Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Race, Relationships & Redemption

Yesterday, I took part in a fundraising 5k/2k for Beautiful Gate Lesotho. You would think that it would just be a race and in some ways it was. There was Rocky music playing (and a bit of AC/DC), cups of cold water, homemade signs, and medals for the winners.

But it was unlike any race that I have ever participated in.

Because this happened:
Maletsatsi with Aussi Christina

And looking back 20 years, as a girl just entering her senior year of high school, I could have never imagined this kind of day. I was a girl whose life was in turmoil. A few precious relationships were ending and I wasn't sure about anything anymore. What I did know was that there was a guy who lived in Michigan and a God who had big plans.

I'm pretty sure I lived off of Jeremiah 29:11 that year. It sustained me. But the plans that God had, or so I thought, included a highly successful writing career. 

And as I travel the twisty road that has been my life, I see how God has twined amazing and unexpected things together to create, namely, a picture of his plan of redemption for me, for our family, for Mali...and prayerfully, for many others. 

And in a beautiful twist of fate it all came together in the most remarkable morning yesterday. 

It started my freshman year of college. I was far from home, felt really alone and hadn't made many friends yet. I wasn't from the area around my school so I didn't have established relationships like so many other people I met. I took Biology 101 that first semester and then joined a classmate, Lauren, for lunch. I tagged along as she met up with a group of friends from her floor. Sitting at our table was another girl who was equally an outsider. And I threw food at her. 

Yep, the beginnings of a life-long, life changing relationship was cucumber and green pepper slices. 

A year later that same girl, Anita,  gave me a bunch of tulips for my 20th birthday and asked if I would be her roommate the next year. 

We weren't the closest friends. There was a third girl, Meika, who would join us after she returned from her semester in Egypt. I was intimidated by both these women. the one who was coming back from Egypt, well, would I have anything in common with her? She was so exotic and cool.  

My level of nervousness still amazes me. God was knitting together something amazing. Yet none of us had seen it yet. 

The next year we added two more roommates, Julie & Cindy. One whom I liked, the other I didn't. (In fairness, Julie didn't really like me either. But we've worked through that.) But I got married that year and went off to start this new life that I thought wasn't supposed to include these four women. Everyone else got married too--and we all started our lives.

Meredith--from that first amazing small group
Photo credit: A Beautiful Race
We bought our first house and within a year, Anita and Bryan bought the house across the street. We still maintained separate lives, I worked at our church and they had a phenomenal small group. We met and knew and shared life with both Bryan and Anita's family--spending time in Ludington, game nights.

Katie, Hannah, Erynn, and Aaron
All grown up & Racing
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Race
And the five roommates somehow managed to remain connected: weekends in Ludington, in depth Bible studies, our kids knowing each other. (Out Bible study was a crowded place. There were a lot of kids between us: Josh, Katie, Olivia, Aaron, Hannah, Erynn, Megan, Eli, Faith, Mercy, Chloe, & Maryam).

Josh & Mali
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Race

And during this time, the summer of 2009, I felt an incredible burden to pray for a woman I didn't know and a child I didn't know would be mine. 

Terp & the girls cheering racers!
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Race
But again, our ways parted when they moved out to Zeeland and started to attend a new church, Haven. Through that church, Anita fulfilled a life-long promise to herself to go on a mission trip. So in October 2009, she flew away to spend time serving at Beautiful Gate Lesotho. On that trip, she developed new life-changing friendships, particularly with Terp (Christina Terpstra). 

Within months, Bryan and Anita received and accepted the call to direct operations at Beautiful Gate Orphanage. It was just a few months later that I met the phenomenal Terp. And after a blink of an eye, the Geurinks moved their family halfway around the world. 

God continued to knit and weave and twist the relationships around me. I met and got to know a member of the Geurink's first, excellent small group. I reconnected with the one roommate whom I didn't like so much back then, but now, is one of the first people I would call in a crisis. The second is that exotic roommate from Egypt. 
Mali & Terp
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Race
And somehow it all culminated yesterday in a race supporting Beautiful Gate Lesotho, the orphanage where Mali lived and where the Geurinks direct operations and Terp is the North American Ambassador. Because Terp was one of the people who gave love to my daughter while she waited for us. Because no one knew this girl would be our daughter. Yet they loved her anyway--so much, that Mali trusts Terp, totally and completely. 

Because at that race were life-long friends and family of the Geurinks, new BG supporters in Holland/Zeeland area, parents who were waiting to adopt, Terp and people who love and support her, other adoptive parents. I met a woman waiting to meet the children God has for her in Lesotho. 

Photo Credit: A Beautiful Race

And the quilt God has made of my life continues to be woven. He's adding depth and layers and relationships and friendship and love. 

I'm not for one instant proposing that the race yesterday had anything to do with me, it was a fundraiser for a great organization and 63 beautiful kids. 

But, for me, it was my life, full circle. It was redemption. It was what God had done in my life in the past 20 years--which I never could have expected. It was the way he brings people together. It was healing from my brokenness and the journey of healing for my daughter. It was people who loved me and people who loved her, before I ever knew she was mine. It's about strangers who care for the needs of other strangers. It's about the hands and feet of Jesus, about caring for the lost sheep, about calling the children to Him. 

It was God's crazy plan in action and view for the whole world to see. He's taken each of us, individuals He created, and made something beautiful. 

And I'm humbled to be a part of it. 
Michael & Yang Feng
Olivia at the finish line
Cindy & Daryl

Julie & Hannah
Josh--looks impressive, doesn't he? 

Katie & Eric 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some contemplatings

Lately, I've had time to think and when I do, I always think in the form of what I would post on this blog. Silly, I know, but in my head, I've had about 10 really great ideas for fun/quirky/heartfelt/reminiscent/reasonable blog posts.

So instead of busting my butt right this moment to get every single great thought down on paper, I thought I would list out the titles of said posts along with a blurb and you can tell me which ones you want to read.

They are listed in order of nothing. Just random thoughts.

Strength and Dignity--the aging process is real, but trading in the grasping for beauty for strength, wisdom and dignity. And chopping wood gives you a strong back and great arms!

Freeze Frame--for the first time ever, I looked at all four of my kids and wanted to freeze them right now, in their stages of childhood before I loose them to growing up (which is happening faster than I would like).

This is how much I love her-- As a homeschool mom, there is a certain amount of can-do-it-yourselfness that I have. But I love my RADish daughter so much that I am sending her to school. Here's why.

What I learned about parenting on a cross-country vacation--Truly, it was ugly. Full of moments I'm not proud of.

End of school 2014/Beginning 2014

The Elusive shiftiness of "Calling"--I've often struggled with what a call looks like in my life: to do something big and different and change the world. To seek justice. To walk with mercy. To serve those with great needs.

A New Kind of Mommy Guilt--I'm not one to struggle with such things, until it comes to adoption and attachment and all the things that we didn't know.

Meeting Baby June--yep, we went to Utah to meet our new cousin. It was fun--and there are lots of gratuitous baby pictures. But also prompted a lot of thought about babies and parenting and attachment and beyond.

A Novel Update--Things have happened and haven't. Betcha you're curious as to what. And maybe you know someone who could help me.

So, I guess if you're being technical, that's only 9. Oh well. Someday I'll get to writing them. A bit sooner, if you'd like. Or anything else. Sometimes what's hard on a blog is that I don't know that the mundane parts of my life are interesting to others. Can I share something that would be an encouragement to you? Let me know, I'd love to try.