Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This is motherhood (too)


this is motherhood {too}: a *very* special needs adoption journey


In September 2014, we will celebrate our oldest son’s 3rd birthday. His name is Adam and from what medicine and logic predicted, he was not supposed to live past 2 months.  Three years? How quickly they seem to have passed as I look back. Fourteen surgeries have come and gone for Adam. Nearly $300,000 was given on his behalf. Two brothers, Elliot and Rohan, joined the ranks of our family, and Adam became an older brother. Our family has traveled from India to America and back again.
On September 18th, 2011, a new level of pain entered my life. Or rather, my husband and I invited it.We adopted it in.
But, on that same day, undeserved mercy and beauty entered our lives too. We did not know we were inviting them in. But He knew. And He brought them in.
Let me back up and share a bit of our story.
Our son Adam was born in September 2011. He was born in rural Northeast India where we were serving at the time in a small mission hospital—my husband as a Psychiatrist and I as a nurse. 
psalm 13916.jpg
Adam was born with no eyelids, no fingers, webbed legs, and a severe cleft of the lip and palate. He was considered a curse and left by his family. Despite persistent pleas from hospital staff, he was left alone. In man’s feeble understanding and finite wisdom, Adam was without hope. But in a Divine Creator’s infinite love and wisdom, he had incredible hope. 
I remember a question that hit me as we were in the process of adopting. We were told that Adam would not live longer than a few weeks. Palliative care was the only option.
Can I raise a dying child?

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Monday, July 14, 2014

And We're BACK;)

Alright dear ones...I took an unannounced hiatus from this little blip on the screen of cyberspace.  I did it for two reasons.

Reason 1:
 I am still learning how to pray. I have written a few entries now on "Teach Us How to Pray", however, in many ways I did not feel as though I was implementing them. So I was maybe giving you, readers, the impression that I have mastered it and am welcoming each sunrise on my knees before Him...walking thru each verse with a perfectly orchestrated prayer. Well, dears, that is so not true. So I felt a conviction and am still working on disciplining my prayer life more. Sure, I can talk to my Abba throughout the day, wherever I am and there is FREEdom to do that. But I do believe there is a deeper level He invites us to...that is where I long to be.

Reason 2:
June was the due date month for our 3rd little one. I really felt as though this place needed to take the wayside so I could be intentional in this month. It was a sacred space in time that could not be relived...this time of our little family before we expanded and met the new one. So it was a beautiful month and I am thankful for this little hiatus.

These are some last shots of pregnancy #2...(do not worry...I am not still pregnant...;)  )


                                     

ROHAN JUDE PAULRAJ joined us on June 20th around midnight. I will share the labor story later;) I WILL say that he left us waiting a bit longer than his brother Elliot did and it was a more intense labor for me.

Rohan, in Sanskrit, means "to ascend"
Jude means "to praise"
We pray that on this crazy pilgrimage of life,our Father would pursue and rescue little Rohan's heart and cause him "to ascend in praise" throughout all of his days and journeys.

Also, if any of you are Lord of the rings fans...there is another inspiration to the name "Rohan"
"They are proud and willful, but they are TRUE-HEARtEd, generous in thought and deed; BOLD but not cruel; WISE but unlearned, writing no books but SINGING many songs..." This is a description of the Rohirrim, the men of Rohan which is a realm of middle earth in Lord of the Rings. What a powerful description...


oh my. he is delicious and all kinds of wonderful
Rohan a few days old...getting some necessary sun


this is when Adam and Elliot met Rohan the morning after he was born;)


For those of you who have been with us for a while now...you may be familiar with how each of our boys joined our family. Let's just be honest and say that none of their births came at a convenient time and none have come into a set up, stable home. Proper nursery? nada. Let me rewind and remind a bit;)

Adam Peniel Paulraj. 

the boys with one of our favorite friends;)
This fellow joined us on the eve of our 6 month marriage anniversary. YES. 6 months is correct. He was the LAST thing we were expecting or planning. In fact, we were playing badmitton the night he was born and had all ours bags packed and shipped by courier service across India to our soon to be new home. Raja was starting a new job as a Psychiatrist and we were leaving our first home that we knew as a couple. 


Adam giving a dental exam to dad?
We had no diapers when Adam moved in. So we used my old head scarves and Raja washed them by hand every day. Cute? maybe. Nasty? for sure;)


Ironically though, Adam joined us in the largest house we have had to date. It was a massive bungalow surrounded by tea plantations. It actually used to be a Tuberculosis Sanatorium (60 or more years ago) so it had massively high ceilings and large windows (to keep air circulating from inside to out...a major help when caring for a high population of TB patients). Raja had the entire house painted before our wedding so it had a fresh coat of paint, 3 bedrooms, 2 AC units, and a wrap around porch! Funny enough...so far we have decreased our house size as we have increased our offspring. A bit disproportionate, perhaps? Some would argue;)

Adam playing peekaboo

I will save the long summary and just say that Adam's life, birth, and adoption into our family was a GLORIOUS interruption into all that we thought was good and right;) And Jesus as been rescuing our hearts daily, since Adam joined us, reminding us of our need for Him every single hour. And there is surely nothing else I would rather take away from my first few years of marriage...a deep need for the Cross.


Elliot Justice Paulraj

hydrangeas! they grow right outside our front door! and this dapper young man brings them to me;)
Then there is that fellow above. Elliot. Though his pregnancy came completely unexpected...my GOODNESS what a gift his life has been.  
everyone was happy when didi came back from DTS

But I will not sidetrack...we are talking about births and conveniences;) He was a quick and speedy labor but he was born 3 days after we were moved from one hospital campus house to an apartment. Though it was certainly a GOOD move (our previous house I had started to call Jumangi as we had a plant growing into our bedroom, through a whole in the concrete...and our new apartment was beautiful)...the timing was ironic. 
elliot has had lots of time with his dad this summer;)

I was discharged 2 hours after his birth and we came home to an apartment of suitcases, cardboard boxes, and lots of chaos. But chaos can be beautiful;)

elliot and rohan

So then little Rohan;) He was expected in many ways;) However, as this summer approached and we considered what the heat would mean for Adam's health...we knew we were going to have to make some adjustments. So the boys and I moved up to the mountains a few months ago. Raja commuted a lot for a while. Now he is pretty much based in our little mountain town, with an occasional trip down the mountain.  We knew we would have to be really adaptable to make it work to stay here for the summer. And adaptability and third trimester pregnancy seem to be antithetical at times...but adaptability happened and all is well;) 
Rohan Jude

We lived in 4 houses within 8 weeks and are now settled in 1 house until the end of the summer. So this fellow did not get to come into the house that has been our home the past 3 years. That room I worked so hard to make "boyish" and cute...he was not welcomed there. Our community and familiarity of home and our kitchen were not comforts we had around his birth. But Abba makes broken things beautiful. And it has been a wonderful summer. And Abba provided beyond what we could have needed for Rohan's birth!




A few weeks before Rohan was born, I was sharing these things with the Lord. I was feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed thinking of labor again...wondering if all would go ok with all our house changes and being in a new place and just the general craziness of life lately. He led me to Psalm 84. Verse 3 says,

"even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young...a place NEAR YOUR ALTAR, o Lord Almighty"

If He clothes and cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, HOW MUCH MORE, will He care for us, His people made in His image?

If I have learned ANYTHING these past years it has been that He is certainly faithful.  If the sparrow and the swallow have a place, His children surely do.

And He provided places and people BEYOND what I could have imagined these past months. He leaves me speechless again and again at His extravagant provision. 

elliot loving on rohan

I also spent some time looking thru His Word to find birth stories;) You know the only birth story really accounted for...was pretty "chaotic".
But though chaotic, it was certainly orchestrated. And it was done so before the foundations of the world and it was woven together to redeem mankind.
And if something so orchestrated and woven and designed could appear chaotic, to the world around...then maybe our perspective is just a bit skewed? Maybe we judge things in our temporal eyes that cannot see the other side.
Because last minute escape by donkey to another region, to find "no room in the inn"...to be then forced to give those guttural labor cries in a foul smelling stable...to lay the Savior of the world in a feeding trough...that certainly does not sound like what Mary may have drawn up as a her "labor plan for baby #1" (you get my point?)
That is an action packed labor story, dear ones, but it was full of chaos in my perspective.
Yet it gave me such hope. 

To know that the sparrow and the swallow have a place to have their young.
And to know that the Savior of the world came in a stable with no fancy welcoming nursery or labor team.
Well, to know that, settled this mama's heart. 
It settled my heart because it reminded me that, often times, what we perceive as chaos and overlooked by our Father in Heaven...is actually His perfect design.
So often,we want predictability and ease.
And though He can be found there, many times HE is not. 
Seasons come and go.
I cannot wait to find Him and His Word in seasons of ease and minimal change and perfectly arranged nurseries.
He can be found right in the midst of the chaos and change.
I believe He often can be seen most of all in the uncertain times and the messes...not in polished ease.

Because though the sparrow and swallow may have a place near His altar, in the spiritual sense, it may very well be the last standing tree brushing up against storm after storm, in the literal sense
God does not promise us ease and predictability
But He does promise to walk us thru all the seasons as they come and go
He does not promise us all the material possessions we will want to live comfortably 
But He does promise to provide ALL that we need according to His glorious riches in Jesus

So dear one, do not wait till it all makes sense
Or do not think He has forgotten you if your life seems a mess
Press into Him right in the muck of it
For it is often in those messes that His Gospel is seen most of all

Rohan Jude, we celebrate you this summer.
We know you have been bounced around quite a bit and our current lifestyle is a bit nomadic. 
But do know that not one need have we had that our Father in Heaven did not meet.
May He win your affections and cause you to "ascend in praise" through all the days of your life.

We love you Rohan.

for your comic relief (after all my rambling)...this is me carrying a slingshot (naturally) while walking to a checkup for Rohan at a week old. you guys, the monkeys in the mountains are fierce. a mama has to do what a mama has to do;) am i right?
































Saturday, May 24, 2014

Prayers to guide us in praying for those that SEEM forgotten (because they're not)

This is the 3rd in that "series", of sorts, "Lord Teach us to Pray"

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The streets here seem to palpate with hardship and need at times. 
The colors may be vibrant and the spices and bedazzled saris may tinge the streets with a romantic splendor that briefly distracts the gaze from the disabled beggar or the leper.
Stunning handiwork might decorate the dusty, littered sidewalks
Festivals surely speckle the calendar year with garish, flamboyant parties…
Yet they are simply ornate bookends that divide the every day dearth of life on these sidewalks from the next…



I remember when the Commonwealth Games came to Delhi four years ago. I left India from one Delhi airport filled with dust and heat and pungent smells, and returned later to a vastly different airport.
The new airport was state of the art, air conditioned, and seemed perfumed in every crevice.
As we drove away from the airport, I noticed an absence of the once brittle community of life that used to cover the sidewalks.  There were no half naked men finding refuge beneath a tattered blanket…no barefoot children chasing flies and tackling one another. Over time it became apparent that in preparation for the CommonwealthGames quite a few slum communities were knocked down to make a more “welcoming” entrance to life in Delhi, capital of the “Incredible India”.
 It was a cleansing of sorts.
Of course, one only had to drive twenty minutes to see reality.  The bookends can only embellish a shelf for a narrow interim.
Soon enough, the scuffed, dusty books covered in fingerprints with your dog eared pages start packing in the space and showing the real life that exists there.

Though it sounds brutal and unappealing, perhaps, this reality of life in Delhi is what allured me to India. My Abba romanced me by giving me His eyes to see stories within each of those seemingly brittle lives.  For in reality, these men, women, and children may appear brittle and their breath may be shallow and feet may be calloused…but they are some of the most resilient beings on this planet earth.  And they have stories that pulse with spirit and a buoyancy that would navigate the toughest waters.

My first few years here, these were the lives and the people that seemed forgotten and invisible. I spent many hours frustrated and confused as to why these people on the sidewalks, under the bridges, and at the train stations seemed invisible to the rest of mankind walking the streets (save an extra rupee thrown into a dish for good measure or just to balance out the conscience and hurry the beggar or disabled away). 

More so, I spent my days with my head fixed upwards pointing at the heavens, questioning why a God of love would turn His gaze from these lives that He had fashioned. 
Did He not remember?
Was the need too much for Him? For this One Who owned the cattle on a thousand hills? How did it possibly escape Him?
How could the lives of those street children be existing next to children of the same age, but of a different inheritance (or, let’s just stop with the political correctness and call a spade a spade…)
Of a different CASTE…driving past in the blacked out BMW SUV?

I could not justify it.

Then 4 best friends and I took a train ride across India. Our return journey was Kolkata to Delhi, via Siliguri, for a brief trek up to Darjeeling.  Our train was delayed in Siliguri for a brief 4 hours, which ended up being eternally treasured hours.  In that time we were approached by 3 little girls who claimed to be Kanjell, Sanu, and Pooja (I say claimed because I am sure their names are changed according to where they are staying that day, to whom they are asking money from, and to whom they are then reporting at the end of the day).

These 3 girls did not get any money from us, but I actually think that is the last thing they wanted. They set down their rucksacks and started talking with us thru our broken Hindi.  We had some henna packets with us as well as some wipes and nail polish.  Feet and hands were washed and adorned with polish and attempted henna motifs.  Their thinned out, orange tinted locks were braided and the lice overlooked. It was just about the most celebrated afternoon I can remember.


By the end of our time there, about 10 other children had gathered and 2 infants given to us. As our train came to a different platform than initially planned, we frantically ran up stairs, over platforms, and down again until we found the right boarding platform for our train.  We passed infants to older children and waved goodbye, my friend Amanda whispering words of life to Kanjell before she hopped on the train and we speed away.


And we left them behind.

And those 15 children may think they are forgotten by us and that we were simply tourists coming and going. But they do not know that three of their faces (Kanjell, Sanu, and Pooja) have plagued our dreams and our minds and our car dashboards with their faces.
That following year, we shared their names and invited countless others to pray. 

A year later, two of us and a new friend traveled back to the same station with their photos and the offer of a place at a home with an education and roof to sleep beneath.
It seemed to be one of the most foolish trips we could have planned.
But we simply knew that we had not forgotten them.
Why those 3? Why not the 2 infants and 10 friends?
I don’t know.
(He, on High, does)
We went and camped out for a week at that same train station. We took their picture, went and sat outside the station, and prayed to find a way to see them again.

At the end of the week, we pieced together stories of where the girls now were from 3 different sources…a rickshaw driver, a local Japanese believer, and a little boy named Pinky who actually had been a friend of the 3 little girls.  The stories all matched to explain that the slum where Kanjell, Sanu, and Pooja lived in had burned down ant that they were safe, but had moved to a different state to continue begging. One of them had a father who was a rickshaw driver and was most likely caring for them now.

Though we were tempted to be discouraged, we could not help but KNOW that they were not forgotten. These 3 little girls may never know the journey we had gone on to share their names and to try and find them again. They may never know that their faces are now poster sized portraits above Sunday School rooms in a grand church in Florida. They may never know that a tiny elderly woman in her modest home across the ocean is praying for them by name and that a lady living and working in the Philippians prays portions of Isaiah over them.





They are surely not forgotten.  And though I may never fathom, and maybe not agree with, the way in which that story “ended” (I say “ended” because, really, it is not nearly over)… I have seen a glimpse of how our God’s ways are beyond our ways and His thoughts are beyond our thoughts.  I know that He who began a good work IS FAITHFUL to bring it to completion.  I know that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective…and there are many righteous, by His blood, who have for 4 years now been praying for those 3 little girls.

And though, on this earth, they may only know poverty and hardships, I do not know what the words of life Amanda spoke to them could have done. What seeds may have been planted? I am reminded of the story of Mimosa and what a few words of Truth spoken to her at a young did to redeem her and sustain her through a life of hardship.

Dear one, I share this story because in this series of Prayer where I am asking “teach me to pray”, along with you and that bold disciple many years ago…there are often times that we look around the world, on the sidewalks that have been cleansed, into our neighbors home that seems empty of love, or into the polished schoolrooms that our children fill in but that we know are filled with stories of loss and ache…and we think

THEY ARE FORGOTTEN.

I AM FORGOTTEN.

But, dear one, they are not forgotten.



You are not forgotten.

And there are words of Truth to assure us of that.

And there are words of Truth to guide us in praying for those whom we think are forgotten.

And there are words of Truth to give us a foreshadowing of the glory of the day when the Redeemed will dance and we will see the other side of this tapestry being woven.

We only see loose strands of fading color now…

But then we shall see all the grand motifs made from the broken pieces that this world could offer. 

Perhaps now we only see the tattered clothes, anemic eyes, and fly covered frail bodies. Then we shall see that they are hidden in the shadow of that rugged cross and that scarred hands are washing their aching bodies.
Though countless men looked past their aching bodies, God left His glory to be birthed into an outcast family in a mess of a “labor suite” to pursue them, heal them, rescue them, give Himself for them, and make them His bride. 
And we may not know how, or when, or who, or why…but we shall on that day hear the song of the Redeemed and all of this suffering will merely be a distant memory for we shall see Justice and Love in perfect harmony.


Until then, I will spend my time on my knees with my face bowed…a renewed posture from my years spent shouting to the heavens, fist tight and brow furrowed.

Because this is not the parable of the Good Samaritan in which I am the hero and the broken and seemingly forgotten are who I am to save.

Because, really, there is only One Good Samaritan. 

And we are all the beat up ones on the side, in need of His help.

Though my body may be round with health and I may have never tasted hunger or known the throngs of infectious, preventable disease…I am right there with these that crowd the streets of India…broken and in need of the one Good Samaritan and His cross of mercy and His bath of blood that can wash the most filthy of us clean.



So, dear one, if there are ones you know of that you are tempted to think are forgotten…the countless numbers of orphans, the trafficked women and children, the widow down the street, or the bankrupt business man in the pew in front of you...these Words may guide you as they are guiding me.
These days, I especially thinking of those beautiful young girls in Nigeria and how they seem forgotten and it all seems hopeless.
May these Scriptures guide us in praying for them?
Join me, if you will?

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>Lord, when I am tempted to feel restless, anxious, and frustrated towards the injustices that seem to be all around us...do not let me give into despair. Teach me how to wait quietly for You, yet pray boldly, and act merciFULLY and with COURAGE...trusting that it is your heart to care for the broken.  And Lord, by Your Spirit, give strength and hope to those at the hands of injustice at this current moment. If they must wait a day longer, help them to endure it.

Lamentations 3.26 "It is good to wait quietly for the Lord to save"

James 1.27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and blameless is this: to look after orphans and widows IN THEIR DISTRESS"

>Lord, your servant David knew the depths of despair and hardship. May his words represent the voices of men, women, and children who are in vulnerable, desperate, and dangerous trials today. Hear their voice and their cry for mercy and come quickly to save. Remind them of where their help comes from.

Psalm 10.1-2 "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice please! Be attentive to my cry for your mercy"

Psalm 121.1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth"

>Father, in Your Word you are often likened to a tender Shepherd. May those who are suffering today feel a tangible safety of Your arms.  Carry them close to your heart today Father.

Isaiah 40.11 "He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young" 

>Lord, we know that we will have trouble in this world, for You said it. But help us and those who are in the midst of deep trials right now to TAKE HEART. Remind us that you have overcome.

John 16.33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

>Abba Father, help us to find a reason to give thanks despite the situation we find ourselves in. For the person in the darkest place right now...give them a taste of beauty...a glimpse of eternity that can transform their despair to be able to even find a place for gratitude.  As Ann Voskamp says“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.”

1 Thessalonians 5.18 "Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"



>Father, you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Let Your children who are suffering be reminded of this. Give them a glimpse, today, of your steadfast love.

Psalm  103.8 "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Joel 2.13, Numbers 14.18)

> Father, these words of Ezekiel speak of your indignation towards those in power ruling with injustice and greed. It speaks of Your longing for someone to lead your sheep well. It speaks of You coming to search and rescue for your sheep that have been scattered by irresponsible and corrupt shepherds. It says you will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. And it says you will destroy the sleek and strong. Father, thank You for these words and thank You that this is WHO YOU ARE. Help us not to forget it when we see suffering on earth. And teach us how to pray for Your Kingdom to come and Your will to be done. Show us how to care for the injured and how to trust ultimately in Your hand to care for them.

Ezekiel 34.11-16; 25-31 "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths....I myself will search for my sheep and look after them...I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice"

>Father,  be near to those whom are at the hands of injustice and who are suffering pain at the hands of men who are not seeking Your face. Do not let them feel alone. Remind them of Who you are.  Help us and them to rejoice despite are circumstances, because we know of Your Character and we know of what You did on our behalf.

Habakkuk 2. 9-20; 3.17-18"...but the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him...though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines...YET I will rejoice in the Lord,I will be joyful in God my Savior"

>Lord, strengthen and restore Your people. Have compassion on them. While they are scattered or far from home, help them to remember You. Bring them back home, Father God.  

Zechariah 10. 6-12 "...I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them...though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return..."

>Father God, let the paradoxical ways of Your Kingdom transform both the hearts of those in pain in these moments, and the hearts of us praying for them.  Thank You that though we mourn, we will be comforted, and therefore we are blessed.  Thank you that though many hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they will be filled, and therefore they are blessed EVEN in this moment of hungering for it.  Father, teach us these words of You and transform our hearts and minds thru them.

Matthew 5. 1-10: The Beatitudes.

>Lord, teach us how to love as You call us to love.  Help us to hate what you hate and cling to the Truth of Who You are. Help those who are suffering to be patient in their affliction and help us to be faithful in prayer for them. Teach us radical hospitality and how to share with those in need in a way that will wreck our world's definition of compassion and hospitality. And may it all point to you, the God of radical love.

Romans 12. 9-13 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

** Though many of these Scriptures are from the Old Testament and speak of trials, battles, and struggles THEN...they speak of the same God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His character does not change and His plans cannot be thwarted. So I believe that all of Scripture is a picture of His character, our desperate need for Him, and His coming for our redemption.  So I believe we can find models for prayer in many different parts of His Word and I am grateful for that. Though our current trials may seem different from those who are written of in the Word, our God is no different. He came in the flesh to dwell among us and to fully fulfill the promises within His Word. So let us cling to them;)