Summer is here

I am taking a moment to share a little update with all of you amazing people that have been on this journey with us!  

The school year has come to a close and now we enter a calmer season in our lives.  We have a ton of appointments these next few weeks and have lots of home projects, cleaning and organizing to get done this summer.  In addition, I have been called for jury duty for July and August. I am not particularly thrilled about that, but thankful that they delayed it for me from last fall so that Ron can be home.  We are also looking forward to a trip up north and some other fun things we have planned.  The boys are starting to have memories of fun things we did last summer and are excited about these events happening again!

The boys have adjusted well overall and we are giving thanks for the Lord’s provision in every way.  Each of them will have appointments at the U of M to do a psychological evaluation of the past trauma they have endured.  Sometimes others see them managing so well, that they forget all that has happened to them in their short little lives. Children can be very resilient, but we are praying we can find some good support to help them in their hidden pain.  It is how Christ is healing the broken and binding up their wounds.

I am now in counseling and will be for a while.  My therapist shared with me that I am the container for the whole family’s “junk.” Some days I must recognize I am carrying someone else’s junk and release that to the Lord.  Please know that so many of you have been so supportive to us these past 5 years in a myriad of ways and we so appreciate it and give thanks to the Lord for it. We have really had to pull back and focus on our main priorities right now.  

  1. Our personal walks with the Lord
  2. Our marriage (we walk each night and are going on a monthly date!)
  3. Our children

Some forget about how many children we have which means we have a lot of needs to meet and daily tasks to care for.  This is also why I have pretty much removed myself from facebook. It was certainly contributing to my depression as well as being a time waster, not that I spent a lot of time there, but the time I did took away much needed emotional space and quiet. I have found great peace in this decision.  And lately I have started to feel times and moments where I “feel like myself” again.

Some of you may know that the Lord has lead us to a church that is multicultural with more diversity.  It is very important for our adopted sons to have mirrors in their lives. They actually at one point thought any black person they saw was from Haiti.  The church we are attending has a black lead pastor and we have found Vineyard a great blessing for us. Josh and Abi continue to attend Knox, but occasionally join us.  

My dad broke his hip back in February and had surgery and is now home and doing well.

Lastly, I would like to share an opportunity with you.  So many of you have been so generous with us in our fundraising efforts and I would like to share about a young couple who have been called to adopt as well that could use financial and prayer support. Travis and Natalie Keller have recently taken in a young boy through foster care and also are adopting one or two children from South Africa.  If you pray and feel lead to join in this call for them, please follow the you caring link at the end of this post. This will also take you to their blog, where you can read their story.

In my reading about adoption I have seen that a big and common reason many Christians choose not to adopt even after they have felt God nudge at their heart to do that is the finances.

I will say from personal experience trying to write for grants and fundraise is a job in itself.  Natalie and Travis both already work full time and anything you donate helps them be able to bring home their child or children.  The stress of paperwork and all the preparation is so trying that it was always such a blessing to receive a gift to reassure us of God’s call and His amazing provision and was so much simpler than applying for a ton of grants!

Might you help them in this call? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” James 1:27

https://www.youcaring.com/travisandnataliekeller-865354

Please pray for them and please pray for us.

Love, Michelle

2 Corinthians 8:1-9 The Message (MSG)

The Offering

1-4 Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.

 

 

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Falling Down…

I try to sneak out for a daily jog.  A few times I have taken a spill.  Sometimes there is a reason like a bumped up side walk, other times I just fall.  The one common aspect of these falls is the first thing I do after the fall.  I look around to see if anyone saw me.  Why?  I am guessing it is my pride. No one likes to be seen “falling”.  I mean how many of us would post a picture of us falling on facebook?  For some reason it doesn’t seem to be a common thing amongst believers to admit their failures and to be broken.  Ann Voskamp asks a thought provoking question:

 “What if the church was a place where our most broken places could be seen and we were loved in those broken places?”

I can’t quite imagine a place like that.  It sounds like heaven.

I think that most of my life, most Christians that I have met have pretended to have no problems, no real sins.  It has never really felt that I could be real with my struggles.  Until now, as I have no option.  I have no way to pretend anymore.  I am a messed up , broken human so very much in need of a God that knows what it is like to be wounded, rejected and feel fear.  Scott Peck points out “How strange that we should ordinarily feel compelled to hide our wounds when we are all wounded!”  Why do we do this?

“A bruised reed He will not break…” Matthew 12:20

In the above verse the reed is an emblem of feebleness, of the soul broken and contrite on account of sin, weeping and mourning for transgression.”  And yet the Lord will not break it, or be severe, he will not be unforgiving or cruel.  He will heal it, pardon it, and give it strength.  Somehow it is in this place of brokenness, of our falling down, that He sees us.  It is in our very place of weakness we are made strong in Him. Back in November I came to that ultimate place of brokenness.  I call it my dark night of the soul, my garden of Gethsemane, in which I asked of the Lord, “can this cup pass from me?” The answer was no.

“All my brokenness is a whisper that I do not belong and every time I don’t feel like I belong, the Scarred and rejected God whispers, “come here my beloved.” Ann Voskamp

God has a way of taking care of our pride if we are letting him “mess with us” as Tim Mackie would say.  Being a follower of Jesus is so very hard: taking the narrow gate costs us.  In Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech before his assassination he gave a stunning commentary on the story of the Good Samaritan.  He said,

 “ And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’

“But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

Something does happen to us when we are obedient to God’s call.  And yet in comes the paradox of the Kingdom, “If I spend myself in love for your benefit; it looks like I loose, but actually I win” Tim Mackie. Somehow my loss in this world is transformed in the here and now for another’s benefit and in the Kingdom that He has asked us to pray to come.

We have a savior who won by dying, so why should we be surprised when He says:  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

As Ann Voskamp says, “We each carry an unspoken broken.”  My prayer is that we each can find a way to find and speak our unspoken broken with Him.

And there we find our battle to struggle our self-will.  The brokenness somehow moves this process along.  We no longer have a self-will.  Somehow our will becomes replaced with His.

A line from a prayer by Thomas Keating:

“In the greatest of labors, the struggle of self-surrender, You are our repose—-our peace in the depths of our souls.” 

In each day of hard, I would not trade it for this gift I have found:  Him, Jesus, lover of my soul, closer each day and in every way.   I need you so very much Jesus. Amen.

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas to each of you!  As 2017 comes to a close we have much to give thanks for!

Luke and Paige:  Luke and Paige got married on November 4, 2017.  What a great day! Luke graduated from the University of Toledo with honors in Mechanical Engineering on December 17th.  They currently reside in Toledo.

Abi:  Abi is commuting to Eastern Michigan University full time, nannying, helping with the youth group, and dating a guy named Matt she met at Knox who also works with the youth group.

Kaiti:  Kaiti is also commuting to Eastern Michigan University majoring in Art and minoring in Children’s literature.  She worked at Busch’s this past summer.

Josh:  Josh is a freshmen in High School, he played Soccer and is currently playing basketball. Josh is very active in his youth group.

Robenson:  Robenson is in 8th grade and is working hard on getting caught up in his school work.  He played soccer in the spring on a travel team and would like to play for the school in the fall.

Anna:  Anna is in 6th grade and played soccer in the spring and fall, and does running with the Polar bear club.

Samson:  Samson is in 5th grade, played soccer in the spring, and got baptized in December.

Jimmy:  Jimmy is in third grade, played soccer in the spring and also got baptized in December.

Ally:  Ally is in second grade, played soccer in the Spring and loves to draw.

Ricardo:  Ricardo is in first grade and played soccer in the Spring .

Ella:  Ella is four now and loves to do :”homework when her siblings are doing theirs.  She loves to be read to and loves to play with whatever sibling is currently availiable.

To say the past year has been hard would be an understatement.  Ron and I both agree it has probably been one of the hardest, if not the the hardest year of our lives.  We have had to dig deep in our walks with the Lord to find the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual strength to make it through the days.  That having been said it has also been a year of extreme joy.  Kaiti graduating, Luke and Paige getting married, the boys each stating how they want to “go with God”, the love that the children are learning in hard days, the peace that comes when you know it is the Lord that has given you the right perspective or attitude.  And many days feeling His unconditional love when we fail.   We both agree we would not want to have to redo this past year, but we are thankful that somehow we made it through.

We continue to covet your prayers for perspective, wisdom and discernment.

Jesus came to become one of us….

Luke 4:16-19

16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Blessings, The Schaffner Family

Wounded

To so many of you who have followed our story on our blog, but are not on facebook, I will try to give a quick update.IMG_9135_1

The boys are now fairly fluent in English.  We can at least communicate.  We continue to work through various issues which arise from being without someone telling them what and when to do it for so many years.  Many of our days must be fairly scheduled and routine in order for Ron and I to make it through sanely.  Children from hard places also thrive on consistency and routine.  It is very comforting to them.

Each week Ella and pile 8 dozen eggs, 8 gallons of milk, 4 loaves of bread, 2 jugs of orange juice, oh, you get the picture!  We are going through a LOT of food!  Sometimes Ricardo eats more than Josh or Ron, no joke!  The children both bio and adopted seem to be adjusting overall to life.  Some days are difficult and we try to find ways to get through.  Everyone is working hard at school and we will miss the warm days to send everyone out to get their energy out!

We get to celebrate the joyous occasion of our son, Luke, getting married on Saturday.  Praying for a great day of weather and celebration and covet your prayers for our travels there and back!

Please continue to pray for Ron for strength for the load he carries at school.  I continue to reach out to you for prayers in the emotional arena.  I realize how often others may be crying out to be heard in some sort of pain and in our pride we miss their cries.  I just finished a book called “Why did Maddie Run?”  It is the tragic story of a college freshman who ran track at UPENN.  She struggled with the added stress of an IVY league school and the rigors of college sports.  She cried out to those around her, yet from her Instagram posts and her twitter feeds you would have thought she had it all.  She committed suicide when she felt she could not quit track.  I highly recommend the book for parents and especially if you have children going away to school.  Through that book I could relate as the addition of the boys, while it has brought great joy, has also brought emotional turmoil for me personally.  It is hard some days assessing the needs of so many different people.  I think we often don’t share for fear of words of some who would say, “well, you asked for it.”  But, I as I reflect, we know we heard our Saviour say to adopt these for boys.  I am reminded of the song:

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
In a book I am reading entitled, The Different Drum, Community Making and Peace, he Scott Peck, MD. talks of the amazing blessing that Alcoholics Anonymous has been to so many.  He says about it:

As with victims of natural disaster, AA starts with people in crisis.  Men and women come to it in a moment of breaking. They come to it because they realize that they do not “have it all together,” that they are in need, that the can no longer go it alone.  Yet it would be a mistake to think of alcoholics as a truly special breed. Because it has become a safe place in which to reveal themselves, all men and women in genuine community sooner or later confess their brokenness.  We are all wounded. None of us really has it all together. None of us can really go it all alone. We are all in need, in crisis, although most of us still seek to hide the reality of our brokenness from ourselves and one another.  The men and women of AA can no longer hide their alcoholism; they must confess their brokenness. Crisis is a built in condition for the AA community , and in that sense alcoholism may be a blessing.  “

I have heard someone say before perhaps if as followers of Jesus, our lives more resembled the community of an AA meeting instead of that of religious Pharisees, perhaps we could start to get somewhere in terms of being real.

Peck goes on further to say:

“But what happens when we behave invulnerably, when we gird ourselves with psychological defenses and pretend that we are cool cats who have got it all together, rugged individualists who seem to be in complete control of our lives? What happens is that other people gird themselves with their psychological defenses and pretend that they too are cool ones who have got it all together, and our human personal relationships becoming nothing more than that of two empty tanks bumping against each other in the night.”

My faith is being tested as it never has been before, so would you please pray for me?

In closing, one of my favorite authors,

Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Henri Nouwen

Thank you to Katie Dorr Photography for the beautiful family pictures!

Summer

God makes His people strong.  God gives His people peace.” Psalm 29:11

Pride makes us artificial, humility makes us real.” Thomas Merton

“It constantly happens that the Lord permits a soul to fall so that it may grow humbler.” Teresa of Avila

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being.  As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have….for their usefulness.” Thomas Merton

The summer has been one in which in any spare moments I find I have felt the Lord calling me to be in a place of listening to Him.  I have felt His spirit asking me to slow down and hear Him in the stillness.  The world is constantly calling me to listen to their value system, to want more, to buy more, to do more.  I am weary of its call.  I hate its teasing, unfulfilling temptations.  Henri Nouwen said, ” … The identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.”  Freedom is found and anchored in the realization that no human praise and no human blame can touch the deepest part of me where I am truly loved by Him.  What a freeing place this is.  My prayer is that you can find this time, this space in the deep place in your soul to be with Him.  It is a remarkable place to bring all your burdens, failures, sins, and hurts as well as your joys and praises!

What is this journey He has called us on? What is the journey you are called on?  It seems all around me people have hard times, difficult paths, thorny roads to travel.  “Think about Jesus, He made His journey and asked his disciples to follow him even where they would rather not go.  The journey you are choosing is Jesus’ journey.  Your journey is made not just for yourself, but for all who belong to the body.”–Henri Nouwen Matthew 26:56 states, “Then all the disciples abandoned Him and ran away.”  Again, we see ourselves in the disciples.  We fear our own call, what will it mean?  Some days we don’t know what His call on our life means.  We must simply trust and obey each day in that which He has given us for that day.  We rely and depend on outward approval from others, instead of His approval and love.  We look to things to fill a place that only He can.  We look to experiences and comforts to be the answer that we can only find in Him.

The summer has brought many new memories and has united our family in many ways.  Going up north was a great blessing as we stayed at my Grandpa’s cabin and enjoyed the beach, sand, kayaks, ice cream, movies and just a pleasant get away from the daily routine.  Ricardo asked if we could live at the cabin!  The boys attended a 2 and 1/1 hour per day summer school which was great for them and gave us a small break.  The summer came at the perfect time for me personally to have time to regroup and have Ron around to help with the daily work load of meals, laundry and errands.  Eleven people are a lot of needs to meet each day and so I have had to withdraw from facebook for the most part to focus on the real people in my day.

Here are some pictures that help capture our summer!

We surely continue to covet your prayers and appreciate each one of you!

Blessings,

Michelle and gangIMG_0920IMG_0644IMG_0659IMG_0639IMG_0570IMG_0966IMG_0525IMG_0327IMG_0498IMG_8334IMG_8912IMG_0032IMG_0669IMG_0218IMG_0907

Summer Hellos!

Greetings to each of you!  Please know in these busy days we haven’t forgotten those of you who have prayed and are praying for us!  Please continue!  It is just that some days it is hard to find time to blog!

I recently read the story of Peter attempting to walk on water after he watched Jesus do this.  For some reason, I found greater comfort in his failure to complete this task than if he had accomplished it.  Apparently only a single great picture has been painted of this scene, one by Conrad Witz in 1944.  Some suppose it is that we don’t want to associate our great leaders with failure.  Peter had been called upon by Jesus to be the rock on which he will build his church.  Furthermore he denies Jesus three times.  Isn’t that interesting, the rock, something immovable is what he calls Peter.  Perhaps it is our failures He uses best. Failures and brokenness help destroy pride, which is one of the most difficult sins to root out.  

To be able to recognize the storms of life as God’s greatest gifts takes reframing them; to be able to find in brokenness a new dependence on the Father which yields a spirit unattainable by self sufficiency.  Not that I would wish to stay in the state I was in for the first few months after the boys came home;  I wouldn’t wish feeling depressed, overwhelmed and in the storm with no shalom in sight.  But when the peace comes, it comes with an understanding that it is only from Him. To be obedient to His call sometimes will mean storms that would not have come had you stayed safely on shore.  NT Wright says in his comments following this passage, “There are many times when Jesus asks us to do what seems impossible.  How can we even begin to do the task he’s called us to?”  Surely we cannot look at the waves of the storm.  We must fix our eyes on Him.  This is the only way to make it through the storm.

    I wish I could say that all my doubts, fears and concerns are gone.  They are daily resurfacing, but each day seems to bring a greater sense of normalcy.  It is feeling more normal to have the boys here than to not.  Our bio children are interacting well with them and there are less issues overall.  In fact, our bio children seem to love them here, there is always someone to play with: backyard soccer, swimming, bike rides, checker games, swinging, and just general fun all around now that summer has arrived.  

   It is interesting how the Lord answers prayers.  One of the things I have struggled with in having a big family, and since adding the boys especially, is the fact that sometimes it seems we cannot focus on each child like the world around us seems too.  I came across this book called “The Danish Way of Parenting” which is conveying some of the secrets these people have in being titled the “happiest people in the world.”

The American way is often one of do-it-yourself individualism.   We don’t even realize how often our culture affects our choices for ourselves and for our children.  What is held up as most important in our culture?  What is highly valued?  The book states, “The idea of togetherness, if you think about it, is quite different from the individualistic nature that forms a large piece of the American identity. The United States was built on self reliance. We don’t really need others if we are strong enough to succeed on our own.  Why should we have to depend on support if we can do it ourselves.  We glorify individual achievement and self fulfillment with terms such as ”the self-made man” and idolize the individual hero in all walks of life from political to social to sports.  If you listen to sports, it is rarely about the team effort; rather, it’s the individual who stands out; the famous quarterback or pitcher. It’s the star who shines out from the rest. The people who help support that star often become blurred background noise. It’s the hard work and the survival of the fittest we admire most.  We are then raised to strive to be that star, that winner.  Geert Hofstede,  world-renowned cultural psychologist, concluded in a very famous study about cultural differences that the US has the highest level of individualism in the world.  That is pretty incredible.  We are so programmed to think about “I” that we probably don’t even realize it.”   I share this to say that we are even as Christians so self focused, often missing others along the way.  The others Jesus has placed in our lives, in our attempt to be the best whatever we can be.  I was really challenged in the book when she said “ Moreover, it’s fair to say that most of us would enjoy being  a “winner.” We would like our kids to be winners or at the very least to be the best at something and stand out. This is pretty normal.  Who wouldn’t want that.” She goes on to give examples of various awards and trophies that might be awarded to our children.  But then she asks this question, “How many of us would naturally consider giving the winning trophy for “harmony of the group”? How many of us would gauge our child’s success not on how well he played, but on how well he helped others play or how well the children played together?” Think of this in light of a sporting event.  Wow! How different our perspective if we look at sports in this way instead of tallying our children’s points scored!  So in this the Lord has shown me that some of the things that we are limited by in our family size are also gifts. The gift of being other centered vs. self centered.  The gift of remembering the least of these coming before your own comfort.  The book talks of the concept of togetherness as a family and a word they call “hygge” which essentially is:  putting yourself aside for the benefit of the whole.  So, in this I have found peace, that in obedience to God’s call, He is also working out what is best for all of our children.  

About two months after the boys came home my prayer was, “Lord, I pray that one day I can encourage someone to adopt.” Meaning at that point I was not sure if I could recommend it to anyone.  The years of waiting, the cost and the very difficult part of leaving my nursing toddler three times were hard enough.  Now, to have so much of the aspect of bringing them home be so different than I thought.  I so longed for things to somehow feel normal.  It seemed that much like Peter, I could not walk on the water.  What’s more, it felt like I was drowning.  I am thankful to say that after counseling, spending time with the Lord and Ron’s steadfastness in my life I am doing better.  But, honestly, I must say that my life will never “be the same.”  In saying that, I know that this is the cost.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

He can not live in us unless we die first.  Dying to ourselves is not a once and for all process.  It is one that must be redone each day.  

In what way is Jesus asking you to walk out on the water today?  Does it feel impossible?  Does it feel out of your abilities?  Well, that could be a good sign.  He often will use the things that we could not possibly do on our own, to easily remind us that there is no way it has been done on our own.  

Praises to the Lord

I personally have my most difficult time emotionally after going to someone’s house.  Somehow it reminds me that our life is not “normal” anymore and I have to work through that fact.  Monday on the way home from a niece’s grad party I was praying through this and asking the Lord to remember us in this time.  As the tears fell, all of the sudden I saw a rainbow, then another and a few minutes later another!  I surely felt He was reminding me that He had not forgotten me or our family.

Then last night after reading the boys a Bible story out of the Jesus Loves Me storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones, Samson asked me “who decides if we get to be with God?  God or us?  And I said, well, you do.  Each person decides if they want to follow Jesus.  He said, “I want to go with God!”  and Jimmy and Ricardo both quickly replied, “me too, I want to be with God!”  “How do we be with God?” So, I asked them what they thought and some thought to “obey”, and we talked about how no one could obey all the time perfectly.  So, then I called Ron in to help and we used a wooden cross that our neighbors, Joe and Laura Kinney had made for us, to show them how Christ has bridged the gap between our sin and God.  We explained to them that this is a decision they each have to make for themselves.  Samson, Jimmy and Ricardo each prayed out loud in their own precious words to follow Jesus and to ask forgiveness for their sins.  It was so precious.  We can tell from reading them Bible stories that they have heard them before.  We are pretty sure a nanny at the orphanage read to them from the Creole Jesus Loves me Storybook Bible.  It is is evident that they have heard and have a good basis.  We know from what Robenson has shared that he comes from a Christian family.

We want to thank you each for your prayers in the years and months of waiting for praying for their salvation.

Today, there are three more names written down in glory! And May His name be praised!

And so in the midst of the hard, their is unspeakable eternal perspective on joy in following His path.

“There is a great sense of rest in being in the way of His steps.” I.Lillias Trotter

Blessings,

Michelle