The fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Dueteronomy 14:29

~ Silas and Naomi are HOME from Uganda ~

10 October 2011

We are Grafted In

A recent post of ours is featured on an adoption blog, We Are Grafted In, which is a site dedicated to linking families who desire to grow their families through adoption in obedience to the Lord.  It's a great place and there are family amazing stories about family adoption journies that have encouraged us.  Take a look!

29 September 2011

4 years, 10 months, 17 days...Done

Waiting under the stairs of the courthouse. It felt like time was crawling at a snail's pace. My emotions were swirling. What was I supposed to be experiencing? Relief? Joy? Giddy excitement? Exhaustion? In my confusion, each sensation took a brief swirl through my body and brought eyes brimming with tears, cold sweats, yawns, giggles, and inevitably full blown sobs.

The kids made an honest attempt at patience, although the contentment brought by coloring books and snacks waned quickly. They sensed the weight of the morning's events, yet as more friends and family surrounded us with their love and support, the children settled.

4 years and 10 months...we have waited this long to be here. This was it. The final step, the last event, the only thing seperating us from being fully united as a family. And we were here. I started to sense the wave of relief rising behind me. Forcing steady, slow breaths and whispering praises, we clung to eachother whenever a moment allowed.

Our name was at last called and we filed into the court room, children racing to the jury box (to which the baliff said, "look, it's a jury of his peers!") as we gathered our little ones to the long table. Surreal.
I had never expected this moment to be so significant, but my racing heart told a different story.

The kind and gentle voice of the judge led us through the formalities. He knew. He understand and his mannerism gave grace to the weight of his authority. We were so blessed through the way he conducted the proceedings.

The wiggles began. Naomi pushed and pulled on her brother until we started to play hot potato with them, transferring kids from lap to seat to lap again, hoping, praying for some stillness.

Our eyes tell more than words can, but the four little blurry heads in this picture depict the vast degree of movement going on. "How are we going to get through this?!" we spoke to each other without words, only a chuckle. THIS WOULD BE the way it ends...THIS is life now. Constant moving, constant noise, and a deeper, more intimate connection than we ever dreamed we would have as husband and wife. No words are needed.

Papers were signed. Silas made sure everything was in order. The judge spoke with a profound and direct statements and I couldn't help but hear my heavenly Father's words rising up. "He has a right to FULL inheritance." Ephesians 1:18

And then he was ours. Not that he wasn't before. He has been ours since April 2010 when we first heard his name and saw his sweet face. But now, he is legally bonded to us on this earth.

Now I was feeling the excitement and I could hardly wait to hear those words again with our little girl's name placed at the center.

She pressed into me, as if she knew our lives were being joined, brought to a parallel place.

And then, she was ours.

It is truly finished. And we cry out from a place of knowledge like never before:
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:6

For almost 5 years we have experienced such overwhelming love, support, graciousness, sacrifical giving, servanthood, and devotion from so many family and friends, literally around the world. To have some of those precious ones present for this final event in our adoption, after being in Africa without them for so much, was truly significant and something we hold so very dear. (Although we do wish we could have had every one of you by our side that day, we know hearts were present with us from a distance.)

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15
(The word adoption in this passage is referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male in Roman culture. How cool is that!)
". . .for in You the fatherless find compassion."
Hosea 14:3

". . .for in You the fatherless find compassion."
Hosea 14:3
(This little girl's life has been bathed in the compassion of her Father from the day she was born.)

The realization quickly came that there were no more lists to write, not another call to make, all appointments had been kept, the travel was done, no documents left to sign, copy and notarize, every event had taken place.

It was truly over.

We were done.

After 4 years and 10 months . . . my mind was free from the burden of pursuing the security of my children. I almost did not know how to function without the constant pressure of accomplishing the next task. Strangely, I felt a little lost . . . and maybe even, a sense of loss.

I was unsettled by this out-of-place emotion. How could it be present amidst so much fullness?

A divinely appointed conversation with my father-in-law brought clarity and peace as he shared his own heart and experience with me. This process had come to define me for so many years, and even gave me a degree of purpose. Now, it is done, over, and that is gone.

So . . . there is relief and joy . . . and we sing out from the grace we are bathed in daily as we press forward:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7

We would like to thank you the gifted photographers who graciously spent their morning blessing our family with images that will memorialize this incredible day... Thank you, ladies!!!

Robin Anderson


Caryn Suehowicz @ Eikon Photography

19 September 2011

In Case You Were Wondering

These last posts about darkness may have left you wondering if adoption is worth it.  

Consider these pictures as food for thought

These are the first pictures we received, and a recent picture of each of our precious little ones

The other night I showed Silas this first picture we received of him and said, "hey Silas do you know who that is?"
"That's Nicholas (the name given to him by the orphanage)"  He replied  "Daddy, is he sad?" 
"Not anymore son...not anymore."

12 September 2011

Darkness is a message of Joy

Darkness is a message of joy.

Do you believe this is true? God has promised that all things work for the good of those who love Him. Do you believe it? My aunt once said to me in a particularly dark time of her life that she was “trying to learn all that God had to teach [her].” I thought to myself, “wow, how on earth does a person arrive at a place where they can honestly say that?” So I ask you again, do you believe it? How can one really take hold of what God has promised tenaciously enough to give voice to joy and with dry eyes say “I trust you God?” The answer is really quite simple…to trust God you have to enjoy the darkness.

Sometimes Christians have difficulty admitting things. In particular Christians cannot seem to admit the “shameful” things which continue in their lives after they become believers in Christ. Despite our efforts at denial it will always be true that every one of us is gloriously messed up. I heard a pastor say once, that we are all a mess, we raise little messes, and they in turn give birth to the best thing of all…grand-messes. True Christianity must always start with a fundamental admission; that we are sinners in need of a savior. This admission however, is not the end but the beginning. To grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ another admission must take place in our souls…we continue to sin even though we lay claim to the promises of Jesus.

Sin, you see, is a very deceitful thing. Something which can be a part of our souls without us even knowing it is there. Do not be deceived, it exists even if we are ignorant (or in denial) of its presence. Sin is down there in our souls bottled and corked and washed on the outside so it looks pretty, like a crystal vase with rotting flowers in it. The problem we will always have is that even though we may fool ourselves God walks into the living room of our souls and looks around…he sees there on the mantle the brightly polished vase…but he smells the stink of rottenness.

You might be wondering “what is he talking about? I see darkness in this, but certainly no joy.” That is exactly why Christians have to learn to enjoy the darkness. Seeing our souls the way they really are is the beginning of healing. God will never be in the business of making us more comfortable and self assured. God is in the business of sanctification. He is making us more pure; He is shining light on the shameful things and exposing what we want to keep hidden. God is teaching us to become more like him…and for creatures like us who are fallen and sinful that process takes us into what we perceive as valleys and dark places. But the darkness is a message of Joy.

I have in the past weeks become acutely aware that darkness comes into our lives from more than one avenue. Sometimes darkness comes simply from life. Our sin and that of others will never be the only cause of suffering. Grief over the loss of a loved one, a lost job, health problems...and the list goes on; these can all cause periods of darkness. A friend of mine is flying home from Africa today…with empty arms. Two days before he was to leave to go pick up his son he and his wife received news that their precious boy had died. He went on the trip anyway in hopes that he could minister to the folks there who cared for his little boy. His trip to Africa was supposed to be a journey filled with joy over the blessing of his new little one. Now it is a pilgrimage filled with sorrow over the loss of his son…but it is filled with something else too. My friend, as he was leaving in a cloud of darkness, was somehow overflowing with joy. I could hear him fighting tears, but I could also hear him saying with the psalmist “I know, oh Lord, that your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” He was holding fast to the promises of God and the darkness was a message of joy. Yes even the darkness of death.

Let me take you to two scenes, two men, facing death, facing darkness. The First faced death at the hands of the Romans. At his execution Jesus prayed that God would forgive the men who killed him then looked up to heaven and cried out “my God My God why have you forsaken me.” Jesus, in his darkest hour, looked to heaven for comfort and no one was there…God had turned his back. Jesus faced darkness; the darkness of sin and the curse and for him there was no comfort, no rest, no redemption…only judgment, only death.

Only a few years later Stephen told the true history of Israel to a group of Pharisees, they were so enraged over what Stephen said that they picked up stones and began stoning him. Like Jesus, Stephen asked God to forgive his executioners and like Jesus, Stephen looked up to heaven, but for Stephen there was no darkness in the hour of his death. Stephen’s death was a vision of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord, and his face shown like that of an angel.

These two men were nothing alike. Stephen was a sinner fallen and under the curse. Jesus was innocent. Of all the people who ever lived Jesus is the only one with the right to have a relationship with God. Stephen’s death should have been the dark one. Jesus faced the darkness for him. Darkness is a message of joy because Jesus has overcome the darkness. Jesus, by his blood has purchased redemption and the darkness is powerless against him.

I stood up from my aunt’s couch that day somewhat bewildered (as I suspect some of you are in reading this). “I don’t understand how she could find joy in this…how will I ever get there?” I went home and one month later boarded an airplane for Africa. The very moment our feet left the ground God breaking us of…well…of our-selves. I look at my children, this beautiful tapestry of life that fills my home, and I see one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me. Not because it is easy. Not because the darkness has left the building. My Children have shown me more clearly than any thing else in my life that I am a sinner in need of a savior. When I look at them my soul is laid bare before my eyes, they are a mirror to me. God has given me, in my children, a window into my soul, and what I find there is sin…darkness…but there is a Healer…there is a Healer. One who faced the darkness on my behalf with no hope of deliverance, One who has broken the power of darkness with his blood, One who is ever present to help in times of need, One who fought and continues to fight the battle for me. Adoption…my Children (all of them not just the adopted ones) are what God has used to show me how truly needy I am…and in so doing God has taught me that I can trust him. I am learning what my aunt already knew; because of Christ, because of his matchless life and sacrifice, yes because of his resurrection, darkness is a message of joy.

Having our sins exposed, is never fun…suffering loss is never fun. But all things and all circumstances can be joyful if they fall under the protecting shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ. By the merit of his blood there is redemption.

All things will work out for the good of those who love him.

I believe Lord help my unbelief.

18 August 2011

The View from our Couch

A few pictures of our first days and months here at home as a family of 6!

Despite the struggle, the pain, the desperation we have felt at moments during this journey...God has been ever present, gently leading, carrying us in His mighty arms, and always reminding us He is forever faithful.

We see those glimpses of Him in their faces, in their love for one another, through their patience with us as we trip through the days together.  He is G.O.O.D.

(More to come soon - except for the last 2, these are all April and before)

First moments on the couch at home the night we arrived.

First time to play in bubbles!  And there were LOTS of them!

Scrub-a-dub-dub...3 Vander-Kids in the tub!

Much heavier load for this horsey!
(Notice the remnant of the African-beard)

Our Precious Naomi-Girl

Playing in Spring snow

sweet days!  2 little bakers...making cookies for the first time!

Simple JOYS...catching snowflakes on his tongue

Daddy's favorite thing...sleeping baby on his chest

That's right!  They are cleaning the walls!
Always finding ways to keep those little hands busy.

Easter Sunday...yup these are the best shots we got!  Silas' head never stops moving and poor Noah could hardly contain the wiggly one in his arms.  But it was a rainy day and beggar's can't be choosers!

Sweet Brothers!

Yes, those are Silas' toes shoved into those fluffy pink high heels...and he is giving hair "cuts" while he wears them.

A full couch!

He did that ALL by himself!  No kidding!

80's look out!  Head band and slap-bracelets are coming back!

There she is again!

A little fuzzy...but that is the blankie and bear we sent him for Christmas last year.  He still keeps them with him and sleeps with them every night.

Our little pink that 1st position?
(Haley come home...I need someone to play dress up with!)

Beautiful Girl on her first road trip!
Can you believe those lips!!!  People pay big bucks to get those!

1st Grade here he comes!

15 July 2011

Fun in the Flock

A few FUN things we’ve found our little flock doing in the last 3 ½ months:

     Using 4 foot halogen light bulbs (fallen from the garage rafters due to a frisky raccoon) as light-saber swords in the driveway

     Having a barefoot tea party….on TOP of the van

     Sitting inside the dog kennel with 8 tiny chickens (their current home until they are bigger and the coop is finished)

     Microwaving non-microwave bowls...just a small fire, very containec, nothing serious.
     Pooping in last year’s Christmas tree stand still sitting in the side yard (yes, the tree was no longer inside)

     Sucking pickle juice from the jar with long twisty straws

     Cutting hair with children’s safety scissors…yup, they cut hair, moms! It’s the truth despite what the packaging says!

     Coloring the couch with ball point pens (I’m sure this one could have been worse, but it’s still not coming off…suggestions?)

     Applying green eye shadow to each other’s belly buttons…and the cream carpet in the bedroom

     Rubbing sand into the already course thick brown hair of our little brownies (try getting that out!)

     Making “baby burritos” by rolling up in the large living room rug (it’s like 5’ x 8’ – you can’t even tell there is a kid in there!)

     Turning on the jets in the master bathtub until there are bubbles overflowing out all over the floor

     Body painting with yogurt (again, this could have been much worse, I do realize that)

     Sneaking onto the counter and licking the frosting off all the cupcakes waiting to be put in their container when cooled

And so many more that are escaping my jelly-like memory at the moment…

I’m sure there will be many addendums to this post…probably starting tomorrow shortly after they all wake up :) Each day is an adventure around here and with four kids 5 and under the movement never stops.

I do realize all this makes me sound like the incompetent mother…please do not turn us in to CPS…our children are safe and well and none the worse for wear, but they are very quick to discover new and audacious ways to experience life…and although it is messy sometimes, it is wonderful discovering right along with them.

And for those of you wondering why I rarely return phone calls or take far too many days to get back to you on email…well, now you have it!

What types of shenanigans have you found your little ones in lately?

08 July 2011

A Little Retropsect, Light on Darkness

There is a darkness in Adoption.

I must first say that, the silence on The Orphans Table has been long.  Its true.  The content of this post is the least one of them.  There are four others which run, and talk, and sing, and poop, and make messes. The trouble with blogging is that you have to embrace the idea (if you are writing about your own life) that you might say something you regret...and then post it for anyone to see.  I have always adopted the proverb "It is better to be silent and considered wise than to speak and be found a fool."  So there has been some silence. 

In the midst of all that has gone on in our family, all the beauty and binding together of lives, all the God sized miraculous provision, there has been a darkness we have avoided talking about.  A darkness that, for a time, remained silent because we were ashamed.  We are very blessed to have faithful friends who actively pursue us so we were forced at length to speak of it.  As we spoke this great and ugly thing lost some of its power over us and we found that this darkness in our family seems to be a part of many (if not most) adoptive families lives.  It has been mostly kept quiet by them also for a variety of reasons.  There is a truth that is silent in the adoption community (especially the Christian adoption community)...there is darkness in Adoption. There is light also, I don't want to be misunderstood.  Hopefully we have sufficiently told of the immense joy and beauty we have experienced in our children and in the knitting together of our family and all the variety of blessings God has given us.  But it is true that as sure as there is light there is darkness.

It took four years, almost to the day, our adoption I mean.  Four years of anticipation of loving of fundraising...of false starts and wrong turns and paperwork and the rest and finally the day had come.  We were squeezing squishy baby Naomi and feeling the vise like bear hugs of Silas and there were no words to express our joy.  And there was evening and there was morning the first day.  The second day with his cries of "Mommy na Da Da" still ringing in my ears...even now it is hard for me to say...I looked at Silas and I saw a stranger, I heard Naomi crying and I was annoyed instead of moved.  What was easy and manageable was gone.  And what existed now before my eyes was...unexpected.

The secular world calls what we experienced post-pardem depression.  It's the same they say, adoptive parents have it just like bio parents's the let down the...blah, blah,'s not the same.  Post-pardem depression has a physiological cause, hormones and the rest...this was something else...something darker.  I am not saying that depression has nothing to do with it...just not post-pardem depression.  This depression is the kind you can't get off the hook for.  This depression is only a symptom of the problem...not the cause.

We have heard the horror stories of adopted children who are terrors with legs, who kick and bite and spit and yell...uncontrollable.  Our kids were really nothing like that.  Naomi was the easiest baby I have ever come in contact with.  Once early on she fell over (the propped up pillows were clearly not enough) and there folded in half like a little brown taco, instead of crying, she fell asleep.  Silas was remarkably loud but he was jubilant with happiness early on; we had our issues but nothing like the stories we have heard.  Later after coming home he was basically our most obedient child.  It couldn't be blamed on the wasn't them, it isn't them.  We were not ready for that.

You see we knew adoption was going to be hard, we knew in one sense that there was some darkness in adoption.  But we thought the darkness was going to be in the kids.  We thought their behavior was going to be the source of struggle.  We never imagined that we would want out.  We never thought that going back would seem better than facing tomorrow.

Jen likens our souls to a pot which we thought was strong and clean with thick walls, but when faced with our reality our pots cracked and what poured from the cracks was...poison.  Black, thick, malignant and ugly.  I have described it a little different like there was a small container filled with oil...the same black, ugly stuff down resting un-noticed just below my heart, similarly it was opened up and set to boil and it cooked me.  The image is the same, the struggle is the same.  Sin wants out.  We often see sin as a thing that wants to get into an otherwise clean vessel (us).  The truth is that the vessel is horrifying soiled and the sin is trying to get out.

Struggling with all this, the Holy Spirit began his healing work.  An elder at my church said "meditate on Hebrews 12."  I did.  I read, "it is for discipline that you endure, God deals with you as sons."  "He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in his holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it afterwords it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Therefore strengthen hands that are weak and knees that are that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint but healed."

What was even more shocking to me is that all this comes under the example of Christ, who "for the joy set before him endured the cross."  What was Christ's joy...I think it was two fold he took profound joy in doing the will of his father, and he took profound joy in us.  It was his death and Resurrection that was the cause of our reconciliation.  Yes of our adoption.  We are disciplined as sons because of his being crushed as an outsider.  My struggle as an adoptive father and the sin which was bubbling into my soul made me acutely aware of my unworthiness before God.  Ironically it is in this miserable state that hope is most apparent.  My total inability became God's glory and healing has begun.

So what is the darkness in Adoption? 

My friends the darkness in adoption is me.

To those of you who are currently struggling in a similar way do not be deceived.  There is hope...but it does not lie in your strength or will power or parenting the hope lies in the only place it really can.  Hope comes at the foot of the cross for that is where adoption really began.  It is there that God made that glorious decision to chose you over his perfect son if you will repent.

Listen to the words of Jesus.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matt 11:28-29

There is darkness, but there is hope.