Thursday, August 9, 2012

If You Were A Boat

I'm back, today anyway, beating the same drum I hope I have from the start: where our hope is.  Our hope is in Christ.  Today, I've got a question that's been rattling around in my head.  For context, I could refer to JD Greear teaching that a believer's life should have absolutely no explanation for how it's lived, except for the gospel.  I can testify that the gospel-defended life is most likely one characterized by much sin and suffering, as is the gospel, but much more so by grace, healing, restoration, mercy, love and joy.  There is no gospel-centered life without sacrifice, as there's no gospel without suffering, and sacrifice wouldn't be sacrifice if it were easy.  

I could also say that a recently, Matt Papa shared this little gem: why would God give you what you've always wanted, if what you've always wanted isn't Him?  Indeed, there's no corner of our life, not even the happy, good, God-pleasing corners, that is not to be laid on the table as a willing sacrifice, for His glory and our good.  When our happy lives and all of their pleasing, or at least pleasurable, corners are offered up, the glory revealed and healing and knowledge of Our Father and His Son, who already sacrificed more than we ever could while we still hated Him, are sweeter blessings than we could have known absent the opportunity to give over what we thought was so sweet.  

I can also say that truly loving people - hurting, hurtful, sinful people - with the love which we have received is hard.  But for the gospel, there is no explanation for loving someone when that love appears to be of absolutely no benefit to us, and in fact when it is most painful and costly.  The gospel is that while I was still a sinner, while I was still a long way off, while I was hostile, stiff-necked, proud, stubborn, covetous, gossiping, mean, defensive, defiant, unfaithful, unrepentant, selfish, dispassionate, fearless, lying, and blind to my need for Him, Christ died for me.  I am the beneficiary of a gift I needed so desperately I couldn't even ask for it.  As a response, I am charged with loving the way that I have been loved:  selflessly, sacrificially, repeatedly, patiently, with endurance and kindness and with no other explanation.  We don't love people because they are worthy; we love people because Christ is worthy.

So, here's the question and I think the answer, which in fact are related to having only the gospel as an explanation for one's life or one's response to suffering and to offering up what's good for what is better: of what benefit is it to the wind to fill the sails of a boat and move it across the water, but to give glory to the One who commands the wind?  Of what benefit is it to the tree to harbor the bird in a storm, but to demonstrate the power and provision of the One who sustains its branches and makes it strong?  Of what benefit is it to the moon and stars to guide lost sailors, but to testify to the glory of the One who spoke them into creation with a word?  Of what benefit is it to a sister who at great cost suffers alongside her brother, bearing up his burden in his season of weakness, but to point to the One who sustains her and is the refuge where she hides, that she can show His promises of healing fulfilled.  I confess:  I am a boat with sails full of wind I don't deserve.  Hopefully, sometimes, I'm the wind.

Friends who know and are beneficiaries of the gospel:  it is my hope that you would recognize lives defended and explained only by the gospel as just that, and give your Father glory.  Be grateful when you are the beneficiary of gospel love.  Live out the gospel in your life, for the benefit of redeemed sinners and for the glory of God.  Do not shrink for fear that no one will understand; if inexplicable love is your testimony, then tell it.  It's not explanation that makes the gospel known; it's revelation, and that's not your job.  Leave yourself no other defense for how you love but that the love and mercy you have received is so much greater than what you could ever give.  Every life, with all that is good and bad in it, a living, willing, paltry, joyful sacrifice in response to the most glorious and highest price paid for us, for our good and God's glory.

Also, I love this song.  For goodness sake, listen to it.

With gratitude for inexplicable love in my life and for being loved for no reason other than the gospel, thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Radio Silence

I realize the blog has been quiet for some months, but I'm breaking the radio silence...sorta. It's been on my mind. The kind few who encourage me in my writing here have been on my mind. I have lots I want to share, in due time. But I wanted to update the blog, since I've had some folks lately asking when I'll be back writing here again. While this season of life is not one where I'm writing here frequently, I still want to maintain this as a way to communicate with the people who have prayed for, financially supported and loved our family, particularly as we entered our adoption journey and thanked God for the gift of and mourned the loss of two babies during pregnancy around that same time. The Lord has been moving in big and little ways throughout the last year for our family. Here's a little update.

We are still in the process to adopt a child or siblings from Ethiopia. The picture above is part of our application requiring family photos, and my amazing sister-in-law Anna took the fantastic pictures. The process has grown a great deal slower than what it was when we began in 2010. We are encouraged that the authorities and systems which oversee that process there are improving it and that so many caring people are working very hard on behalf of the children who wait for families there. We pray daily, more than daily, for the children the Lord will bring to our family and for the children who wait. Our oldest son is a particularly fervent advocate in prayer for these children, and for this I am very grateful. Our wait is not in vain; we are seeing the Lord grow our boys during the wait, even if lately they are impatient for "baby sister." I am also seeing the Lord answer some of my very specific prayers for our family, creating changes that only He could make. He has done this faithfully on a grand scale since He established our family, and I've been very slow to realize His pattern of faithfulness. I repent, and I now know and want to declare that God is good and faithful to hear and answer clearly my prayers for my husband in particular.

Since we learned that the wait for a match with our Ethiopian child/ren could be years away yet, last summer we completed a training class required by our state for families who wish to adopt a child from the foster care system. This is not instead of adopting from Ethiopia, but in addition and in the meantime, while we wait. We want to be open to adopting whomever the Lord wants us to, and this was part of the process for us in being available to do His work and to receive His blessing of children. We are encouraged that there are currently very few children waiting for parents in our county, but we know that so many more children wait throughout the U.S. If you are interested or curious about that process or about who the children are who are waiting right now for parents, please visit There are photo listings and profiles of children waiting right now to be adopted. I encourage you to go and pray over the children who wait, by name, even if you are not able to adopt. These children need our prayers, and they need mommas and daddies, and they need them right now.

I want to close by sharing a final word about what the Lord is teaching me and my family right now in this season of Lent, as we remember Christ's walk toward the cross and the very great sacrifice He made as a gift to us, which was a matter of love and justice.

In considering all of the changes on the horizon which I'm sure I'll write about here later that the Lord is leading our family into, I find myself checking my motives. Is it possible that I am being selfish? Is it possible that I somehow coincidentally want what I believe the Lord is setting before us? Is it somehow just my biological, natural preference and my clever reasoning that "it must then be what the Lord wants" when my will lines up with what the Lord has called us to do in scripture? In His grace, the Lord has revealed in His word to us that we are absolutely, utterly, unequivocally incapable of doing any good on our own. Praise God! I can be assured that whatever I desire that is glorious and obedient to Him is the work of His Spirit in me. Hallelujah, I am not responsible for or culpable for or guilty of coming up with schemes that please me and only by coincidence please Our Father. He is absolutely, 100% the author of my good desires and my pleasures at serving Him, and my joy in doing the things that I now love as I run to Him are nothing short of His sovereign, loving hand, the outpouring of his Spirit in me. This is amazing grace.

I find the illustrations of Jesus as our lawyer-like advocate before God particularly touching, as I'm a lawyer for poor people who do not pay for services. They can't afford our services, and the only thing they can do to qualify to receive them is to need them and ask. We advertise our services to people who need them; they need them and ask. Sound familiar? No, I don't consider all non-profit law firms Christlike, but I do appreciate the illustration. Here's where the earthly lawyer analogy breaks down (and they all ultimately do). Jesus is our advocate, standing beside us, pleading our case which would be absolutely hopeless absent Him sacrificing Himself on our behalf, absent His perfect life for my sinful one, absent His love for sinners who hated Him before they had any desire for Him and before they knew Him, absent all of God's justifiable wrath poured out on the head of a spotless lamb. My case is, as lawyers say, not meritorious. I shouldn't win. A just judge would not find in my favor. And God is a just judge. However, my Advocate explains on my behalf to the Just Judge that the penalty for my sin has been paid and any further penalty assessed would be double payment, unfair and unjust punishment. There is no double jeopardy in the trial for our cosmic treason. We are sinners who have but one trial and one winning defense. It's impenetrable and reliable and will win for every single one who claims it.

This is what the Lord is teaching and reminding me as He answers very big prayers for me and for our family, as He seems to be setting before us some opportunities that, absent His unfathomable love for us and for His people, make absolutely no since. But we serve at the pleasure of a King who gives and asks things that are beyond earthly comparison. And when we take joy in running after Him with loving recklessness, we can be assured that, though the path we take may not have been taken by many, or any, and though it may appear a mine field, it is nonetheless very carefully laid out before us, and it is far safer than one that does not follow Him.

All of that is to say that the Lord is not failing at making life exciting lately for our family. We are very prayerfully considering how we best follow Him. He has given me great joy in considering all that He might use us for in growing His kingdom. We humbly ask you to join us in praising God for giving His children His Spirit, and that we would listen carefully to how and where it leads.

Lastly, and for a much better explanation of what I'm getting at here, I am happy to commend to you our pastor's first sermon in his current series on the Holy Spirit. I particularly love J.D. Greear's explanation of how Jesus advocates for us, which is the ultimate purpose of the cross: that God's perfect and ultimate justice is served and He is glorified in a heinous yet beautiful reconciliation of us, His wayward children, to Him, whom we will continue to discover every day of eternity.

OK, that's it, friends. I pray that you are heavy and joyful with the reality of sin and the marvel of the cross as we recall how our Champion joyfully, recklessly, lovingly SAVED all who would receive His free gift of a clean slate in exchange for our rap sheet, from an eternity separated from Him.

Admitting that it could be awhile, but until next time, thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It Is Finished!

Well, I never intended to leave that last post lingering out there so long. I haven't disappeared. I'm just spread a little thinner than usual these days, if that's possible. Before I get back to work, though, I wanted to share here what the Lord is doing at the amazing fellowship where our family worships with truly some of the most amazing people I've ever met, or not met, as is sometimes the case in a plus-size church. (I never liked the term "megachurch".)

It is my pleasure to tell you once again that we were once lost, sinners separated from our loving Creator, who out of love for us and desiring to demonstrate His own Glory sent His one perfect son to be an ultimate sacrifice to die in our place and pay the penalty we would never be able to pay fully, that we might be reconciled to Him. Believe it, and partake of the eternal banquet. The work is done; it is finished!

Watch this recap of what the Lord has done here in our city, as accompanied by the ridiculously talented Matt Papa, who leads worship for our newest worship venue. Love this video; it pumps me up. Oh, and I got to be a baptism counselor. I was so excited, I literally jumped and dropped the diaper bag when I was asked. I managed to not cry all over the darling girl who was professing to me her love and devotion to Jesus. Precious!

Summit Church Easter Experience from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today, I'm Thankful

baby feet Pictures, Images and Photos

A year ago today, I was pregnant. And then, a year ago today, I wasn't. A year ago, my nightmare became my reality. My child was with me one moment, and then irretrievably and painfully just gone. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. The thing I had many times imagined, to prepare my heart just in case, had come to pass. And now I'm changed.

I think back over the last year, over the changes that have come to me and my family. And I can now say, with confidence and not the way I did at first as though I was trying to convince myself of its truth, that I am thankful. I am thankful for so very many things. I am thankful for the blessing of the child we conceived and lost a year ago. I am thankful for the trials and building year for our marriage. I am thankful for the second child we conceived last year, and all too soon lost. I am thankful for the burden the Lord has placed on Curt's and my heart for adoption and the children we are chasing down even now. I'm grateful for the balm that adoption has been to us. I'm thankful for the hope of holding my children who were here for just a short time in eternity. I'm grateful for being broken and for the healing that only Christ can offer. I cannot imagine suffering the loss of our tiniest little blessings without the secure hope of an eternity where our family is gathered together in worship of our King.

I'm just a little too empty today to come up with a compelling explanation for the last year. The year was big, painful, amazing, blessed, blessing, long, and slow. And there's so much wrapped up in all that has happened, I hardly know where to start. So here are some words I shared with a friend who recently lost her tiniest one. I hope she won't mind me sharing them with you as well.

The pain from the loss of a tiniest little one is indescribable. I wish I had been better prepared for it. But no one told me. I never imagined. There's no funeral for loved ones to mourn with you. There's no celebration of life, there's no official acknowledgement of the time we had with our tiny ones, and closure is hard to come by. There are so many questions and feelings and emotions and thoughts. It can be overwhelming.

Here are some ways that our precious Father comforted me. Curt and I rejoice that we will never agonize over our fourth and fifth children's salvation. They are already in the King's Court, and we know that better is one day there than a thousand elsewhere. Their lives are real, they lived here on earth, they are precious and wonderful gifts, and they live even now to praise and worship the same God who we praise and who gave them to us for eternity. They will always be ours, and we will for a short time be separated. I will see them; I will hold them; I will know them and call them by name. In my heart, they already have names. I imagine sometimes what our table will look like in Heaven with our whole family gathered.

There is a blanket of silence and solitude surrounding a mother who has lost her child as you have. Dear friends still just don't know what to say. And whether they do or not, it seems that they forget. Or they think the mother forgets. But there is not a day that I don't consider my precious lost ones. And there's not a day that I don't look forward with hope to the moment that I see my Savior and that He introduces me to the children I never held.

Even now, I am weeks away from the due date for our second child we lost in the last year. And I can tell you this: the Lord does give comfort; He is merciful. As Elisabeth Elliot said, "God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better." We so love and desire to hold our babies, but what we receive in their place, we trust, is more precious. I am far closer to Curt and to my Jesus for having received and lost our children. By His Mercy, I know Him more.

I share this not so that you'll pity me or any mother who has lost. I share, so that you can know that the reality of that loss is probably so much worse thank you think, if you haven't experienced it. I want to encourage mothers who have lost their babies that there is healing, comfort and hope. I want to encourage their friends to remember and comfort the ones who have lost. And I want to remember my own lost children, children I count as my own, even though they're not with me right now.

So that's it. It's been a year. A hard, good year. I'm so grateful for the lessons I've learned about where our hope truly is. Our hope is in a Savior from our sins, sins which separated us from our Creator, a Creator who loves and values us so highly that He gave His only son to die for us and reconcile us to Him. And I'm so thankful.

Thanks for visiting.


Friday, March 18, 2011

International Adoption Is Not A Roller Coaster

When we started down the road toward our Ethiopian adoption, we read that it's like a roller coaster. I've probably even called it that myself, but now I beg to differ. Roller coasters are exciting, fun, thrilling, short, and sometimes scary, but only in a you-know-everything-is-OK kind of way. Not international adoption. At least not ours. I have found the process so far to be frustrating, exhausting, challenging, costly, disappointing, daunting, surprising, eye-opening, mind-blowing, confusing, encouraging and heartbreaking. There is no map to preview, no firm script for how it will go, no promise of the timing down to the minute. There is a lot of waiting though, so if you've ever been to Carowinds in July, that might be one similarity. While this process has been punctuated by the occasional thrill, I still find the roller coaster analogy unwarranted.

So much has happened with our own adoption process and with international adoptions (IA) in Ethiopia over the last two weeks, I hardly know where to start. We knew a month ago that we were a long way out from getting a referral (which means being matched with a child or children who need a family). But we did not expect a maelstrom of blockades to the process which frankly threatened our future, at least in the short-term, of continuing with our Ethiopian adoption.

On the very day that we received in the mail the last document I was waiting for before we write that BIG check and send in lots of paperwork, we learned of significant changes announced by the Ethiopian government agency responsible for Ethiopian international adoptions. The announcement appeared to mean that IF we could continue with our adoption process, it could be several years before we could bring home our child or children. The particular government agency involved is one with a very small staff that bears the weighty task of processing, investigating and approving thousands of international adoptions per year. Given the number of pending adoptions (small compared to the number of orphans waiting) relative to the tiny staff (even smaller still), something had to give. So a bit of shifting around has occurred at the agency, and what that means in the short term for adopting families and waiting children at any point of the process is the matter of a great deal of speculation, discussion and angst among international adoption circles.

Since I cannot begin to piece together and articulate the political, historical, cultural, ethical, financial, and myriad other forces involved in this turn of events, suffice it to say that it is complex.

So, on the great adoption river, if I may apply a new analogy, we've been in a bit of an eddy for the past couple of weeks. This was not our first eddy, incidentally. In any case, we were swirling and not going anywhere, considering our best next move, and praying praying praying for the orphans who wait in the balance.

As we wait, we are not wringing our hands, but remembering that our God is bigger than any human institution, that He has gone before us and is laying out our path before us, that He has created in us a burden for not just orphans, but the orphans and people of Ethiopia, that He will hear and consider our prayers and petitions, and that His promises are unwavering and independent of human circumstances, hallelujah.

Curt and I have decided that we should continue on with our Ethiopian adoption, and we'll do so unless and until other roadblocks appear in the coming days or weeks and we must change course. Throughout this process, I'm grateful for a husband who has not been affected by the fluctuations in the international adoption climate as I have. I'm grateful for friends who have pointed me to Truth. I'm grateful for other families who are walking this road with courage. And I'm grateful for the amazing advocates who work with and for Ethiopian orphans in country and abroad.

We are asking for your prayers for Ethiopia, which is experiencing a substantial amount of tumult in the past weeks. We also would appreciate your prayers that our family would officially be approved by our adoption agency to move forward with our Ethiopian adoption. We ask you to pray for peace in Ethiopia, for Truth to be spread there in every last village, for children to be rescued from economic and spiritual poverty. Please pray for our family as we cling only to our Father's promises and what He has already done for us, since as it would happen, we have little else to hold.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, a gotcha video reminding us that Our Father makes all things new:

Home At Last from dan owens on Vimeo.

Thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying for us!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adopting With a Meek And Quiet Spirit

Though we are in the home stretch of the paper chase phase of our adoption process, I am recently encouraged by some unexpected progress.  This sort of progress does not involve checking off documents from our list or growing our Orphund, though we're still working on both.  What I've realized over the last couple of months is that as I look at my children, my view of them is changed, and the way I mother them has changed.  Now, I am not the patient, gentle and quiet mother I wish I were.  I confess that I struggle terribly with this, and the Lord is faithfully healing me of the spiritual flaws at my core, despite my weak flesh. And He is using the pain of losing and gaining children to do it.

As evidence, lately, particularly when my little ones are especially needy and just wanting me to sit and hum their favorite hymn, hold their hand, just be with them (which seems to be so much more lately, or maybe it's just that I'm more aware of it), I'm struck.  In those situations where only Momma will do, my mind goes to those little ones who wait.  To my little waiting ones who have no one, not one person, to block out the world and pour out her heart in patience and time and hugs and love.  They have no one whose heart's perpetual burden is their eternal salvation.  This is what separates the boys in my home from those who wait.  It's the unbreakable bond of a parent who joyfully bears the weight of loving so hard it hurts.

So in that moment when before I might have been frustrated that I have to sit still and just be there for my needy one for the umpteenth time today, I am reminded of the blessing it is to me to be with my children. Children the Lord has allowed me to keep on earth. Children who don't wait and hope for a mother. There is such a very fine line between my little ones and those who have no one.  And though I would like to think that orphans are just better at dealing with being alone, the truth is that in the very same way my little ones do, they too need a Momma to sit quietly and knowingly and reliably and patiently and prayerfully with them.

My boys lately have a habit of calling out to me:  
Boy:  "Momma?"
Me:  "Yes?"
Boy:  "Just making sure you're there."
Me:  "I'm here."

What a heartbreaking thought for me to imagine my little ones sitting without the comfort I know they need and that their Daddy and I are blessed to give.  So because I know they're waiting, and because I know there are so many who wait, I am more patient with the children I've already received, and more impatient to have the ones I can't yet hold.

My children are reaping the benefits of a more patient, quiet, gentle mother, because their siblings wait for theirs. The thought of my child waiting motherless physically hurts me.  Who but a sovereign, powerful, good God could work that kind of suffering out for good?  But we know that for those who love God, all things work together for their good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

This is the beauty of obedience to a patient, quiet, reliable, loving Heavenly Father.  Though He requires it, God does not need me to obey Him, and He does not need me to mother an orphan.  But I need to obey Him, for my own good and to His glory. He has transformed a mother with a mourning, bitter, hurt heart, into a mother who grows daily in patience and joy, because of my loss and because of my future children's loss, and because of His trustworthy promises.

This isn't the only change that has come to our family since we decided to adopt, but it's a precious consequence of God's faithfulness in keeping this promise. If you're a mom struggling with anger and bitterness, and I know it's a dirty little secret for so many Christian moms, then please let me recommend this post by one of my favorite mom bloggers, over at Raising Arrows.

Thanks for coming back!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just Love Coffee

Some people just love coffee.  And some coffee just loves people.  Just Love Coffee is a benevolent organization that helps families raise money for an adoption.  It's one of the very few organizations assisting families raising money before they reach the home study stage as well as throughout the adoption process.  This can be a blessing to so many families.

Here's how it works.  Coffee lovers and lovers of coffee lovers follow a family's Just Love Coffee link and purchase coffee.  Just Love Coffee quickly ships out your fresh, fair trade, and often organic coffee.  This blesses the farmers who raise the coffee with a fair price for their crops.  It also blesses the family whose link through which you purchased the coffee.  For every bag of coffee purchased through our Just Love Coffee link, our family receives $5 toward our adoption.  They also sell other cute merchandise and large cases of coffee.  These cases of 18 mini bags are great for businesses or even CHURCH COFFEE BARS, and each bag makes about one or two pots of coffee each. These make great little gifts, too!

Just Love Coffee is doing a great work in encouraging and supporting orphan care and adoption, and this fundraiser can bless our family and help us toward our goal. So look around here or click the Just Love Coffee link on the sidebar to the right --->, and help yourself to some tasty coffee you'll just love.