Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reflections on God

I wonder if God looks back to His creation when it was untarnished by pollution, unblemished by famine and disease, and not scarred by the ravages of war.

When unpolluted oceans bristled with life as He walked in the garden with Adam; when He created strange-looking creatures just for the sheer enjoyment of creating; when sunsets danced to colors our eyes cannot see and waterfalls beat to the pulse of His heart before we broke it; when rocks proclaimed His glory and flowers sang His praises; when life was found in everything and death did not exist; a world we have never known -- at least not yet.

A world that was and a world to come, joined by a tiny thread of love woven through the fabric of time. A remnant of His perfection is hidden in our DNA. The crust of earth beneath our feet gives hint to His creations from ages past. The stars that shine as angels in the night sky proclaim His lordship over every living creature. The winds that mount on eagles' wings fill the earth with His spirit of redemption. Even the animals know.

"Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:7).

God longs to live within our heart. He shouts to us in our suffering. At the crossroads of who we are and who God desires for us to become, we are either consumed by evil or we are conquered by love. If our sinful thoughts lose their grip, evil will lose its power.

Some day God will fill in all of those cracks. But during our time here, He wants to prepare us for a better place; a place where we will be perfect, even as He is perfect.

God delights in the process of molding us. I take comfort in the fact that God wastes nothing and uses everything. Truly, no eye has seen or ear has heard what God has prepared for us. Our deepest hurts and failures will become God's fertile soil for something far greater than we could ever have imagined.

"...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Monster Inside My Daughter

“I feel a pulse,” one of the medics said.

The paramedics worked feverishly on Manisha to make sure she was still alive. My beautiful seven-year-old daughter from Nepal lay on the floor unconscious at the O’Connell Center of the University of Florida.

“Has she ever had a seizure?” another one asked?

“No, no,” I said in bewilderment. Manisha rolled over and vomited.

One emotion consumed me: Fear. The enormity of single parenting hit me like lightening.

I cried out, “Where are you, God? I feel so alone.”

After hooking up stabilizing IV’s, Manisha was whisked off in an ambulance to Shands Teaching Hospital. I found a pay phone and called my mother. Her first comment was, “Do you know what day this is?”

I remembered—September 19. Four years to the day and almost to the hour, my father had died of a brain tumor. It was about 5:00 p.m. My shattered world continued to close in on me. A short time later my worst fears were confirmed.

“There is something on the CAT scan. We have a called a neurologist,” I heard the nurse say.

“No, no, no,” every cell in my body cried out. “God, you can’t let this happen. Not again!”

But God was silent. The next nine days of hospitalization were filled with tests—MRI, gallium scan, spinal tap, TB test, HIV test, numerous blood draws, and too many questions and not enough answers by doctors doing their daily rounds with medical students in tow. Manisha had what in medical parlance is called a “zebra.”

As the days passed in the hospital, I asked God for two things that humanly speaking seemed impossible. I prayed first that the doctors would not have to do surgery. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Manisha’s beautiful thick, curly black hair shaved off. The ugly scars of surgery still lingered in my mind from my dad’s brain surgery. And I prayed that whatever was in Manisha’s head would not be cancerous. I had asked God to heal my father of a brain tumor and he died. Could I trust God for Manisha’s healing?

The next year we learned how to live a new normal as we adjusted to the reality of seizures. Questions concerning the correct diagnosis lingered. Following another seizure and a questionable MRI a year later, we traveled to Connecticut so Manisha could be personally examined by one of the world’s leading experts in pediatric infectious disease at the New Haven Hospital, Yale College of Medicine. Dr. Margaret Hostetter put together a team of scientists to consult on Manisha’s case, including Dr. Patricia Wilkins at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and Dr. Clinton White, Chief of Infectious Disease at Baylor College of Medicine. The diagnosis had been narrowed down to two things: The lesion on the MRI was either a cancerous brain tumor or something known as neurocysticercosis. While both are monsters, I hoped that it was neurocysticercosis because anything was better than cancer—even a parasitic infection.

Manisha had been adopted by me from Nepal at the age of three—old enough to be exposed to the extreme poverty of Nepal and lack of clean drinking water. 57.1 percent of the water in Nepal is considered unsatisfactory for human consumption, contaminated with feces, according to a paper written by Kiran Sapkota, MS, which will be presented in November 2009 at the Annual Meeting and Expo sponsored by the American Public Health Association.

Neurocysticercosis is the most common parasitic infection of the nervous system. It is caused by the larvae of the tapeworm, Taenia solium, normally found in pork. The eggs of the tapeworm are shed in stools and then ingested. The eggs end up in the stomach where they lose their protective capsule and turn into larvae. The larvae can then travel anywhere in the body—the muscles, brain, eye, and other structures. Years later, when the larval cysts die in the brain, edema occurs which sets up an inflammatory response in the form of seizures. In Manisha’s case, the worms would have traveled from the intestines to her brain where they died, causing edema and infection. It was hard to believe that something that foreign could live inside her little body and cause seizures almost five years later.

Neurocysticercosis is still a relatively rare condition in this country, but increasingly is appearing on the radar as part of the differential diagnosis for seizures because of the increase in international travel from third-world countries. As more children are adopted from Nepal and other poor, impoverished nations, adoptive parents need to make sure their children are dewormed as soon as they arrive. Had Manisha been dewormed, the eggs, larvae and any worms in her body would have been killed.

Thankfully, eleven years later, Manisha is a well-adjusted 18-year-old just finishing high school and taking college classes. While the doctors at that time were never able to confirm she had neurocysticercosis, they were able to eliminate every other cause and felt with reasonable medical certainty that is what she had. Even a new, more sensitive test developed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta was negative for neurocysticercosis. I had to trust God not to worry and trust the doctors with their medical expertise. Now, having been seizure-free for over eight years with no other symptoms, the diagnosis of neurocysticercosis is certain.

Why did God allow this “nightmare” to happen? I don’t know why God allows the hard things in our lives, but I do know God never wastes anything. Everything in our life He uses to draw us to Himself if we will listen to His voice inside of us. I hope writing about neurocysticercosis today with sound an alarm for all international adoptive parents to seek appropriate medical care for their newly adopted children from Nepal. Neurocysticercosis is treatable and oftentimes a preventable condition with awareness and deworming upon arrival.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.”

I claimed Proverbs 13:12 when I adopted Manisha from Nepal, and I gave her the middle name “Hope.” That night when Manisha lay in the emergency room when all hoped seemed lost, I quoted this passage to the doctors as they worked on her. Later that evening as Manisha peacefully lay in her hospital bed and my heart was so heavy, God spoke to me in an almost audible voice. He said it twice: “Manisha will be okay. Lori, Manisha will be okay.” My only regret is that I wasn’t a better listener.

My faith was severely tested. I learned how weak I am and how much God’s word means to me. I learned how much my Christian friends loved me. I learned the meaning of prayer and its power in my life. I learned to live one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. I learned never to take my children for granted. They belong to God. I learned to have more compassion for others going through severe trials. I learned no matter what happened, my love for God would never waiver. If God was all I had, God was sufficient. And most importantly, I learned where there is life, there is hope.

I did not believe God brought Manisha here from a half a world away only to die at seven. God’s hand was on her and He brought her here for a far nobler purpose. When calamities face us and fears overwhelm us, may we remember that God is greater than all our worries. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will always be there.

As I reflect on how hard the teenage years have been, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness in bringing my daughter to me from Nepal and healing her from the horrors of seizures. In spite of the trials of single parenting, the years following that dreadful day of September 19, 1994, have been filled with life and joy just as I quoted to the doctors that night when she lay on a gurney hooked up to I.V.s. Manisha soon will be leaving home to make her own way in the world and I reflect on her middle name Hope—with God, there is always hope, and for that I am thankful.


For more on Manisha’s story, read Children of Dreams, available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstores.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Galatians 3:26-29: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

While the media tries to make us think diversity will make our country stronger and help us to be more tolerant of each other, quite the contrary is true. When diversity is used to show differences between people, it divides.

On 9/11 when our nation was attacked, the people of New York came together in a way that was totally unprecedented. It didn’t matter if you were black, white, wealthy or poor, people wanted to help each other because they were hurting.

In the Middle East, differences in race and ethnicity keep people apart. Oftentimes diversity does not draw people together; it divides.

In Christ, we are one in the spirit. We are all part of God’s family. Whenever I meet a fellow Christian, whether I am in Florida, Asia, or Australia, everything else about that person takes a back seat. I know we are one in Christ and that I am speaking to a brother or sister in Christ.

No country has ever survived when diversity was emphasized over the unity of the people. As we stray further and further away from the Judeo-Christian principles on which our country was founded, it’s only a matter of time before “diversity” undermines enough of the fabric of our country that we can no longer stand. No longer united as “One Nation Under God,” what will we become?

God made us all unique and special, but we are part of one body – the body of Christ. Once we elevate diversity above unity, we risk catastrophic consequences. In Luke 11:17, Jesus said, "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall."

Jesus Christ is the most divisive person that ever lived. He separated the believers from the unbelievers, and His divisiveness confounded the leaders of his day. But the unity of the believers became the cornerstone of His Church. Can we see unity and diversity through God’s eyes; as Jesus did 2000 years ago? He knew men’s hearts, and He knew what was in a man. That is the challenge set before us. May God grant us the ability to see diversity in light of the unity of Christ.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blessed be Nothing

My grandmother used to say, "Blessed be nothing." It's the "things" we hold on to that keep us from seeking the Lord. But maybe this recession can be a wakeup call that we can get by on a lot less than we think, and we can seek the Lord not to bless us with more, but to bless us with nothing but Him. May our desires find fulfillment in the only wise God who can truly satisfy the cravings of our eternal soul.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Are Americans So Afraid of Orphans?

Why Are Americans So Afraid of Orphans?

Why do the marketers of the movie “Orphan” think it will scare people?

In this country alone there are over 500,000 children in the foster care system. Worldwide, the U.N. estimates there are more than 145 million orphans. To put this into a number easier to understand, my oldest daughter, Manisha, now 18, was adopted from Nepal when she was three. The estimated population of Nepal is around 28 million. That means there are over four times as many orphans in the world as there are people in her native country.

Expressed another way, the population of the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 21, 2009, is 306,969,874. That means the number of orphans in the world equals half the population of our country.

If the word “orphan” is searched on Google today, the first two listings are for the movie “Orphan.” What a lost opportunity to speak the truth in love! The Wikipedia definition is third: “An orphan is a child permanently bereaved of its parents.”

The real horror is not that the movie portrays orphans as monsters. It’s the number of children that will be hurt by this disturbing message. The movie "Orphan" is only going to reinforce in the hearts and minds of individuals that orphans are damaged goods at best, monsters at worse.

Those who have thought about adopting may have second thoughts, plagued with fears and doubts. Children and teenagers who have been adopted and hear about or see the movie might be tempted to question their own self‑worth or value. Orphans who might have been adopted may not be because of the ill‑conceived notion, perpetuated by this movie, that they are “bad.”

“Orphan” is a sad commentary on Hollywood, our society, and a tragic statement of the culture we live in. A world where money is the bottom line and sensationalism tickles the ears of gullible listeners—let it not be at the expense of those who are the least fortunate. Instead, as in the words of flight director, Gene Kranz, as portrayed in the movie “Apollo 13,” when everyone doubted that the space program would be able to bring those doomed astronauts home, he stood up and said, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”

I challenge every American, particularly those who are Christians, to look beyond the movie at the real horror—the little one who has no one to call mommy or daddy; the baby who goes to bed at night with a protruding, empty belly; the 145 million children around the world who, through no fault of their own, have lost their parents to AIDS, malnutrition, poverty, and violence.

Although all orphans have needs, some more than others, they are not monsters. They are children with beating hearts, sticky fingers, and minds full of unleashed potential. They just need to be given a chance. They are children made in the image of Christ and loved by the heavenly Father.

Rather than attacking the movie, let's join together and rewrite the script of “Orphan.” Give an orphan a chance to worship in our church and synagogue. Invite one to sit down at the dinner table. Help all of them to be educated in our schools. Let us change the negative image of an orphan one life at a time. Let us encourage them to dream big dreams and become everything God created them to be. Most of all, let us show the world that they are loved, just as Christ loved us.

If it were not for God's unconditional love, we would all be orphans. If we unite, we can send a far different message to Hollywood. We can speak for those little ones that sit in overcrowded orphanages and wait. And hope.

Through God's love, let us love until we feel their pain. Only then can we make a difference. Let us not let Hollywood have the last word. Truly, we can become the hand of God as we touch one of His own. Let it begin with me. Orphans Deserve Better. Let this be “our finest hour.”

http://www.lorilynroberts.com/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What do Beavis and Butt-Head have to do with Jesus?

Last week I took my ten and a half‑year‑old daughter, Joy, to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia, for a special overnight mother‑daughter trip. After spending the night in a comfortable hotel, we arrived shortly after opening at 10:30 in the morning with hot Georgia sunshine beating down and wet, humid air soaking our skin. As we lathered on the sunscreen and headed toward the gated entrance, I hoped there would be lots to do besides get sick on roller coaster rides. We were already dripping with perspiration by the time we got to the water park.

At Splash Island we found a haven from the heat and climbed up the voluminous steps to ride on the Kalani Blasters, two sets of slides that intertwined and lasted thirty seconds, dumping the rider into a large, cool pool at the bottom. As Joy and I waited our turn in the long line at the top holding an oversized inner tube, a little boy who couldn't have been much older than three forced his way through the crowded line and positioned himself at the top of the open flume. He wanted to be the next rider down.

I looked around and thought to myself, where is this kid's parent? What is he doing cutting in line? I wasn't sure whether to speak up as I was in shock at his boldness to ignore all the others waiting patiently ahead of him. After several seconds when it was obvious he wasn't leaving, several politely spoke to the young boy, "You must wait your turn. You can't break in line like that."

The same sentence was repeated to him several more times. I added my few words, too, just to support the others who had already spoken. The boy just stood there.

The park attendant who had been monitoring the flume looked up and saw what had happened. He spoke loudly to the young boy, "You must go to the back of the line. You must wait your turn."

Everyone gently encouraged him to leave but he continued to ignore us. I looked around for his parents again who were no where. He had brought the entire procession of sliding down the open flume to a complete halt as he stood there defying the world.

Finally, the little boy got the point that nobody in the line was going to let him break in front. He dejectedly headed to the back to wait his turn.

I said to Joy, "He might be cute, but he's not that cute." We all looked at each other thinking the same thing. Something is missing from this picture—the parent.

Later that afternoon, when Joy and I had our full of the water, we headed over to the dreaded roller coasters. While Joy enjoyed getting dizzy and spinning and being centrifuged to oblivion—after all, she is a gymnast—I held on and tried not to die. My stomach screamed even louder. Fortunately I did survive to live another day.

Our final event was the Gold Rush, a smaller, family-sized roller coaster which Joy talked me into riding. I hope it will be my last one. Of course, I said that the last time at Disney when she talked me into experiencing the Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I will spare you the bodily details on that one. If you are curious, you can watch it on YouTube—the full three minutes and eighteen seconds worth.

I stepped through the car of the Gold Rush and exited out the other side to place our personal belongings in a holding compartment. As I returned to my spot behind Joy, two wide‑eyed blond‑headed young girls were sitting in my seat.

All the other cars were full and everyone was waiting for me. I spoke to the little girls who might have been about eight years old, "You have taken my seat. You will have to wait till the next time to ride. My daughter is in front of you and I'm riding this with her."

They stared at me but refused to budge.

So I tried again. "I was setting our belongings in the storage compartment. You need to let me have my seat back."

Unflinching they continued to stare. Joy stared, too.

I said it again, this time a little louder. By this time I had gained everyone's complete, undivided attention and felt all eyes glued on me, but I wasn't going to give in.

"I'm sorry, but you have taken my seat. That is my daughter in front of you and I am riding with her."

Then one of the little girls yelled at me, "You mean you're not going to let me ride with my sister?"

"No, I am not." I glanced over at the other people waiting impatiently, one lady in particular. Are those her kids, I wondered? Nobody came to my rescue. I said it again more loudly, "You are in my seat. I was putting my stuff over here and you need to get out of my seat."

Finally, they reluctantly got out. The Gold Rush ride attendant walked over and seemed to be happy that the confrontation had ended peacefully without his becoming involved.

Then he added, "And you can't ride the Gold Rush with only a swimming suit top. You must have a shirt on." The girls looked at him disgustedly and promptly walked away.

I took my seat and enjoyed the easy ride thinking about the famous comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, who used to say, "I get no respect."

After the Gold Rush roller coaster ended, the young lady who had been watching the conversation intently between us asked, "Do you know those kids?"

"No, I don't." She shook her head in amazement as she walked away.

I thought about these two incidents at the park later. Where were the parents? After all, these were young kids. I didn't let my ten and a half-year‑old out of my sight and these children were much younger than my own daughter. And how could these kids have such disrespect for authority and adults? Perhaps the answer is no further away than the Beavis and Butt‑head show I had captioned a couple weeks earlier that was broadcast on MTV-2. Let me share some script from the episode that aired on June 17, 2009. Brace yourself.

- - -

THIS IS SEX EDUCATION WEEK.
THAT'S RIGHT, SEX ED WEEK.
WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THE PENISAND VAGINA.
DO YOU THINK THAT'S FUNNY?
DO YOU FIND IT AMUSING THAT WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THE TESTICLES?
WE'LL ALSO BE TALKING ABOUT VENEREAL DISEASE, SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, AND WE WILL DEFINITELY BE SPENDING A LOT OF TIME TALKING ABOUT MASTURBATION.[LAUGHTER]
NOW THAT THAT'S OUT OF THE WAY LET'S TAKE ROLL.
BUTT HEAD?
HERE.
[BELL]
[LAUGHING]
PENIS.
HE SAID MASTURBATION.
HE SAID VAGINA.
COOL.
[LAUGHING]
GIVE ME THAT FART KNOCKER.
CHECK IT OUT.
DAMN IT.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
I ERASED YOUR UNIT.
DAMN IT.
THAT'S NOT FUNNY.
I NEED MY UNIT.
RIGHT.
HE TAKES THE PENCIL TO THE –
BUTTHEAD IS DOWN BUT NOT FOR LONG.
HE'S GOING BACK INTO THE TRUNK.
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP?
KID, I THINK – OH. BROKEN.
LOOK AT IT.
THE DEHYDRATED BALL GOT SO –
AND BUTTHEAD IS SQUASHED LIKEA JUNE BUG IN JULY.
YOU DUMB ASS, QUIT SCREWING AROUND AND HELP ME OUT.
HEY, I WANT TO DIP MY BALLS IN IT.
[YEAH]
WHAT IS IN IT?
OATMEAL.
I WANT TO DIP MY BALLS IN IT.
WHAT IS IN IT?
ANY HORS D'OEUVRES.
WHO GIVES A DAMN?
I WANT TO DIP MY BALLS IN IT.
CHEER UP.
I WANT TO DIP MY BALLS IN IT.
I WANT TO PUT IT ON MY SANDWICH.
YEAH!
YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO SAY?
NO, YOU DON'T.
YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO SAY?
NO, WE DON'T.
YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO SAY?
NO, WE DON'T.
YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GOING TO SAY.
NO, WE DON'T.
I WANT TO DIP MY BALLS IN IT.
YEAH!
[APPLAUSE]
THAT EXTINGUISHER HAS GIVEN HIM A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION.
I'M NOT DOING YOU, ASS-WIPE.
DO YOURSELF.
DAMN IT.
BEAVIS,YOU'RE LIKE FAT.
IT'S MELEE DOWN THERE.
EXPLODING FARTS ARE COOL.
WHOA.
THAT'S PRETTY COOL.
DAMN IT.
BEAVIS, YOUR BALLS ARE FILTHY.
GO TO THE BALL WASHER NOW.
I FEEL LIKE I HAVE THE FULL ARENA OF EXPERIMENTATION.

- - -

In the 1960's there was a hit song with a profound message, where have all the flowers gone? I wonder today, forty years later in 2009, where have all the parents gone? Where has all decency gone? Where are our children and teens learning their values—from MTV 2's Beavis and Butt-head? I hope not. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:15: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child." If parents don't teach and guide their children, they will get their values from somewhere. Opportunities abound for the evil one to snatch up our precious little ones and hurt them.

The words of Jesus are vastly different than the script of Beavis and Butt-head. His words do not degrade our bodies created in His image, diminish our self-worth for whom He paid the ultimate price, or tear holes in the fabric of our hearts that need healing. Jesus is our ultimate example of love. He admonished his disciples in Mark 10:14: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:16 tells us, "...and he [Jesus] took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them."

These references and many others translate into "time." Jesus took time. We must take time to be with our children. Not just take them somewhere and drop them off for a day and leave them to their own devices. As a single mother, if I don't take that time, who will?

I don't want to leave the reader with an uninspired view of today's parenting world. As Jesus often did in His parables, I want to give "the other part of the story."

It was Mother's Day morning and I was on my way into the adult class for Sunday school when I received this text message: "I want to wish you a happy Mother's Day."

I did not recognize the name or the phone number. I sat through the entire Sunday school class reminiscing about who had sent me such a wonderful text message. My two daughters had already made me feel special but to receive a message from somebody I didn't know wishing me a happy Mother's Day lifted my spirits even more. I felt very special to have been remembered by an unknown person.

Later that afternoon my curiosity got the better of me and I text messaged back the person, "Who are you? I don't recognize your name."

As it turned out, a young girl had tried to text message her aunt and had mis-entered the number and I received her text. We sent many messages back and forth sharing the blessedness of Mother's Day and how much we appreciated our mothers and aunts and how we had quite so unexpectedly met in cyberspace. My daughters were quite amused at the flurry of words that were exchanged. I was sad when the text messages finally ended. A parent had taught their child how to love and the blessing had been "text‑messaged" to me.

I want my children to be a blessing to others. I don't want someone to look at my children and say, "I get no respect." It's wonderful when a parent unabashedly tells you, "Your child is a joy to have overnight at our house."

After a day at the Wild Adventures Park and seeing three children who did not know the meaning of respect, I am convicted of my need more than ever to be a loving mom. That translates into time. That might mean riding more roller coasters and flumes. Hopefully, at another time and place, a person standing next to one of my daughters won't be thinking, where is this kid’s parent? More importantly, I will be where God wants me to be, and it won't be captioning Beavis and Butt-head. I look forward to pushing the delete button and sending those nasty words to the recycle bin. That show needs more than recycling. Our children deserve better.