Wednesday, June 22, 2011

it's war

right now, a battle is being waged.

i can tell you this because i'm in the middle of it.

i've heard every statistic about the global orphan crisis. i've read books about how poverty, poor healthcare, and ethnic conflict are leaving millions of children without families. i've heard stories from friends who lived in africa and know what it's like to bury a child who didn't live long enough to make it out of an orphanage. i've prayed for God to change a judge's heart so that a child wouldn't be forced back into a home filled with abuse and neglect.

but the battle between God's kingdom and the empire of this world has never been so clear to me than it is right now in our little adoption journey. people say adoption is hard -- the waiting is too long, too many uncertainties, too much money, too many ways that things can go wrong. they're actually right about a lot of that stuff, and i can see why people don't want to adopt. but let me say: in the almost 2.5 years we've been in this process, i've never been more convinced about how much adoption matters and how badly it's needed.

because seriously, there's a war going on for the lives of all 150 million orphans in this world. and the side of evil would love to see those children go unadopted. evil would take pleasure in seeing brokenness, emptiness, injustice, and turmoil reign rather than restoration, healing, redemption, and peace.

literally everything has gone wrong with our adoption in the last 6 months. we have experienced extreme disappointment, frustration, and grief. we have been angry with our adoption agency, which has essentially abandoned us and, at times, seemed to be fighting for the other side (apologies to those who have had good experiences with our agency, but we have had a terrible experience). despite everything that has happened, i can only conclude that this is a battle worth fighting because the attacks have been so unrelentingly harsh.

i want to tell all the skeptics out there who have pushed off adoption at every turn for one reason or another that we're at the point where logic would say give up, throw in the towel, it's just too hard. but something inside says, "no, keep fighting." and i'm reminded of this verse:

the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -- exodus 14:14

and so, by God's grace and power, we will continue waging this very real war, hoping that others will join the fight with us.

Friday, June 3, 2011

vacation day 2

read day 1.

we started our morning very early in order to catch a bus out to stonehenge (it's about 1.5 hours from london, near the town of salisbury). we decided it was worth our money to book a special access tour where we could actually walk among the stones since regular admission only gets you a spot behind a rope several feet away from the stones (stonehenge was one of my top must-sees for our trip). the bus that picked us up had "london celebrity homes tour" written on the side, and we got looks all day from people who thought we were shallow enough to come to london to see celebrity homes.

my dad has this thing about not ever needing to travel overseas to see any sights because he can look at them in a book. i've tried to explain to him that there is nothing like standing in front of that sight, allowing the beauty and history of it all to hit you. my first glimpse of stonehenge was incredible. we came up over a hill and there it was in the distance. it's funny, i guess some people roll by stonehenge everyday on their way to work because there's a pretty major road nearby. but to me, it felt like i was surrounded by the lush, english countryside, completely alone with the stones.

i had to take a picture of this sign i noticed while we were waiting for our tour guide. yes, i know a 12-year-old boy would also have taken a picture of this, but we got a good chuckle out of it.

and there are the stones, up close and personal. they're a lot bigger and taller than i thought they'd be. i'm so amazed that God gave men 4500 years ago the artistic and intellectual ability to build something as beautiful and functional as stonehenge.

we had an excellent tour guide. he's participated in several of the digs at stonehenge and surrounding sites. though we had a good grasp of stonehenge's history from general knowledge and watching a national geographic special (twice), our guide had a lot to say that we didn't know. he was also extremely sensitive to jamie's blindness and took him around the whole site, letting him feel the stones (!) so he could get a sense of the layout.

see how little we are?

our special access tour also included free admission to the salisbury cathedral. i loved the town of salisbury and would honestly move there tomorrow. jamie had another full english breakfast at a local pub, and i continued to be amazed at all the brits drinking beer at 10 in the morning. the salisbury cathedral has the highest church spire in england and also one of the best preserved copies of the magna carta.

we got back to london mid-afternoon and continued our whirlwind of a day by visiting the tower of london. i'm so bummed i didn't get any better pictures of the tower, but we walked so much that day before even making it to the tower, i was too tired to walk back around to the front of the tower after our tour to get more pictures. so below is one of jamie inside. the crowd of people in the background are waiting to see the crown jewels, which are pretty impressive. we also saw lots of torture devices, carvings on the walls left by prisoners of the tower, and the lawn where anne boyelyn (second wife of henry viii) was beheaded. unfortunately, we somehow missed the room with all the armor.

after we left the tower, we took a river boat cruise up the thames. we saw tower bridge (below), london bridge, the replica of shakespeare's globe theater, st. paul's cathedral, plus skyscrapers and other less historic buildings.

we docked back at the big ben/parliament/westminster abbey area. i love the second picture below because you can see big ben and the abbey side by side. we went to another pub for dinner and had lasagna, which was simultaneously extremely rich and mediocre. i was very glad to have had low expectations for british food.

vacation day 1

a couple of months ago, jamie and i began throwing around the idea of going to europe. it seemed like the perfect time to go -- we had saved for our adoption only to see it stall much longer than expected, and quite honestly, we needed something to look forward to after months of uncertainty and unfulfilled anticipation.

we flew out of raleigh on may 4th. we got lucky and got bumped to a direct flight to london after our flight to newark got delayed. we both hate flying, so having to endure one less takeoff and landing (plus 2 hours in the air) was a good way to start our trip. the flight was uneventful -- food, movies, failed attempts to sleep, etc. after we landed at heathrow, we went directly through customs (we packed lightly and didn't check any bags. yes, we are awesome), and then found the tube. i, being extremely map illiterate, had no clue which direction to take us when we got off the tube at victoria station. so we just started walking. and thankfully, this kind british gentleman on a bicycle noticed we seemed out of place and asked, "lost, are we?" he pointed us in the right direction, and off we went. then it started to rain. then i got us lost again. at that point, i was ready to go home. then a nice british lady pushing a baby stroller got us back on course. we found our hotel, put our bags down, and went off in search of breakfast and wifi.

we found a restaurant called the shakespeare. jamie had his first full english breakfast (fried egg, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, and mushroom). we planned out our tube routes for the day and studied maps to avoid getting lost again. the jet lag caught up with me during breakfast, and i had a brief period of craziness before recovering with a cappuccino.

first, we went to the british museum (check out jamie below). we saw the rosetta stone, some mummies, some ethiopian art, and a bunch of other stuff that i honestly can't remember. we really only went for the rosetta stone and the mummies.

next, we went to the british library. seriously, we're a little dorky. i wanted to see all the old biblical manuscripts and bibles. we also saw several famous literary manuscripts and an original copy of handel's messiah.

at that point, we had walked a whole lot. but because it was such a beautiful day, i convinced jamie that we should go over to big ben/parliament/westminster abbey so i could take pictures just in case it was raining the day we'd planned to visit and tour the abbey. so far, i hadn't actually felt like i was in london because we hadn't seen any of the major sights. i should probably say that i had been dreaming about going to london since i was in 6th grade, so i really couldn't wait to be face to face with big ben.

and when we stepped off the tube, there he was.

let me explain the picture below because it makes me laugh. we were super-paranoid about asking anyone to take a picture of us together because we had read way too much about pickpockets and thieves. jamie attempted to take a picture of me in front of big ben, but he's blind, and well...that didn't work out well just because there's a certain angling you've got to do to get everything in the picture. i think one of the parliament guards felt sorry for us and offered to take a picture of us even though he's not really supposed to. however, he managed not only to catch jamie with his eyes closed but also to CUT-OFF BIG BEN! well, at least you can kinda tell we were there...

we walked across the street to see westminster abbey. there are seriously no words. more about that when i get to the day we actually went in. we were there a week after the royal wedding, so not only was i flipping about this 1000-year old church, but i was thinking about william and kate and how i'm little obsessed with the royal family.

we topped off the day with dinner at a pub right around the corner from our hotel. we both had burgers, and jamie was right when he warned me: british burgers are way inferior to american burgers. they put a lot of breadcrumbs in with the meat so the burger is half meat and half other stuff. not cool.