Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All around great day

Today was one of those days, a mile-marker day! First of all, it is dd#4's birthday (dear daughter #4 turns two years old today). Our baby 'dear' isn't so baby anymore. She's getting more and more independent as the days go on~where has my cuddle bug gone? She still has her moments when she puts her little arms around my neck and gives me nose-rubs, gives me kisses & flashes that big grin. We had dinner at church tonight and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her as she ate her strawberry cupcake with pink frosting! She's a ham and loved every minute of it.

What topped off the night is when we arrived home and saw the light on the answering machine blinking. I have been trying to call Liberia all day with no luck- the calls won't even go through. I've been thinking about ds#2 and what is happening- has he been 'reunited' with the other 3 children- has everything gone smoothly? 'Mother Africa' left us the message and it said this: "God bless you, this is *** calling. I want to tell you that *** (ds#2) is here with us. I will talk with you tomorrow, have a blessed evening."

THANK YOU, JESUS! After all that worrying, praying on my knees, crying on my face at the sheer exhaustion of this journey- all 4 children are together in a safe environment and the paperwork is almost done. Today 'Mother Africa' should have picked up the adoption decrees on the 3 oldest children, as well as their birth certificates- now she can apply for their passports. Because ds#2 was brought in last, she will now begin the process on him. If I guess, in 2 weeks we may be able to purchase hubby's plane ticket. This is about the ONLY time during this process that I don't mind waiting. I know that 'grandma' is there now & all 4 children are together under one roof. I feel almost as good as if I or my hubby were there in person. This day has been long awaited. It's such a great (but surreal) feeling when it's finally our turn- seems like this day would have never come.

We give God all the praise for ALL of our blessings today and every day.

Happy Birthday, baby!
Welcome, ds#2- we've been waiting a long time for you to join the crowd!

A mother's love- based on 1 Corinthians 13

If I speak truths from God's Word and train my children in the Lord, but have not God's love flowing from me to them, the words I teach are as noisy as a barking dog, a broken muffler, or a colicky baby at 2 am.

And if I have all manner of wisdom and knowledge in the latest child-rearing techniques, if I have an understanding of child psychology, and if I have subscriptions to every parenting magazine on the market but don't have God's love flowing from me, I am nothing. If I have all the faith I could ever need, so that I could move mountains, keep the house clean, or potty-train a two year old, but do not do it in love, I am nothing.

Even if I leave behind my own dreams and ambitions to raise my children, and even if I stay up for nights on end with sick children, sleepless babies, and mountains of laundry, but complain and murmur about lack of sleep, God's love is not in me, and I am accomplishing nothing.

A loving mother is patient enough to wait for a child who insists on tying her own shoes and buttoning her own coat.

A loving mother is kind to her children even on 3 hours of sleep and is never rude to them.

A loving mother is not jealous or envious of everyone else's children nor will she boastfully exalt her own children above others.

A loving mother models true Christian behavior even when no other adults are watching.

A mother full of God's love doesn't seek her own rights, but demonstrates the servant hood of Christ as she serves her family. Such a mother doesn't resent cutting corners to live on one income, but is grateful to raise her own children.

A loving mother forgets her children's sins as soon as the discipline is over, and never reminds them of their imperfections but encourages her children in good works.

A loving mother doesn't look at her children's rebelliousness as a cute phase but rejoices in seeing her offspring grow in godliness. Only a mother with God's love can bear the day to day tasks of managing a family with zest and joy. She is able to see the potential hidden deep within each of her children and prays that God will shine through them into a dark world. With such a vision clear in her mind, a mother can endure anything.

A loving mother's influence will never fade away. Oh, the children may forget a spotlessly clean house, or perfectly pressed clothes, or even freshly baked cookies, but her children will always carry with them the legacy of God's perfect love. Though all you may see now are stacks of dirty dishes, diapers to change, noses to wipe, and wild toddlers to tame, the spirit in which you tackle these tasks is laying the foundation for your children that has eternal consequences.

There are three things your children will always remember about you:
~Your faith and zeal in how you serve the Lord.
~Your hope in the promises of God's word and how you waited and watched for His return.
~And the Love of God that flowed through you to others.

It is these three that will remain in their minds forever, and the greatest of these is their mother's love.

*written by "Joyful Momma"

Monday, September 24, 2007

3 busy days

To catch everyone up:
September 22nd (Saturday), I drove 'grandma' to the airport- she was on her way to Liberia. After leaving the airport, I made a mad dash to NW Tennessee to visit a friend over night (the kids were home with my hubby).

September 23rd (Sunday)- on the way home from Tennessee I got a phone call from hubby informing me that 'grandma' just arrived in Liberia and everyone was together at the Liberian airport. 'Grandma' was in the airport praying & giving her testimony- ds#1 couldn't talk with my hubby long as he wanted to be part of the fun! I was also informed that ds#1 had located a family member for ds#2. GREAT NEWS!

September 24th (Monday), 4am! The phone's ds#1 telling me that 'grandma' wants to talk with me. All is well (oops- she forgot the time difference...), she's met and loved on 3 of our children. Ds#2 will be 'evacuated' today- as I write this post, he's probably with 'Mother Africa' & 'Grandma' already. PRAISE GOD! Things are moving now... hopefully hubby can leave for Liberia in about 2 weeks- whenever the paperwork is ready and done for ds#2.

p.s. 'Grandma' informed me that dd#1 (dear daughter #1) doesn't like ham- it's a new taste for her ('grandma' brought some along). Ds#1 likes it though!

Friday, September 21, 2007


Today is September 21st- 1 day to travel. There have been new developments in the case of ds#2 - very GOOD developments. This is really an answer to prayer! Because of the information we received just a few days ago, we've decided to postpone my hubby's trip to Liberia. The friend ('grandma') who was to travel with him is still leaving tomorrow, I will be bringing her to the airport in the morning. In her extra suitcase, I've enclosed our children's bags of clothes, shoes & extra toiletries. Even if they have to wait 2-3 weeks for dad to arrive, they can still enjoy some things from us while they visit with 'grandma.'

My worry is about 85% gone & I have a renewed peace. This has been a 'trend' with me during this journey. I go through a tough time & then I find peace again- and so on and so on. So, I am happy that today- and for this week- I have absolute peace. I am praying to keep that peace for the rest of this journey!

It's great to hear my children's voices when I call Liberia. The girls especially make me laugh- because they are always laughing. It sounds to me like they are having a giggle-fest (as teenage girls do) & that alone makes me happy. I find an certain innocence in that. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have your best friend 'suddenly' become your forever sister. These girls have been together for 10 years, I'm sure they had become sisters long ago- but now, it is official by name and by family.

Yesterday was court day- the adoptions were complete. Next week Tuesday or Wednesday, 'Mother Africa' will hold our adoption decrees in her hand. There is a sentence in those decrees that read something like this:
"This child is now your own, as to be of your flesh, as if you had given birth to him/her."

I love that line- I can't wait to hold those documents in my hand & see that sentence with my own eyes. What a privilege we've been given by our most gracious and Heavenly Father!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Worry no more

Today is September 19th- 3 days until hubby's flight to Liberia. not only is God good, but he is very sympathetic! I had myself all worked up yesterday & just when I didn't think I would make it any longer- I received a phone call from Liberia. That phone call put me right in my place! It was our ds#1 (dear son #1). He was calling to tell me some news about ds#2- good news! News I had been praying about and waiting to hear...and he said it in just a way that caught my attention. He said it like, "Why were you even worried mom? Why is this SUCH good news? Yea, it's good~ buy why are you crying? Of course God was going to come through- why are you surprised?"

God just showed me that I need to forfeit all of this turmoil I'm putting MYSELF through! After the phone call ended, I thanked God as I felt about 1,000 pounds lifted from my shoulders. I then asked for forgiveness and have vowed to try and not worry anymore. It is needless and a waste of time. God also showed me Psalm 94: 18-19. "When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."

Last night I was tempted to fret about the passports not arriving yet with the Liberian visas. I caught myself, prayed and handed it over to God. In today's mail, the passports arrived with the Liberian visas. The final puzzle pieces are moving into place by the mighty hand of our Father. This puzzle is moving towards completion. Thank you, Father!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Working against my wiring

Today is September 18th, Tuesday- 4 days away from my hubby's departure to Liberia. I'm working against my wiring today- working against my type A personality. It seems to me, because of the way I'm wired, I'm spinning myself in circles. I'm over-thinking things that haven't even happened yet, I've torn just about every room apart in my frantic attempt to clean, every bedroom closet has been re-organized (except my own), all 7 sets of embroidered towels have been rewashed and hung to dry, floors have been scrubbed, garages cleaned & re-organized, etc. I'm running on vapors but my mind is still going strong. I'm wondering if staying busy will help me or just make me more tired. I'm excited, anxious, scared and just plain-old worried.

I know that I'm not helping myself, I know I need to calm down and rest- but how does one 'work against their wiring?' It's like going against the grain- twice as hard as going with the grain. Am I shooting myself in the foot? Burning the candle at both ends? Probably. Can I change my behavior? Probably. Am I struggling? YES!!

But, this journey wouldn't be a journey without struggling. This has been a long road and it seems we're in the last few miles of the marathon. Here's an excerpt of an email I sent to a friend this morning:
"I'm trying so hard to be strong but my energy is very low to continue to fight all of this pressure. I will hang on though, it's really a mother's promise to her be united with my husband to do what needs to be done to get them all home & safe. I will take all the 'abuse' if it means their suffering is lessened."

God tells us not to worry. He says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." *Read Matthew 6: 25-34

I will be trying my best to apply that during the next few days & weeks! I'm going to try and 'marry' type A personality to type B personality. I'm going to give it my best shot- to compromise with myself!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Filling the gap

So what has happened from the time of 'going invisible' until now? Around the time of the August 18th post, I was in the middle of a 40 day no-meat fast. Things with the adoptions seemed to just be going nowhere so I made a sacrifice- a BIG sacrifice. I just prayed to God that He would acknowledge my commitment and have mercy on our Liberian children. I prayed like I have never prayed before in my life- I handed everything over to God, everything I could think of. If I gave it once, I gave it 10 times. I know, once would have been sufficient- did I mention I'm a bit compulsive? I wonder if God laughs at me...He made me this way! He made me with this personality and with this gift mix...did He know I'd be so quirky?

Anyway, the woman I refer to as 'Mother Africa' agreed to take care of our oldest son. In the process of doing so, we set it up for him to attend school & for him to attend church with her. Through our conversations, she offered to go the 'leg work' concerning the adoptions and we discussed the 'avenue' best suited in which to proceed. I prayed, "God, is this it? Is this the way you want us to go? We'll go, God- just lead the way." And away He led. He is still leading, even today. I wonder and sometimes agonize at the final details. My mind knows everything will come out in the end & all the details will fall into place. My heart struggles every day, sometimes by the hour or minute. I'm constantly handing over my worries and my anxiety to God. This is WAY to big for me to handle on my own! I think God may have planned it this way- my walk and my faith has grown leaps and bounds in this last year and a half!

I'm remembering and reminding myself that this is only the beginning. I've been comparing this journey to the planning of a wedding. A lot of our time and effort has been in this planning/waiting stage. Unfortunately, sometimes after the wedding the bride and groom are left standing and looking at each other- asking, "Now what?"

This part of the journey is almost over, then we begin with the 'good stuff.' The important stuff God is calling us to do, parent these children. Teach them, guide them, and LOVE them. The moment after we are introduced, hug & love on each other- real life begins. As we walk out of the airport, hand in hand, we will be The Gustafson family- all 9 of us! A new journey begins.

Sunshine & Rain

Today is September 14, 2007- my hubby leaves in 8 short days for Liberia. Today, I washed sheets & comforters and then made the 4 'big kid' beds, vacuumed corners in the upstairs bedrooms, cleaned & organized the attic & packed the children's suitcase. The children's suitcase holds a backpack for each child w/activities for the plane ride home (as well as a sweatshirt w/an American flag), and 3 sets of clothes for each child. Our friend who is taking care of the children (I'll refer to her as 'Mother Africa') tells me that our oldest son only has a few articles of clothing and the girls just have the clothes they're wearing. So, I've lovingly folded and packed 3 outfits per child, pj's, socks & shoes, under-clothes and toiletries.

I've smelled each article of clothing as I've folded it, labeled each tag with their initials and have handwritten a note to my children to read as they open the suitcase. I've prayed over each child's clothing as well as the suitcase. This is one of the moments I've been waiting for as a mother- for the last year and a half! God is moving... the time is near.

Also included in the children's suitcase is a gift for 'Mother Africa' - a new bible in a leather carrying case. This woman has gone above and beyond a favor. She has become ruthless in this quest- this journey ordained by God. I find myself thanking her during every phone call- she corrects me every time and says, "We thank God." She's right. We thank God- we praise God! God is truly making a way where there was no way... He is arriving right on time... just where He intends to be. What glory He deserves!

Two days ago, ds #1 (dear son #1) called. I called him back so he wouldn't use his minutes...but, I couldn't hear his voice. Instead, I heard rain. I heard the sound of the rain hitting the ground and the drops falling from the roof of the house. After I realized my 'ds' couldn't hear me, I sat for a moment before I hung up the phone to redial. I sat and listened to the African rain. That sound alone was a precious gift to me. Half way around the world, sits 4 children waiting on God to bring them new parents. The prayer they've agonized over for 10 years- the promise they've held on to & have trusted God to follow through with- is just around the corner. The fulfillment is near...

I redialed the phone and spoke with my 'ds #1'. He didn't have any idea that I could hear the rain in the previous phone call & not his voice- he just thought the call didn't go through. I finished my conversation with him & spoke with the other children. Told them I loved them & that daddy would be there very soon. After I hung up the phone, I thanked God for these precious children- these precious gifts- and I thanked Him for the rain.

Today as I drove through town, I glanced up at the sky and as the sun set- I noticed it was behind a cloud with its rays shining through the cloud. Truly a Godly moment for me. What a beautiful sight- I love seeing that. We go through the majority of our days not thinking about the sun, or even seeing its rays for that matter. What beauty we find in a rainbow- the combination of water & sun. As I saw the long, beautiful rays I thought about the pictures I used to draw as a child- pictures of the sun and big, long beautiful rays. Tonight, I thanked God for the beauty all around us and I thanked him for the sun. The sun that gives us light & warmth. The sun that comes up every morning without fail, the sun that peeks in my curtains to welcome me to another day & the sun that helps to grow the food we eat every day.

Thank you, God, for the rain and for the sun.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Psalm 37 & 'friend'

If you know me, you know that I tend to worry. I think about things that are so minimal to the 'average Joe.' I'm very precise and think a lot about details.

This journey has about made smoke come out of my ears- the wheels are always turning... I've prayed and prayed, especially about 'ds #2' as his paperwork isn't complete yet. The things I think about are crazy, what if...what if...what if... We've purchased everyone's plane tickets in complete blind faith- we're moving ahead without complete 'earthly' confirmation. A move that even I think is crazy! But, we're holding tight onto the promise God made and we're 'preparing the field' for God to bring forth the harvest. We trust God and we're stepping WAY out- now if I could keep my mind from wandering.

God brought me these two things during the week of September 2-8, 2007. Maybe I should take the hint and chill out! :)

Psalm 37:3-7
"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him"

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

I hear you, God- thanks for the reminder!