Archive for June, 2016

Why Fried Rice is Like Life in Christ

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
The cooked egg and starting the carrots

The cooked egg and starting the carrots

Carrots and onions

Carrots and onions

With the peas and corn

With the peas and corn

Adding in chicken (and egg not in picture)

Adding in chicken (and egg not in picture)

What my rice looks like with the soy

What my rice looks like with the soy

The finished product!

The finished product!

One of the hardest things since Noah’s been home has been feeding him. He is not picky and loves every vegetable, but he misses Chinese food. You can tell he just doesn’t like a lot of the food here even though he’ll eat it. I’ve tried to make him things he’ll like, and we have Chinese grocery stores and things that help, but it’s a struggle – I’m a good cook, but I’m American and I don’t know how to make most of the things he’s used to.

One day I decided to make Noah fried rice. This is something I’ve made for a long time, and I was happy to find that it was very like the fried rice we had in China so I thought it would go over well.

I was prepping all the ingredients and he was watching me. He knew I was trying to make something Chinese-ish, so he was sure it was not going to be good. “Please, mom, please, don’t make me eat this. I no like this!” “Noah,” I said, “I watched you eat this every day for breakfast at the hotels while we were in China. I promise, you like this.” “No mom, I don’t! Please!” “Yes, Noah, you do, I promise. Wait and see.”

I put the egg in the pan and he said, “Oh, no, mom, no! No egg! Please, no egg!” and I said, “Noah, you like this, I promise.” He threw his hands in the air and wailed, “No!” (Did I mention that he’s got a little drama going on sometimes?)

I took the egg out and started cooking the onions and carrots. “Mom! Oh please! No onions! I no like onions! I don’t like this food!” “Noah,” I stated with my customary saintly patience, “I promise, you like this.” “No! I don’t!” “Yes, you do. I watched you eat it every day in China. You like this.” He held his head in despair.

Every single ingredient was met with disbelief or resigned sorrow. “I no like this food.” When I pulled out the soy sauce, he wailed, “This! Mom, I never had this! I know I no like this!” It was all I could do not to laugh. “Noah, I can promise you that after nine years in China, you have eaten soy sauce. I know you don’t believe me, but you are going to like this.”

By the time I started mixing everything together he was basically chanting, “I no like this. I no like this.” But there’s a moment when fried rice stops looking like separate ingredients and suddenly changes over and looks like fried rice. He just stared dumbfounded and then yelled, “Mom! I like this! I like this!” I died laughing – “Yes, I know.”

So why is this like our life in Christ?

How many times have we seen what is immediately before us and said, “No, God, please! Not the (metaphorical) egg! Whatever it is You are doing, I know I don’t like it!” And God answers, “I promise you, I am making something beautiful. We need this part to make it. Trust me, when it’s done, you’ll understand why this part is in your life.” And sometimes we listen and trust, but more often than not, we continue to complain or protest or moan and wonder why this particular thing has to happen. Why did this (insert anything here) have to be a part of my life?!

And yet, God has promised us that He is always working for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). He is the great Redeemer (Job 19:25, Is 48:17), He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5), and He is in the business of giving us beauty for our ashes (Is. 61:3). When we look at the circumstances of our lives and something doesn’t make sense or looks like we would never like it, can we trust the Lord and instead look to Him with anticipation, waiting to see how He will use it to make something beautiful?

I know when I look back on my life, there are many times He took things in a direction that was unexpected and often unwelcome to me. How much time did I waste complaining? How much patience did the Lord need to use with me? He knows me better than I know myself, and many of my worst times are the very things I’ve seen Him use the most to make beauty in my life.

So now, every time you make fried rice, or eat fried rice, or just look at a scrambled egg, I hope it reminds you that God is an amazing chef. He knows how He’s going to put it all together in the end, and when we get there and see what He’s done, we’ll all be saying, “God! I didn’t know this was what You were doing! I like this! I like this!”

Since I know it will be asked, here’s my recipe. But I warn you, I am an artist – we are not good at coloring within the lines. I very rarely, if ever, measure anything (much to the despair of my husband who tells me lovingly that this is the reason I can’t die). So this is just a basic how-to, more of a method as it were that you can use to invent your own recipe. 🙂 This is a great way to use up any vegetable or meat in your house, so it’s always changing at ours, but here’s my basic go-to for fried rice.

3 eggs, beaten
cooking oil
1 T. minced garlic if you have it, skip if you don’t, no biggie
2 big carrots diced
1 big or 2 small onions diced
some frozen peas and corn, thawed, probably 3/4 cups of each
some shredded, cooked chicken, probably 1 or 1 1/2 cups (you can also dice and cook raw chicken or any other protein)
4 ish cups cooked sticky rice
soy sauce (quite a lot)
salt and pepper
roasted sesame seeds if you have them and don’t forget to throw them in.

Heat a wok until it’s hot (you can use a flat-bottomed saute pan and should if you have an electric stove, but a wok works better and makes it fluffier if you have one), put in 1 or 2 T. of oil to coat the pan. Add eggs and stir and chop until you have lots of bits of scrambled egg – remove to a bowl and set aside. If you’re using raw meat, add a bit more oil and stir fry it now and then remove and put with the egg for later.

Add a bit more oil if needed and the garlic for just a few seconds so it doesn’t burn and then put in the carrots. Stir fry for 2ish minutes until they are al dente, then add onions and cook until they are translucent and the carrots are soft-ish. Add peas and corn and stir fry until they are hot, about 1 minute, then add in the chicken and egg and stir to combine. Put the sticky rice on top (I usually have a little more meat and veggie than rice, like a 60/40 ratio) and pour soy sauce over it until about a third of it has been touched and start chopping it apart and stirring it in – you can always taste and add more soy sauce, and you know you have the right amount when the rice mostly stops sticking together and you have good soy flavor. Stir fry, scraping the bottom often, for a couple of minutes to get yummy crispy bits of rice, adding a good bit of salt and some pepper until you like the flavor. Toss in the sesame seeds if you have them. Voila! If you are like some of my friends, you love this kind of recipe, and if you are like all the others, you are now annoyed by my complete lack of measurements or good directions. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!! And enjoy. 🙂

Who’s Your Daddy?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
Noah's card to his dad on Father's Day - notice which word he made the biggest

Noah’s card to his dad on Father’s Day – notice which word he made the biggest

Nathan and the boys in worship on Father's Day

Nathan and the boys in worship on Father’s Day

My favorite picture of me with my dad - I was seven or eight at the time

My favorite picture of me with my dad – I was seven or eight at the time

Father’s Day. For some, it’s a beautiful day of celebrating a guy they love dearly. For some, it’s a painful reminder that their dad never lived up to what a dad should be. For some, it’s the grief of missing someone so vital to their lives, or grieving the fact that they haven’t had the opportunity to be a dad. And for many of us, it’s a combination.

This year for me had a different twist, though. Noah puts an entirely different spin on things. Here’s this 9 year old boy who we plucked out of another culture, country, and language, and said, “Here. I’ll be your Daddy. I’ll be your Mommy.” What does that mean? What is he thinking?

We got up and went to church that morning. It was a Family Sunday which in our church means the kids stay for the service rather than leaving for the children’s program, so Noah and Toby stayed with Nathan and I and the girls. They started worship and I saw that Toby had come to stand in front of Nathan and Noah had come to stand in front of Toby. They were singing, Toby hugging Noah, and Nathan with his arms around them both. I was thinking about my dad which is always a little hard for me on this day, and then the band started playing “Good Good Father” and I lost it a little. Nathan right there was such an amazing picture of what my heavenly Daddy did for me! He chose me and plucked me out of my sin and the life I had in that, and put me in a new space and loved me and everything changed.

In regards to the adoption, we’ve heard a lot of “I can’t believe you did that” and “You must have felt really clearly called” and “I could never do that, you must be saints!” I find myself confused a bit by the hyperbole. Yes, we felt called, but we are in no way saints, and frankly, we haven’t done anything that I don’t think anyone can do. It’s not easy, but it’s also not the insurmountable thing people have made it. We were definitely scared, but God helped us. There were obstacles, but He provides. And whether God has spoken to you audibly and personally or written with a sky-writer over your house “Take care of orphans!!!” it doesn’t matter. He’s told us that in His Word, and therefore, He’s told us.

That may not mean that you are to adopt a child. But, have you ever seriously thought that it might? Have you even let that be part of your conversation with yourself and with God?

Picture this. You see on the news that there’s been a war that leaves thousands dead and incredible destruction in it’s wake. They publish a picture of two little boys, brothers, crouching alone in the wreckage of their home holding each other. Do you know how many people would clamor to know the names of these boys? How many would offer to take them immediately into their homes and families? If you were walking that very street and saw those boys, would you really just walk on by and leave them there?

And yet there’s a crisis of orphans in the world. These kids have been through the war but their picture isn’t out there on Facebook today. We can ignore them because we don’t have to see them. There are children in foster care who have been through the war of abuse and neglect. There are children in orphanages around the world who have been through the war of poverty and earthquakes and medical conditions their parents can’t handle. There are millions of children who need families who will never have their picture published so they can really be SEEN. We, as the big “C” Church need to see them. And we need to be open to the possibility that God really might be calling us to do more.

People have asked us if we want a big family. My family is the biggest blessing on earth to me and I would do anything for my kids. I adore them and love them fiercely. But I did not adopt to get more kids. I’m just being real here. Many people adopt to grow their family and that is wonderful. That was not why we adopted. We had three kids and that was great. We adopted because the Lord sent us places that forced us to see the children in need – to really SEE them. We adopted because we are blessed with a house that can hold more people and resources that would let us care for one more. We adopted because God showed us a little boy who would never get medical care or a family if someone didn’t say, “Mine. Give me that one – I will take responsibility and love on purpose right there.”

At church, they handed out a sheet to the kids called “Fun Facts About Dad” that they could fill out and give to their fathers. Things like, “My dad’s favorite thing to do is ____.” Noah brought his to me so I could read it to him and wanted me to fill it out for his dad. He was very insistent about it. His English is pretty good now, but it’s still hard for him to express himself, and some of the questions were stumping him. The final phrase was “I love my dad because ____.” He was really struggling and I said, “It’s okay, Noah, you don’t have to answer it.” and he said, “No, mom, I – it’s a good, good question! A good one!” but he couldn’t answer still, so I said, “Do you want to say it in Chinese?” and he said, “No! No, I say in English for dad!” and I realized he had tears in his eyes as he was thinking about this and then he whispered to me, “Can you just write ‘everything?’ ‘Everything.’ That is why I love dad.” Oh, my goodness. It’s looking into the eyes of a kid who has never had a dad and seeing just a piece of his heart and realizing the enormity of what this means to him. This is HIS dad. Someone who chose him. Someone who won’t leave, a home he’s been told is his forever. And he’s starting to believe it.

People look at these kids and they don’t realize the blessing they are waiting to be. They think, “Oh, that’s sad, but it’s too hard, it’s not my problem.” And they are right. It isn’t. But I wasn’t God’s problem either, and yet, as my Abba, my daddy, He stepped in to the mess we created here and chose to love on purpose and at great cost to Himself. He said, “Mine. Give me her – I will take responsibility and love on purpose right there.” And He did. He’s my daddy. How can I not try to be like Him as I grow up?

I married a wonderful man. He’s not perfect but he runs after Jesus, and he’s got more integrity than anyone I know. He’s a great dad. I had an awesome dad – hilarious and larger-than-life and he loved me fiercely and beautifully. He was a picture of my heavenly Father. But more than all of that, I have a heavenly Daddy who stepped in, turned my life around, saved me, gave me purpose, and sent me out to do more, love more, choose more. If I’m His, how can I help but to want to love like Him?

Who’s your Daddy?

PS If you want to do more right now, you can start by sponsoring a kid in real need through our partner, Compassion International. We’ve been with them in the field, and know they do beautiful and important work in Jesus’ name – let’s love with actions and in truth together!

Family Weekend and Ministry in Kingsville, OH

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Rinnah and Noah waiting for our order at the White Turkey

Rinnah and Noah waiting for our order at the White Turkey

Nathan with Julie and Jessica - they took us to the beach!

Nathan with Julie and Jessica – they took us to the beach!

Noah learning what it means to have siblings and Toby loving it - they took turns burying each other all afternoon.

Noah learning what it means to have siblings and Toby loving it – they took turns burying each other all afternoon.

Noah trying fishing for the first time at Doctor Dan and Stevie's lake

Noah trying fishing for the first time at Doctor Dan and Stevie’s lake

The innocuous looking bookcase in the living room

The innocuous looking bookcase in the living room

Wait, what?!  It's a secret staircase?!  The kids did triple takes - this house is super cool!

Wait, what?! It’s a secret staircase?! The kids did triple takes – this house is super cool!

The writhing pile of fish.

The writhing pile of fish.

Aren't they cute?  Um, in a creepy, fishy kind of way?

Aren’t they cute? Um, in a creepy, fishy kind of way?

Every once in a while I get to go back to a place that’s I have some real history with, and it’s always a blessing. This past weekend, I was back up in Kingsville, OH, at a small Baptist church which has been absolutely lovely to me for many years. They are one of the first churches to ever have me in, and I love that I get to go back and check in with them all every few years and feel like the pastor’s family are personal friends at this point. I mean, back when I was first starting out, I actually had a pretty major car incident getting to this church, and they had my car towed during the concert I was giving (that’s a whole story in and of itself!). When I came back a week later to pick my car up, I found out that the church had done a love offering to cover the repairs for me because they knew we had no way to cover it at that time, even though many of them had nothing to spare either. This is that kind of church.

Well, they are up right on the edge of Lake Erie, so we decided to take the family and just have a fun couple of days before and after. Because of Noah’s surgery, we really can’t plan any kind of vacation, so we’re just taking advantage of the times we can get together. 🙂

We drove up Saturday morning and met Julie and Jessica, Pastor Dave’s wife and one of his daughter’s (he was traveling in from out of state) and they took us to a local hangout – the White Turkey, which has been there unchanged since the 1950’s. And it totally felt like the 1950’s! It was so cute, and the kids had a blast eating outside and getting happy face ice cream cones. Afterwards, Julie and Jess took us to the beach on Lake Erie which the kids loved.

There are not really any hotels near the church, so Doctor Dan and his wife Stevie offered to host us for the night. We headed over there for dinner and had no idea what we were in for – their house is magical! They have a lake and a zip line, Noah tried fishing for the first time, and there was even a secret door in the bookcase to get up to the room our girls stayed in! They couldn’t have been any nicer, and as Julie promised us, they were “super fun!”

The next morning I did most of the service at the church, and it was so fun to reconnect with people I’ve been with many times. We realized that with all my visits, this was the first time any of the kids had been here, so there were many people who were excited to meet them. After the service they hosted a little lunch for the members of the worship teams and I did a little teaching session about worship, etc, and had a q&a time.

Then our family headed out, but before going home, we had to see Pymatuning Lake. I had never heard of this before, but when I was in Omaha last month, one of the men on the tech team was adamant that we had to see this! He couldn’t believe that I was from Ohio and didn’t know about Pymatuning! It is a lake which had carp get in somehow, but since there are no natural predators and no one wants to eat carp, they’ve just multiplied and multiplied, and people throw them bread and watch them fight over it. I know. It doesn’t sound all that great, but he told me I had to see it! And we were already pretty close, so we headed over, bought old bread at the “Pymatuning Visitor’s Center” which turned out to be a wood case labeled “Fish Bread – 2 for $1” on the side of the road next to a biker bar, and went to experience it. The tag line for the town it’s in is “Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish” because apparently the fish are so thick the ducks can walk on them. We did not personally witness this – we saw ducks who were clearly concerned for their feet keeping about 30 feet back from the writhing pile of fish waiting for bread by the walkway. Our family has re-named this experience “the writhing pile of fish.”

Well, I was relieved to see that there was a lot more water than the pictures implied, so those fish definitely could swim away at any time. And there was an impressive amount of fish. And an impressive amount of stale bread being thrown in by an impressive number of people. It was weirdly fascinating. And at one point Noah rolled some bread in his hands to make it more of a ball so he could throw it farther and threw it at a duck – when the duck went to get it, a carp came up at the same time to try for it and we definitely saw a duck and a carp kissing in Lake Pymatuning. So that was pretty special. We may not drive here again, but we’re all happy we’ve seen it, and if you’re on the northern border of Ohio and PA, you can’t miss the writhing pile of fish. 🙂

Update after Noah’s first heart procedure

Monday, June 6th, 2016
Noah recovering in the hospital after his heart catheterization

Noah recovering in the hospital after his heart catheterization

He did great, but was so tired for a few days - he kept passing out on the couch and Pepper kept him company

He did great, but was so tired for a few days – he kept passing out on the couch and Pepper kept him company

I wanted to write an update after Noah’s catheterization last Tuesday. It was a very long day. He has some very hard memories and associations with hospitals, so while he did well, it was very stressful for him and for us. He gets very scared but he is such a brave kid. He knows it has to happen so he just gets through it.

The catheterization was first to check all the pressures and make sure that the Fontan procedure was still possible. Most children with Noah’s heart condition have this surgery at a much younger age, usually by age 3, and the concern was that the high pressures from not having the surgery would have damaged Noah’s lungs too much for him to still be a candidate. We have known this was a possibility since we were matched with Noah a year ago, and that is a long time to wait for answers.

They let me stay with Noah into the OR until he was asleep. They told us it would be 3-5 hours. If they got in and it was bad, they would pull out because there wasn’t anything else to do. If they got in there and it was good, they would do a number of things to prep his heart for the Fontan.

Well, 2.5 hours in, they told us it was over and the surgeon was coming to talk to us. I was braced for the worst. She came in and told us immediately that Noah was a great candidate for the Fontan, all the pressures were good which meant his lungs were in good shape, and we could proceed. I burst into tears – poor woman! She had no idea how long we’d been waiting for answers! But I just told her they were happy tears! The reason his surgery was so short was that everything looked so good, there was nothing to prep – he was all ready for the Fontan without any additional procedures!

So here’s your miracle for the day. There is one artery that leads to Noah’s lungs. If it had been built open the way it should have been, the years of waiting would have left Noah’s lungs completely scarred. If it had been closed the way it usually is with his heart defect, he would not be alive. But Noah’s was narrowed – exactly open enough to keep him alive, and exactly closed enough to have protected his lungs this whole time. Just amazing.

God is so good. Don’t get me wrong, God is so good even if we’d gotten bad news about Noah. I believe that with all my heart. But in this situation, it’s just that I can sense His presence and protection over Noah in a way that is truly miraculous and comforting. He has plans for this kid, and He already knew how his heart was working.

After the surgery, Noah had to lay flat for 6 hours. He was pretty agitated coming out of anesthesia, and I was grateful that we had an interpreter, because in that hazy state, he really needed his first language. Keeping him down was very difficult, and I know that weeks in the hospital will be a real challenge for him and for us.

There were several things that blew his mind, though. One, that he got his own room and it had a TV and a bathroom. That was incredible to him. Two, that there was a huge menu he could order from, anything he wanted, and they brought it TO HIS ROOM. He could not get over this. After he came home, he described the process of ordering and receiving food to Toby multiple times. He’s already planning what he will have during his next hospital stay.

I appreciated this stay because we were on the cardiac floor and it gave me a preview of what we would be doing for a few weeks – helps me plan. And I have to say, I was beyond impressed with our doctors and with the nursing care – especially our nurse Eric who was absolutely amazing. It gave me a real sense of peace about the hospital stay.

We heard on Friday that Noah has been scheduled for his Fontan already – it will be on July 7th with Dr. Shinoka. Even though this is exactly what we were hoping for, I am very scared. I’m up at night picturing what they have to do to him, and it’s really hard to keep my mind out of the frightening places and focused on the Lord. But He is with me all the time. And I love and cling to these, some of my favorites verses:

Phil 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Noah knows about the surgery and is actually relieved to have a date. This has been a big thing hanging over his head for years too, and he’s a planner, so it’s good for him. This first thing he did was ask to see a calendar so he could count the weeks. Then he said, “Okay, got it!” and ran off to shoot Toby with water guns.

So we’d love your continued prayers! And we’ll keep you updated here and on Facebook, etc. Thank you so, so much for your prayers and beautiful messages! We have appreciated them so much!