Monday, October 29, 2012

Try not to push.

I am passionate about adoption.

I have five beautiful brown babies who look absolutely nothing like me on the outside but are a part of me nonetheless.  Adoption is miraculous.  It is a beautiful picture of God's heart.

I want you to see what I have seen, to try to help you feel what I have felt.  But before I do, I want to say something that irks many people in the adoptive community.  It used to irk me.

Adoption is not for everyone.  

Not every Christian is called to adopt.

Not every orphaned child should be adopted.

My heart hurt as I typed the words above, because it is truly my heart's desire that every child be given the opportunity to grow up in the joyful surrounding of a loving family.  I would love nothing more than to know that every orphanage in the world has closed it's doors due to lack of need.  And I would be thrilled to see every single person I know come face-to-face with a child who is suddenly their own in every way that matters.

But that is not reality.  I hate that, but I know it is true.

Not every orphan can be adopted.  Most countries do not allow international adoption. Children are relinquished to orphanages and that is where they will grow up because domestic adoption in third-world countries is extremely rare either due to poverty or cultural stigma..  Those not "lucky" enough to walk through the doors of a well-run orphanage will grow up on the streets and likely be one of the many statistics that could keep us awake at night.  Enslaved, trafficked, abused, starved, murdered...

But beyond that, I realize that some kids just don't handle being adopted well.  Some kids thrive in a loving orphanage environment, or at least somehow manage to survive in their home country, and grow up to beat the odds.  Some kids come to know Jesus more intimately than I ever will because He met them in their lowest and most painful moments.  Some kids have been through so much hurt and trauma that another huge event, such as being taken from their culture and language and immersed in a new one, is too much and they break.  They refuse to attach.  They suffer and those who try to love and help them heal suffer.

Some kids will grow up in a single parent home, though we may believe that is not God's first choice for them, and some of them will overcome the adversity that brings.  Some will hurt and suffer, and others will bring purpose to the young women who, before the unplanned pregnancy interrupted her life, had none.  God will use them and their circumstances, their broken state, to bring about His purposes and His long-term vision for this world.

Of course, there are countless other scenarios...some that I cannot bear to put in print.  But I have to stress that I believe in the sovereignty of God even when life is cruel and appears senseless.  I do believe that what Satan meant for evil, God means for good even if I never live to see that good.  (Genesis 50:20)  I believe that there are possibly millions of families that He has called to adopt who ignore that calling.  I believe that too many Christians, and therefore too many children, have missed out on the opportunity that God has given them because they are afraid.  I believe this grieves the heart of God, because He so greatly wants to bless us through our obedience.

I do not pretend to understand all the ways He is working, but I do want to share how He has worked in my life...what He has revealed to me through the adoptions that have enabled me to be a mother and shaped me as a daughter of the King.
I have five incredible and God-filled adoption stories to tell.  God has orchestrated the details of every one, and Satan has tried to ruin them.  God loves adoption.  It was His idea in the first place.  Satan hates everything about adoption and fights it hard.  I have told many people that adoption is one of the toughest spiritual battles you will ever fight, and I mean it.  The spiritual warfare surrounding adoption is utterly exhausting.

I believe it is an honor to be called to adopt.  It changes everything for everyone involved.  It opens our eyes to the Father's love in ways that we may have never seen otherwise.  It is hard and beautiful and complicated and redemptive all wrapped up and topped with grace.
Adoption can be extremely difficult, especially when bringing home an older child.  It should never be entered into lightly, or with eyes blinded to the hard reality of what can lie ahead.  Do your research.  Don't read the books and think "that could never happen to us."  Read them with your eyes wide open.  Realize that you are not equipped to bring healing to the heart of a hurt child without the power of the Holy Spirit.  As I mentioned above, some children just will not attach and families can be irreversibly traumatized by what they thought would be a beautiful act of compassion.  Adoption must never be entered into unless God has called you, because you will need to know that you know that you know this was His plan...His will...when things are hard.
When your child rejects your love, you must draw upon His calling.  When your child is screaming and can't tell you why, you must draw upon His calling.  When your child wants to go back, wants what they had before even though what they had might have meant certain death, you must draw upon His calling.  When you are on your knees in desperation because you are convinced that you have blown it, that you are unable to help this child because you just don't have any strength or patience left, you must draw upon His calling.

But remember the beautiful side of this journey as well!  When your little one looks into your eyes, whispering "Mom, I love to cuddle with you," you will be thankful, so thankful, to be given the privilege of watching a broken heart heal and of running this long race called motherhood.  When your child giggles uncontrollably with their siblings, easily trading smiles and hugs, you will swell with pride at this family He built and this calling He put upon your life to mimic His heart here on earth...His heart of adoption.

Yes, I have learned not to "push" adoption.  I have learned that God does the nudging, and I am more than happy to be available to answer questions and talk honestly about the adoption process and what life looks like after the celebrations have passed and the day-to-day sets in.  If you are feeling the call of God to adopt, or even if you are not exactly sure what you are feeling, please feel free to contact me.  In the meantime, I invite you to read this and realize the fullness of what it means to be adopted into the family of God.

May God bless you as you pursue Him.  May He give us all the strength to live lives that are truly set apart for Him in every way.  May we model the life of Jesus and draw others to the Throne of Grace by our relentless love for the things of God!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Time flies when you are jumping in leaf piles.

This afternoon I ventured outdoors in the 49 degree weather (yesterday was 80...go figure) with my camera in an attempt to capture the leafy quilt that is my front yard.

It is so beautiful.

Reds, greens, and golds lie haphazardly and the messiness of autumn just thrills my heart.

I snapped away, capturing acorns and dew drops, and listened to the crunch of leaves under my feet.

I love how the curved path in front of the flowerbed is hidden.

The roses, pruned hard after a productive summer, fight to produce a few more bright red shoots...and even a couple of pink blooms, before our first freeze.

Pansies sit proud above the earth, defiant as the temperatures drop, smiling at the cold that is to come.

I capture the images and plan how I will share them here and then I gasp and grin!

I have not posted all week!

Where has the time gone?

Oh yes, I remember.

I have done a lot of laundry this week!.

But...I will finish sharing "The Book" with you on Monday. (It will post at 7am.)  I hope you have been able to see my heart, and I pray you see His heart for you in the words I have written.  

And the pictures I took today?  Maybe I'll get around to sharing them tomorrow.  :)

Have a blessed and joyous Sunday, my friends!  He is near!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting personal

There has been a consistent theme to what God has been doing in my heart this past year.  It surfaces over and over.  It surfaces when Christianity is cool, and when it is under attack.  It surfaces when I see the commands of Christ being carried out but I can't help but feel something is wrong.  Something is missing.  Orphans are being adopted, childrens' lives are being saved, but too often I see a trend in the families and churches involved.  Something is lacking and I believe it is a desire for personal holiness.

Personal holiness?
What does that mean?
I sound awfully judgmental and I hope to explain my point while reminding you that this is a battle I am still fighting.  I speak this truth in love and in the full knowledge and confession of my own faults and failures.

We are called to be holy.  We will not perfect that calling in this life.  But, still, we are called.  God has set boundaries in place for us, for our protection, and if we are going to be followers of Christ we must acknowledge and do our best to live within those boundaries.

Romans 6:13 (NKJV)
13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:16 (NKJV)
16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

Romans 12:1(NKJV)
12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

If we scream on the street corners and demand justice for the orphan and the widow, but sit back quietly as 3000 babies each day are murdered in their mothers' wombs, we are stepping outside of those boundaries.

If we, out of a desire to draw others to Jesus, refuse to address sin...refuse to call our brothers and sisters out of the way of the head on collision with sexual sin (whether hetero or homosexual) then we are stepping outside of those boundaries.
The ramifications of sin, ALL sin, is death.  Period.  If we allow the institutions God created to be corrupted the result will be spiritual death for generations to come.  If the gospel of Jesus Christ is compromised, then a false gospel will be shared and the victims of that false gospel will be buying into false religion that is legalistic, enslaving, and sinful.    I have seen Christians who take a stand for sexual purity and the Biblical definition of marriage attacked by their brothers and sisters in Christ because they should supposedly be directing that energy and/or money to orphans, widows, or the poor.
God calls us to stand for Truth.  ALL of it.  We are the body of Christ and we are each given tasks within the Kingdom.  It does not take away from one cause to stand for another.  If we are given the opportunity to rescue someone from death and hell, it doesn't matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they do or don't have...we must reach out to them and share the truth of God...the reality that Jesus calls us to a better life, eternal life, a holy and set apart life that DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THE WORLD.  We cannot nitpick who we love and with whom we share the gospel!

James 1:27 is a favorite scriptures of mine.  It is God's call to care for the widow and orphan.  But verse 27 does not end there...
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. keep oneself unspotted from the world.  

It is listed on equal footing with caring for orphans and widows.  If we look like the world, live like the world, and do things to please the world, then we are stained by the world.  If we adopt a child into a worldy home where Jesus is not welcome unless He is warm and fuzzy, then that child is still at risk.  Oh, they may have a full belly and a mom and dad, but without parents willing to train them up in the things of God they are at risk.

Jesus is not just warm and fuzzy.  He is our King.  He is a warrior.  He is a jealous lover.  He calls us to be faithful to Him completely and to do everything...everything for him.

So here is a larger passage from James chapter 1.  Read this and see if you notice a pattern:

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Holiness...personal holiness is priority.  If we desire personal holiness and strive for it by establishing habits that set us apart from the world then the result will be a natural, God-given drive to care for the orphan and widow.  In caring for them, we will be sharing abundant life...eternal life.  But we have to have it to give it.  If we live immoral lives, or stand by and watch while others do, we are no different than the prostitute or the drug addict on the street corner.  They desperately need someone to tell them about what it means to be pure.  They are desperate for boundaries that verify God's love and protection over them.  A child without boundaries is essentially parentless.  An orphan.  If we, the children of God, are acting like orphans...letting "anything go" and ignoring the clear teachings of the Word of God, than what do we have to offer them?

Nothing.  We have nothing.  

An untended garden grows wild and the fruit falls to the ground and rots.  We must tend our gardens.  We must allow the Lord to prune us and accept his fences around our lives...admit that He is God and we are not and, even though we would love to tell the young, unmarried couple who is living together or our cousin who just "came out" that it is OK because God wants them to be "who they are," we have to accept the boundaries God has established and offer a better way.  Never condemning, never in anger...but out of love and concern for them.  Compassionately speaking truth is not being judgmental, it is willingness to act as a spiritual life guard and throw out the life preserver...even though they may choose not to take hold of it.

And let me end this by saying I am forever grateful to the godly woman who lovingly brought my sin to light in my early days as a Christian.  She spoke the truth and walked me through the process of healing and learning to live according to God's rules.  I am thankful that she did not tell me how I was living was"ok" or "no big deal."  She encouraged me to walk higher, with my face turned away from the past and toward the Son of God.  She gently told me it could be done and that it must be done.
And she was right.

 Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV)
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Set Apart

specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated: holy ground.
dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man.
saintly; godly; pious; devout: a holy life.
having a spiritually pure quality: a holy love.
entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred: a holy relic

Holy...a little word with a big meaning.

We are called to this, holiness.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”   
1 Peter 1:14-16

What does it mean for a Christian to be holy?  I am sure if you asked a hundred different Christians you would get a hundred different answers.  I do know, in layman's terms, it means to be different-to be set apart.  Jesus was obviously different.  Yes, he ate with tax collectors and sinners, but he did not mimic the behavior of the tax collectors and sinners.  He was his same perfect and sinless self no matter where he went or with whom he spent his time.
He was different and they knew it right away...and they were drawn to him.  He had something to offer that was not like anything they had been offered before.  He had life.  True, eternal, no-boxing-it-up-and-selling-it life.  He didn't participate in their jokes or crude language.  He didn't engage in their boastful stories.  I have to add here that, of course, there was no media or electronic entertainment, but I can safely assume he would have been very selective as to what he would allow before his eyes and into his mind.  He walked and functioned differently and he was effective.
He was not tolerant.
He loved (and still loves) hard, sending His disciples to the ends of the earth to bring the lost into a saving relationship with Himself.  He called sin what it was and rebuked those who tried to justify rebellion.  He called people to a new way of living, offered the means to get out of the status quo and live a life worthy of the God who was about to give His all for them.  He was orderly and intentional in the way he lived and taught others to be the same.

He was, and is, the Holy one of Israel.

And He tells us in 1 Peter that we are to strive to be like Him.

We will do it imperfectly, of course, because we are not Jesus.  But our lives should reflect growth, a continued refining of our behaviors and tastes that are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  
1 Thess. 4:7

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior  Titus 3:4-6

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2:  4-6

Of course, this growth will look different in each of us.  We are all in process.  But we will grow and learn to live in a way that points those around us to the Father.  I can't begin to count the ways He has changed me.  Things that would have never given me pause in my twenties now cause me to cringe and turn away at 40.  To give you one minor example, I no longer watch scary movies.  I have a visceral reaction at the mere thought of a blood and gore flick.  But it wasn't always that way.  I don't know if it is God or time or maturity (probably a combination of all of these) and the realization that too many of those things really do happen, but I simply cannot stand the thought of them any more.

Do I judge my friends who love a good scare?  I hope not.  I may not understand or share their taste in movies but that is neither here nor there.  We just differ in our tastes.  Now I do have strong conviction about putting things before our eyes that are ungodly and immoral, but for the sake of this example that is not to what I am referring.

It is with this imperfect example that I proceed.

In general I see a lack of holiness within the church.   (And please remember, I speak as one guilty.  The changes that are occuring in my life, in my values, is by the grace of God alone!)   Immodest clothing, lack of discernment when it comes to entertainment, unbiblical parenting methods, a willingness to engage in cultural traditions that could be seen as sinful in the eyes of God, and an acceptance of alternative lifestyles and the effect they have on society...I know this is a broad and probably not well-organized list of issues but I want you to see the general direction that I am going with this.

Without going the route of legalism, we must be willing to walk with God when no one else does.  Remember Noah?  He stood alone...completely alone.  (Genesis 6)  He did not compromise God's standards in order to be "relevant" or appeal to the world around him.   If He says something is a sin, then we cannot be willing to compromise that in order to be “relevant to society” or reach the lost.  If we appear to be just like those who do not have Jesus, then why would they think they need him?  It would seem they are just fine the way they are...
unless we are willing to speak the truth in love.

And, believe me, I know that is hard.

I am the queen of non-confrontationalism.  I like peace, and lots of it.  Rocking the boat?  Not my style.  I love a good friend and will do almost anything to keep that friend close and happy.


I had a friend, who was not a believer, ask me one of those hard questions once.  We were only weeks into a fledgling friendship.

“If a (insert any non-Christian religion here) is a good (insert again), they will go to Heaven, dontcha think?”

I gulped.  I hate direct questions like this because I know God expects me to give a direct answer.  What if she walks out of my house thinking I am a narrow-minded Bible thumper who she won't waste her time with again?  Well, if I answer her with Scripture, then her beef is with God and not me, right?

So I did.  I paused, prayed silently, took a deep breath and carefully and shakily quoted John 14:6...Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “

She was quiet, and obviously surprised by that answer.  But she didn't argue.  I am sure my heart rate did not return to normal for at least half an hour.  The amazing result of that short, uncomfortable conversation?  Our friendship deepened and continued until I moved several states away, but after our move I got incredible messages from her telling me that I have had a greater effect on her life than almost anyone she had ever known.  I lived next door to her for exactly one year.  It was not me, it was God working in her.  I just got to be there for a very small part of it.

What if I had hedged?  I do not believe our friendship would have gotten the depth it had as quickly as it did if I had hedged.  She new she could trust me to shoot straight with her.  She knew I would not just tell her “what she wanted to hear.”

I wish I always answered like that, but I have hedged in other circumstances before.  I would hope I hedge less as I get older.  I do think I am stronger in my ability to stand for Him now, but it has taken years of growth and learning from mistakes.

Where am I going with this?

We must be different.  We must be able to love absolutely everyone God puts in our path but we cannot, we must not, hedge the Truth because it makes someone uncomfortable.  God is the judge, but He has given us the responsibility to know the Truth and share it.  All of it.  We don't get to choose the parts we like or the ones that fit the current “Christian movement.”  We don't get to twist it or tweak it in order to make it more palatable and make faith appear more palatable to the hearer.  Speaking truth in love is messy.  It is hard.  But we are not ultimately responsible for what the hearer does with the Word of God, the Lord is.  We are responsible to carry that Word clearly forth, as a banner before us.  If He says something is a sin, then it is a sin.  Whether society has “progressed past those archaic beliefs” or not does not matter.  Not one bit.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Heb. 13:8)  We have to be willing to be weird for Jesus, if that is what it takes to peel the scales off of spiritually unseeing eyes.

To what is He calling you?  How does He want us to be different for Him?  What does this look like in the day to day life of a teenage girl, a stay at home mom, a working professional, or a grandmother?   And how on earth do we walk this walk, stand on Truth, and not veer into Legalism?

The only answer I can give is by being utterly and completely open and dependent on God.  We can do nothing apart from Him.  It is Christ who gives us strength to stand and resist the forces that threaten our faith.  Christianity is not a set of rules, but there are boundaries placed there by our loving Father for our good, for our protection, for our blessing.   We are not left to our own devices, to come up with “what works for us” or “find our own way.”  There are many things that can be left up to interpretation, but there are many more things that cannot.  We are wise to pray for discernment and wisdom to walk faithfully within these boundaries.

John 14:15...If you love me, keep my commands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obedience to Him Alone

There has been, in recent years, a growing movement to care for the needy, to serve God by serving and loving and providing for them. Countless Christians are stepping up to do unbelievable acts of obedience such as adopting sibling groups and older kids who arrive home with lots of emotional baggage.  They may not have the thousands of dollars it requires to bring these kids home, but many of them have friends who do and who gladly fund their journey to their children.

If everyone sold everything they had and lived just above poverty level, who would fund the missionaries and adoptive families and those raising money to help the widowed and sick?  God intended us to live with open to giving and receiving.  This stage of life may find us on one end of that spectrum, but a few years from now we may be on the opposite end of that spectrum.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.   Phil 4:12

Is it wrong to save money for the future when there are people starving around the world?  If your children have a college fund, are you robbing from the poor?

If so, then what do we do with passages like this?

Proverbs 13:22
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Luke 16:9
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Think about it, please.  We have to be so careful about Pharisaically piling new rules upon each other.  Our walk with God will differ from one person, one life to another.  The needs of the world are so great, but our desire to help must be motivated by a heart that stands upright before the Lord.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.  “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
John 12:1-7

We have to do exactly what He calls us to do out of love and devotion to Jesus Christ, period.  He alone is worthy.  If we do it out of a desire to be “part of a movement” or to be seen as one of those who “get it” then our righteous acts are as filthy rags in the sight of God.  (Isaiah 64:6)  Ministry "cliques" are dangerous.  
Even among adoption circles there are cliques!  For instance:
You are judged by which country you chose to adopt from.  (Why adopt internationally when there are so many kids in the US?  Why adopt domestically where kids at least get fed when there are millions dying of starvation in other countries?)
You are judged by whether you brought home an infant or older child.
You are judged by whether or not your child has special needs or HIV.
You are judged by whether your adopted child looks like you or is of a different race.

Do you see what I am saying here?  We cannot ALL do EVERYTHING.  But we CAN do exactly what we are CALLED to do.  If we adopt, or foster, or whatever we do in our own strength we will FAIL.  The Christian life is not a club.  God calls us to sacrifice our comfort and even our future dreams for the sake of His calling on our lives.  Whether the sacrifice is financial, physical, emotional, or all of the above we answer to the Lord, not to those who have decided what “today's hot Christian issue” is.  In the eyes of our Father who sees all, they are all “hot issues.”  We are the body of Christ and if each part of the body stepped up and obeyed their calling then I do believe the needs of the world's poor and hurting would be greatly reduced and God, not us and certainly not a movement, would get all of the glory.

Legalism is wrong, even when it appears to be beneficial on a surface level.  If we guage our relationship with God by any means apart from faith in Jesus Christ alone, we are bound by legalism and walking on unsteady ground.

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
1 Cor. 7:23

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Don't envy the rose garden if you are blessed to be a dandelion

Several months ago, a young woman accepted Christ as her Savior and embarked on a journey to Africa to serve the poorest of the poor, the “least of these.”  Her zeal and love for Jesus was, and is, inspiring to me.  She is willing to do literally anything for Him.  I watched her progress on Facebook, fascinated.  I admired what she was doing.  But suddenly she posted a status that troubled me, and I have seen many statements to the same effect by her, and others, since.  She said, and I paraphrase here, that she was sitting at the gate waiting to board her flight and watching all the first class passengers who "thought they were better than her" get to board the plane first.  But, she asserted, they don't have what she has...knowledge that she is going to serve Jesus and give her all for him.

Do you see the fault in that?  I turned to my husband and said, “I guarantee if someone offered to buy her a first class ticket she would gladly take it and praise God for His provision.”

Six months later, I kid you not, that is exactly what happened.

Why is it any more the provision of God for her to be given a first class ticket at no charge to her than it is for the same God to allow a man to be well-rewarded financially for his job and be able to purchase that same ticket with his own God-given blessings?

What about families who adopt multitudes of kids, a wonderful thing, but spend the rest of their parenting years begging for money to pay medical and dental bills?  They preach against the selfishness and over-consumption of our society, but flaunt their new tattoos or piercings (that have spiritual significance, of course) on Facebook.  They can't afford to get braces for their teenager but they are beautifully inked.  They tell their friends they should not buy those designer shoes because that money could have fed an orphan for 6 months, but if someone buys a pair for them...well that is different, I guess.  I can't be the only one who sees something very wrong with this.

Think about it.  We are called to obey the Lord whether in poverty or in plenty.  It is God who blesses financially or relationally or physically.  Many people work endless hours and barely eke out a living, while others are well compensated for the same labor.  Is it the fault of the wealthy?  The government?  The church?  Could it be possible that, except in cases of corruption or dishonest gain, (Which are RAMPANT in every country, by the way.  I absolutely acknowledge that.) that God has set us within a certain neighborhood or facet of society because He desires us to be missionaries within our sphere of influence?  Do you remember Queen Esther?
He calls us to serve him wholeheartedly, to love him enough to be willing to give it all up, whatever “it” may be, and go at a moment's notice.  But the sacrifice He requires can appear very different from one Christian to another, depending on where God has called them to serve.  Some are required to sell all their possessions and give to the poor.  Some are required to be a light in what can be a godless society...sticking out like a sore thumb in certain circles because their families are different, the way they treat and relate to others is different, and the causes and/or ministries to whom they give and serve are different.  Others are required to live somewhere in the middle, but we are all called to share Jesus wherever we are and be willing to step out of that place into a whole new place of ministry and service, again at a moment's notice, without looking back.

The class warfare that has surfaced in Christian circles is not of God.  We are to be content with where He has called us, wherever that may be.  We are to be good stewards and generous and recognize that every blessing of God is given to us so that we can use it for His kingdom, for His glory.  Whether that blessing is money, time, talent, or a combination of these we are to be faithful in our use of them and not compare ourselves to others.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.   Phil 4:12

Our world does not consist of “inherently evil rich” versus “inherently good poor.”  We all have the same sin nature, the flesh that is constantly at war with our spirit.  We all, without Jesus, are filthy with sin.  And I believe it is so important to acknowledge that, if we are followers of Christ, we are all one family.  Yes, American consumption has skyrocketed.  Of course we spend too much money on frivolities.  Absolutely those who have more are able, and should, give more.  God has made that very clear in His Word.  (See James chapter 2)

But where is the line?

At what point does rich and poor divide?  At the poverty level?  Is it determined by the size of your house or in which neighborhood you live?  Is it the size of your savings account or the amount of money in your childrens' college funds?

Who determines that line?  The government?  The church?

What if God places His people in every socio-economic level because He knows that across the board, from the wealthiest to the poorest, there are souls destined for Hell that desperately need to hear about, see, and touch "Jesus with skin on?"

After all, isn't our first calling as followers of Christ to go out and make disciples?  Is there not a mission field all around us?   I do not think (and I don't believe you do, either) that He meant we were to only reach out to the poor.  Whether rich or poor, Hell is going to be more awful than any of us dare to imagine.  I don't want anyone to go there, not the poverty-stricken African or the wealthy British aristocrat.  I don't want the businessman on the golf course or the child who suffers in slavery to die without Jesus.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matt. 28:19-20

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Story...Part 3



I had never even been outside the U.S.!  Well, except for a weekend at Niagara Falls, but I don't know if that counts.  I had never even applied for a passport.


But the statistics haunted us.

147 million orphans.  Millions of children trafficked and enslaved.  Famine.  Abuse.  Hopelessness.  Death.  

And then the real knife in the gut came...a photo in the slide-show of a little boy, shirtless and beautifully ebony, hands folded in prayer.

He looked just like our youngest son.

My husband looked at our friends and said...

“We're in.”

I sprung into action.  I started the daunting mountain of paperwork affectionately known as the Dossier.  We began sponsoring more at a time and now the mantle over the kitchen fireplace sports the faces of several beautiful children.  Their letters bless me to my core every time I receive them.  We traveled across oceans and continents and mountains of paperwork to bring home our fifth child, a daughter from Ethiopia, and we became active in an orphan care ministry.  I became more vocal about my passion for adoption than ever before.

Throughout the change of focus this brought, I have read extensively about adoption and orphan care, poverty, the movement within the American church toward social justice, and sought to be a part of the solution in whatever way God called me to be.  I have been guilty of being judgmental in my heart toward those who “don't get it” and of talking way too much about these issues, resulting in blank stares and uncomfortable pauses in what should have been a two-way conversation.

I have been guilty of talking about adoption and orphan care and the need to help victims of poverty and injustice more than I talk about Jesus.  I have, at times, fallen prey to the common sin of worshiping the gift instead of the Giver.  Idolatry. In my love for orphans and adoption and poverty-stricken souls across the world, I almost forgot that feeding and adopting them does not save them.  It can be a vehicle to that desperately needed conversation about Jesus and why He came, but too least in the books I have read and in countless conversations I have had...His name and His Word are woefully left out.

I have watched as dear sisters and brothers in Christ spend themselves on behalf of the needy, yet lack a filter when it comes to the influences they allow in their lives and families.  I am unashamedly conservative, believing that our hope does not lie in government action but in the power of God alone inspiring the hearts of His people through the Holy Spirit to be His hands and feet and prayer warriors.  I believe that a country that feeds the poor while destroying it's unborn is teetering on the precipice of destruction.

We cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths.  We must walk in Truth...ALL of it.

And that is why I am writing this.

We are called to holiness.  We are called to be set apart.  We are called to serve in order to glorify Him.  We are NOT called to imitate or participate in the lifestyles of those we serve in order to get their attention or draw them to church.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”1 Pet. 1:13-16  NKJV

And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.  Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. But I must die in this land, I must not cross over the Jordan; but you shall cross over and possess that good land. Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.  
Deut. 4:19-24

The current movement toward social justice and responsibility, though based in a true desire to do good, to serve, help and change the circumstances of the underprivileged, has become an idol for many Christians.  "Green" living on the part of Westerners is touted as the solution to worldwide drought and famine, reduction of our consumption will supposedly leave more for those who have less.  Gardening will save the failing Earth and get us in touch with our “roots” (pun intended) resulting in a distaste for all things mass-produced.  Free-trade is god and recycling is mandatory for a true Christian walk.  And adoption?  Well, how can anyone be a Christian and not want to adopt?  We are after all, adopted into the family of God, right?  (Eph. 1:5)

Now, again, I write this as one guilty of all of the above.  I believe in taking care of God's creation.  I believe in taking care of our bodies.  I believe in making responsible choices with my dollar.   And I believe in adoption.  (5 beautiful children are asleep upstairs because of the blessing, the miracle, of adoption in my life.)  But it is the emphasis placed on these things and, too often, the legalism that results that has me troubled.

Whew!  I know this is a lot of soapbox talk.  Bear with me, though.  I will explain what I mean by all of this tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Where did this all come from, anyway?

If you are one of the 3 people reading the posts from the past few days, you may wonder where I am going with all of this.  So, I wanted to pause over this weekend and give you a bit of a "heads up" as to why I am suddenly sharing this "book" that consumed my brain earlier this year.

The easiest way to do that is to give you a list of books that I have read and how they spoke to me.  I encourage you to read them, as well.  They are rich, scripture-filled, and very timely for this generation in which we now live.

The first is this one:

If you follow many blogs or Facebook stats, you may have noticed the oft-mentioned Emergent Church and wondered what the heck that was...or you may be part of that movement yourself.  Following is an excerpt from the book description:  
"“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”
The Emergent Church is a strong voice in today’s Christian community. And they’re talking about good things: caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus. They’re doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold. Again, all good. But there’s more to the movement than that. Much more.
Kevin and Ted are two guys who, demographically, should be all over this movement. But they’re not. And Why We’re Not Emergent gives you the solid reasons why. From both a theological and an on-the-street perspective, Kevin and Ted diagnose the emerging church. They pull apart interviews, articles, books, and blogs, helping you see for yourself what it’s all about."

It is definitely food for thought.

The next book that has influenced me in the past year is this one:

I cannot say enough about this wonderful book.  Leslie encourages young women to put first things first and choose to be set apart, different than the worldly ideal of what womanhood should be.  In my opinion, this should be required reading for every woman.  I read this at 40 and it blessed me to my core.  I only wish I could have read this book when I was 16.  It is life changing and freeing.

Next on my list is:

This is the book description from  
The hole in our holiness is that we don't seem to care much about holiness. Or, at the very least, we don't understand it. And we all have our reasons too: Maybe the pursuit of holiness seems legalistic. Maybe it feels like one more thing to worry about in your already overwhelming life. Maybe the emphasis on effort in the Christian life appears unspiritual. Or maybe you've been trying really hard to be holy and it's just not working! Whatever the case, the problem is clear: too few Christians look like Christ and too many don’t seem all that concerned about it.

This is a book for those of us who are ready to take holiness seriously, ready to be more like Jesus, ready to live in light of the grace that produces godliness. This is a book about God's power to help us grow in personal holiness and to enjoy the process of transformation.

This book is so good, so wonderful at redirecting our focus on exactly WHO we live and "work" for...because no matter what good works we do, they are wasted if Jesus is not smack dab in the center of our daily lives.  Our good works should flow out of a heart centered on and obedient to Him in public AND in private.

The last book I will list here is this one:

I bought this book on a whim.  I had no idea what treasures it would hold, how it would challenge me to my core with it's very simplicity, and how it would change my life.  My forays onto the front porch are a direct result of the precepts this book has taught me.  I am a better wife and mother because of this book.  Why?  Because this book challenged me to go deeper into the Word of God than ever before.  It showed me, step by step, how to do it and walked me through hundreds of verses to convince me that daily, in-depth time with God must be priority #1 each and every day or I will fail at this task He has given me.  I cannot raise up godly children, effectively homeschool, or be the wife my husband needs me to be if I am not bathing my mind with Scripture every single day.  I now open my Bible with excitement because I am finally glimpsing the treasures it holds, I am finally understanding passages I had only skimmed over before because they were confusing or difficult.  I am learning to read slowly, deliberately, and keep a record of what the Lord is teaching me as a heritage for my children.  

A few more books have also been influential in my life this year and this is a quick listing of them:

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (I have read this three times!)
Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst

And I must mention what I hope is the obvious...The Holy Bible.  I have read more of it this year than in any year I have ever lived.  1 & 2 Peter, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, James, The Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Isaiah, and Hebrews.  All of this has revealed a common thread, a common call of God upon our lives.  We, my precious sisters, are called to holiness.

Don't be afraid of this.  Embrace it.  The boundaries it creates actually set us free.  It is beautiful and it is fulfilling in a way that worldly pursuits and works-based-salvation will never be.  Living for God fully, serving Him out of relationship instead of trying to follow man-made rules, naturally results in us being the hands and feet of Jesus.  We love because He first loved US!  He has set us free to serve, but serving will not make Him love us one iota more than He already does.  We can only love and serve effectively where He calls us to serve (which can look very different from one Christian life to another) and out of a pure and clean heart, a heart that has been washed by the blood of the Lamb!  We are the body of Christ.  Each of us has a job tailor made for us by our Creator and we only need to be willing to say "yes" to whatever He calls us to do... 

and it may not be what our Christian friends and neighbors are doing.  

I hope you keep reading.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Story...Part 2

At the grand count of 4 domestically adopted kids, we were “done.”  Our family was officially complete.

God chuckles when I say that, I am certain.

We had just begun sponsoring our first child, a beautiful little girl in Uganda with the oddly Western name of Aisha.  My husband brought her picture home as a surprise.  A new way to love and share Jesus.  We were all so excited.  We stared at her picture and wrote letters and prayed for her, not being able to fathom what hardships she faced or what life in Uganda was like.

Then my oldest daughter began praying for a sister from Africa.  Every single day.  She was seven.  We thought she would get over it.  She didn't.  She left notes around the house, notes at Christmas time...

"Dear mom,
All I want for Christmas is a sister from Africa.  
Love, Me."

She was nothing if not persistent.

Around that time a blog began to circulate and gain popularity...  I read it faithfully and sat, tears running down, as my heart tried to grasp something so beautiful and awful.  I wanted to be like her, though somehow it appeared that I was actually old enough to be her mother.

How did that happen?

A friend invited me to a fundraiser for a local family who was adopting.  I went because Katie Davis was going to be there and I wanted to see this little powerhouse of a girl with my own eyes, even if it was from 20 rows back.

I saw more than Katie Davis, I saw for the first time a community of adoption and orphan-loving Christian families who were willing to unashamedly ask for help so they could bring a needy child into their home, to give them what every little one longs for...a forever family.


Well, sort of.

I mean, really, we had four kids.  We were busy.  Drew was an all-over-the-place and into everything toddler.  God wouldn't call us to that now, right?  That would be crazy.

But my heart began to long.  That feeling would not go away.  It grew and sometimes ached and I wondered what He could be thinking to put that desire there again.

We thought we were done, but God was lovingly chuckling as He worked.

We went to another fundraiser.  Friends were stepping up to adopt in droves.  Of course, we had done it four times already so the idea wasn't anything new.

Except that this time the pull was to Africa.

to be continued...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Story...Part 1

I was raised in a legalistic denomination that insisted they were NOT a denomination.  They were the chosen, the few, those that walked the straight and narrow.  And by narrow I do mean narrow.  Rules abounded, based on a few handpicked Scriptures and leaving out a plethora of others that would have quickly negated, or at least balanced, said rules.  I walked the walk by all outward appearances until I was about 16, and then it all fell apart.

I just couldn't do it anymore.  It was impossible.

So I laid in bed at night repenting and determined to do better the next day.

But I just couldn't do it.  It really, truly, was impossible.

I was lost.

At the age of just barely 21 I met the man who would one day be my husband.  In the midst of his own attempt to get his relationship with Jesus back on track, God used him to lead me to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Suddenly I was made vividly aware that I was surrounded by a spiritual realm that was not only very real, but literally a breath away.  A battle raged around me and I gradually learned how to calling upon the authority that I undeservedly have in Jesus Christ and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.  God was not only very, very real, but He was intimately personal...involved in details of my days and nights that astounded me.  He cared, and I was forever changed.

Two and a half years later I was a bride.  Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and Christmas plaid I vowed to love forever, no matter what.  And He loved me.  Broken, baggage-ridden, still-figuring-out-what-it-meant-to-be-a-Christian-woman me.  He loved me through ups and downs and paycheck-to-paycheck living and years of training and infertility and times of feeling like I was drowning in the hard.  He loved me through and out of it and he still does.  I am not worthy, but I am so very blessed.

Our lives have been beautifully full.  We moved 6 times in 13 years.  Craziness for a girl who grew up in the same little town since birth, the same little house from the age of 6.  We finally reached that long-awaited summit where he was finished with his training and had a job and we settled down.  The kids have come one at a time over the course of 11 years and now we have five.

Five.  I remember begging for just one.

We have put down roots and now marvel at the new directions that God is growing us.

Our life is lovely.  We are blessed.  We are happy.

to be continued...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

And so I begin...

I have had these thoughts, strong and determined, swirling around in my head for months.  I see what is happening in the Church, especially among the women of the Church who, in a sincere attempt to model make a difference...are being sucked into false teaching.

It is so subtle.

It is so dangerous.

I have no qualifications, per se, to be trying to teach.  I have no college degree or training of any kind from which I draw.

I only have years of living day by day, hearing and reading and trying to apply God's word to my life and feeding my voracious book habit  which gradually became a habit demanding more, demanding I go deeper and seek reality and Truth.

I want to walk in Truth, and I want to do my best to help my sisters in Christ walk in Truth.

So I begin, a bit afraid and with the realization that this is a huge task.

Again, you may not think I am qualified to do this, but I believe He has called me and so I lay myself down at the foot of the Cross and cry out “Less of me, more of You.”

I began writing this on January 1, 2012.  I will divide the posts into bite-sized pieces so as not to overwhelm you with too much reading.  I nervously share this, praying that it challenges us all to a closer walk with Jesus.  May we examine our hearts closely and seek Him first, allowing the works He has planned for us to flow naturally out of a solid relationship with our Lord.

The first installment will begin tomorrow.  Gulp.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Commando Mama

I.  Have.  Had.  It.

We are blessed with a large house.  We also have a lot of kids.

Big house+lot o' kids=big ol' mess

I have griped.  I have moaned.  I have picked up begrudgingly.  I might have even yelled.


My dear hubs has listened to my angst and we have tried a myriad of methods to produce cleanliness.

Actually, I would just settle for sanitary at this point.
(My mom is dying of laughter right now.  She will insist I now confess to you how horrible my bedroom once was!  But I really knew where every single thing resided.  I could go straight to the right pile and find it immediately!  Well, most of the time.  But I digress.)

My hubs and I, we came up with a plan.

We prepped and grinned and joked about how they would respond.  The kids saw me make a sudden trip to Target, alone, and became incredibly curious as to what we were up to.  We let them guess away, not divulging one detail until we had it all worked out.

And it is awesome.

We sat the kids down for a family meeting.  They love family meetings.


Daddy did the talking while I sat quietly, grinning at watching their facial expressions as he spoke.

"From now on, we are not telling you to clean your rooms."  (Insert cheers and clapping here.)  Your room is your domain.  You can keep it as clean or messy as you want.  (More cheers, of course.)  But here's the deal.  The rest of the house, the common areas, will no longer be resting places for your stuff.  If we find one of your belongings anywhere outside of your room, not being played with, it will go in this box.
(Insert gasps here.)

If one of your belongings ends up here, you will have to work to get it back.  One job for one thing. "

Here are examples of the jobs they will have to do:
Produce one large bucket of weeds.
Clean all the gunk from the edges of the tables and chairs.
Windex the sliding glass and screen doors.
Sweep the garage.
Mop the front porch.
Blow off the deck.
Scrub doorknobs, switchplates, etc.
I have a list a full page long.

Oh, sweet crickets.  It was beautiful.  I think I heard a mixture of snickering and wailing from the peanut gallery and I just sat back and thanked God for my wonderful take-charge-of-the-situation man.  They had exactly thirty minutes to gather up their junk stuff and put it in their room.  Gracie, the messiest one of all (she is the artist, of course) happily trashed her room.  I just laughed and shut the door.  Ok, I really grimaced.  But I did shut the door without saying a word.
That took major self control, my friends.

I wish you could see the bin now.  It is full after just 24 hours.  Shoes, books, pillows, toys, dolls, etc.  Their bedrooms are heinous but the entire first floor of the house...where we spend 99% of the day is CLEAN.

Do you hear me?  It is CLEAN!

We picked our battle.  And I have a feeling the messy rooms will be a phase.  After all, the first time a friend comes over and holds their nose, refusing to enter the tornado, might speak louder than a thousand  lectures by moi.

If not, I will just shut the door and go downstairs.

And when they start missing their stuff?  I will calmly and quietly present the list and they will quickly learn the value of their belongings.


Monday, October 8, 2012

A Chip that Needs to be Removed

I have been a mama for twelve, going on thirteen, years.  I have fielded a million questions, stares, and even a few criticisms in that period of time.  I went in to mommyhood prepared, I thought, but I quickly realized that I had much to learn...and still do.

Adopting transracially just magnifies the curiosity of others.  I knew that.  Adopting transracially means we are visible and vulnerable and our children are going to have to answer questions that their peers may not.  It also means we, as parents, have to protect our children in ways that other parents may not.

The problem is when we, the parents, take on a perceived offense.  It happens so easily.

"Is he yours? "  (Yes, he is.)

"Are you her real mom?"  (Yes, I am.)

"Are they brother and sister...really?"  (Yes they are...really.)

These questions can cause us to bristle, and understandably so.  When they are asked within earshot of our children, and obviously without regard to their hearts, it can be extremely difficult to be gracious.  I try to be short, sweet, and to the point while hopefully educating them a bit on the beauty and blessing of adoption.

In reading a myriad of books and blogs I have noticed, recently, a common complaint among adoptive parents.  It is often the result of the statement "Your kids are so lucky/blessed to have you/be adopted/be yours, etc."  I have read of parents responding indignantly...
"My kids are not blessed, they have lost everything.  They have been through trauma, death, abuse, etc., etc.  We are the ones who are blessed to be their parents."

But I can't understand why that response is necessary.  Why would we want to dampen their enthusiasm and inform them of all the baggage the child carries?  How does that serve them well?  In doing so, it teaches the children to carry a chip on their shoulder.  It teaches them that they will always be marked...different...because they came from a hard place.  It teaches a sense of entitlement that is not healthy for any child.  We, as Christians, are taken from death to life and we are now identified with Christ.  Our children, in the beautiful shadow of the Heavenly truth that is adoption, have lived out in a physical way that reality.  Are there scars?  Yes.  Are there battles to be fought?  You bet.  But are they blessed to have a family now, even though it didn't come easily?  Of course.  They are blessed and to try to say otherwise downplays the work God has done.   God has redeemed their lives.  He has put them in a place where they have a chance to heal.
It doesn't mean we don't inform those who need to know of correct ways to handle their behaviors.  Some kids do have major baggage and it can greatly affect their day to day life.  Mari, for instance, struggles with attention seeking behaviors that increase exponentially in a group setting like a Sunday School class.  So I must inform her teacher of her tendency and tell her the best way to deal with it from day one so that Mari has consistency and knows that she is accountable for her actions whether mom and dad are present or not.  The rules have to be the same at home and in public.  But when a well-meaning stranger is just being kind...just wanting to smile and say "I admire what I see here" and tell you so...we just need to be nice.  Don't get riled up over semantics.  Just smile back and say something like "Thank you, but we are the ones who are blessed to have these sweet kids."

Be a light.  Be joyful.  Be gentle.

Remove the chip and relax.  Most people have the best of intentions.  In fact I have found that many of them are curious because they have considered adoption.  We sure don't want to discourage that!