‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Saturday, February 25, 2012

As The Dust Settles

credit: Vladamir Konavalov

We want our lives to be blue-sky beautiful. We expect them to be predictable like that, at least in mundane ways. We wake up each day with the expectation that we can rely on a few certainties - the sun will rise, the dishes will need cleaning, the dog, his walk.

And yet, this is all a ruse. There are no certainties. It's just that some, through luck or good fortune, experience a life relatively free of major tempests and upheaval. Oh, they have their moments of dis-ease and disquiet, their days of loss and times, too, of cloudy grief, but it all seems to follow a gentle timetable, an understanding between them and their creator.

But some of us are dealt a very different itinerary. It feels aberrant, or at least uncomfortable. It doesn't look like everyone else's and everyone senses the deviation, but no one talks of it. Well, they talk of it only when it can be couched in humorous maxims or catch-phrases. 'Wouldn't want to have her life.' or 'What a soap opera!' I know it's human nature to cover over what's uncomfortable with humor. But can we be honest for a moment?

We do not choose our storylines, friends.

Let me repeat that:

We do not choose our storylines.

When I set out find my daughter's sister, at her request, I did not do so to invoke a hellstorm in my life. I took that step out of Love. I started than journey for no other reason but that my dear, precious hurting new little girl longed for her sister. What was a mother to do BUT say yes?

And when every door slammed shut in my attempt to adopt her sister, was I supposed to take that as a sign? Give up? Move on? That is what many people told me to do. Love told me otherwise.

And when she, my daughter's beautiful sister, was aged out of the orphanage and living on the streets and needed more financial help than I could give, was it then I was supposed to stop? Give up? move on? That is what many people told me to do. Love told me otherwise.

And after years of letter writing, campaigning and outright begging the authorities to allow Anya to finally come home to us, and we were told by the embassy at the last minute 'It will never happen.' Was it then I should have stopped? Given up? Moved on? That is what dozens told me, wrote me, urged me. Yes, dozens. Love told me otherwise.

And when the loneliness and poverty got too much for Anya and she decided it was better to take her own life, and she called me weeping and begging me 'Come help me, Mama.' Was it then I should have stopped? Given up? Moved on? That is what even some people closest to me told me to do. 'You can't go over there.' and 'you need to think of yourself.' were their excuses. Love told me otherwise. and I went.

We do not choose our storyline. We do, however, have the power to choose how to respond to it, and I'll be damned if I'll choose fear over Love.

I won't. I haven't, and I never will.

Choosing Love makes the storyline more scary, less predictable, and far more complicated than it otherwise could be. Choosing Love sometimes puts us in the direct path of emotional tornadoes and spiritual tsunamis. But it is what we are called to do. We are called to choose love, but too many miss the point. They mistakenly think their choices are to keep their storyline in place.

They don't want to rock the boat, cause themselves or others discomfort, upend the status quo. They don't want the hurricane. They want life to make sense -- money in the bank, roof over their head, ducks in a row. The problem is these seemingly innocuous choices towards ease and safety have grave repercussions for the world. Like the pebble in the pond -- there are infinite circles of effect that move out, to infinity, from every single decision we make. Every single one. And to what end do we try to stay on the safe side anyway? So we can arrive, safely and in one piece, to our own inevitable death?

I have been sad lately. Yes, very sad, and overwhelmed. But that doesn't mean I am incapable of what God set before me. That does not mean I chose wrong. There is no need to abandon Anya, forsake Daniel, or turn my back on the children of orphanage. The problem lies in my penchant for trying to weather the storm alone. I don't do it intentionally, but it does seem to be a habit throughout my life to try to carry the burden by myself. And sometimes it takes my back breaking from the weight of what I'm carrying for me to stop and see clearly what I've been doing wrong. Sometimes it takes a category 5 hurricane. This was one of those times.

My storyline is God's business. He, not I, has chosen to fill my life with a great many chances to help others and, in turn, to suffer the burden of seeing how deep and wide and oh-so-impossibly-unmeetable is the need. He doesn't force me to answer the call, I make that choice myself, and I do it out of Love.

My problem is not that God dumped too much on my plate. My problem is that I lose perspective.

I forget that not only does He love me, but He has my back. I don't have to carry the burden of these sorrows all by myself -- He is there to carry it for me. I just have to learn to let go. Let go, let go, let go. I need to stop trying so hard to do it on my own, and just allow the grace He offers in every moment. I forget that.

Over and over and over again I forget that.

I am so grateful to the dozens of you who chose to write and offer words of Love and Support yesterday. Your words, and the Love your words carried to me, were a wonderous blessing. God's hands and feet. God comforting me through you and your willingness to reach out to a soul in pain. It is great to know souls of such kindness and generosity of heart.

And to the one person (Miss anonymous commenter from Henryetta Oklahoma) who chose to incite fear instead of offering love, I say: take a step back and see what unspoken hurt in your own life caused you to respond in judgement, instead of Love, to my sharing. I didn't deserve to receive a comment that was so unhelpful. (And to be honest, it was very cowardly of you to say such things and not include your name.) I'm choosing to believe you are simply so ignorant of true grief that you were incapable of writing anything else. I hope that is the case.

So, the dust is settling after the storm. And, as with any storm of merit, the air is clearer and so much debris is washed away. To walk through a storm like that and talk about it is a very brave thing. I don't think this, I know this. But how else to help the next person who finds herself caught in an equally terrifying storm? They have a right to know how others have weathered it! They have a right to know where to seek shelter.

And so, to gently remind those who may be heading into a storm, I find my shelter here:

'But now, this is what the Lord says, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the storm, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.' ~Isaiah 43:1-2


'The Lord is good, a shelter in times of trouble.' ~ Nahum 1:7

And to Anonymous from Henryetta, OK: You can stop obsessively checking my blog and my comment thread every few hours. I will not be posting your comment. I will never post anonymous comments that are not kind, supportive, or helpful...unless it can be a teachable moment. Please find another blogger to 'rescue.' I do not appreciate your judgemental attitude. And your obsessive visits, google searches on my past posts, and checking in here all day long do not speak well of your stability.


  1. you tell that lady i have been praying for you guys..all we can do is pray and hope god hears which i know deep down he will..bigg huggs..

  2. 'Thinking of you <3
    MariaG (Canada)

  3. Lifebooks1:13 AM

    Powerful. "Love told me otherwise." I love how you put that.

  4. Anonymous1:31 AM

    I love the "I'll be damned if I choose fear over love" ... Love it! You are awesome! :o)

  5. Oh Kerri, I am so sorry for all of this. Please try to take care of your self and relax. I am sure you do not remember me but I have been reading your blog for years. I have one bio child and three Russian kids. Our oldest Jackson died at 2 1/2. We brought him home knowing he had a kidney tumour. Got him the best care out there for the tumour they thought was cancer....had the check ups monthly with the scans etc. During this time we were so incredibly blessed with the most amazing son we could have ever asked for. I thought this was my mission in life was to save this child. I truly did. So imagine my complete and utter confusion and terror to find him dead of a seizure in his crib....Beyond my total devastation at the loss of my child. The fact that life didn't work as I thought it should was very hard to swallow. I wagon this earth to save him and Jackson was to live to a ripe old age and my biggest problem were going to be paying for his schooling. As you and I know all too well life does not always work out as we pray for it to. On the flip side of this. I still feel so close to Jackson. I think of him all day every day. I have after 6 years found happiness while carrying my loss with me. Please know you are not alone and try to remember with all the pain comes the good you have done for many even if it is hard to see through the pain right now. Oh, by the way, knowing what I know about how it ends I would do it all over in heart beat. Much love, Sarah

  6. Anonymous7:50 AM

    I am glad you put back the picture of the clothesline of tie dye squares with the message, "Love, Live, Happiness." To me that is such a hopeful picture and it is how I think of you. You work so hard to love and help some other special people live. I hope one day you will all find happiness as well... In the meantime, many thoughts, hugs, and prayers are with you... God has a plan and He will find a way! Debby_in_MA

  7. Anonymous7:53 AM

    Hang in there, you are so right, life isn't what we think it will be so keep riding that storm...

  8. You are such a wonderful writer. You have a beautiful way of expressing emotion so visually, and with such honesty. I wish I could write like this.
    I also pray that you are feeling better, and stronger. From the sounds of your post, it seems like you are. And that makes me happy. I've been struggling for the right words to express similar feelings about my pending adoption, and you've just given me the right words "Love told me otherwise".
    That is how I'll respond when anybody questions my motives or methods. "Love tells me otherwise."
    Thank you, you know God is on your side!

  9. Heart4Russia4:03 PM

    I just adore how honest you are. Wish everyone could be that way. Keep up the good fight. You are changing lives in every corner of the world:)

  10. I wanted to write the other day when you were so down, but didn't take the time and I should have. I truly understand WHY you continue on and do not give up, when that would truly be the EASIEST thing to do... I would be just like you... questioning, praying, wondering, HOPING that in the end (whenever that is) everything will work out. You have a lot of people rooting for you and commiserating with you throughout all of this and we hate to see days when we can literally FEEL your heart breaking, but then rejoice when you sound more upbeat as you trudge along the path laid before you. With love, Kim D.

  11. Anonymous11:20 PM

    Well said! Praying for continued peace amidst the storm, provision for daily bread, and surrounded by a cloud of witnesses CHEERING you on!

  12. Everything you wrote in this post so resonates with my heart. If someone were to ask me why I keep striving towards what seems like an impossible dream I would give them two answers: 1. It is what God has called me to, therefore, I know it is not impossible and 2. I do it for the love of my boys. My sweet guys are in Romania which means that, as of right now, there is zero chance of adopting them and bringing them here to live with me. It just makes me more determined to fight to change the system and to help those families who do have children here. No one should have to go through all these difficulties on their own. I so wish that I lived near to you because I feel that we would have a lot in common and could share our strength with each other. So glad to hear that you are pressing on! Remember that God is our refuge; our safe, comfortable, reassuring bunker in times of trouble. Not only does He protect us but He allows us rest. Even when He has called us to a difficult task we can still rest in knowing He is in control!

  13. Keri, that is one of my favorite verses in Scripture that I have clung to over the years! I remember singing it with tears flowing MANY times in my life. :)
    Praise the Lord that you have received comfort. God Bless You!
    I just can't keep but thinking there is a future for you in Russia. :)

  14. You were attacked, Keri, and it was natural to be thrown off-balance. ANd, I also think that when someone is as generally optimistic, resilient and happy as you are - to feel differently throws you for a loop, too. That's my experience, anyway. Good to see you back!

    I do like this header photo, but my favorite is the rainbow over the cottages. LOVE that!

  15. Hi Keri,
    'Just stopping by ... 'thinking of you. I was supposed to send off a little something for Anya last week but didn't get to it (sorry). So ... do I still send it to her friend?
    MariaG (Canada)

  16. Dear Keri,

    The greatest gift God has given me is uncertainty. I struggle dealing with people who fear getting out of their comfort zone. I often tell people that the rewards of doing something that makes you uncomfortable are boundless. We have only one life and it is so short. As I have gotten older this perspective has become more acute. God wants us to move with faith and only then will he guide us. I look at the struggles of the disciples of Jesus and scoff at my struggles. Sure some people will say that there have been signs that say you should change what you are doing but I am here to say that you and you alone are the only person who should read or comment on these signs. What happens in your life and the path we take is a direct communication between you and God and no one else. I am here to support you in any direction you take. You are my sister and both Jennifer and I love you dearly.

  17. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Dear Keri,
    I'm reading your blog regulary, and love you to be so honest. I was always distrusting people talking about "happiness is the gratification of a true believing in god" and "sadness is due to being far away from god". I never understood that - seeing hiob and lots of other words in the bible.
    Your way of living with god is unique as every other is unique. Stay in your decisions of love as you wrote! I try to send you some love and thinking of you and your girls - all your children...
    Steffi (Germany)

  18. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Your commitment to Anya humbles me...and it reminds me to appreciate the ones we have brought home, even when our road to help them is tough. I walk away from reading this post knowing there is always room to love deeper in my journey with my hurting children. Blessings, Jennifer

  19. Anonymous1:43 PM

    I read your blog from time to time, but I don't think I've ever commented before. I said some prayers today for you and your family, that God will continue to send you comfort and support as you walk this path of Love.

  20. Anonymous2:57 PM

    i am sorry that you are going through something that is so painful to read, i can not imagine what it is like to experience. I want you to know that I am praying for you. i also want you to know that your blog has blessed me as well. I am going through something difficult in my life too. My only child was born 8 weeks early with a severe abnormality of his heart and requires open heart surgery. There have been many bumps in the road and it has been a difficult journey, but i too believe that God is in control of it all.


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