Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2 weeks left

I am just starting my last 2 weeks as a full time employee of Beautiful Gate. I am training my replacement, Michele, and God has spoken in my heart that it is time for me to go. Last week while I was eating lunch under the gazebo, I felt a very strong sense that I needed to be finished at the end of the month. It came over me so suddenly that it just made me cry, but I knew that God was whispering to me. I am going to continue sharing my knowledge with Michele because she is living with us so she can ask questions anytime. I had been planning to work till November or December, but when God speaks, all I can do is listen.
I announced my plans to the staff at Time with God, last Wednesday. It was not a very good announcement because I almost started crying as I shared. I got the saddest message from a very wonderful staff member who shared her thoughts of us leaving, and it broke my heart. I hate disappointing people, and I know that we have become like family to everyone at BG, so this is painful. I am putting my trust in God's timing, but wow, saying goodbye to Beautiful Gate is not going to be easy. Our family will continue to go in on Fridays until our official farewell which looks like it will be in early January. Then at the end of January, we will apply for our visas and see what happens.
I am pretty sure that many of you are about done with reading my blog. I kinda wish I had new and exciting and fun things to share, but I feel like everything is about death, struggles, and pain this year. We are still just trying to put one foot in front of the other each day as we get through things, and maybe God just wants us to have more family time before the huge transition home. If that is His plan, then I will trust that it is needed. We have seen and experienced so much in these past (almost) 7 years, and maybe it is time to start working through it as we begin the process of letting go of the plan and purpose God had in our lives. I know He will have new plans and new purpose, but maybe we just need to grieve all the losses that these years have brought (mostly this current year).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Hatred Required to be a Disciple

I remember struggling a lot with the verses about hating your mother and father and son and daughter. ("If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26)
It just seemed like such a crazy thing for Jesus to say especially when He told us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourself. How could He be telling us to love our neighbor right after our love for God, and then turn around and tell us to hate our family? I sought the advice of a few friends and they explained it more as loving God so much that anything left for your family looks like hatred compared to your love of God. I decided that was a good way to describe it.

However, I now actually know what it means in my life. To love God with all my heart, it means I have to leave many that I love. Knowing that the separation will be so hard and we don’t want to be separated, that feels like hatred. To hate my mother and father was to take my children and leave America in order to love God by obeying His call on my life. It meant breaking the hearts of both sets of parents, that is hating my parents in comparison to loving God. That is what it means to pick up my cross and follow. Counting the costs was that there was no promise that either set of parents would be there when we came back. We hoped for and longed for the chance to make up for lost time, but that is just it, we have lost that with one set.

Hate your children… really? How could I ever hate my child in comparison to my love of God? I thought I would never be able to understand such a thing. I could never hate a child whom I was blessed enough to receive. A gift from God, how could I ever hate that? The answer for me is leaving my child and returning to Lesotho. It feels like hatred as I walk this journey of obedience.

Hating my family means leaving and letting go. Counting all costs and picking up my cross to be the disciple of Jesus means turning away from the relationships I never wanted to leave. Some are lost temporarily on the earth, others I have lost until eternity.

When any Christian starts telling you that following Jesus is always easy and you won’t have any trouble, just walk away, that isn’t true. Just ask Job. It can cost you everything you hold dear like it did Job. It can mean that your life will be FULL of trials and tribulations. The ONLY thing that is promised when you chose to pick up your cross and follow Him is that you will NEVER be alone.

And while that is normally a very comforting thought for me, it doesn’t seem to be cutting through the grief right now. The cost feels too high. I never wanted to hate my family. I never wanted to lose my friend. I never wanted to fall in love with Beautiful Gate and know that I can’t have my son and Beautiful Gate at the same time because God has made it clear that He needed Elijah to be in America. In the grand scheme of those suffering in the world, I am sure that these things are minimal. They just feel huge when they start to get piled on each other.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sometimes Life Just Hurts

Today, my "son" (he is definitely an honorary Geurink) Tyler is getting married to his best friend, Emily. Bryan and Elijah are in Idaho and will be standing up in their wedding, and the girls and I are in Lesotho. Today was supposed to be a super fun day of distraction as my friend Kim and I made plans last December for a girl's day in Clarens, SA since we couldn't go to the wedding. Instead, she is sitting in heaven, her daughter is with her lovely new family in CA, and I am here with 4 girls and all of us with broken hearts.

The best thing about the last 3 weeks is that we were distracted by family. We spent most of our time with Bryan's sisters while we were in America and it was a good way to keep our minds and hearts distracted. Now we are back here, with no Kim, no Oma, no Papa and (while not lost through death, but still a major loss to us) no Elijah. Faith just walked by his empty room and then came running into my arms sobbing because he is her best friend and has been her whole life. While we were in America, her best friend (that is not related to her) moved back to America after being here almost 7 years. There are very few friends left, no one her or Mercy's age, and now they are really feeling all of our losses.

It sucks. There is no way around the truth, but right now everything just hurts. I was up late into the night and it felt like I had heart burn, but it wasn't. It is just a real physical response to the amount of pain I am holding in my heart. Sometimes I can barely breath.

My kids are still sleeping 2 hours after I have woken up and I spent time reading Ecclesiastes and Job. I realize that I don't blame God. I am not mad at God. I still trust that His plans are meant for good in my life, but that doesn't mean that he is a safe God. His plans can be terribly painful before they will be good. I learned that 17 years ago when my sister took her life, and left me in a depth of pain I did not know was possible. I still know that now as I reflect on the loss of a friend who was like a sister, my in-laws who loved me like a real daughter, and not being on the same continent as my son. Sometimes life just hurts. A hurt that cannot be explained. A hurt that feels physical and will keep you up at night, but I know that God will walk with me through this valley. I wish I could see Him. I wish I could better understand His timing and plans, but those things are beyond my understanding. So I will keep walking, one tiny step at a time and know that on days where I can't find the strength to even go an inch or two, He will be right with me, walking in my pain. Because I know that He loves me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Elijah's letter

Going up north last weekend was very hard, there were many tears especially as Mercy went to bed for the first time without them tucking her in. It felt empty and was missing the two people who always made it feel like home. We enjoyed time with Bryan's sisters, our nieces and my brother, but it was just not the same. We needed to go, and we are glad we did, but the reality is too much to absorb.

I did not find time or internet access this past weekend to finish our letters, but this is Elijah's letter. What a kid, and what great memories he has with his grandparents. He is trying to be tough and brave, but pray for his heart. I know that it is hurting.

As a boy, your father is your first hero, and your grandpa is your second. My Papa was a great man and his impact on my life will affect me until it is my turn to join him in heaven, and very likely after that. One of my favorite memories with him was making a special marble maze out of wood. Truly the only reason I did it at first was because I wasn’t sure how to spend time with him, however my mom suggested making the maze so we set to work. I’m now extremely thankful for the time we spent as he shared a lot about being a Christian and encouraged me to continue strong. 
                  As a boy, the first woman you learn to cherish is your mother, and after that your grandma is your second. One of my favorite memories to share is when God stopped the rain when I was four so I could have ice cream. However, what I’ve forgotten about that memory until recently, was that Oma was the one encouraging me to pray and ask God to stop the rain. People may not see Oma in as many things as they do Papa, however in most everything Papa did, Oma was always there in some small way, both supporting and giving him strength, or working in the shadows to make sure it all worked nicely.

                  Together Oma and Papa made the perfect team, and in the middle of that team there was hope and faith in Christ that was poured out onto every person they came into contact. My final and favorite memory of the two of them was the proud looks on their faces when I professed my faith in God. It showed me not only the great love they had for God, but it also affirmed my belief that I was going in the right direction. They died with that hope in their hearts, and as a sign they made it, God honored their wish to die together. To close, I want to ask this one question that you can each answer on your own. If you were to die unexpectedly like they did, would you die with the same hope in your hearts?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Faith's Poem

You all know that poems touch my heart, and it seems my little Faith likes poetry as much as me. Before Faith even knew that we were going to give them a chance to share something about Oma and Papa, she had already written this poem. Please pray for all of us as we are going to go to mom and dad's house tomorrow to spend 2 days so we can share memories together. I know it will be very hard, but we know that we need to do this before we go back to Africa.

Oma & Papa
Hearts of pure Gold
They loved all through rain, wind, warm or cold!
Pure perfection was what they were 
and Are.
Our hearts cannot fathom why
God took them away.
But they are rejoicing dad after day.
So there will never be a day
When I don't thank God for my grandparents
that have passed away!
Thank you God for my Oma & Papa!
by: Faith Geurink

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Polita and Nthabeleng's letters

One of the greatest gifts is that we had a wonderful visit with Bryan's parents in December/January. Polita and Nthabeleng were thrilled to meet Oma and Papa and to get to know them. They will treasure their memories, but they also now know the big loss of saying goodbye way to early. Here are the letters that they wrote to Oma and Papa.

Dear Oma and Papa,
I love the stuff that you did with me, and I wish you couldn't pass away. Thank you for tucking me in at night and for reading me stories. I will see you in heaven.
Polita (8)

Dear Oma and Papa,
We love you and I wish that you could not die. It is sad. I liked playing with you and getting to go in your room at 8:00am (to wake them up). Oma, I liked it when you came to school and taught me and Polita. I miss you.
Nthabe (6)

They have faced a lot of loss already in their young lives and it is sad that we could not protect them from more, but at least they are here with us and walking this road with their family by their side.

Mercy's letter

I am assuming that all of you have heard by now that both of Bryan's parents were killed in an accident that happened on July 14. We are now in America to be with family for a few weeks and last Saturday was the celebration of life for my amazing in laws. This is a very hard loss for our family and I cannot even begin to express in words the journey we are walking through right now.
For those of you who couldn't be there to hear the words we shared about Oma and Papa/ Mom and Dad, I am going to put them here on my blog. Mercy wanted to read this for them, but she was afraid to cry so mom and dad's pastor read these words for her last Saturday.

"If I told you all the memories I had with Oma and Papa, we would be here all day. But when I saw them, I had peace in my heart. I don't know why there was peace, there just was.

Joshua 1 verse nine is a very encouraging passage. In case you are wondering what it is, it is 'Have I not commanded you be strong and have good courage do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.'

Another encouraging passage is Jeremiah 29 verse 11which is, 'For I know the thoughts that I have for you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope.'

I wish I could talk more but I am done."
Mercy and Oma went zip lining in South Africa in January. A very special memory.

What an amazing little girl that in a time of deep pain and sorrow and very real struggle, she is trying to encourage others. Oma and Papa would be so proud.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Time for Everything

I feel such sadness right now. I am really trying to process that my dear friend is really gone, and it is just sad. I have lectured myself a hundred times that she is in a better place so I should feel happy for her, but whenever I see a picture of her, I just cry. I know that this is just how I process things and everything will be fine.

It was her time to die, and it is my time to mourn.

I have a month with Elijah before he will be moving to MI and it is getting more and more real everyday. He poured his heart out to me the other day and it was just so heartbreaking. He is struggling with some very hard, but very real things. I can't imagine having this kind of conversation over Skype and it is just hard to let go of that closeness. I know that I can't hold on to him or any of his sisters forever, but it is just hard.

It is his time to uproot from Africa and start a new chapter in America and it is my time to weep.

I have begun to talk with Bryan and with others about moving away from Lesotho in less than a year, and I cannot even begin to imagine what that is going to be like. I can't even let my mind go there or my eyes flood with tears. To be torn between being back with those I love in the states, yet leaving those I love here. It is too much to process, so I will chose not to process this one yet...

I do not question or doubt God's plan because He is my Father and He loves me so much. He has seen how everything will play out and I trust Him. I just feel a very deep sense of sadness, but I know that in time, this will be healed.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Happy Birthday BG

12 of our children have gone into foster care. It is not a very developed program and is not used very much in Lesotho, but it has worked in a few cases. 19 of our children have been transferred to other care facility either because of their age or because they had siblings or family living at or near other centers. We always do everything we can to help children to return to their family if there is someone within their family who can provide them with love and care. We have had 145 children who have returned to their families here in Lesotho.
When children are abandoned or do not have any family members who are able to care for them, we then look into placing them into adoptive families. It is so amazing to see the way God brings just the right family for each of our children. We have had 216 children who have been adopted both locally and internationally.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Being Loved

For those of you who make the choice to adopt older children, I would just like to say that you are amazing. It is not an easy journey to welcome a child who has already lived several years outside your home, and who may come with a lot of baggage and heartache. It can be totally heartbreaking on the days where they beg to leave and go back to their other home or orphanage. It can be heartbreaking when they sit crying and won't tell you why they cry, or worse, they hide those tears behind anger. They may not chose you or like you for a long time because of the way they have been hurt in the past. I have heard stories of terrible struggles and heartaches for some families, but I have experienced and seen the blessings of taking the risk with many other families.

I share this because my youngest daughter has decided that she wants to be a part of our family. She has been asking to go back to Beautiful Gate, or to go and live with friends of mine who are more fun than us (seriously who could be more fun that my crazy family, hahaha) or have better stuff than us. These comments were expected because I know it is common for a child to struggle to attach and to struggle with transition and change. I always listened to her and told her that I was sorry, but she was a part of our family and couldn't go back or go live with someone else. I never showed pain or disappointment, just listened and said I was sorry. It isn't her fault that her life before our family confused her as to what family can be like. I continue to show love and hope that she will feel safe no matter what her heart is feeling.

What wasn't expected was the Mother's Day card I received last month and the comments I have been hearing this month. After 16 months with me as her mommy, she has chosen to keep me. Wow, what a blessing. I chose to adopt her, but I cannot make her want to be my daughter. She has decided that she really wants to be a part of our family. There is no greater gift than to receive love that is voluntarily given. Not forced nor manipulated, but given from the heart. It makes me understand why God lets us chose to love Him, and why He does not force us to chose Him. I have hoped and prayed that I would be loved, and it is amazing that it is happening. Sunday as we were walking into church, it was so beautiful to see her run ahead and grab her daddy's hand. She has decided to keep him too and there could be no better gift the week before Father's day. I know that the journey will continue to have ups and downs, but the best part is that we are a family and we will support each other through the ups and downs of life. God is doing something incredible in our lives, and we thank Him that He is walking with us.
I did not write this to embarrass or share too much personal information about my beautiful daughter. I wrote this because I know that many people face different challenges when adopting older children. I want to encourage you all to keep your heart open and don't give up. It may take 16 years instead of 16 months, but it is worth it. If you feel like you have already hardened your heart, pray for God to soften it because a child can clearly see a heart that is safe and one that is guarded.