Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Breaking Birth Order

When we first started out on our adoption journey, we were like sponges...soaking up information from books, other adoptive families, training and the like.  The theory of birth order is often talked about in adoption circles.  It is the idea that the order of birth influences a child's personality and also assigns the child a particular role in the family.  Some psychologists and social workers (the people responsible for doing your home study and approving your family for adoption) do not believe in breaking birth order or allowing a child to enter the home that is older than the oldest child in the family.  The idea of artificial twinning is sometimes frowned upon as well.  Thankfully, our social worker and adoption agency (supported by our statements, plans, additional training, and reasoning) gave us two thumbs up!  

When we realized God was asking us to step WAY out of the little box we had so neatly created, we should have know that He would also be providing the resources, wisdom, and strength to support the decision.  We worried about how we would communicate with a child who does not speak English, how we could incorporate the schedule of an eleven year old into a house of preschoolers, how Larry (the previous 'oldest child') would respond to his new role, whether or not we should homeschool, etc. etc. etc.  However, all along (if we could have only seen it), God way laying the path.  Little did we know there was another Ethiopian boy in the fourth grade at our school who speaks Amharic.  (Sporty and him now sit at the same classroom table.)  Little did we know the registrar from our school was also an adoptive parent.  (She let us know what an excellent ESOL program our school has and that there are over one hundred children in the program.)   Little did we know the local Ethiopian community would be so supportive and willing to help.  (We have connected with local Ethiopian-Americans who help translate, offer advice and support, and have in a sense adopted us.)  

With that being said, adopting out of birth order does present some unique challenges.  As parents, we were thrown into a world previously only known to us by our own past experiences.  Two months ago, our routine consisted entirely of preschool activities.  Now, we are doing math and language arts homework daily, planning field trips, and signing up for soccer teams.  I honestly believe that most challenges can be dealt with the same way we handle everything else in life. That is, by being intentional.  Does it take planning?  Yes.  Does it take faith and sweat?  Yup!  Are we more tired at the end of each day than we have before been?  Of course.  Are we more wired and inspired to be the hands and feet of Christ than ever before?  Y.E.S.!!  

The amazing thing that has resulted from our newfound crazy-hectic home is we have we have become way more efficient in almost every area.  The children are dressed and teeth are brushed before we come downstairs every morning.  Lunches are packed the night before.  Meals are now planned and we eat at the dining room table as a family every night.  Our prayers have become more focused, intentional, and intense.  The number of children in our family has doubled and they love on each other (and beat each other up) like siblings all around the world.  You would never know (or so we have been told) that we have been together as a family only a few short weeks.

During my freshman year of college, one of my favorite courses was Sociology.  We learned about Parkinson's Law and it is something that has stuck with me throughout adulthood.  The law states that "work expands to fill the time necessary for completion".  I think about this law often as it can be applied to pretty much everything.  Two months ago, our tasks and commitments seemed to fill up our entire schedule with nothing left to spare.  Now, with double the kids and undoubtedly less energy, we are still able to accomplish what needs to happen.  Unless we impose artificial deadlines (which I do often and highly recommend), the amount of work we have to do nearly always take the exact amount of time allotted.  

Breaking birth order has probably been the least significant issue surrounding our adoption.  That is probably due in a large part to the six year gap between Larry and Sporty.  I assume it would be much more significant if they were closer in age.  The biggest issue surrounding our adoption at this point is that God has blessed us with four very intense 'only children'...but that is a topic for another day!  

Hebrews 12:1 states, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  

Father God, help us run forward, setting our eyes on you, leaving our fear in the dust, continuously and intentionally seeking your wisdom and strength so that we are able to accomplish your will and abandon our own.  
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heaven: What the Bible Says (and Does Not Say)

As I have mentioned before, last year was a year of incredibly high-highs and equally low-lows.  On one hand, we were ‘expecting’ two new blessings.  On the other hand, my mother and biggest fan was preparing to depart this life.  I miss my mom terribly, but am so thankful that we had time to prepare for her homecoming.  Time to clear our minds and our hearts, to apologize and make amends, to say the things that should have been said years ago, and finally to prepare (as best as possible) for life without mom. 

During mom’s final months of life, a friend lent me a book titled, “One Minute After You Die” (Lutzer).  It was one of many books I read on death, grief, and loss.  What I enjoyed most about this particular book was the scriptural references to hades and sheol in the Old Testament and the references to heaven and eternity in the New (Testament).  My own faith was challenged as I initially was not sure that I completely agreed with the author’s perspective.  Frankly, it seemed a bit harsh and ‘old-schoolish’.  (I find it best to always cross-reference view points with those of other theologians.)  However, over the course of reading the book and praying over the scripture, the Bible (being the amazingly cool book that it is) came alive and was speaking directly to my questions. By the end of the book, most of my questions had been answered directly through the references to passages in the Bible and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. 

Below are a few common beliefs, ideas, or questions people have about heaven along with a statement on what the Bible says. 

  1. ‘Your loved one is now watching over you from heaven.’ Along the same line, but a little different: ‘You now have a special (guardian) angel in heaven.’  
I really want to believe the first one.  Who wouldn’t want to believe their departed loved one can still see, look out, and essentially take part in their lives from above?  The New Testament does not completely contradict the idea that our departed loved ones in heaven can see us.  However, it does not support it either.  Most importantly, the Bible states that the deceased cannot communicate with us and it forbids us from trying to communicate with them.  The Bible simply says that those in heaven are home with the Lord and that their knowledge has increased (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 13:12). 
Furthermore, the Bible does not say that our deceased loved ones become angels, as angles and humans are separate beings according to scripture.  (Hebrews 1:7, 14; Hebrews 2:6-7; 1 Corinthians 15:39-41; Luke 20:34-36; Matthew 25:41)

  1. Is there an in between place or holding room before going to heaven? 
Being raised Catholic (although I am no longer a card-carrying member or subscriber to their doctrine), I remember being taught to believe that unless we committed a mortal sin (as opposed to venial sins), we would most likely end up in purgatory until we are either prayed into heaven or accumulate enough good deeds to earn our way there.  SO, as an adult when I gave my life over to Christ and started studying the Bible, I was surprised to learn that the doctrine of purgatory is not found in the Bible.  In fact, the Bible is very clear that when believers die, we go straight to be with God.  There is no middle place, holding room, or torture chamber where you will have to make amends for your sins.  Christ made amends for them when He was nailed to the cross. Finally, as Christ was dying on the cross, one of two criminals who were also sentenced to death that day turned to Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom.  This criminal had no time on earth to make amends for his crimes.  No time to turn his life around and become an upstanding citizen.  Nothing, except a plea for Jesus to remember him.  The criminal 'came to Christ' that day.  Jesus responded by saying, "I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise!" 

  1. Why did Christ have to die in order for us to enter heaven? 
In my opinion, this is probably the most complex and complicated idea in the entire Christian doctrine.  It is also the most important.  I cannot attempt to answer this question in one paragraph, but can encourage you to study to the Bible and find this answer for yourself.  In short, God made us to love Him and only Him.  Because you need free will to honestly and openly love anyone, He gave us the choice.  We failed, and there began the downfall.  The story is all there, in the best selling book of all time.  Once you open yourself to the idea that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, as foreign as that may be to you, God will begin to create a new you from the inside out and begin to answer these and any other pressing questions you may have.  2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!”

He really does create us new and the best gift of all if the promise of eternity.  Apart from eternity, life makes absolutely no sense to me.  You could have the best life by all worldly standards, but what do you really have?  What do you really control?  You do not determine when you enter or exit this life.  You do not determine how you exit this life.  You do not take anything with you.  However, knowing that we will indeed be reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ in a place that knows no pain or suffering, makes this life worth living to its fullest. 

13:36).  Jesus had unfinished business to take care of and through the most selfless act ever recorded, He defeated death so that we can all spend eternity free of the trials and tribulations of this world.  For that, I am eternally grateful!  My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…

As Lutzer states in his book, “Death is the chariot our heavenly Father sends to bring us to Himself.”  And mom, whether you can see us or not, I know you are home with the heavenly Father, dancing like you've never danced before and I so look forward to one day being with you again...this time for eternity!  
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