Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Journey

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3


Hi, friends. I have promised many of you that I would share on this blog how this unbelievable journey began. And I want to, but I am resistant. Does the thought of running naked through the streets thrill you? (Okay, if you said, "yes"quickly...I don't want to know about it! LOL!) Anyway, this journey has turned our hearts inside out...in a very profound and very good way...but sharing that with "the world" can be a little intimidating. Yet, I truly sense this is a story that needs to be told because as one dear friend said to me after my sharing with her..."Your story makes God so BIG!" And He IS SO BIG! So, I am compelled to share...

I am also hesitant to share because a major turning point in our story came about because of the tragedy in another family...a family that I did not know personally at the time but was linked to by mutual friends. A family whose pain, honest grieving and true worship in the midst of tragedy placed me on my face before our God where I was seemingly called to grieve for them, interceed for them and have the privilege of seeing them reflect the glory of God during their darkest days. It was truly a sacred place. I want to respect that. I deeply desire to honor their pain. Still, God is teaching me in a profound way that in this fallen world...there is no love without pain...in fact suffering IS heart of the gospel itself. The Joy comes from realizing that He has NOT left us alone in our suffering and that God, in His great mercy, does not waste our suffering but uses every ounce of it for the good of His people and for His glory!


So, that long-winded introduction brings us to the beginning of what I am calling my "summer of tears" (which, in fact, has lasted 6 months now...and continues...) I'm not sure why, but I think we all are afraid of tears...I know my children hate it when I cry...but I keep telling them...tears are not bad...they can be tears of joy or sadness or fear or worship...but they all soften our hearts and take us to the place of being real. (Okay, I'm digressing again...get on with it, Beth!)



May 21, 2008. A seemingly normal day at the Hamilton house. School year winding down, getting ready to travel as a family to Destin for SEC meetings. All the 'normal' craziness. Some 200 miles away, another family was experiencing the most devastating day of their lives. In the driveway of their home, the 5 year old daughter of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman was accidently struck and killed by a car driven by their 17-year old son. We first heard the news from a text from a mutual friend and then a forwarded email from a pastor at their church in Franklin. We immediately began to pray for this family asking God to meet them and comfort them in their terrible loss.

Normally, I would pray that day...maybe for a few days later and then move on. God had another plan as he drew my heart into a on-going season of praying, grieving and watching. In watching the Chapman’s grief and their worship in the midst of it, I was changed. Drawn into a deeper, sweeter fellowship with my Lord Jesus. Called to pray and weep for this family I didn’t even know time and time again...even in the middle of the night. Drawn to worship my God with greater fervor and passion. Drawn to my own deeper repentance…into a sweet, but intense, refining fire. God had begun a work in me to pray for my marriage and family earlier that year, but this time of grief for another family accelerated my own personal growth and prayer life.

Being drawn into the Chapman’s story took me to their website and ultimately to the gifted writings of Kerry Hasenbalg where God began to prick my heart to care ‘for the least of these’ even as He was pricking my heart to repent for ways I was not loving my family well. Mike and I had talked many times about adopting internationally, but never seriously pursued it and life got busy...and as it often happens, life got in the way. We were ‘comfortable’. Our children were 9 and 12...independent. We were 42 and 45...old! LOL!

As Kerry’s writings pierced my heart and I continued to pray and weep for the Chapmans, a dear friend invited me to the Beth Moore conference in Atlanta, June 27-29. I didn’t really want to go because of an already busy summer travel schedule, but God continued to open doors and made it clear that He intended that I go. How thankful I am that I didn’t miss out on the incredible blessings of that weekend! Intense repentance, incredible worship (like I’ve never known!), and a ‘loud and clear’ message from my God: “You and Mike need to be pursuing Me above all else. I am getting ready to ‘rock your world’. You need to ‘fortify’ your city.”

So I came home with this message and as Mike and I began to pray about how we should be pursuing Jesus, I also asked the question of Mike, “If we were independently wealthy (read: free!) and could minister to any group of people, who would you take care of?” I had not yet mentioned to him my growing heart for orphans...it was still so new to my heart as I had never been open to adopting older children. Yet, his answer was emphatic, “No question. I would give kids who had no home a home.” BIG tears from me...right there in one of the nicest restaurants in Knoxville. "OK, God, You are up to something...and why didn’t I know my husband’s true heart? How blind can I be?"

The next day after ‘the date’, was July 4th. Our friends who come over every July 4th walked into our home and Marisa (who is never late for anything) handed me my birthday present...6 weeks late! A book about orphan care. (She had NO idea of our talk or where God had been leading our hearts...only that we had 2 adopted children and might enjoy the book.) Of course, my tears came again. “God, what are you doing in my heart?”

The next day I emailed a friend who is on my ministry board to ask if she was going to make our next summer book club meeting. She responded that she was planning to, but had not been able to read the book because she had gotten into another book called, “There Is No Me Without You.”. Again, although she knew nothing of our recent thoughts or prayers about orphan care, I immediately knew in my heart that that book, too, was about orphan care. And, amazon.com provided my answer...it was a 400+ page book about orphan care in Ethiopia. “God, we asked you to make it obvious...but really?” I emailed my friend and asked her to PRAY! She ‘ran’ the book right over to me the next morning and before reading it, Mike asked me, “Do you think God wants us to adopt African children?...because both these books are about African children.” I responded, “I don’t think so, I think it is just about orphan care. I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.” (ha,ha,ha,ha...God must have been laughing at my answer.)

I took this 400+ page book on a trip at the end of that week and being the one who NEVER finishes a book unless it’s a novel, thought I would never be able to read it all. In reality, I devoured it and cried most of the way through it (as I had the first book my other friend gave me.). By the middle of the book, I looked at Mike with tears and said, “I only want to adopt children from Ethiopia. My heart is broken for this country and their children.” WOW! I mean it when I tell people that God ‘arrested’ my heart with that book. Mike didn’t need any convincing, as he reminded me that he had brought home a letter from Bethany Christian Services some 6 months before about a sibling group of 3 from Ethiopia that needed a home. Not that he seriously sat me down to discuss it, but after he said it, I remember him commenting on it, and I said, “no way! That’s crazy. I can’t handle the two we have now! “ (Again, God is laughing! He is so AMAZING!)

So, our journey was officially beginning. We continued to pray about it and talk about it and told one another how crazy this was...that God could not really believe that we with our crazy schedule, over-stressed lifestyle, Mike’s demanding career, could handle more children...and older children...and yes, we were thinking TWO additional children. It just did not make any sense...but since when does God’s way make human sense? He did send His Son into the world to a poor family to grow up and die on a cross, didn’t He?


God has continued to cross our paths with people who have adopted from Ethiopia without us pursuing them. One such couple are good friends of my sister and we ended up on the exact same 20 person shuttle bus with them at the Biltmore House amidst thousands of other fans attending Steven Curtis Chapman concert the night of August 1. What are the chances of that? We had a wonderful, encouraging conversation with them right there on the steps of the Biltmore! Simliarly, Mike had an old friend call "out of the blue" and ask to come and spend some time with us on a football weekend, so Mike invited him to sit in our box. He came in the box and proceeded to tell Mike that the reason he had wanted to visit us was to talk about adoption...he knew our children were adopted. He continued to tell Mike of he and his wife's plans to adopt from Ethiopia...through the same agency we were using! He had NO idea of our new plans to adopt! God crossing our paths...for more encouragement. My parents have also bumped into the Ethiopia "ark" (We now know a little of what Noah felt when others thought he was crazy for building the ark.) Anyway, they were at a board of trustees dinner for Mars Hill College and one couple started sharing how they had just welcomed home twin 4-yr old grandchildren from Ethiopia! (hmmm, Lord...you might really be up to something!)

Not only have we seen God cross our paths with others to encourage us, but in pursing Him through His Word...He has affirmed our hearts over and over again with the Scriptures. We truly feel 'picked up and carried along' by His purposes. And we are more than ever, daily dependant on HIM! A strange, but truly amazing, place to walk. It hasn't always been easy and we have encountered many trials (our children's initial resistance, feeling inadequate, stress of Mike's job, intensified parenting issues, among others...)...yet God continues to 'show up' and give us peace and resolve for the journey. And, we see God growing us and changing us in wonderful ways (individually and as a family) along the way.

In addition to our feeling called to bring home our children from Ethiopia, we believe deeply that God is leading us to be more involved in helping orphans in other ways. We would love to be able to help other families adopt who cannot financially afford to do so (it is VERY expensive!) and to be involved with other efforts to 'care for orphans'. Just as God has 'bumped us into' others adopting from Ethiopia, He has continued to 'bump us into' the Chapmans and their ministry, Shaohannah's Hope. Through our mutual friends, we have remained connected to Steven and Mary Beth and as you know, attended their fundraising weekend in Franklin a week ago.

My prayer to God a few weeks before the Shaohannah's Hope event was, "Lord, if this is NOT of you...if you do not want us to attend for Your purposes, then close the door. Interrupt our plans to go." I certainly knew with Mike's job that interruptions happen...especially with the difficulty surrounding the football program this year. God was so gracious to answer quickly. THAT same day I received our 'random' government-assigned fingerprint appointments: they were in Nashville on the same exact Saturday we would be there (10 miles away) for the SH event...at the only time we could make it and not miss key parts of the events. "Ok, God...I guess You want us to be there." God truly protected our time with Shaohannah's Hope because with the demands on Mike's schedule in starting a football coaching search, our plans could have been easily interrupted! (Not that our enemy didn't try...more on that another time.)

After attending the weekend...Mike and I both said, "This is DEFINTELY where God wanted us to be this weekend." I will blog about that in another post...It was amazing, but a lot to process even now. But I had to get the 'background' out there for the rest of the SH story to make sense. Thus, this mammoth blog. (I'm tired...are you?)

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement along this path. We certainly couldn't do any of this without the prayers of the saints. Please continue to pray for us to have wisdom, discernment and courage to obey God at each step.










6 comments:

Sara Fischer said...

Beth,
I'm Sara--Melba's daughter--and I know how to comment on blogs unlike your friends who don't know how! My mom has been keeping me updated on your adoption but I am happy to know where your blog is now. When I returned from visiting my sister in Ethiopia in October I started seriously blog-stalking many of her adoptive families, so I can just add you to that list! Be encouraged that your children are out there and they will be will taken care of and loved on until they officially join your family!
Love,
Sara

Angie Jacobs said...

Beth,

I wanted to be the first "old" person to leave a comment 'cause that sounded like a challenge to me! Thank you for sharing your heart. God IS BIG and because you are obedient to His calling, He will continue to do BIG things through you, Mike, Madison and Matthew. What a legacy. His amazing love and faithfulness never cease to wow me. I thank my God every time I think about how He has woven our hearts and lives together. Happy Thanksgiving! AngieJ

Becky Kraslawsky said...

Amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us.Sounds like you better get your bags packed sister..God's moving fast!! Love you all. Still need to do coffee..no peppermint just coffee :)

xxoo
Becky

MattJess said...

Hi!
My friend Becca (Guilford) Kubo introduced me to your blog just tonight because we have something in common... we are adopting 2 children from Ethiopia as well!!! I enjoyed reading your story, as I saw glimpeses of myself in it! It is so exciting to "meet" others who are walking this same AMAZING ADOPTION journey too! God is so GOOD! I look forward to following your blog and seeing how God writes your story! I will be praying for your family!
In Christ,
Jessica

linda templeton said...

Beth, I'm so excited to have your blog on our "favorites" list. Larry and I will be keeping up w/you, Mike and the children as you make this incredible journey. We, too, will we rejoicing w/our children from Chattanooga who will be following this same path throughout 2009. Our prayers will be with you as God leads you to your children. Love Linda Jo and Larry

daisyeyes said...

truly truly amazing story...so glad that you posted it and now I've read it and feel even more a part of praying for you guys on this amazing journey.