help find Brenton's Family.

Share his picture, everywhere and with everyone that you can think of.

We have 27 days to find Brenton the best birthday gift possible.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something!

Hidden in Christ,

Monday, September 9, 2013

Photo Listing

I've had a blogging break and now, I'm ready to come back. For those of you, who only get updates from the blog and aren't on Facebook, Klemi is home and doing wonderfully. She is a joy!
Leaving the orphanage

I have been struggling with something that is quite the hot topic in the adoption community. It has been for quite some time. The topic is Photo Listing. Some countries allow photo listing and others do not. Some that don't are very relaxed and know that photo listing happens here in the USA of their available children. They could stop it if they chose to, by simply not photo listing children on a public database in their country. Password protection people, it's all the rage these days...

However, very sadly, in the adoption community, there have been many Christian people who are attacking each other over Photo Listing and the ethics behind it. One side argues that the end justifies the means and the other side argues that as Christians we should not be breaking the law of another government. This has been going on for months, that have added up into years, now. Isn't it just like Satan to take such a useful thing and use it to tear believers apart. Sigh.

For months, I have been frozen over this topic. I have prayed, sought Godly counsel, prayed some more and read my Word. I have been double-minded over the ethics and the law versus the good that comes from photo listing. Last night, around 3:00 am, I heard clearly from God about this.

Today, I am taking my stand. Here's what I believe. I believe, and the Word supports this with stories like the ones of Moses and Rahab, that sometimes, we disobey the laws of a country for the good of the people living in it. Photo listing a child is the best way to find an orphan a family. I have advocated for many children, who have families, today, because they were photo listed. I cannot believe that God, who is merciful to the orphan, would have left them where they were to die alone, because we needed to follow the laws of their country. No way!
We shouted for Bernadette and now, she lives here in our small town, with her family. Her time was running out in her country, she would have gone to an adult mental institution and been unadoptable forever. Her parents saw her photo and went to get her.

Should we have left the Jews in concentration camps, because that's what German law provided for? Should Daniel have stopped praying 3 times a day, because his earthly King said to. Should the 3 Hebrew boys have bowed before the idol to avoid the furnace? Should Moses' Mother have killed her newborn son, because the King declared it? No, no, no, no.

People, this is the same thing. God's law trumps man's law. End of story.

Photo listing children finds them families. It just does. Ultimately, we are to be about the Father's business. His business involves setting the lonely in families. I have seen Him use a picture of a child to change the hearts of men, to move mountains, to find families. I will be continuing to advocate for children. I will use their pictures. I will pray that God will bless our efforts to find them families. This is where I will take my stand, on the side of the children, who have no voice.

Please, consider joining me here. Because they're waiting and they shouldn't have to wait while we argue over ridiculous things.

These are still waiting...

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something (useful)!

Hidden in Christ,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Bump in the Road

We never know what life holds just around the curve in the road. What is coming over the next hill or lingering on the horizon? God asked us to move to Bulgaria. We are certain of that. We have struggled with the timing of it all, though. Now, God has allowed some obstacles to be placed in our path that we simply cannot ignore.

First, Marty's Mom has been ill for a little over a month, now. We very nearly lost her. Since then, it has become apparent that she needs to live in with us or with Marty's brother. The plan, right now, is to share Nana, a few months at our home and a few months with our brother and sister in law. I have struggled with this more than anything else God has ever asked of me. There have been tears, frustration, stretching like never before. All along, God brings Isaiah 58 to mind, where He speaks about the true fast. Part of that is being available to our family when they need us. Marty's Mom needs us here. She needs to live in a home where she can see healthy relationships and learn about loving Jesus. My heart longs to go to Bulgaria, but God requires more of me. He is teaching me about being compassionate, kind and loving, even when especially when I don't feel like it. This is what our faith does. It says, "Yes, Lord, use me" even when the answering is hard and requires more than we want to give.

Second, I had a phone call, today, with our pediatrician. We have been praying and have only shared with a few people that Klemi has a heart condition. The news from our pediatrician was not great. Another bump in the road. If what her report from the Cardiologist in Bulgaria says is true, we're looking at a heart surgery, shortly after her arrival here in the USA. Please, pray that the hole in her heart is not beyond repair and that the pulmonary hypertension it's causing is reversible. Really, just join us in praying that the Healer of broken hearts will mend her little heart, before she ever steps foot on American soil. Klemi will need to be followed by a heart surgeon for quite some time after her repair.

I type this and I think, "Why God?" It's not for us to question, though. God asked, we responded and maybe that's all He was looking for? Willing hearts. Were we, are we willing to walk away from our cushy American lives and GO wherever He calls? You bet we are. Is this the end of the road to Bulgaria? We don't believe it is. We simply believe the journey just got a little more difficult and a lot more interesting. Either way, we'll walk this road as long as Jesus is walking with us. We have found more often than not, that this is where He meets us, on the road less traveled.

For now, we're going to put our fundraising on hold. The funds that have already been given will be going to another missionary, adoptive family. If you've made a donation and you'd rather us not forward that on to them, please, send me a message and we'll get your money back to you. Thank you, friends, for your prayers and your support. We'll keep sharing our journey here and hopefully, one day soon, we'll be back on the road to Bulgaria, with 5 beautiful healthy kids in tow.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something!

Hidden in Christ,

Saturday, July 6, 2013

already, but not yet...

One of the things that God has used adoption to birth in my heart is a greater understanding of the "already, but not yet" tension found in the gospel message. Many people, today, question how there can be a sovereign, loving God, who would allow suffering, pain and loss to occur. Therein, lies the "already, but not yet" truth of the Gospel. Jesus has already done the work of salvation, but we have yet to see His Kingdom come here on earth.

It's quite the conundrum and often difficult to wrap our minds around. Already...

Adoption is like this. There is a certainty that comes when we hear God whisper into our hearts that this child is ours. We know beyond a doubt that we would move heaven and earth to get to our child. They are already ours. I promise, that if we never hold them in our arms or bring them to our homes, they are as much ours as any child born from our womb.

But, not yet...

Then, there's the other side of adoption. The risk of losing our hearts to the knowing and loving of a child on the other side of the world. The steps involved in the process, that says even after the child is legally yours, you must wait until the appointed time to pick up your daughter or son and bring them home. In essence, we are living in the already, but not yet space of time, however brief, until we can hold our child.

This is where the Gospel comes to life for me in adoption (well, one of the places). The work of the cross is already done, but the rewards of the Kingdom are not yet...

The tension can be great between the two places. The place of certainty in knowing the God of Already and the place of great faith in trusting the God of not yet. How we live and walk in this space in between is the real witness of the Gospel message here on earth.

How are we filling this time? What are we doing with our little bit of eternity that exists in the already, but not yet?

Hidden in Christ,

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pink Sparkly Heels

I've been debating what to share here on our blog. Obviously, once we get to Bulgaria, we'll share about that, but life is happening here in the USA, now. I love to tell God stories. I love being a part of God's great, big incredible adventure.

This past week and a half has been hard. Marty's Mom is sick and in the hospital. We, nearly, lost her. Now, we're trying to negotiate her long-term care, because the road to recovery isn't looking like a short one. Then, our little boys got sick with strep throat. Not such a big deal, just exhausting, cleaning up vomit, running to Urgent Care and fighting over medicine. In the middle of all this, we're waiting on a signature, so that Klemi's adoption can be completed and she can come home to us. Sometimes, life happens fast and all we can do is hang on to Jesus and know, that this season will pass.

Last night, I was on the computer pretty late. I had been up with Sam, who isn't the best sleeper when he's well, throw in an illness and he's exhausting. God had a reason. He always does.

My friend, Jamie, messaged me and told me she had written a blog post and mentioned prayer in it. She was super nervous about what people would think. Jamie was not raised to believe in Jesus and has only come to know him in the past few years. She said it feels like I'm "coming out of the closet." Precious Jamie, made me laugh out loud and wake Marty up. Here's why.

About a year ago, Jamie and her husband, crossed the ocean to adopt a sweet little boy, named Eli (love his name). Eli has Down Syndrome and needed a family. Jamie was a very new believer at the time and didn't hesitate to do exactly what God was calling her to do. This year, Jamie and her husband are headed back across the ocean (to a place that's very near to my heart) to bring home two more little girls, both of them have Down Syndrome, along with other delays and needs. Jamie advocates for orphans, supports adoptive families and is a wonderful friend. It's very obvious to those of us watching Jamie's life that she loves Jesus, so I nearly fell out of the bed laughing when she told me she was "coming out" of the "I love Jesus" closet.

It gets better, because she linked me to her blog post and said, "It's subtle, but it's there. You know, I can't come out in my Pink Sparkly Heels, right away." I read her post. You can read it here: on Jamie's blog. I responded with get your Pink Sparkly Heels out, girl! She was so proud to tell me that, today, she moved from white shoes to tan.

Jamie, friend, I have to tell you that I love how you shine! You must not realize what your life says to everyone around you, each day. Jamie is struggling with something that many of us struggle with...finding her identity in Christ. She doesn't realize her own worth, value and Sparkle. When your life is lit with the fire of Jesus, you can't hide that shine. It creeps out into life, whether you realize it or not.

So, my question for the rest of us and the lesson God reminded me of last night, "Are we all out for Jesus? Have we put on love, above all else?" If we have, I think, we can safely say that the people around us are enjoying watching us follow after Jesus in our Pink Sparkly Heels!

Jamie and her family need help bringing home their girls. While you're over at her blog, pray and if you're able give. Let's love on Jamie a little and encourage her to keep shining for Jesus.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support!

Hidden in Christ,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Breathless Expectation

To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways; we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.

Oswald Chambers

Lately, I have allowed the uncertainty of our future to bring fear and sadness. Many of you know that we're in the middle of an international adoption and, quite frankly, it's taking too long to suit this Mama. We've, also, taken a step of faith and let everyone know that we're heading to Bulgaria. Talk about uncertainty. How will we raise the money, where we live, who will God fill our days with? Questions are everywhere.

I have many friends, who are adopting from Bulgaria and they are all in love with the country, the people, the food. They have said, repeatedly, how jealous they are of this opportunity we have to go and live in Bulgaria.  I'll just be honest. It's adding to the uncertainty and fear. Are they only seeing the end of the story, where we live and minister in Bulgaria for 2 years? Are they overlooking the year long process to get us there? The will we raise the money, where will we live, who will God fill our days with, what will we come back home to?

We're not taking a vacation or a short-term mission's trip. We're leaving our lives behind. We're laying them down to follow after Jesus, to walk where He's calling. Our kids are leaving behind all of their friends, their activities, their lives. I'm just gonna be real, it's scary. We've been here before, though, on this road less traveled, the one where Jesus walks. We know that He will meet us here. We know that He has a plan. We have a certainty and a peace that comes from knowing this is what He called us to do. 

It's an awesome thing to find yourself in the middle of God's will. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm human, though and it's a lonely place, sometimes. If the Holy Spirit brings us to mind, please, remember we're just regular people and more than anything we need your prayers and support. Tell us that you're praying, that you love us, that you'll walk this path with us. Even if you don't we'll still go. "Though none go with me still I will follow..." The journey is just sweeter with friends in it.

Today, I will choose breathless expectation. I will choose to look for God in each moment. I will choose to give it all back to him and let him do his marvelous work in our family. I am waiting with breathless expectation to see how God will meet our need. How he will answer the questions.

I'm especially thankful that, "He is God and I am not." We should all be able to find certainty in that statement, today.

Hidden in Christ,

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Big Question!

What will you be doing in Bulgaria?

The simplest answer we can give you...whatever God asks. Let's touch on that briefly, because that's really the most important part of this answer. The reality is this, God asked us to move to Bulgaria. We've said, "Yes" and everyday since, God has revealed another part of His plan for our family, while we're there. 

I know, some of you are bigger picture kind of people. I get it. I'm not one, but I get it. Let me try to share where our hearts are and a little bit of what we hear God saying...

The absolute, most important reason that we're moving to Bulgaria and this is the one I struggle to share the most, because I think, many won't understand. We're going to "do life" with our friend, Toni and her family. We're going to love on them, share meals, laughter, encouragement, time. We're going to build stronger relationships and hopefully, to be someone they can depend on. I know, that some of you will think it's crazy to move a family of 7 across the ocean to simply be available to our friends. It's what God said to do. We find it to be outrageous, as well, but we serve a God who loves extravagantly, gives generously and does amazingly, incredibly outrageous things...think Abraham, Noah, Paul, Jonah. Our lives really aren't supposed to make sense to the world.

All of the other "things" that we'll be doing are secondary to building relationships with Toni, her family and anyone else that God places in our path. Relationships are first and foremost, the most important part of this journey. 

Now, for my bigger picture friends, we'll be involved in orphan care. While we were in Bulgaria, visiting the boys' orphanages a couple of years ago, God really began to show us that the orphan problem is way bigger than we understood. Prior to that trip, they were numbers. We were doing our part by adopting and encouraging other families to join us on this journey of adoption. God began to show us that adoption is just one part of the solution to the orphan crisis. Many, many children will never be chosen, many will never even be listed for adoption. They will live their entire lives in orphanages, shut away, without love or the hope of Christ. Adoption just wasn't going to be enough. 

Our hope is to build relationships with orphanage directors that will allow us to build relationships with the children living there. We hope to love on them and tell them about Jesus. Jesus loves the little children. All of them, even the ones, shut away and forgotten in orphanages. We want to be his hands and feet and show them his love. We're praying that God will continue to open doors for us to do that. 

Another area, we really feel uniquely called and equipped to serve in, is helping change stereotypes about children with special needs and what they're capable of doing and becoming. We are the parents of three children with Down Syndrome, not American born children, but Bulgarian children, who were shut away in orphanages, because they are believed to be "less than." We're praying that God will allow us and our children to break down cultural barriers that exist in Bulgaria. We're praying that God will use us to encourage Bulgarian families to keep their children with special needs. We're believing that by offering to "do life" with them in a meaningful way, that they will feel less alone on their journey. 

Adoption is just one part of the solution to the orphan crisis. Partnering with families and educating them about our "extra" special kids is another. We're believing that God is going to open the doors for that to happen and for us to speak truth about how each child is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our King.

We hope to make much of Jesus. We hope to bring him glory. We long to live in a way that points others toward him, toward the cross of Christ. We're striving for obedience and complete surrender to His will for our family. Please, pray for us as God continues to work out the details of this great adventure.

Hidden in Christ,
The Rhodes Family