January has been an emotional month for us for most of our married life. Thirty-five years ago on this day, my brother was about to die and pass into the eternal presence of his Heavenly Father, and we had no idea. (Looking at God in an Odious Shape).
Thirty-four years ago on this day, I was in labor for the first time, and we didn’t have a clue that we would eventually be parents to twenty-one children.
Eleven years ago today, our first adopted child, Meghan, experienced her second adoption when she surrendered her heart and life to God. That was an incredible day! And it still brings tears to my eyes even now.
And this January, Scott and I, along with our three youngest children will be taking an emotional trip to Tampa, FL.
We’ve never been to Tampa, but for thirty-five years, we’ve wanted to go. Tampa Bay is where my brother was killed in 1980 when the Coast Guard cutter he was serving on – the Blackthorn – collided with an oil tanker and sank. About half of the men managed to get safely off the ship, and the other half perished. Every year since then, they have held a memorial service at the site, but we’ve never been able to attend. They also have a monument there with the names of the men who died that night engraved for the world to see and remember. I want to see that monument. I’ve wanted to since it was first placed in Blackthorn Memorial Park.
We also have several TSC families in Tampa, and they have invited us over the years to come and speak to families there about adoption. When donations came in a few months ago, sufficient to cover the cost of this trip, our Board of Trustees decided that this was finally the year that we should take this trip. We can’t take the whole family, but even just our three little ones are pretty powerful testimonies of how adoption changes lives. So the five of us will be going to Tampa to share their stories and speak of God’s faithfulness.
We were blessed to be able to time this trip so that we will be there for the Blackthorn’s 35th Memorial Service on January 28. We will finally be able to see where my brother’s life here ended and see his name on the monument that was erected in memory of the men who died. We will be able to meet other families who lost loved ones, and talk with some of the men who did survive — including the ones who have told us that they are Christians now because of my brother’s proclamation that he was a new creation in Christ and because of the way He lived like a newly created man as he walked on this earth.
It’s always an emotional thing for us to meet any other adoptive families — families whose hearts are quickened by the same things that cause our own hearts to burn passionately. And it’s especially emotional to spend time with families who have adopted children who came home as a result of The Shepherd’s Crook’s attempts to reduce the number of orphans in the world by even one more. We have very clear memories of some of these children’s first pictures when they were listed on our website years ago, and to see them growing up, leaving their marks on the world, blessing their families . . . . there really are no words. So we know that spending time with these families in Tampa who have been through very tough things, but have stood strong in their fights for their children, and to watch these children (who aren’t so little anymore) in action in their new lives and think of all that God has done – these things will bring many emotions from deep in our hearts to the surface.
Being at the place where my brother spent his last days and literally drew his last breath, will also cause many emotions to move from the background to the forefront of our minds and hearts.
We are packing many Kleenexes.
Please pray for us as we take this trip. Pray that we won’t let fear of pain cause us to shy away from feeling all that God would have us feel, learn, see, hear while we are there. Pray that we will be empty vessels, ready to be used by Him to accurately represent who He is and how deep His love runs for His children. Please pray that God will bring people to hear what we have to say and for open ears that will listen as we try to give voices to the voiceless orphans of the world; open hearts that will break and choose to join the fight for the fatherless.
Pray for the practical aspects of the trip. Scott and I will be negotiating three wheelchairs through airports, and the three children going with us all have to be catheterized every three hours and need to be kept on their regular medication schedules. Also, our days will be pretty packed the whole time we are there. But we don’t want to let any of these stresses cast a shadow over what we believe could be a beautifully blessed time.
Please pray for our children who will be staying here. We will leave on January 24 and return on January 29. Greg and Kristen will move in with their seven children to care for our other children while we are gone. Erin, whose leg hadn’t healed enough for a walking cast as we had hoped, is still completely off of her feet and requiring much daily care; and Nathan will have surgery on his leg about a week before we leave. He has a piece of bone that’s causing problems for him whenever he wears his prosthesis, so this surgery has to be done asap, but this means that he will only be able to help out on a limited basis while we’re gone.
Our dear friend, Iris, will be coordinating meals for the family here, and if you would like to help out with that, please email her.
If any of you lives in the Tampa area, we’d love, love to see you. Our speaking line-up is as follows:
Sunday morning 1/25: 11:00 a.m. service at Grace Church; 7060 Berry Road; Zephyrhills. Fl; 33540
Sunday evening 1/25: 6:30 service at Crestview Baptist Church; 615 Old Polk City Road; Lakeland, Fl 33809
Monday evening 1/26: 7:00 at Victory Church; 1401 Griffin Rd.; Lakeland, FL; 33810
As always, thank you for your love for our family and your love for the work of The Shepherd’s Crook. We love to hear from you, so please feel free to write to us anytime, comment here, and/or share this post.
Happy New Year!
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Kathy, I know that nothing anyone can say about Gary’s death will ease the emotions you will feel this week but know that we all are praying for you and your family. You are such an amazing person to take and care for so many in need and such a role model for others. Bless you and your wonderful family on this trip and every day.
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