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I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the day I loaded up our suburban (with the help of my parents) said goodbye to a house we had just built, my best friends, and a town I had lived in for 17 years, the place I had spent the first 10 years of my marriage and had my first two babies… a place I never really thought I would leave.. and set off down the road on a “great adventure” to Utah, a place I had only driven through, where my husband had been for the last three months, and what would be my new home.  I never expected to like it here, but I knew that I was going to give it a good shot.  I had a chance to “reinvent” myself, a new start and I wanted to make the most of it, even though my heart felt like it was going to break and I couldn’t imagine ever feeling better.

We new that we were supossed to come here.  We needed to get away and to make it on our own as a family.  Utah has been a refuge for us. After an intense time of struggle with our church back home, it was been a safe haven for us. A place to rest, refresh, and transform.  I have learned so much being out here on “my own” away from family and all I had known for 17 years.  God has changed me, molded me and refined me into a person that is much more what I should have been and want to be.  I am so thankful for the people who have come along side me here.  Who have been my family for the last two years and who have allowed me to be who God wants me to be… so it is with much sadness (two years ago I never would have believed I would say this) I say good-bye.

Looking back on my time here, I can see how God has strategically placed people and events in my life that have radically changed who I am today.  I remember my friend Jenn told me when I left Shelton that in the first two weeks of being in Utah, I had to find a MOPs group and join.  So I did and there I met a wonderful girl named Heather (as well as lots of other great friends) who invited me to the Draper MOMS club and there I made some wonderful friends who invited me over, introduced me to fun places around the valley, had a wonderful baby shower for Eyob, brought us dinners when we got home from Ethiopia, and who continue to be a source of encouragement to me.

Who knew that that first visit would lead to me becoming one of the coordinators for our churches two MOPS groups and meeting some of my truly favorite people here in Utah.  Women who have walked beside me these last 6 months encouraging me and praying for me all while we served together. Thank you MOPS friends.  I am truly going to miss you this coming year and you will be in my prayers.

Through South Mountain Community Church, I have gone on a wonderful women’s “wild” weekend, participated in 4 life changing Bible studies and made some wonderful life long friends.  Friends who have challenged me.  Cassie and Susan I am so thankful that God brought us together that first study.  I am going to miss you sisters.

Driving away from Shelton two years ago, I never would have imagined that I would connect to a place and to the people so much in such a short amount of time, but I have and I will always be greatful for this stop in Utah along the path the Father has laid out before us.

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A must read!

I finished this book about a month ago and have been ruminating on it and wanting to blog on it since then. So here goes…

This is probably one of the most life impacting books I have ever read and I read a lot.  It is a modern allegory that brings the message of God’s love straight to the heart.  Before I read this book, God was already preparing me to hear His message and so when I finally did read it I was blessed beyond what I can put into words. 

I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but basically a man (Mack) who is struggling with the loss of a child has an encounter with God… really with the Trinity (Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu) that basically helps him shake off, what the author refers to as, his “Great Sadness.”  Let me just say this is no ordinary encounter.  God shows up in a form that will probably throw some of you off, but keep reading.  So much of what I read, I knew already, but it was communicated, through this story in such a way that I couldn’t help but be changed. While the main character is a man, I still identified with him in so many ways. Many of “his” questions were questions I have been asking lately and so much of what was revealed to him by this encounter with his Papa was revealed to me in a fresh way that penetrated my soul.  Mack was a broken man, a man struggling to make it through the day with his faith in tact and so often that is where I am at. 

 There is much in this book that will rock your stereotypical religious boat, which I think know was intended.  Don’t let that disuade you from reading it.

I spent much of the boys nap time yesterday making notes in my journal about what I read and what stood out to me….what changed me…. and I still have over a quarter of the book to write about.  Here are a couple of the things that I wrote down (much will need to be blogged about in seperate posts). some of the following words are mine, but most are a paraphrase from the book..

God is about relationship…..Only God can set us free, but freedom can never be forced. Freedom is a process that can only happen inside a relationship with the Trinity.

God is LOVE-

God is NOT who I thought He was… He is sooo much more.

God is not a punisher, He is a reedeemer.  Sin is its own punishment.  It is God’s purpose and joy to cure sin not punish it.  My choices (sin) cause hurt and suffering.  God is not evil. I am the one who embraces fear and pain and power. But my choices are not stronger than Gods purposes and He will use every choice I make for the ultimate good and most loving outcome.  When I realize, believe, and live in this, I am free to have a relationship with Him.  Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. 

All the “bad” in the world is NOT justified by God, it is redeemed by God. 

I could go on and on, but I would rather you read the book yourself.  If you love a good story than you will enjoy this book.  If you want a fresh word from the Lord, you will want to read this book.  If you are struggling to feel the love of your Father in the midst of your pain, then read this book.  If you want to feel the loving arms of your Papa around you in a real, loving, and almost physical way, dive into this book head first, expecting Him to meet you on the pages.  I don’t think you will be dissapointed. 

If you have already read this book… please comment…. I would love to know what you think.  After you read it come back and comment as well.

The Shack by William P Young

 

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As many of you who have been reading my blog over the last few months know  it has been obvious I am sure how much I have struggled.  As I have walked through this desert time, this “mourning time” I have begun to see what, maybe, Christ had in mind for me. 

Shortly after returning home, in December, I was taking a little mommy break at Barnes and Noble. Perusing the Christian book section…… I came across this book by Henri Nouwen.  Ordinarily I would not have been familiar with him, but my dad had mentioned him quite a few times on his blog and had forwarded me some daily devotions from Nouwen’s website as well.  Anyway, Sunday morning, the boys were playing quietly downstairs, Brandon was trying to catch up on some sleep and I sat down and finally picked up, Turn My Mourning into Dancing (TMMID) and was blessed immeasurably just by the first chapter.  So much so that it has been ruminating in my brain for the last two days.  I even interupted Extreme Home Makeover last night to read everything I underlined to Brandon. 

I feel like I have experienced quite a bit of grief over my 33 years and through many of the experiences, I often felt isolated and alone….separated from people, as well as, God.  I tried as hard as I could to either change my circumstances, forget my pain, or stumble painfully along hoping that at some point it would go away and I would be able to move on.  I have spent many months at a time wishing away my uncomfortable circumstances, shaking my fist at God and or begging HIM to change my life. 

Even though I was raised in the church, I was not ever really taught how to deal with loss or hurt in a Biblical way.  In fact, if I am being totally honest… I think the church set me up for failure.  I think what I really learned from the church is that if you are a “good” christian you will not let your grief/loss/struggles get you down.  You will praise the Lord and move on.  You should ignore your pain because if you spend to much time in it you are sining.  I have heard every platitude possible, all well meaning I am sure, but useless none the less.  I think that the church places such an emphasis on being happy and that any sadness is not part of the Christian life.

Along the same lines… the world tells you that if life ain’t right get a new one.  If you’re not in love any more, move on.  If you don’t like your friends trade them in.  If you don’t like the body you have been given work harder.  If you aren’t happy, dig deep into your “inner” self and find your che(pretty sure I didn’t spell that right..oops).

Henri Nouwen points to another “way.” A way that resonates with me, oh how it resonates.  As I read the first chapter my tired heart (if we are honest aren’t most of us tired at heart?  After all this world is a hard place and offers up such challenges) was lifted up.  Don’t get me wrong I was deeply challenged, but also acutely blessed.  “Who is it that Jesus says will be blessed?” Nouwen asks, “Those who mourn (Mat. 5:4).”  Doesn’t just that very statement give you hope and peace? 

Here are a couple of quotes from the intro that touched me………. “By greeting life’s pains with something other than denial we may find something unexpected.  By inviting God into our difficulties we ground life-even its sad moments- in joy and hope. “

“Many of us are tempted to think that if we suffer, the only important thing is to be relieved of our pain.  We want to flee it at all costs.  But when we learn to move through suffering, rather than avoid it, then we greet it differently.  We become willing to let it teach us.”

Nouwen says that learning the above will not be easy and he suggests 5 “movements” through hard times.  These movements make up the 5 chapters of the book.

#1- Chpt. 1-  From Our Little Selves to a Larger World-  I am just going to pull out some quotes that I found impacting and then comment when I feel compelled.

“How do we,” Nouwen asks, “make this shift from evading our pain to asking GOd to redeem  and make good use of it.”  Good question…. the key word for me was “asking”  … it is my choice to let HIM redeem. 

“We are called to grieve our losses.”  Amen!  Often I feel like I am the only one doing this and often I feel ashamed and like I am not “loving” or “trusting” God enough and that I am being a big baby.

 “Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering end up disconnecting our suffering from God’s suffering for us.  The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through.”  I had never before made the connection that grieving my own losses helps me identify or connect with the loss that God suffered in sending HIS Son for me. See also…2Corinthians 4:7-10

“Facing our losses also means avoiding a temptation to see life as an exercise in having needs met.”  “We also like easy victories: growth without crisis, healing without pains, the resurrection without the coss.”  – This is me in so many ways.  How many times have I gone to God and said, “Lord, remove this suffering from me.”  Not that we can’t ask Him but letting that be the only thing I do is wrong.

“The way from Palm Sunday to Easter is the patient way, the suffering way.  Indeed, our word patience comes from the ancient root patior, “to suffer.”  To learn patience is not to rebel against every hardship.  For if we insist on continueing to cover our pains with easy “Hosannas,” we run the risk of losing our patience.  We are likely to bcome bitter and cynical or violent and aggressive when the shallowness of the easy way wears through.” Again, WOW!-  All you in the middle of adoptions and feeling the pull towards impatience… this is for you and me…..

“Instead, Christ invites us to remain in touch with the many sufferings of every day and to taste the beginning of hope and new life right there, where we live amid our hurts and pains and brokeness.”

“I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him.  I will be less likely to see my pains as interruptions to my plans and more to see them as a means for GOd to make me ready to receive Him.  I let God live near my pains and distractions”  I want this don’t you?

“The small and even overpowering pains of our lives are intimately connected with the greater pains of Christ.  Our daily sorrows are anchored in a greater sorrow and therefore a larger hope.”

“Our choice, then, often relvoves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances. ”

“A key to understanding suffering has to do with our not rebelling at the inconveniences and pains life presents to us.”  I am so guilty of seeing all suffering as an inconvenience to me and more often then not mad about them.

Ok…. I promise only two more quotes…. I actually have to stop myself…. and by the way I haven’t even quoted all the things I underlined.

“But then we let our hurt remind us of our need for healing.  As we dance and walk forward, grace provides the ground on which our steps fall.  Prayer puts us in touch with the God of the dance.  We look beyond our experience of sadness or loss by learning to receive an all-embracing love, a love that meets us in everyday moments.”    

“Our glory is hidden in our pain, if we allow God to bring the gift of himself in our experience of it.  If we turn to GOd, not rebelling against our hurt, we let GOd transform it into greater good.  We let others join us and discover it with us.”

I have always seen suffering and loss as something to be avoided.  Most often I have responded with anger, avoidance, pity parties, and the like.  What I am hearing through this book is, that while it is ok and even good and right to grieve, we must also make the choice to see our pain as a means for GOd to work in us.  Doing this connects us more to Him and in turn to the larger suffering world around us. 

I am not a scholar nor do I have any real amazing insights, I just wanted to share with you these amazing, freeing thoughts.  Please let me know what you think.

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Eyob, Traci

No, I’m not falling in love with another man (love me some Brandon), but actually with a little boy named Eyob.

 I had a moment today that I wanted to share.  We got a call from the drs. today and I wasn’t home (we were all taking a walk in the beautiful Utah sunshine) and so the nurse left a message.  First of all, no giardia so while that is actually good news, she also asked me when I was planning on bringing in Eyob for to redo his HIV/Hep B screening and then she asked me to call her.  Anyway, for some reason, even though we had planned to redo the screening on the advice of the infectious disease dr. we saw regarding the giardia,  I heard the nurse connecting the two.  Being lunch time at the drs. office I couldn’t call back for clarification. So I just went up stairs with a very tired little Eyob to put him down for a nap.  As I was holding him close and feeding him his bottle it hit me…..  I love this little boy and if something were to be “really” wrong with him I would be soooo sad.  It was such a great moment to realize that he has gone from “someone elses” child to my child in my heart.  For the last few weeks, as I have begun to change the way I talk about him and the way I relate to him, I have felt subtle changes in my heart, so today was just that moment of awakening for me.  I think that I have been holding him at a distance, afraid to be rejected by him over and over and it is such a relief to not be worried about that any more.  I am not worried about that with Sloan and Sean and I am no longer worried about that with Eyob.  He is just one of my boys.  Praise the Lord!  I know that there will continue to be hard times with him and that I will have to continually give my attitude to the Lord.  This is just a testament to how changing your actions first can change your heart.

PS…. I did call the doctor back and they were not linking the tests with Eyob’s current poop problem, they just wanted to make sure the order was there when I brought him in.  Actually, Eyob still has the giardia antigens and so we are working on getting to the bottom of that, but the rest of the fam is free and clear.  I feel confident and so does my pediatrician that the HIV/Hep B tests done in Ethiopia before we brought Eyob home are correct and reliable, but it is always a good idea to have a local lab redo them.  So… don’t worry for us in that area.

On another note… I wanted to make a disclaimer…….  Brandon was concerned when he read my last post that people would think that I am endorsing the book A New Earth and I wanted to make it clear that I am not.  I have not read it yet and infact, I am reading it with a heart open to hear from the Lord.  I actually, went to Brandon before I bought the book to ask him if he thought it was ok for me to read.  I have always been hesitant to read things that I am afraid might be in conflict with my faith in God.  I think part of that is my need to be the “good” christian girl and follow a certian set of rules. However, while I don’t want to compromise my faith, I do feel like I have a discerning heart and that God will show me what is right.  I am mostly interested in reading this book because it is causing a stir in the “world” and I know that many of my fellow MOPS moms and other friends will be reading it and I want to be ready to answer questions or point people to the truth.  I already have a page full of questions in my journal that I will be asking myself and God while I read it.  So that being said….. I am NOT at this point encouraging anyone to read this book, but will discuss it on my blog after I have begun reading.  How was that for a disclaimer?

Also, watch, tomorrow, for my first chapter synopsis of Henri Nouwen’s book, Turn My Mourning into Dancing.  This is definetly a book I feel confident recommending….. especially if you are struggling with some loss or grief in your life right now, no matter how small.  I started writing the post last night, but I need to shorten it down a little.  I may be a little long for some of you readers.

Anyway….. I am encouraged today, by answered prayers and I hope that all of you who have been praying for me will be encouraged as well.

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So this has been a pretty uneventful week…..  I did some major house cleaning. All the way down to cleaning the trim and it felt really good to just dig into it.  THe boys have steadily been feeling better which has been nice.  Eyob is doing better physically everyday and has been sleeping through the night for the last week.  It is awesome, however, it seems like when one sleeps the others wake up.  AHHH!!!  We are still waiting on test results to find out what is going on with all the poop.  Hopefully, we will know something soon! 

For Christmas, Brandon gave me a gift cert. for a mani/pedi combo at a local spa so yesterday I cashed it in and spent two very relaxing hours getting pampered. It was so nice.  He also gave me some  cash and I got to do a little shopping which was also fun. SHopping alone for myself…. AHHHHH..  My hubby is great isn’t he.

When I first started blogging almost a year ago I seemed to think in terms of blogging.  I was always thinking.. this would make a good blog post or I could write about that.  Well, since bringing Eyob home I haven’t really felt like that, I am sure for good reason, but I have missed that feeling… that swirling around in my brain.  Blogging for me is more than a way of keeping in touch with family and friends, it has been a way to process thoughts, use my brain, to practice writing, and an outlet for my heart.  Anyway, I have been thinking about a bunch of different posts that I am going to write over the next couple of weeks so I thought I would give you a quick synopsis of what is coming up on Further Up and Deeper In.

Book Reviews-  Henri Nouwen’s Turn My Mourning Into Dancing (get this book!!!!)  I can’t wait to talk about this book!  More on Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World–  I have learned so much that I am looking forward to passing on. Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth–  Oprah’s Book club choice for the month and the subject of an online class she will be teaching over the next few weeks.  THis book is the fastest selling book in the world right now.  WHy????  One question I have about the book (many more that I will write about in it’s own post) but….. is this book so “close” to the TRUTH that it is causing or going to cause people to miss Christ?  The Shack by William P Young…… This novel/allegory is making it’s way around the US and changing lives… I want to see what the hype is all about. Maybe you will too.

****   I was thinking about all that I have learned about Eyob in the last 3 months and then remembered the old book or  poem… Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten…. and I thought I might have fun doing a serious of posts on what I know about….????

I am going to be getting back to Wordless Wednesday.  More pics…

I have never been “Tagged” so I thought I would do my own and tag a few of my blogging buddies… so look out friends.

Reflections on Adoption…

and more…. so keep checking back….

 Also, a blogging friend who reached out to me during those first dark weeks when we got home from Ethiopia with Eyob, just returned from getting her little man.  I thought you might be interested in reading about some of her experiences.  I was telling her in an email that her posts take me right back to ET and Hannah’s Hope.  I can still taste, smell, and feel it in my heart.  Reading her words and about her experiences make my long for ET deeply.  Read her posts and enjoy.

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Battlefield

Throughout the last couple of weeks God has been confirming to me over and over how much adoption is a spiritual battlefield.  In my post a couple of days ago, The Triple Ds, I talked about how satan uses distraction, discouragement, and doubt to pull us away from our Heavenly Father.  I also related how I felt discouragment set in almost as soon as I walked through the gates of HH Ethiopia.  I didn’t realize it then, but looking back now I see how much satan wanted to steal the joy I had in serving the Lord through adoption.  Tuesday as I was relating this experience to the Ethiopian Program Director at AGCI, our adoption agency, she proceeded to reconfirm my feelings by saying, “Traci, you would be surprised at how many families say the same thing, that a spirit of oppression or discouragment settled around them as they tried to carry out God’s vision of adoption.”  There it was again.  Many of us go into adoption totally unprepared for the spiritual attack we are going to face.  I know I did. 

So how do we get prepared???? We need to see adoption as a battlefield, one that satan is not going to give up without a fight and we need to prepare ourselves accordingly.  We need to cover ourselves in prayer, we need to find scriptures that we can fight satan with and we need to enlist the help of our family and friends to go to battle for us as we step into the action.

At this point I want to direct you to my dad’s blog and his post about adoption.  I think it will help you see adoption for what it is…….a picture of God’s great love for us.

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that has encouraged me this past week is the realization that Eyob is my child.  He was given to me specifically by God, because God wanted for Eyob what I have to offer and vice versa.  He knew that Eyob would need the consistancy and boundaries that we have in our family.. God knew that our stubborn, strong-willed little boy would need a mom who is stronger and more strong willed.  He knew that in order for me to change and grow I needed a child who would test my ability to parent without God and who would draw me to the Father for support and wisdom.  In other words… we, Eyob and I, deserve/need each other.

For most of these last two months, I have relied on myself and books by adoption “experts” to tell me how to parent Eyob, instead of relying on the still small voice of my Abba Father who was speaking all along.  He was telling me what to do, but I was to afraid to break away from the books.  I was too afraid to trust my instincts.  I think if you were to look up the word adoption in the dictionary you would find the word fear.  Satan perpetuates this fear.  He told me that, everyone else knows how you should parent your child.  The experts know and if you don’t follow what they say, you will fail.  But the truth is, as one adoptive mother pointed out to me this week, “God knows way more than any expert.  If He is telling you something, you better listen.”  I spent so much time worrying that if I didn’t do it exactly like the experts said, I wouldn’t be doing it right.  But you know what, as Brandon and I have followed the Father’s nudgings…. nudgings that still have us giving Eyob extra love and attention but more boundaries… we have seen a change in him.  He isn’t quite as quick to get angry and throw a fit.  He is sleeping a little better at night (and so are we, although he has our room and we have the couch, for now).  He has a smile on his face more often and basically seems to feel safer.  I know part of that is my change in attitude towards him, but also from following the urgings of the Ultimate Parent. Again, Praise the name of the Lord forever, for He ALONE has all wisdom and power!

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