Thursday, November 17, 2011

13

Yesterday you turned 13. I made you cupcakes. And I cried, A LOT.

I thought of the 13 years you have lived. I thought of the many losses you have felt. I thought of all the times you have been betrayed, abandoned, used. I thought of the fact that I don't even know the tip of the iceberg of any of these things in your life. I tried to pray for you, but there weren't even words to ask God for blessing for you. I wanted to say so many things that I couldn't say any. I don't know if you were even aware it was your birthday, and I almost hope that you weren't. I hope in my heart that you are happy, at peace. I try to pray for confidence for you, that you will join our family soon, but I'm not even sure I have this same confidence. I pray and hope and dream of what it will be like when we are together, and at the same time cry at the thought of losing you before you're ever mine.

You are mine. You will always be mine. You are a huge piece of my heart, have been since the moment we said yes. I walk in your room and expect to see you. I look at the space next to me on the couch and know that that's where you belong. As we head into winter I have added blankets to your bed, I don't want you to be cold if you come home tomorrow and I forget you need more blankets. I hug girls your age at church and know that it's nothing compared to the hug of my daughter. My daughter. My smart, compassionate, sarcastic, beautiful daughter. You are mine. I couldn't stop loving you if I tried. I have in fact tried to pretend that I don't love you, but it doesn't work. To stop loving you would be like going blind. It would be the end of life as I know it. I know that I would go on, but every breath would ache. My heart is broken by the thought of you. No one just walks away from this kind of break, it will leave a mark for the rest of my life.

So, the only option in my heart is to hope against hope that you are coming home. I put all of my eggs in this basket, and I just have to trust that it was a good idea. I know that God works all things to the good of conforming his children to the image of Christ. I know that nothing is impossible with God. I know. I KNOW. Even though all the unknown is overwhelming, I cling to what I know. I know that I love you. I know that God is good. I know that God is in control. I know that you are mine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rest and reassurance

During our study tonight of imprecatory Psalms, God reassured my weary heart. We read several in our Community Group as an echo to the sermon from Sunday and to lead into discussion. As I read Psalm 9 aloud, I was reduced to weeping, and my amazing husband had to come to my rescue to finish the reading.

Here are a few verses that rocked my broken heart:

Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessings be on your people! Ps 3:8

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Ps 4:8

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Ps 5:11-12

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. Ps 7:17

And finally the one that brought me to tears in the presence of dear friends:

The LORD is a stronghold to the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Ps 9:9-10

There have been moments in the last month that it has seemed like we are surrounded on all sides by evil that is conspiring against us. We are seeking to be faithful to what God has called us to in the church, we are fighting to love our daughter who is feeling further away every day, we are struggling to honor God in our marriage as we are tempted to get lazy. We are fighting in every aspect of our lives for righteousness, justice, mercy, and yet it seems the further into the battle we get the more we realize that evil in the world is much more pervasive, numerous, and crafty than we are prepared for. Our battle, indeed is not against flesh and blood, but humans are often used as mines in the dangerous fields we tread.

And yet, salvation belongs to God. We can lie down and rest because God sustains us. We are shielded by his righteousness. He is perfectly just, in ways we could never even comprehend. Though I am shaken, God will never be shaken, his throne is firmly planted.

By the mighty hand of God, for his glory, and for the good of conforming us to the image of Christ, righteousness will prevail. My daughter will come home. Our effort to teach gospel to teenagers will produce fruit. My marriage will survive. My friends will know that I love them. My city will feel the love of God.

And I will find rest in praising the one who made me, who redeemed me, who adopted me, who loves me, who leads me, who shelters me, who sustains me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bible induced angst

Final week of James with Marla, and also a bonus week of purge related awesomeness. Check out Marla's 31 days of purging, it'll wreck ya!

By the way, I just read this blog, and feel a little embarrassed because I say A LOT of these things on a regular basis, and probably drive everyone around me nuts. But I digress... EDIT: the link is dead, no idea what I was talking about, move on. :) But this lady has a fun blog!

I'm going to cheat a bit this week by actually being structured and following Marla's questions instead of just ranting and it not making a whole lot of sense. Go to the link at the top if you forget the questions.

1. James 5:1-6 is so hard on my heart right now. I'm not going to say I don't like it, but I honestly don't know what to do with it. We have had to make some very hard financial choices in our almost 4 years of marriage. God placed it on our hearts to be free from debt, while equally placing it on our hearts to give until it hurts. We have lived against the cultural mores of wealth and comfort in so many ways. We give water buffalo as Christmas presents for goodness sakes! But we are still better off than 99% of the world population. And every choice we make affects another life, even if the life is an unseen face half-way around the world. I am honestly paralyzed. God has graciously worked in me a givers heart, through the constant tenderizing of my husband giving our lives away, but I feel like it's never enough. There is always more I can do. There is always more I can give. There will always be poor, orphans, widows, broken people in every corner of my life and I will NEVER be sufficient. What good does buying fair trade coffee do in light of tens of thousands of people dying from famine? What is the point?! Maybe I just haven't moved past the lamenting part of this. Thankfully I have a God who is bigger than I could ever comprehend, and when I asked him to break my heart, he did. I just don't know what to do out of this brokenness.

2. Patience in suffering? I would love to hear what someone else has to say about this. Actually, no, I wouldn't because in the last 2 months I have probably heard it at least once from some well meaning person. Here's the thing, suffering doesn't come in just one form, and it often comes all at once in all it's hydra-like glory. Is waiting for ANY information about your soon (hopefully) to be adopted child suffering? In a sense yes. Is finding that you have no time to spend with your spouse because God has called you to a ministry that requires a lot of time suffering? It can be. Is relationships that you thought were solid (even ones you thought were growing into true friendship) getting unstable seemingly all because of your lack suffering? For sure it can feel like the worst kind of heartache. Is your co-workers attacking you in stupid petty ways suffering? Yeah, especially when it feels like sadistic scientists just testing the rat in a maze to see when he will just give up and die. Is people you don't have time to invest your heart in asking you for help suffering? Don't have an answer for that. I can say this though, when you are praying for patience in suffering, and "life" seems to pile on the heaps of chaos, those prayers become much more desperate. The refining fires of faith cause this earthen vessel to make a whole lot of noise (think random kid screaming for no reason) and lash out in crazy spastic ways (think Daffy Duck spaz out.) Gentle and quiet spirit, hmmmm.

The prayer of faith section gets my goat too. I grew up in a church where people prayed for healing a lot more often then they saw a doctor. I now go to a church where it seems like there is maybe more MD trust than I AM trust. And before you think I'm condemning the church that I call home, I'm pointing the finger right back at myself for all too often seeking medical advice before praying for healing. Now is the church that I grew up in right? I don't know. There were times where it seemed imprudent to have a sick kid (actively throwing up) in church so that people could lay hands on said kid and pray for healing. But there was also a man who had an imminently terminal diagnosis from a brain tumor that disappeared days after people prayed for him. If we are suffering we should pray. If we are cheerful, we should sing praise. And if we are sick we should have the elders pray for us. And the tie in with sin is just down-right confusing, and could easily cause people to think like Job's friends.

Brother James, why did you have to end your letter on such rocky ground for my heart? God, why did you see fit to include this as part of your words of correction, love, and encouragement?  Why is my heart so wrecked by so many nuances in one little chapter of the Bible? Oh right, I am not my own, I was bought with a price. That price requires me to DO justice, to LOVE mercy, and to WALK humbly with my God.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Humble Pie = Not Awesome

Today I had a very humbling conversation. By humbling, what I mean to say is that my heart is WRECKED. Everything that my friend said to me was very much in love, but the truth has ripped me open.

There was a lot of nuance to this conversation, and it was rather lengthy, but I walked away feeling like an utter failure. In summation, I have loved so passionately, without enough words and explanation, that people see my love as attack. I have given every ounce of myself to others, and they have seen it as me judging them. I have asked people to join me on the exciting journey of serving the body of Christ, and they have perceived me as a "works" person. I have honestly shared that I have reached the end of my sufficiency, and they wonder if I should think about giving some things up. And seriously, this was all said in love.

I asked J how I could fail so epically in so many relationships, and he really didn't know what to say. We are convinced that he and I could say the same exact words and people would see his words as loving and my words as mean. It's like how people sometimes see God in the OT as vengeful (mean bearded guy up in the clouds just waiting to strike down with lightning the rotten kids who won't get off his lawn) and God in the NT as loving (Jesus in his white robe, with flowing hair, carrying a lamb on his shoulders and smiling at the children at his feet) and miss the fact that this is the same God. Not that I think that I am God, far from that, but I feel so misunderstood.

I have prayed for a while now for a gentle and quiet spirit. Those two words are so contrary to my "nature" that it's laughable for me to pray for them, but God has been known to work miracles. Here I am, feeling like that has been for nothing, because obviously what is coming out is not gentle OR quiet. Abrasiveness is apparently my forte. I thought the goal was to look more like Jesus, not less.

So in my brain I go through all the externals that I can try to fix: grow my hair out, have less rigid posture, walk slower and with less "purpose", speak in lower volume and tones, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. When really it is my heart that is the problem. If the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control) were truly flowing out of my heart, all of these other things wouldn't matter. If I was truly reflecting Christ in my words and deeds, people would not see such sharp edges of me sticking out. Oh how Romans 7 was written just for me!

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

~ Frances Ridley Havergal

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let the forehead smacking commence

Read-along time!

James 4 is a remarkably good one for me this week. The funny thing is, the culmination of how my week has been, and how James 4 has wrecked me, came last night. I love God's timing!

James 4:10 knocked me over this week. J and I started a new class with our HS students last Saturday. This is the first class we have ever come up with curriculum for, taught, and felt responsible for the hearts of our students who attend the class. We have become good at being supporting role people, and actually think this is what God meant for our lives when we started to think about ministry. This is not supporting role, and as a result is way far out of our comfort zones. It is also a way for me to lose sight of humility.

Several of the kids actually thanked us for the class afterward, which surprised me. Kids aren't typically good at articulating appreciation. Parents sought us out on Sunday to thank us for pouring into their kids. I sincerely said to them that it is a honor to be doing what God has made us to do. I told them how much I LOVE loving on HS students and giving away truth to them. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words. You would think that I could get puffed up by the appreciation, but in fact I found an even sneakier way of not being humble.

The guy over J and I didn't say directly to me that he appreciated our hard work, that he thought we did a good job, or that he was thankful for our partnership in the ministry. That's where my pride bristled up in all it's ugly glory. He told J all of those things, but he didn't tell me. How dare he not come to me personally and express gratitude! I know J and I often say "We are the Borg, you tell one of us and it's the same as telling both of us,"  but dang it, I want my personal recognition. I started to complain to J about this yesterday and he asked if I had checked my email. "Of course I haven't, I'm too busy for that!" He proceeds to read off emails that the guy over us sent to J and I, and then to the rest of the ministry, about how much he appreciates us and thinks we did a good job. Did I receive this well? No, I complained further. Later when I thought about it God brought James 4:10 to mind. What we were teaching was not about us, but about God. Our ministry to the youth is not for our glory but for God's. Our very breath that we use to complain is a gift from God. Is it just me and Paul or does the Romans 7:24 moment wreck any other hearts?

Here's the other kicker for the week. When filling out 10,000 pages of paperwork for our adoption there was a little question of guardianship for our children in the unfortunate event of our deaths before our kids are adults. We didn't really pray about this question. We both just looked at it, started making a list of who would not go there, for various reasons, and narrowed it down to one family. We wrote that family in, and figured we would talk with them about it later. We love and trust this family, feel like we agree on the essentials of faith, and like their parenting style. It's a no-brainer. Check! Answered that question, move on. Now I don't think this is legally binding if we write up a will and name someone else, but I don't know, but we are seriously reconsidering the answer to that question.

Looking back, we answered that question a lot in the same vein of James 4:13-17. We didn't really consider what God's will for this would be. We made our plans, without seriously considering what tomorrow could bring. This may make us sound like awful potential adoptive parents, but let me explain. When filling out seriously whole trees worth of information about your life, sometimes it gets late into the night and you answer a little too gut instinct and little less God's will. It's not an excuse, but a serious "why did we say that? Oh right it was midnight and our brains were fried." Now, I'm not even sure we're whole-heartedly reconsidering, but we definitely are asking God how we should proceed. Here's why we're finally asking that question. The husband of this family wrote a blog post about the Christian's response to poverty, social justice, and the kingdom of God. We have been aware that we differ with him on some theological issues, but until now that didn't really make us uncomfortable. Last night we were uncomfortable.

We are now and not yet people. We understand that some think we are WAY off base in our thinking that consummation of redemption is future and we are also working in the kingdom even now. We hope that every day we are taking steps to usher in the kingdom of God, putting hands and feet to "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We understand that it can be an eschatological mine-field to talk about the final consummation of Christ taking his bride, while also talking about how the bride is to live now. We get it. But we choose to care for the poor, to welcome the orphans into our hearts and lives, to love on widows, and to proclaim liberty to the captives. We feel it is beholden upon us as Christians to be the body of Christ, and these things are natural functions of the body.

There is a lot of debate lately about the theological implications of poverty, orphan care, and wealth. My untrained, un-seminaried, illogical answer to the argument is this: Mercy ministry is kingdom work! This flies directly in opposition to my dear brother whom I would trust with the lives of my adopted kids. And so, I debate how to talk to this significantly more Bible educated brother about how passionately I feel that God has called us to bring his kingdom even now. And I debate if I should ask him and his beautiful wife, whom I love so much, to care for my kids if they are orphaned again by their adopted family. I don't know how you tell an adopted kid that their adoption is not part of the kingdom coming, but I fear that might be the way they see it. And I smack myself in the forehead for thinking "today I will do this, and tomorrow this is what will happen, and it will be great!" without thinking "God what do you want?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not many of you

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. - James 3:1

Ugh. I have read this verse over and over. It has permeated my thoughts as J and I prepare our teaching for this Saturday. It bangs me over the head when I wonder what to talk about with my girls on Thursday afternoons. It makes me laugh that laugh that only those who are teachers get when they hear this verse. Greater strictness? No kidding! Ugh

And why, does God see it wise to bring more girls into my life to teach? Doesn't he know I'm already doing a shoddy job in the lives already here? Doesn't he know that I'm already overwhelmed by the giving account that I have to give for these little children? These aren't even my kids, but I feel the weight of them becoming functional adults so heavy on my heart. I need them to hear the gospel more than I need food. It is tempting to ask God why he put me in this time and place. I feel like Moses trying to convince God that I'm not cut out for the job of declaring freedom to the captives.

I had a conversation with God today that wasn't very polite on my end. It was actually kinda bratty. Man, I can be such a toddler sometimes. I have been praying for wisdom about our adoption for weeks. I have been claiming James 1:5 as a promise. I have prayed fervently for wisdom. But I haven't done a  whole lot of listening to God's response. So, I was praying for wisdom in another situation, as I was on my way to meet with one of my girls. And, in my bratty, unbridled tongue way, basically told God I don't think he has given wisdom when I asked in faith about it regarding our adoption, so maybe at least he could give me a little regarding this other situation. I am thankful that  God doesn't strike me down in righteous anger for such presumptions upon his gifts and nature.

After a good productive time with my girl, I came home and sat down to write a post for the Read-Along. I figured I should read James 3 again just so it's fresh in my brain. Or maybe it was more God saying, "read this, I have something for you to learn." James 3:17-18 hit me like a ton of bricks.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
I have not been living a very wise life. I am asking God for wisdom, and yet the words of my mouth, and thus where my heart is, are not very pure. I have not been making peace. I am FAR from gentle. What is reason? I don't think I have any. I admitted to J last night that I have no mercy left in me. And good fruits? Let's not even head down that road of lack. I see only what I want to see, and how I want to see it. Sarcasm is dripping from my tongue like venom. I am sowing discord, and guess what I'm harvesting...

Again, not many should become teachers.

But God
...has reconciled me to himself, so that he could present me as holy, blameless, above reproach, and steadfastly rooted in him (Col 1:21-23)
...has made me alive in Christ, and adopted me into his family in order to show me the immeasurable riches of his grace (Eph 2:1-10)
...has justified me by grace, as a gift, and has satisfied his wrath against me and washed me clean by the blood of Christ (Romans 3:19-26)
...has poured out richly through Jesus, because of his great mercy, the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-7)

Oh Lord, help me to see the wisdom that you have given richly to me, and to live in it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Call to prayer

This is an edited version of  an email we sent to close friends and family. Some folks read here, but have not received that email, so if you fall into that category, here you go!

Hey friends and family!

We are sorry for the complete lack of communication lately about our adoption, but those of you who know anything about adoption know that this is how it is sometimes. We do not have any updates per se, and so we have not emailed with updates. Here is what has transpired in the last few weeks.
  • We have received a few more pictures of our daughter, she is still beautiful, and our hearts are still in love with her sweet face.
  • Her advocate, our sole source of information, has had some major family crises happen in the last few weeks, and has really had to focus on her life, which has, with good reason, pushed us to the background for a bit.
  • We are still waiting for the US government to get things taken care of, and if you watch the news at all you know that there are so many other big things on plates of government officials right now, our little family isn't very significant to them.
  • We still don't know if when to expect to travel.
As you can see, not much has changed. But, our hearts have changed in a big way. J and I talked the other night about where we are at, and both of us feel like it's time to really fight for our daughter. Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do tangibly to fight for her. Basically what we are being told is to stay out of the way and let the professionals do what they do. So how do we fight for our daughter from the sidelines? This is what God says to us:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -- Eph 6:10-12

This is where our fight is. We feel th
at the delays, and the silence, and the chaos in the advocate's life, and the struggle in our hearts are not necessarily things from God, but some are attacks of the spiritual forces of evil. Our enemy does not like adoption. It is a beautiful real life picture of the power of God to redeem lives, and it brings great glory to God when his people hear his call in adoption. (James 1:27) I don't say that to make myself feel special, I say it because it is true. Just as marriage is constantly attacked because it is the image of God and his church, adoption is attacked because it is the image of our inheritance in the kingdom of God. So we are entering into spiritual battle for our daughter, and it will be a long and hard fight that will continue for the rest of her life.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because we need your help. Many of you have sweetly reminded us on dozens of occasions that you are praying for us. For that we are so grateful. Many more of you are praying even though we don't know specifically of it. If there are any of you who feel a heart burden for our daughter, or for us, it is time for you to stand against the schemes of the devil. Our God is great and mighty, and has called us as his people to fight for justice to reign on the earth. We are hands and feet delivering justice by caring for the poor, the orphans, and the widows, but we are also soldiers fighting in the epic battle against evil that threatens to destroy hearts and lives. We will not back down, we will not surrender, for the LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46)

Dear friends, please pray. Pray against the schemes of the devil that would try to stop God's plan of redemption for our daughter. Pray for saving faith to blossom in her heart. Pray against the whispers of discouragement planted in our minds like flaming darts. Pray for joy in our hearts as we face this trial and are tempted to despair. Pray against the attacks coming on the lives of people involved in facilitating our adoption. Pray for their hearts to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Pray against delays in the government. Pray for wisdom for our governmental leaders in regard to our nation, our family, and our daughter. Pray. Even when you don't hear from us for a while, pray. Even when you wonder what God is doing in our lives by calling us to this, pray. Even when you get tired of hearing us ask for prayer and want to do something practical, pray. Please pray.

Thank you all for standing with us in the first line of defense for our daughter!

Love!

D & J

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I get a little excited...

Here we are in week 2 of the James read along with Marla and friends, and I am so excited about what God is doing.

I had to laugh at God's providence this week. I read James 2, and Ephesians 2 at the same time. If you don't realize how funny this is, seriously go read both and note the times that they are seemingly contradictory. One could easily miss the great similarities of these two chapters of the Bible because they are so differently written. Paul is all high and lofty, throwing in these amazing transcendent explanations of the entire plan of salvation from the beginning of time while at the same time reminding us that this is not a self-justifying faith, and James is down and dirty calling us out in our laziness and judgmental attitudes. You could even read James 2:14-26 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and think that the Bible obviously contradicts itself. And therefore, if it contradicts itself in this one place, how many other places are contradictory? And if that doubt is legitimate, well then we might as well just put the Bible away, not place our hope in it, and try out something else that seems a little more logical, or at least easier to figure out.

But rather than lose heart, I choose to dig. As one of the elders at our church likes to remind us, it's all about context, and no one verse was made to stand on its own to explain the entirety of God's plan for all eternity, even though some of them come close. The Bible is an unfolding of the story of redemption over millennium. We can spend our entire lives exploring the mystery of Jesus revealed in scriptures and still have so much we don't understand.

I know, this is a study of James, but I'm going to diverge into Ephesians 2:1-10 for a sec, mostly because this paragraph is one of my go to scriptures when reminding high-schoolers of the gospel. Revel in it for a bit if you will:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You just have to LOVE when God puts in the most amazing use of that little contraction "but" to just blow our minds with his plan. This is the cross, inserted precisely in the moment of dire wreckage, that causes our hearts to wonder at the love so richly poured out by the blood of our Savior!

But how in the world does this passage, and James go so neatly together? Did you catch the last sentence?
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We are created in Christ Jesus for good works! We who are the bride of Christ, the bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, bride of Jesus, are made for good works. And these aren't just random, haphazard good works, because God in his sovereignty prepared them for us, and us for them. So we are to walk in them. What are these good works? God already told us that in James! Praise be to God that this book of his redemptive history ties all together, and has the power to relieve our lost, doubting hearts from fear and worry!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wisdom, With a Dash of Meekness

Here I go on another read-along with my sweet sister Marla. Yet again, God is timely in his placing of these read-alongs on my life. So, where am I, and why is a study of James so needed in my life? Have a sit, and let's talk...

My sweet husband and I received a call about a month ago about a girl who needed a family to adopt her, and based on what we had previously told my friend who works at a placing agency, our hearts were longing for just this girl. Well, honestly when we got the call, our hearts were not longing for this girl, and we felt very unready to say yes, but in theory this is the kind of kid we were thinking of when we talked about adoption. After several hours apart, praying while going about our day, we convened in the kitchen for a talk about the girl that God had placed in our hearts through one little phone call. As we each voiced our concerns, the other one would say "But God..." and then that concern seemed so invalid. This "But God" has been rolling around in my brain for about 6 months, so it's no surprise that God used those two simple words to warm my heart of clay to his intentions.

We expected her home any day now, and she is still not. We are in the midst of limbo, and it is the ugly, sticky, grey kind of gut-wrenching, faith-mocking, heart-breaking waiting that our hearts are unable to comprehend. There are days where I feel like I can't pray because my prayers feel too bitter to express. There are many days where James 1:2-4 are just a reminder of how little I trust God to give me the gift of children. How can I count it as joy when my heart yearns for the unseen? At what point will my faith be tested enough to produce steadfastness? When will my lacking of my daughter, the piece of my heart I didn't even know existed a month ago, be taken away and my joy fulfilled? Oh my soul, cling to your God!

But God has reminded me this week to ask for wisdom. There is so much I don't know, and may never know about my daughter, but I have to make decisions on her behalf before she is "officially" mine. Those decisions do not have to be made out of the combined pea-brain power of my brain and my husbands. I can ask my Father for wisdom, and he will give graciously to me without mocking me for my need. And God reminds me to hurry up and listen, be quiet, and slow my roll. (James 1:19 Dani Standard Version or DSV.)

Then I start to read the verses about bridling my tongue, and there is a big gulp that resounds in the chasms of my heart. My tongue gets away from me often, mostly because I take pride in it being unbridled. I am not good at all about shutting my mouth. The "be still and quiet" passages of the Bible are ones that I LOVE quoting to others, especially the horde of teenagers God has blessed me with, but really don't like to hear them for myself. There are rare times when I say things and then take a step back and say "Whoa! That was awesome!" More often though, I step back and say "Ugh! How does that meanness (ugliness, selfishness, etc.) come out of a heart that God has recreated?" How can I pray on the phone with a sweet girl who is struggling with loneliness, and then turn around and be sarcastic to my husband? And what do I do about it?

I NEED to receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save my soul. The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, more fully within those who have believed.  I need to receive Him in meekness. God in his mercy reminds me of 1 Peter 3:1-6, and then gently reminds my troubled heart that he is my good and perfect husband. Lord help me, I need a gentle and quiet spirit!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pour out my heart

There's so much to do, and all I want to do is sit here and cry. I need to finish organizing and cleaning the guest bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, dining room, and guest bedroom. It probably wouldn't hurt to do a whole house vacuum and dust after I do all of that because of the sheer chaos that has been brought on my house lately, but I seriously doubt that my motivation will get me much farther than the kitchen.

With so much to do, why can I even contemplate sitting here and crying? Because I have lived with my phone attached to my person for the last 2 weeks, and the phone call I want hasn't come. Because my daughter isn't home, and my soul longs for that to not be true. Because it is so easy to look at all that we've accomplished and feel like none of it matters if my heart isn't in my arms. Because I go in her room a dozen times a day just thinking that I will open the door once and she will be there. Because I started out praying for a random girl, and now she is my daughter and I can't even tell her how much love God has put in my heart for her. Because miracle upon miracle has happened to get her home, and yet there is unfulfilled joy.

So, I have a good cry. And I read this promise:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. - Ps 62:5-8
 And I take a deep breath. God I will pour out my heart before you while I clean my house today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Letter to my Daughter

Dear Child of my Heart,

I have prayed for you longer than I have known you were alive. I have longed for the day to look into your eyes for the first time, even before I knew what color your eyes were. I have cried out to God to give me a daughter, and he gave me one from the beginning of time. You have been in my heart from the beginning, and will be until the end of my life. I love you.

I have tried to imagine how frightened you might be about becoming my daughter. I have prayed that you would know how much I love you before we even meet. I know it will be difficult for you to trust me, but I plan on spending the rest of my life earning the privilege of being someone your heart can trust.

It will be my honor to protect your heart with my life. My duty as your mother may at times look like something I have to do, but I assure you that the "have to" comes from the very compulsion of my heart to be what I was made for. I may not have held you in my arms right after giving birth to you, but that doesn't make me any less devoted to you.

I can't wait to learn who you are. I want to know your every dream, fear, happiness, and heartache. I want to encourage you in the things your are gifted at. I want to see your personality flourish. I'm already dreaming of the amazing woman you will grow into.

Most of all, I am excited to tell you about my Heavenly Father. I pray every day that you will come to a saving faith in the One who can bring lost souls out of darkness into his marvelous light. I pray that you let your heart be healed by his love. I hope for you to find ultimate protection, strength, love, encouragement, and peace in God.

I know at times you will think that I am too harsh, and sometimes you may be right. I know that I will fail you often, yet that doesn't dissuade me from trying to be a faithful mother to you. Please know that my best efforts, and my biggest failures, are all in the pursuit of loving you better and pointing you to my Savior who can love you best.

I will love you forever!

Mom

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is it foolishness or power?

My heart is heavy for a girl who is half a world away. This girl is not hypothetical, she has a name, and she is beautiful. For the sake of her heart, I will leave a lot or details out, but if you know us well you know who she is.

This girl is alone in a country that is not safe for girls to be alone. It is a miracle she has lasted this long, and as is the case for all orphans, it is questionable how long she can continue.  She needs a family to fight for her, she needs a family to love her, she needs a safe place to call home.

I received a call from a dear friend, whom I trust in these matters, asking me to pray about this girl. This friend pours out her heart and life for orphans, seeking to find homes for those who are alone. Her joy in what she does is evident in every conversation, and she takes it as a high calling to be able to care for orphans. My dear friend knows our hearts well enough to know what we are thinking and praying about as far as children in our family, and has been a wonderful encouragement along the way. She asked me if she could send this girl's information my way, and just asked me to pray about adoption. Somehow, even as my brain screamed "NO!" my mouth said "yes," very timidly. I was a little shocked by the words coming out of my mouth, but that's not a new experience for me!

By absolute providence, I walked outside and there was J, home from work on his lunch break. I told him about my conversation, and we both sat stunned, staring at each other, shaking our heads.  "We're not ready yet" is what both of us were thinking.

We have talked extensively about adoption over the last year. We initially looked into a certain area of the world, and felt like we were supposed to wait. Not that we were wrong, just that our timing, and our understanding of the situation was off. So then we started looking into foster care locally. We submitted our application and started the background check. A week later we get this phone call. This is not what we were expecting, but it is also exactly what our hearts were headed towards.

J went back to work, and when he got home that night we talked again, both with several hours of prayer under our belts. As we talked we came to one conclusion. This is where the rubber meets the road in our faith. This feels very much like a "Do you love me?" moment (John 21.)

We say that we want to care for the orphans, especially the older ones whom few are willing to care for. We say that we want to be a safe harbor for girls who would otherwise be destroyed by the broken world around them. We say that we know that God has a plan for our lives that involves loving those who are hard to love. We say that we are Christians.

What is comes down to is do we trust God?

Do we trust that his plans for us are good, and that those plans are for the expressed purpose of conforming us into the image of Christ, who for the joy set before him endured the cross? Do we trust God that he is good? Do we trust that the safety of a girl we don't know might be more important to the kingdom of heaven than the safety of our family? Do we trust that God knows every aspect of this girl's life, even though we may never know all of it? Do we trust that, by God's grace, we can love her even if she never loves us? Do we trust that the message of redemption is more important than our lives? Do we trust that God is who he says he is, and that we are who he says we are?

Do we trust God?

And furthermore, are we willing to put our hearts, lives, money, reputations, and safety where our mouths are?

We are standing at a line that once crossed cannot be be uncrossed, and we are asking each other over and over, "how can we NOT?" Admittedly, I feel a little like Indiana Jones stepping out into the abyss only to find that there is a straight and narrow path there. There are a million reasons to say that this is not the path for us. There are a million excuses for why we should just walk away and let someone else worry about this girl. And anyone in our lives, if we explained our reasons logically or spiritually enough, would understand. Some might even give us a little pat on the back, as if we had narrowly escaped a close call and were to be thought of as lucky.

But God has one reason for us to step over the line, love. Love that has been richly lavished upon us, even while we were afar off, enemies and traitors with hatred in our hearts. God knows our many excuses, and yet still compels our hearts to love.

Today, I have found myself sobbing at the thought of a girl I know so little about. Scrolling through Facebook, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, driving down the road, folding laundry, every day life has become unsafe for my heart. And so I pray for her, and I think on 1 Corinthians 1:18 - For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ummm... yes please, 'Cause I'm crazy

I met my hero last night.  OK, I guess I can't say that I "met" in that we didn't actually have a conversation, exchange names and phone numbers, and become BFFs.  But I met her nonetheless.  And I want to grow up to be her.  This is much bigger than my desire to grow up and be Audrey Hepburn one day, so yeah, this is big.

We went to an Orientation meeting for CYFD.  This is basically where they tell you what fostering and adopting in the state is like; good, bad, and ugly.  The director lady spoke first, and I started crying within 10 minutes.  Then a social worker, who works on the adoption side of things, spoke.  I loved that she said that she doesn't look for a kid for your family, she looks for a family for her kids.  LOVE.  Then there was my hero.

This lady came to the meeting with 10 kids.  She opened by saying that the social worker is about to facilitate her 181st adoption because they are about to adopt their 2 year old.  Then she laughed and said her oldest child is 31, "so pray for me."  She and her husband have 3 bio kids, 4 adopted kids, and about to have one more.  And they have countless kids who have come in and out of their home through the foster system that you can tell are still part of her heart.  She said that she doesn't say "these are my bio kids, these are my adopted kids, and these are my foster kids."  And she doesn't answer questions.  She just says "these are my kids, and I love them.  Aren't they cute?"

We got in the car, and I told J I want to grow up and be her.  His response? "Yeah, me too."

So why did our hearts go to Thailand when we got serious about adoption, and now they are looking at our own city? NO IDEA.  Why did we say there's no way we could foster, and now it's a definite possibility?  NO IDEA.  Why did I ask for information about Thailand adoption from an international agency and they sent a whole packet without the specific information I asked for?  NO IDEA.

Actually, I do have an idea to all of those.  Because God is.  He is sovereign, faithful, merciful, good, just, and holy.  And because he wants us to be too.  I don't know what that all means, but I know it's because God is.

We were lost children who were found by him, and now he is calling us to find lost children.  And with much joy, and fear, and excitement, and worry, I say yes please.