Who is God When we Hurt?: In sickness and in health, til death do us part

My older sister write a book- an incredible book- It’s November 4th, a Sunday morning, I’m sitting at home with some sick children, not attending church anywhere but home. I finished her book. And so should you.

My mother often told me, “there’s nothing worse than watching your children hurt.” Well, the experience is similar when it’s your sister. She has put pen to paper on loss, caregiving, and chronic illness in marriage.

She has always been a great storyteller, after all, she started her career in student ministry. She asked me to do Young Life with her in my early 20s. She let me live with her during college, and she introduced me to Ally McBeal, the West Wing, and the Democratic Party. She writes:

“But I searched for God with what I had, wondering if I were to yell “Marco,” would God respond with “Polo?””

Beth searched for God in the midst of grief, trauma, and leadership of a community of people who knew her husband’s diagnosis. Her life was dictated by MS for so many years, as she searched.

“About three years after Pete’s diagnosis, a very good friend and colleague dropped an article on my desk that began with the statistic, “72% of marriages dealing with chronic illness end in divorce.””

When we first began Winning Wife, I wanted to invite her to write for us, but I knew this book was worth the wait. She was journaling, praying, and writing already. The story of their marriage from her perspective as a caregiver and wife reads raw in short illustrations of real marriage. Real. Marriage.

“I felt like a horrible human. I had no patience, no compassion. I was unable to control my emotions and I yelled at a sick person. I mean really…who yells at a sick person?

The answer to that question is…a lot of people. Sick people are human, and they’re hurtful and they’re selfish. They aren’t always good at communicating what they need, and sometimes they demand more than they need. In a lot of ways sick people are no different from well people.”

Dealing with chronic illness in marriage is not for the faint of heart, but for the ones who need to know what it’s like to get back up again, Beth provides a way to grieve and hope in this life.

“My grief button was pushed over and over again. I started to think we only have one grief button. No matter the loss, big or small, the grief button got pushed. Mine was being overused and I started to think it was malfunctioning. Any loss, big or small, resulted in an onslaught of tears. Whether I spilled milk or had to change weekend plans, my grief button was pushed.”

“And I could have blamed the whole thing on others who couldn’t keep up. I could have blamed Multiple Sclerosis. I could have blamed marriage for that matter. Pete and I were most certainly not the same person, nor did we even enjoy walking through life at the same pace. We didn’t have the same stride, nor did we have the same hope for how much ground we would cover over the course of our marriage. I think I was learning simply to let my expectations go.”

For every woman, this book will make you laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. She will encourage you in your pursuit of God.

“I needed to believe I was enough. I needed to believe that when we choose one another, whether in the covenant of marriage or within the companionship of community, we were enough.”

From the trivial to the major decisions of life, we learn God’s character. We learn God is Love.

“In fact, if finding me a house was on God’s “to do” list, we all had much bigger problems. Multiple Choice:

One of the tasks on God’s job description is: A. Protecting children from the sex trade

B. Feeding the hungry

C. Preventing tsunamis

D. Finding Beth and Pete a new home within their time frame and price range

E. None of the above”

“For me, not blaming God for things that God wasn’t supposed to do was a first step toward establishing an appropriate relationship with God. I would have to get to know who God was as if meeting God for the first time.”

She allots us space in her losses, and gives us access to intimacy as a couple.

“We never knew when the last dance would happen. The “last” was never announced. The last day with a walking stick. The last day with a walker. The last day at work. The last day driving. The last day before a diagnosis with MS. “Last’s” happened all the time Loss happened all the time. Grief, loss, faith, and doubt happened all the time and they mingled into a tangled dance of swaying and turning.”

And her ability to understand the truth of love is what we all need in order to love someone else, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.

“Love is a force to be reckoned with. Holding hands heals. Standing in solidarity is a superpower. Praying for one another, with words or in silence, diminishes pain. Sharing a meal creates community and community offers God’s presence right here in our world.”

As a profession, I get to see caregivers on a daily basis. And her final thoughts bring life to those of you in the trenches of caregiving. We see you. We hear you.

“When I was uncertain of speaking my truth, or when I was embarrassed of the level of vulnerability in my writing, I remembered that caregivers need one another to share the “real deal” lest we think we are alone. Caregivers and former caregivers and future caregivers: you are giants.”

Yes, you are giants. If ever the question arises in the renewing of your mind, “Who is God When we Hurt?”, read the stories of this #winningwife

Thank you, Beth Scibienski, for empowering us to search.

You can purchase her book on Amazon Here!

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The #1 Way to Preserve the Peace in Your Marriage

Blessed are the peacemakers. 

How many times does that phrase leave my mouth on a daily basis? Uh, I don’t know, one hundred times? 

Teaching kids to work through their problems like civil people should earn you a Nobel Peace Prize. But that aside, has this ever happened to you? 

You’re husband comes in and says something to you and BAM! 💥 You’re in a spiraling into a heated argument at record speed. 

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Well that was us tonight. But, you know? It was weird. Like, “what in the world, why is this even happening?!” kind of strange… We were both working on things in different parts of the house, having a positive, productive evening, and it was over something that seemed like NO BIG DEAL! 😳🤷‍♀️

So what do you do? 

I’ve been praying recently that we would have supernatural eyes to see what’s really going on in the moment, and specifically to spot the enemy’s attack and tactics early on. 

In that moment I knew it, we were under attack. I stopped and prayed, out loud, eyes open, in the middle of our conversation (/rapidly uglifying argument). It felt almost a little strange but I went for it. I prayed “Lord help us right now! Holy Spirit, help us see what is really going on here because we are under attack!” 

No magic words. No fancy prayers. But it really helped. And you know what helped the most?

When I stopped trying to defend myself against what felt like a dumb accusation over a dumb thing. 

When I said “You know what? This doesn’t matter. I don’t agree with you but if you really feel this way, I‘lol do what you’re asking. It’s not worth it. This is getting super crazy and neither of us want it.”

As time moved on and we both were able to calm down I’ve realized I should’ve just started with that. 🙄🤦‍♀️

Nothing wins the battles in your marriage like unity. 

Oh Lord, help me to swallow my pride and apply this lesson sooner next time! 

And as a last note, there are times like this that I (we) need to learn to exercise our God given responsibility in marriage: submission. 

I’m a firm believer in “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) just as much as I am “wives submit to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22). But it is a responsibility and a gift to see submission work like a secret weapon against the enemy’s shrewd attack. 

Friend, before you find yourself in this type of situation (again), 

Pray. 

Have eyes to see. 

Submit to the Lord, and to your husband. 

Defeat the enemy through “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

You’re not alone in the fight, #winningwife 

What being a Winning Wife has taught me this far

I started a new job. I’m in a shaky place emotionally every other day now that I am working full-time again after 6 years of homeschooling, homemaking, homebuilding, and homeworking. Our family is still in transition mode, crying and bickering with sisters, racing schedules, passing ships in the night, as my husband puts it, and did I mention it happened during Birthday season for us? Three out of four daughters celebrate birthdays between November and January, and so does Jesus. I’m depleted. I’m exhausted. I look like this on the inside.

On December 26th, 2015, a tornado hit my parents’ home in Texas. This was the beginning of the season I am currently trudging through. This year, on the same day, I left my family home while I drove into work, weeping and whimpering at God, asking if we made the right choice in all of this. Why did God have to make all this upheaval now? Couldn’t it wait until the kids were out of school, at least?

Winning Wife began to take shape in 2016. With this came a series of events outside of my control. If you know me, you know I don’t like things out of order. I am an early bird and I love catching the worm. I like organizing and sometimes come across as a drill sergeant with my kids. I enjoy cleaning when I am overwhelmed. Chaos, even in comedy sketches, raises my heart rate. Pies in the face are not funny because someone has to clean up the mess.

My best friend and co-founder of Winning Wife was diagnosed with cancer a few short months after we decided to brand this movement, seeing an upswing in our readers and lives begin to change. Glory to God, she is healed today, and still wants to do this with me. The enemy used this particular blow to destroy my mind, brick by brick.

You see, some of the beautiful stories written by other winning wives on this blog were used by the enemy. A friend would write a blog for Winning Wife, and her marriage would be hit with a baseball bat. Every. Single. Time. So, I started to believe that all women who wanted to tell their story were doomed to catastrophe.

Another friend, and my partner in prayer, lost her husband tragically and unexpectedly. His heart was attacked and he was killed in a collision.

And still another was asked to care for her dying father and step-mother shortly after we developed plans to market a vision for the next step in Winning Wife.

One woman’s health suffered daily and chronically as she fought her own body, physicians, and therapists, while raising her own children with disabilities.

Every few months, something traumatic would happen to another wife.

For two years, the enemy has tried to steal Winning Wife from God’s glory. For two years, I have cried and screamed in prayer for my dearest friends who were out of control. For two years, I persisted in petition to my God. For two years, I repented for the same sins over and over and over again, thinking it was my doing that caused all of these horrible things to happen to these women.

And now, I am done. I cannot handle another death, illness, tragedy, or broken dream. I’m not sleeping well, eating well, drinking enough water, exercising my body, and I am certainly not winning. I am living in chaos, and I hate chaos.

When we moved to Lancaster County, I remember asking God “Who are the least of these here?” And the answer was really clear for me: people with disabilities.

The day I drove into work for the first time, God answered me in a song. I was a mile away, banging my hands against my steering wheel, and God reminded me of my purpose in this life. I’m to love the least of these at all costs.

Matt Maher wrote out Matthew 25 in this way:

I’m a stranger in a foreign land

Passing through, when will I be home again?

You remind me, nothing here is permanent

But Your word and Your faithfulness

I was hungry, I was thirsty

I was weary, You let me in

When love became a refugee, He became my refuge

When love became a prisoner, He set me free

The widow and the orphan became the bride and children

When He stole my heart between two thieves

That’s when love became the

Least of these

I’m a beggar on the pilgrim’s road

Chasing echoes of a voice I hear among the poor

I’m a stranger in a foreign land

Oh the memories of the love that calls the broken things to mend

When love became a refugee, He became my refuge

When love became a prisoner, He set me free

The widow and the orphan became the bride and children

When He stole my heart between two thieves

That’s when love became the

Least of these

I was hungry, I was thirsty

I was weary, You let me in

Where You’re hungry, where You’re thirsty

Wherever You’re weary, I will let You in

When love became a refugee, He became my refuge

When love became a prisoner, He set me free

The widow and the orphan became the bride and children

When He stole my heart between two thieves

That’s when love became the least of these

When He stole my heart between two thieves

That’s when love became the

Least of these

Waist deep in chaos, I have begun to see the Truth. The reason the enemy wants to destroy me is because I have something worth destroying. I have the God of refuge and freedom who taught me to love.

I am a Winning Wife because He has already won my heart.

4 Practical Ways I’ve Defeated Spiritual Attack

Abuse is uncomfortable to talk about

Depression is difficult to admit

Losing an unborn baby is painful

One night stands are embarrassing

There is nothing easy about spiritual attack. At first glance, we may think we have it all under control, but as it continues to pile on, within days, hours, or even minutes, we run out of strength.

But, there’s HOPE. There are ways to fight the battle beyond our control. To most Christians, it’s called Spiritual Warfare, and it’s an accomplishment to get out on the other side stronger than before the attack. Let’s begin.

1. Abuse is uncomfortable to talk about. The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. We think there’s something we did or didn’t do that is keeping us from being abused. We feel inferior, we apologize too often, we fear certain personality types. We are afraid, at the very core. This, my friends, is a spiritual attack. How do I know that? Because the Word of God tells me that this kind of fear is NOT from God. As a child and young adult, I would get terrible nightmares. The thief comes to steal, even in your sleep, because fear is easy to plant in your dreams. Do you know what the thief fears? The name of Jesus. As a matter of fact, that name makes demons tremble. So, I use it. Replace fear with the power of that beautiful name, and say it out loud. Sometimes, when I sense the spiritual attack on my house in the middle of the night, I’ll walk through each room with my hands open by my sides, just whispering the name of Jesus over and over again. Most of the time, God fills me with more words to say, and I force myself to cover every inch of my house. Allow God to lead you to the darkness and shine light on it through the name of Jesus.

2. Depression is difficult to admit. As a sensitive teenager, chubby and timid, I wanted to take on burdens that weren’t mine. When my parents would fight, I wanted to clean the house, take care of my mom, do all my homework, hide in my room until it all went away. My stomach was always in knots and I wanted to please everyone. I lied as a habit. For attention, for reaction, for fun. Do you know the father of lies? It isn’t God. It’s so easy to convince an insecure teenager that lying will make the depression go away. If she just tells a lie and people believe it, she can feel better about herself, even just for a few minutes. This led me into a journey toward suicide and only the Truth set me free. In defense against this line of thinking, I learned to Speak truth. Memorize truth. Listen to truth. Back then, I started with the serenity prayer, and moved into the fruit of the spirit, 1 Corinthians 13, then the Apostle’s Creed. What do you believe about this life? I cut out toxic friendships. When my mind is filled with truth, I have ammunition to fight back the lies. As an adult, the father of lies creeps in through self-image, self-worth, and self-centeredness. Can you see a trend? The liar will NEVER stop trying to catch you. “You’re not thin enough.” “Your parenting isn’t good enough.” “You’re hot-tempered.” But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF CONTROL. There’s no law against these. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are yours. Truth.

3. Losing an unborn baby is painful. Whether I like it or not, suffering is part of following Christ. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. Yes, something is wrong when we are in pain. What’s the opposite of pain? JOY. Nehemiah 8:10 tells me the joy of the Lord is my strength. God does NOT promise a painless life. In this world, you WILL have trouble. But, take heart, Christ has overcome this world already. Joy is not happiness. Joy is not a cheerful attitude. To me, Joy is strength. When I am in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. When I am weak, I can call on the One who is strong. God wants to gift me with strength. Jesus took on the pain of the entire world so that I might have life. He is my Comforter, my Rock, my Fortress, my Almighty God in whom I take refuge, and I will not be shaken. Say that last sentence out loud. Do it again and again and let it sink in as strength. Only God can satisfy you. Drink Christ’s living water. God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever. Exercise your Strength so that when God calls you to suffering, you can resist the blow.

4. One night stands are embarrassing. Sexual errors have some deep consequences. Relationships are ugly. Hearts are broken. It follows you long after the deed is done. And at the root of this physical and spiritual issue is shame. Are you ashamed of your past? Are you ashamed of your present? It may not be your sexual history, but impulsivity, when given a conscience, leads to shame. “Why did I buy that?” “Why did I eat that?” “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” “What is wrong with me?” Shame is why someone invented a morning after pill. If we can hide the repercussions, someone will find a way to do it. In the light of day, our eyes are opened. What’s the opposite of shame? Love. God IS Love and Love is hard work. For me, it began as confession. I shed light on it so I knew I’d have to confess it every single time. The more I confess, the more I stop impulsivity. Many people call this accountability. Let someone in on your shame, so you are forced to confess it. Choose someone who will love you the way God Loves you. Love does not keep a record of wrong-doings. Love is not proud or rude. Love gets excited about the truth. I have someone in my life who tells me “now get back up again”. This gentle reminder keeps me from wallowing. Turn your back on shame and embrace Love.

The God who was there in the beginning is still here.

This Almighty God we serve has given us the Word made flesh.

Use these words wisely.

Use them often.

Can Depression Be a Gift?

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11 years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. He had a two year old sister, and we had a “rich man’s” family. And I was happy! At least, I knew I *should* have been happy. But I wasn’t. At all. I actually wanted to die. So I started praying that God would kill me. And I started planning my funeral. I even told my husband, Josh, what outfit he could dress me in for the funeral. But when I started contemplating running red-lights and driving off bridges to speed up the process, Josh knew *something* was wrong and called the doctor.

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Yup, you guessed it: I was diagnosed with post-partum depression. SEVERE. Like, I wasn’t allowed to be alone with my children. And so the responsibility fell to Josh to be the dad, the mom, the care-giver to his wife, the bread-winner, the cook, the maid, etc, etc, etc. He did an amazing job, but as you can imagine, it took its toll on him! We had planned to have more children, but after doing some research and finding out that, due to family history and genetics, my depression was likely to worsen with each subsequent child, we decided that another pregnancy is not something we would “try” for. Obviously, we would still seek God’s guidance, and if he blessed us with another pregnancy, then we would rejoice and do what we could on the front-end of things to lessen the effects of the depression, but we really felt that we didn’t want to subject ourselves or our children to that kind of hardship again if we could help it. But both of us were immediately open to the possibility of adopting a child to add to our family.

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Fast forward about 3 years: We had a 5 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. The depression is well controlled (Although it was initially labelled as “post-partum,” the depression stuck around and is something that I am still on medication for). We were approached with the possibility of adopting the unborn daughter of a friend-of-a-friend. We were nervous, and excited and overwhelmed, but we went ahead and talked to the mother and then contacted a lawyer. And then the mother decided she wanted to keep the baby. We were sad, but just figured it wasn’t time to add another child to our family. We were still open to adoption, we just never seemed to have the time to actively pursue it.

Fast forward another 2 years: Our kids were 7 and 5. Our kids were doing well. Our life was good. I was happy with the family God had given me, and while I’d always SAID I was open to adopting, something about my perfect little family of four was comforting and easy and complete……but was it really?

My sister was working in a Chinese orphanage in the fall of that year. When she was able she messaged us separately and we both agreed simultaneously that we needed to adopt who she described as “the most beautiful little boy with Down Syndrome I’ve ever seen in my life.”

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Zi has been with us almost 5 years.
I continue to take antidepressants on a daily basis. For the most part it’s kept under control, but there are definitely times that it *flares up*.

If you currently struggle with depression, find someone that you can talk to. If necessary, get medical help. But this too shall pass. It sucks right now, but it won’t last forever.

If you don’t suffer from depression, please be patient with those who do. Clinical depression is a real thing — it’s not something that people are making up to get attention. It’s not that someone is over dramatic or extra sad. It’s also not something that people can just *get over* so please be patient, be kind, be supportive.

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Can a horrible, cruel, and debilitating diagnosis like depression really be considered a blessing? Absolutely, 100% YES!! At the time I did not see it as a blessing, but it is really the only way that we would have opened ourselves to the idea of adoption. It is the only way that my sister would know that we didn’t want another pregnancy, but wanted another child. It is the only way she would have known to ask us about a child she had hand-picked for us. And it is the only way we would look into the eyes of a little Chinese boy and see….OUR SON!!!

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Katie Edwards is a strong fellow Winning Wife whom God has trusted to honor Him through her depression.

Choosing to parent through adoption, waiting for their boy to come home, and the orphan crisis we can solve- The Denlinger Story

At times it seems that adoption is the consuming focus of my life. I would love to sit down and talk to you about it for hours over coffee. And I could. I could tell you about the kids I met in Chinese orphanages without a single consistent person to be their protector. I could tell story after story of the way I get to see God changing the lives of orphaned kids and their adoptive families through the great privilege of adoption. And of course I’d tell you about my beautiful, brave, resilient boy who I can’t believe I get to parent. I’ve got so much to say that I feel like I could burst. Bear with me.

While I have your ear, I’d love to tell you about the reality of the orphan crisis in our world today. In our country, there are over 400,000 children in foster care on any given day. More than 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. Most kids in foster care are 8 or older, and 20,000 “age out” without a permanent family every year. (adoptuskids.org)

When we broaden the scope to our entire world, there are over 140 million orphans today. 15.1 million of these children have lost both of their parents. Internationally, some children have family, friends or other individuals in their home country who are able to parent them. The remainder of them are living in institutions, or occasionally foster homes. The majority of international orphans eligible for adoption are older (95% over age 5) and/or have a diagnosed special need. (unicef.org)

This information is staggering and perhaps paralyzing for some. What is essential to remember is that these numbers are children with hopes and fears and ambitions and interests….and no one to permanently parent and protect and pour into them. It’s also essential to know that the children who age out of foster care and orphanages all over the world are at high risk of homelessness, unplanned pregnancy, violence, addiction, illness, suicide and slavery. Becoming an adult (or in some countries, a 13-year-old) without a family is a scary future.

Apparently 81.5 million Americans have considered adoption for their family (showhope.org). This statistic means there is a very high chance you have considered adoption and might even be considering it at this very moment. Do you know what could happen if even a quarter of the people who consider adoption actually do it? If you are a math whiz you’ll see that every family-less child would find their forever family. And that is just if Americans are the lone adopters of the world, which thank God we are not.

And if you know Jesus, then absolutely the problem is solvable. There is hope and redemption to be found in the ugly, messy, brokenness of family-less children. Jesus’ brother tells us that caring for orphans is purely an act of a true, faithful disciple. What’s stopping us? Well, for me it was fear. Oh fear, you old scoundrel.

Our family has a unique beginning to our adoption journey in that during our first year of marriage, God told us, clearer than he’s ever told us anything, “you will adopt your children.” I should say, God first started with me perhaps because he knew my heart was a little (lot) more stubborn than my husband’s. I spent a year arguing with God about how I was not the right one for this job and I didn’t want to take a path that felt so unconventional and lonely. Then finally in the midst of one morning’s worship, I surrendered to God and agreed that His plan was better. From there the doors flung open wide. My big-hearted, obedient husband had a heart more ready than I ever anticipated when I shared this plan God had. He was all in and ten steps ahead of me. In the last five years, we have seen God gently, steadily nudge us along this journey. I recently read from Isaiah and was struck at how God guides us even after much disobedience. “He, Your Teacher, will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (30:20) This is the best image I could use to explain how God has moved in our lives since deciding to adopt.

Unfortunately, the fear crept up for me as we endured four years of an adoption process, waiting to see our boy’s face. I hope fear doesn’t grip you like it does me. But in working to spread the word about adoption and kids needing families, I hear fear sneak in. “What if the child doesn’t attach to me?” “What if his medical needs are bigger than we expect?” “What if he has to go back to his birth parents?” What I most often hear in these questions is: “what if this is really hard and messes up this good life I have?” I’m just a year in but I can tell you it will be hard and messy and heartbreaking and raw. But I’ve not been gripped by fear since our boy joined our family. That fear jumped up in the years before we met our son, but since he’s been here, I’ve not felt fear. It has been so clear that even in the challenging times, this was the life I was made for. These were the struggles God was preparing me for.

I am certain that adoption and parenting is sacred work. I feel God gently whispering words behind me that direct me. What incredible confidence for this hard work! Most recently God offered the reassurance that though I could not be with my son in the some of his darkest experiences of life so far, He was there. He held him during those moments, and He will give me discernment to guide my son in all the healing and redemption. It shouldn’t be surprising that the God who adopted and redeemed us will give us what we need for the work of adoption and redemption in our children’s lives.

Early on in the adoption process, we were questioned by some on our unconventional decision to pursue adoption only. I’ve been asked if I think I will be missing out on the miracle of childbirth. While I’m amazed at pregnancy and childbirth, I can say that adoption is an equivalent miracle that many miss out on. We have experienced miraculous growth and change and redemption in this last year. Our agency learned about our son the very day his country changed adoption laws that would require us to reside there 1+ years in hopes of possibly adopting. We rode a wild rollercoaster of decisions and changes and emotions last summer. But we were granted guardianship and brought him home 6 months after the parliament’s decision. Miracle! What a miracle that I am my son’s fourth mother, and he accepted me right away, without reservation and our bond is strong and growing! Our boy grew 7 inches in the last 15 months—miracle! It is miraculous that he eagerly embraced a new country, culture, climate, language, school(s), friends and family. We see signs of healing and hope and joy and faith in God from our son every week. Miracle upon miracle! How could this life be short of miracles when God has designed and directed the path?

Written by Lea Denlinger

From Comfort to Immeasurable Blessing – The Ord’s Story

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Whenever I am asked to share our adoption story, my first thought is that this is just our uneventful life – what do we really have to share? Yes, we’ve adopted, but, to us, that is just the wonderful way God chose to grow our family.

We didn’t have to overcome crazy obstacles, there are no “wow” factors or crazy twists and turns. But, as I was recently preparing to speak at an Orphan Sunday event, what a joy it was to revisit the journey we have had! And it has been such a gift to be reminded, once again, how personally and lovingly God guides us down the paths He has for us.

God uses many things in our lives to grow us closer to Him. He used adoption in our lives as one of those things.

My husband, Bob, always had a heart for adoption, and we would talk about it off and on in our early years together. Then, we started our family, had 3 kids in 4 years and life was busy. We still talked about adoption now and then and decided if we ever had a 4th child, it would be through adoption. This brings us to almost 15 years ago – our youngest was 18 months old and we start feeling the baby itch. So the topic of adoption came up again.

The thing is, I had avoided the topic as coyly as I could over the years. My personality leans to the practical side of things. I’ve always been more comfortable with “predictable”. I had worked in the Social Work field and I knew that adoption rarely fell into the “predictable” category. I was fearful of the “what if?” and was avoiding the conversation. My husband never pressed me, but now and then asked me to pray about the subject. I would be non committal. Finally, he called me out a little bit and asked me if I had been praying about it – I said “no” – he asked me to please make it a matter of prayer and I said, “No – I am not going to.” Not my proudest moment, but that’s the truth.

As you can imagine, I spent the next couple of weeks feeling very unsettled in my spirit. I am so thankful for a husband who was listening to God, leaving me time to wrestle over it on my own. He didn’t say anything more to me. We didn’t argue about it. Life just went on. A couple weeks later (after a lot of justifying my reasons to myself) I thought, “OK, I am just going to pray about it, and hopefully I can tell Bob the answer is no and we can move on.” That afternoon while the kids were napping and Bob was at work, I, with fear and trepidation, prayed about it.

Literally in that moment, God gave me a tremendous GIFT.

My fear vanished and my heart was literally overcome with a deep need to get to my baby and bring them home – wherever they were.

I was so very humbled by this. God didn’t make me do this thing I feared. He made it the overwhelming desire of my heart. For me, on a very personal level, this was a life altering lesson on the character of God and his deep, deep love for me personally.

Then, it was on. Research, lots of prayer, more research. We felt called to China. We did the paperwork like it was our job. Sixteen months later we found ourselves in a Civil Affairs office in Nanning, China being handed our beautiful 11 month old daughter Anna. We were overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us. While we were still in China, we looked at each other and said we knew we would do this again in a few years.

We came home, had a relatively smooth transition and found our new normal. Fast forward about 8 months and we were at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert and he was talking about adoption. We looked at each other and said, “Why are we waiting?” We came home, prayed about it and started the process again.

We completed our paperwork over the next 6 months and turned it in. Things were slowing down considerably with adoptions in China by this time. The wait times were growing every month. There are lots of waiting children in Chinese orphanages with mostly correctable medical needs of some sort. One afternoon, Bob told me he thought we should consider adopting a child with some medical needs. My reaction, to my present day embarrassment, was, “What are you doing? Do you remember where I was at a couple years ago and now you are pushing my comfort zone AGAIN?”

More fear, more what if’s, more wanting to stay with what felt comfortable. But, I literally felt God was saying to me, “Are we really going to do this again? Do you not trust me? What do you know to be true about me?”

I more easily surrendered my fears to God this time. He IS trustworthy – I knew this. He gave me peace as we once again found ourselves trusting God to help us find the right path.

Only God knew who our son Joe was at this point. As it turns out, while we were praying about whether to start our second adoption, a 3 month old baby boy was brought to an orphanage in NW China. We are overwhelmed by how God was working out all of the details before we had a clue.

Although Bob was the one to bring up adopting a child with some medical needs, he was the one who struggled with fear in this department. It was his turn to be stretched. There are many, many children born in China with cleft lip/palate. We knew nothing of what medical attention this would need and, to Bob, it felt too far out of his comfort zone to tackle this particular unknown by choice. As it turned out, I grew a very tender heart toward children with this issue and was actually hoping that this would be the medical need that our child had.

We received our referral for Joe in April 2006, and, indeed, he had cleft issues. We were ready! In August 2006 we found ourselves in Xinjiang, China picking up our very scared almost 2 year old son.

Our time in China this time around was not the fairytale it was the first time. There was immense grief and gut wrenching sorrow happening with our son and he wanted no part of us.

We know that God cares deeply for the orphan and hurting child. He is present in the suffering and offers comfort. He promises to not leave or abandon the orphan. At that moment, we were His instrument of comfort. We felt very much like we were on holy ground walking Joe through what was an excruciating transition for him. Our experience has been that our relationship with Christ deepens immeasurably when we share in His pain as we walk with a hurting child through their pain. We felt like the arms of Jesus in that hotel room, comforting this broken boy, and it felt like we were part of a very holy, intimate time with Jesus. It was one of the most difficult experiences of our lives, but, what a GIFT to us.

Now our family had grown from 3 to 5 kids in a short amount of time. We felt “done” and knew that China did not allow families to adopt with 5 or more kids in the home. But, 9 months later or so we felt a stirring once again. This time we both prayed about it with no hesitation. We prayed about it for awhile and both felt like God wanted us to move forward, but where? I don’t know why, but we assumed something would change and we’d go to China.

You, see, when we started getting involved with China, I made it my mission to read and learn anything I could about the orphan crisis there, the why’s and how’s. And it was heartbreaking. The things I learned literally broke me inside. My worldview was opened and I now knew so many things I didn’t want to know. I felt such sorrow – not just for the children, but for the moms and dads, the country itself and the brokenness of it all. When faced with another adoption, possibly from another place, I actually asked God to make it China so I didn’t have to learn about and care about another broken place with heaps of sorrow and different reasons for their orphan crisis. But, He gently led us to Ethiopia.

Again, looking back, it was during this time of praying and deciding that Elijah, then almost 1, was brought to the orphanage. God was bringing our family together once again.

As we learned all we could about Ethiopia, we found a different country, with different circumstances, but the same sorrow. And, our son was there so we needed to know, needed to open ourselves up to the pain of caring about this beautiful country and its beautiful people. Once again we went through the tedious paperwork process, and in July, 2008 we traveled to Ethiopia to bring Elijah home. He was 2 ½ at the time and was quite wary of us, but ready for a family.

We settled in, found our new normal and life moved on. We did our best to bring awareness and be advocates in our church and community. We attended Adoption and Orphan Care conferences, kept learning all we could. Then, in 2010, we were at an adoption conference and both felt we needed to pray about stepping out again.

So, we did. And a few days later, we talked about it and found it strange that neither of us felt like God was asking us to adopt again. We were a bit relieved, honestly, because we had 6 young kids and life was full. However, 2 weeks later, we found out we were expecting. Pretty shocking to us! And, our sweet Faith was born in July 2011.

In late 2014 we were once again attending an adoption conference. We realized we had assumed we were done and hadn’t asked God what he wanted from us. So we prayed about it. We felt God was calling us to consider adoption again. By this time we both were at peace and very content to know we were in God’s will.

We were excited, but, in our mid 40’s, adding #8, it’s kind of a tired, subdued excitement. ☺️

We still maintain a relationship on a regular basis with our adoption agency as we have to do reports for our kids periodically to send back to their birth country, so it was easy to get started again.

Ethiopia was now closed to adoptions. We started out in the Haiti program. Doors closed rather quickly because of restrictions Haiti was putting into place. We were offered a switch into the China waiting children program for boys. We were already so familiar with this program that we didn’t hesitate.

The whole process went quickly and we received a referral for an almost 3 year old little boy with cleft issues. We were overjoyed and travelled to Xian, China to bring David home in March 2016.

This boy has been such a gift to the whole family. A year and a half later, not one of us can even get over how God blessed our obedience with this little package of pure precious.

I had been quite sick for several years, each year worse than the one before. Things were really bad off and on right at the time we felt called to this latest adoption. We were at peace with it, but our families were not. My doctor was not. I didn’t improve through the whole process. A couple months before travel, my doctor, out of kindness and genuine concern, said he felt the best thing to do would be to not go through with the adoption. We had this conversation while I was lying in a hospital bed not knowing how I was going to manage it. However, we never wavered because God had clearly called us to this and he hadn’t called us away from it, and we loved our son. We chose to trust God with my health and He saw me through. Another GIFT as our faith was strengthened once again.

Looking back over the past 15 years since we started our first adoption, the story we have to share is not about adoption itself, but about God’s faithfulness. Our life is just our life. It is our normal. Our kids are just our kids, not biological or adopted, just ours. Clefts and the ongoing medical procedures they come with are part of our normal (I think back and wonder why this was ever a big deal to me).

We sometimes hesitate to share our story because we never want our kids to feel singled out. And we NEVER want them to misunderstand and think that our doubts and struggles and fears were EVER about them. Our fears and hesitations were all about our journey to a deeper intimacy in our relationship with God.

I want my kids to always understand that their part of the story is about God’s unending love for them in all circumstances and about our deep longing to go to the ends of the earth to get them and bring them home because they are OURS.

We know everyone is not called to adoption. What does it hurt to ask God if it is what He wants for you? He will not say yes if He doesn’t want it for you.

But, if God is asking you to step off a cliff, He will catch you and explode the blessings in your life and grow your relationship with him in the process.

Hold your plans loosely. God’s plans may scare you or overwhelm you, but they bring freedom and joy that you will miss out on if you do not follow His path. And when you are leaning on God, He will meet you in a deeply personal way and that is a GIFT you do not want to miss out on.

Sarah Ord is a down to earth, fun-loving  #winningwife and proud mom of their 8 GIFTS. 

Consider the power of your Tongue

We started this blog to be real, unfiltered, sometimes unedited, and most times transparent. We knew we could not share our wins without first sharing our failures. After all, God did not die because of my perfection. His scars and wounds show because I am a failure. Each and every day, I am a failure.

This week, we decided to focus on our tongue. Did you know the word tongue is referenced 160 times in the King James Version of the Bible? 137 in New International Version. It was a common word for language.

So, when James, the brother of Jesus, writes this:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 


Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.


So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

If what James is saying means anything to us, as Christians, or even as just moral human beings, we need to recognize the power of our tongue so the rest of our body isn’t consumed by what we say. 

Consider this, my sisters. If we determine with our mouth, that we are less pretty, fashionable, skinny, fit, wealthy, naturally beautiful, intelligent, capable, or strong, than who Christ died to save, then we are lighting a match.

If we complain and critique before encouragement and compliment, then we are setting the course of a ship for the children we raise, friends we keep, and spouses we love.
A woman who tames her tongue can steer a ship driven by strong winds. Will you admit with me the power of your tongue and choose to change course?


Before trolling social media, rolling your eyes, gossiping about anyone, yelling at your kids, or fighting with your loved one, put that tongue back in your mouth and see the future regret before the poison kills.

Written by Kristin Kondratowski

The Problem with “Send it back to me” Chain Messages

We’ve all seen them. The posts and messages asking for your reply “If you really love me” or “If we’re really friends”. Then there are the passive-aggressive posts that don’t really say anything but beg for a response. 

While some of these posts have partially good intentions like supporting a good cause, sharing compliments, or sharing with friends, here’s a good rule of thumb: 

Asking someone else to affirm who you are sets them up for failure and sets you up for disappointment. 

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The truth is, it’s a desire for attention and false sense of identity. The root of why we crave attention from people has to do with what we believe about ourselves. 

A friend texted me the other day and said “I wonder what would happen if we directed all of our cries for attention to God instead of our friends on social media.” 

Unlike everyone else, God can handle – and actually wants – your cries for attention. 

He wants you to know exactly how He made you… 

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to be confident in your identity… 

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…so you can see the beauty of everything and everyone else around you! 

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When you’re tempted to share a post like the ones mentioned here, take a minute and ask yourself “What am I really looking for?”.

Stop smearing the mess letting other broken people define you. Come discover the amazing identity God has for you when you chase after His attention! 

 

 

written by Jessica Sheridan, co-founder of Winning Wife.

My Story of Grief, Mental Illness, and the Capacity to See God through the pain.

The woman on the left, Kim, is a dear friend of mine, and fellow writer for Winning Wife. When we met a few years ago, I adored her spunk, off beat dance moves, and undeniable love for anyone, young and old, affected by disability.

Less than a year ago, Kim travelled down to sunny Florida to live with her father. The first two nights she slept in her own bed, but on night three, things shifted. Kim has fibromyalgia, which makes life physically painful, so sleepless nights are common.

 “I went out to sleep on the couch near Dad in his chair. He had slept in that chair for a year. That night, every time I woke up from restlessness, he was smiling at me. He would say ‘I love you’, hold my hand, and was just happy to not be alone. He wanted me to sleep near him. As the days went on, I saw a lot happen in that chair. Dad would reach out to hold my husband’s hand, a son to talk with, laugh with, take care of him in his most vulnerable state. He needed help to shower, cook, clean, and there we were. Dad wasn’t afraid to be alone when he died. He didn’t want his wife to find him dead, leaving her alone in their house, living with Alzheimer’s.”


Dad’s earthly body let go, and Kim stayed to be a caregiver for his wife, Giggles, pictured above on the right. They had been married 37 years, and Kim always knew they would do whatever it took to be there when Dad moved on.

Eight long years ago, Dad and Giggles broke ground on their dream home. As illness settled in for both of them, there were many jobs to complete before moving into the house. Family and friends put in the time and muscle to make it happen as soon as Kim arrived. It was almost time for hospice.

Cleaning crews were exiting out the front doors, when Dad returned from the hospice through the back door. He spent his last night on earth in his dream home. One last night to share with his wife.
After that, it was time to grieve for both Giggles and Kim.


“She cannot do puzzles anymore, we have 1,000 piece puzzles, she finds the pieces she can’t do and makes piles for me. She shmooshes them all together and tells me to fix it. I pull them apart and she does it again the next day. It keeps her busy. Alzheimer’s keeps her busy.”

The marriage built between Dad and Giggles can be summed up in two words: complete surrender. They relied fully on each other for tasks we all take for granted.

 “For years, Dad helped her shower. I know this because Giggles asked me one day, ‘I’d like to do a shower, like you do every day’. I realized she didn’t know the steps anymore. Before he died, Dad also asked me to help him shower. I can’t imagine asking my sons to help me shower. What a vulnerable place to be in!”

“In this experience, I enjoy us, and what this disease brings into our lives. It changes minute by minute. She is a happy person, full of giggles and fun. Old things become brand new, but the memories of those she loves are still in tact. Can she tell time? Nope. Cook and bake? Nope. Follow directions? Nope. But she has a heart full of gratitude, love, zest for life, and most importantly, she still believes in God.”

This morning, as I sat down to finish this story, I was reminded of the meaning of rest in the book of Hebrews. Kim and Dad needed rest, which brought them together in his last days. We will all receive rest, because of God’s goodness. There will be no grief, no pain, and lots of rest.

The one who entered God’s rest also rested from his works, just as God rested from his own. Therefore, let’s make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience, because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions. No creature is hidden from it, but rather everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the one to whom we have to give an answer. Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son; because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help. ‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭4:10-16‬)

God, may we be women who draw near to you in confidence, to receive mercy and grace, when we need it most.

#winningwife