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So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Unless God. . .

Two weeks ago my husband and I had one of the hardest Thanksgivings ever. We had lost the son we were supposed to be adopting and were heartbroken ("Supposed to Be"). A few days later we went to church, wanting the support of our church family, but dreading the emotions. Over and over we were asked, "Is there any chance that you could see the baby again?" "Couldn't you guys be his foster care family, since you were going to adopt him anyway?" "Are you SURE it's all over?" Over and over we said, "No, not unless God intervenes." "No, they don't do things that way. Only if God does a miracle." "Yes, yes, it's all over. Everyone's told us that. There's no chance unless God does something miraculous."

Monday morning we were both supposed to go back to work. Sunday evening I decided not to so that I could accompany Paul to a doctor appointment. As I sat in the waiting room, we got a text from our adoption agency social worker to "Call me as soon as you can." We called, and she told us that the family services agency of the county in which the baby was born wanted to see if we would foster the baby while all of the details and logistics of figuring out where he would end up were sorted out. At that point we assumed it would just be for a few weeks. Of course we wanted to see the baby again, and give him a good start, but we also knew the even bigger heartbreak that could occur in a few weeks. We agreed to talk to the county to see exactly what they wanted.

The agency offered us to be kinship foster care providers for the baby. When we asked them how long they anticipated us having the baby, they said "Six months to a year, up to two years." Huh? It seems that the sorting out of all of this is going to take a while, and that, while the goal of foster care is always reunification with the birth family, there is the possibility that the child will become available for adoption.

It seemed abundantly clear to us that God had indeed intervened. We believe that He, miraculously and against all protocol, wanted us to have this baby back, at least for a while. So, while we intellectually have counted the cost of loving with no guarantee, we know that emotionally we risk heartache and tears--as do all parents. We don't know what God's plan is with this. It could be to give our little man the best start that we can, in a stable and loving environment. It could be to show the other people involved the love of Jesus. It could be to eventually adopt this little one who burrows deeper into our hearts every day. Regardless, when God works in such a big way, we really have no choice but to submit and trust Him that He will be enough for us, no matter what happens.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Supposed To Be . . .

Today was supposed to be the day that we brought our son home. After seventeen months as a waiting family, we were matched with an expectant mom and all seemed well. The baby was born earlier in the week and today was supposed to be the start of a new chapter in our lives and the fulfillment of long-held hopes and dreams.

Instead, the bassinet was moved to the basement, the pack n play is folded and packed away, and all the other baby paraphernalia is hidden in drawers and closets. So close, again, but denied.

There's no one to blame, really. Just broken people, like each one of us, seeking love and acceptance and chasing a dream of family. We're just the collateral damage who were standing in the middle.

We saw him an hour after birth. Fed him his first bottle. Tried (unsuccessfully) to get his first burps. Watched the first bath and the weighing and the measuring. Held him. Rocked him. Cried tears of joy. Successfully burped him. Prayed over him. Then, in one phone call, it all changed.

We sobbed. We held him one last time, prayed, kissed him on the forehead, and wheeled him back. We said goodbye, trusting him to a God who sees the end from the beginning and loves us fiercely.

We are broken people too. This morning was the morning we were supposed to bring him home and we would be, officially, parents. Instead, we are full of tears, sorrow, and sadness.

We don't feel strong. We're trusting the Lord as best we can, trusting in the truth that He will work all of this for good (Romans 8: 28). But it's hard. And it hurts.  We are held up by God's grace and love and the love and support being shown to us by our friends and family, with whom we have been gifted beyond measure.

Maybe there's a different son or daughter still to come. Maybe we will become parents in a way we can't imagine. Maybe the answer is "no" and we will fulfill another purpose.

Even if it was only for two days, we are thankful to have loved a precious, beautiful, baby boy, and we will never forget him. He will always be in our hearts and a part of our family.

Update to this story: Unless God. . .

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Eyes Opened (or Not)

It's the 273rd day of 2017, in case you missed it. I know that because the Bible app that I use to read through the Bible in a year tells me so. Today's Old Testament reading was in Jeremiah. Poor Jeremiah, one of the most unsuccessful (as far as converts) prophets ever. I have to take a deep breath before reading Jeremiah. But today I noticed something new.

Jeremiah 2:5-6; and verse 8a (emphasis mine):
Thus says the Lord:
“What wrong did your fathers find in me
    that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
 They did not say, Where is the Lord
    who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
    in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
    in a land that none passes through,
    where no man dwells?’ 
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord? Those who handle the law did not know me; 
The passage addresses the idolatry of Israel's people even after they had been delivered from Egypt by God. Israel has strayed and hardships are happening, but the people aren't asking where God is. Instead, they are turning to idols and trying to solve the problems on their own.

The phrase "Where is God?" can be uttered with either anticipation or despair. I recently attended a women's retreat and played hooky from one of the sessions. I hiked up a hill with only my Bible--and not any Bible, but my old, big, actual paper and ink Bible--and a pen. No phone at all. Just me and God and my Bible sitting on an old bench under a tree.

That morning, God used the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, recorded in Mark 10. Bartimaeus is sitting by the road and hears Jesus walking by. He cries out "Son of David, have mercy on me" repeatedly, annoying the people nearby. Jesus stops and asks him what the beggar wants Jesus to do for him. Bartimaeus replies, "Rabbi, let me recover my sight." Jesus immediately restores his sight.

I realized that for many months lately, I had been blind to the workings of the Lord. That morning, it was me who was crying out to God to have mercy on me and to restore my sight so that I could see Him at work. Instead of blindly going through life not seeing what God is doing, I wanted to see with my eyes of faith and believe that God is always present and active.

I believe that God has restored my spiritual sight. I have recognized God's hand and provision in big and small instances in the last few weeks. Even this morning, to hear God speak to me though my daily reading is a moment of seeing clearly. Today I ask "Where is God?" with anticipation as I search for His hand and touch in the world around me.

However, "Where is God?" is sometimes cried with despair and hopelessness. Job cries for the Lord this way. Hannah prayed this way when begging for a child. I have asked this when I can't see what God is doing and it feels like He's far away. From the words in Jeremiah, I think that God wants us to ask the question from either emotion. He just wants us to turn toward Him, whether we are blind and groping wildly or have our eyes open, seeking purposefully.

Jeremiah's words may have gone unheeded in his time, but I heard them loud and clear at the breakfast table this morning!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Unfiltered

Wow! Thanks to all of you, my last blog post had almost 3,000 hits, which is more than ten times as many as any post I've written! A behind-the-scenes-fact: I was advised that maybe I should wait a few days to share because the mood of the piece seemed "bleak".  Yes. It was. Because that's how I felt at the time, and that was the whole point.

So much of our lives, it seems, is on display on social media. I'm not the first to notice this, by far, but many of us search for the perfect picture or turn of phrase or clever meme to share on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or whatever other more hip and cool sites there are that I don't even know about yet. Like everyone else, I look at the patriotic fireworks pictures of people's cute kids dressed in red, white, and blue and am tempted to believe that everyone else's life is perfect (and color-coded), and mine is the only one that's not.

Somehow it seems that Christians are even more prone to "put a happy face on it" about their struggles. I'm not entirely sure why, though I have a few guesses. I think that sometimes it's a matter of over-balancing on the side of obeying the verses about not complaining (Philippians 2:14). However, complaining and being honest about struggles are not the same.

At a deeper level, I think it could be linked to wanting to give a good impression of Christianity, with the idea that if we want others to even consider learning more about Jesus, we need to be happy and cheerful and full of positivity at all moments. Sometimes we may be afraid that if we are transparent about our feelings and fears that it will cast a cloud over God Himself. I would challenge that idea with the Bible itself:

  • Moses: "I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.  If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers 11:14-15)
  • Job: "“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?" (Job 3:11)
  • Elijah: ". . .But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.' " (1 Kings 19: 4b)
  • David: "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" (Psalm 13: 1-2)
All four of these people were men who were commended for their faith, yet each of them battled discouragement and feeling distant from the Lord. God is so much bigger than my struggles and my doubt.  My faith doesn't make me immune from feeling scared or hopeless or bleak, at least as long as I am here on Planet Earth. There are days when my faith is big and I see clearly how God has already worked in my life. Then there are days when I feel discouraged and frustrated and impatient and I don't trust that, no matter what, I will be okay. The beauty of my relationship with God is that He can handle those feelings. In my weakness, He is strong. Christianity doesn't rise or fall with my faith, but with the truth and redemption of Christ. 

In light of this, I try to be honest and open (which is much easier for me in writing than in person) and to live a life that shows not just the triumphs, but the struggles. Regardless of our filtered Facebook posts, we are all struggling, or waiting, or hurting. We need each other to remind ourselves that we are not alone, and that (I believe) there is a God who cares about those struggles. Thank you to all of you who do that for me! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Some Days Are Like That. . .

Today was a hard day. It’s been a year since our domestic adoption home study was approved by our agency and Paul and I officially became a “waiting family.” During that year we had an expectant mom choose us to parent her child. However, due to several circumstances, she ultimately changed her mind and decided to parent. We’d had a name, a crib, an outfit, and a vision of ourselves as a family of three. Since then, it’s been eight months of nothing. The reality is that there aren’t a lot of infants out there in the private adoption world. The reality is that we are too old for almost all international adoption, and the countries we’re not too old for we don’t qualify in other areas. We’re planning on taking the classes to become foster parents to see if that route might work better. We’re trying to trust the Lord and pay attention to where He might be leading.

Those are the facts. But today I’m also dealing with the feelings. The pain of wanting to be a mom for as long as I can remember, and imagining myself with a husband and four kids, staying home as Mom while Dad went out to work. But the husband didn’t come until the biological window was already essentially closed. So, instead of what it seems most people do—some canoodling with the hubby and voila, a baby—we instead got to do fingerprinting and fire inspections and social work interviews and friend referrals. CPR classes and book studies and drug tests.  Application fees and class fees and agency fees. And we did it, praying and hoping for the child who would make it all worth it.

After this year of waiting, we went for a meeting today to talk with our social worker about how we are doing and what else we could do. I like our agency. They’ve been great. But no one seems to know what to do when I respond with my honest feelings rather than the correct Christian answer.

“You do a blog? Write a blog about your adoption wait,” they say.  Yeah, right. Because people want to hear how powerless I am and how impatient I feel and how frustrating it is to be able to do nothing to make this happen. People prefer happy endings. Those chosen to share their stories always have the husband, or the baby, or the cure, or the victory. “Read this book about this woman and her wait.” “Does she have the baby now?” “Yes.” “That’s what I just said:  NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT THE MESS IN THE MIDDLE UNLESS THERE’S A HAPPY ENDING COMING.”

We are in the middle of the mess in the middle of the story. We may not get the happy ending that we desire. It’s harder than I imagined to put my heart and hope out there for everyone to see. It can be difficult to stay positive or even realistic.  Today was a mix of so many emotions. I’m tired of waiting. I'm angry this isn't easier. There’s not much I can do, but I want to do what I can. Yet when I get suggestions: Write a blog, join Instagram, try Pinterest, call other agencies, make a copy of your book and put it at OB-GYN offices, ask friends to share your profile. . . then I shut down because what if I can’t do all of that? If I can’t or we don’t do it right, do we miss our chance at a child? And, deeper, why does this have to be so hard for us when it is so easy for so many other people?

As many of you who follow this blog know, I have had my struggles with feeling distant from the Lord over the last few years. It’s improved, but I would still like my relationship with Him to be closer. In the middle of this journey it can be hard to see God at work. As I spent the afternoon avoiding the acts of praying and processing the morning, I had an errand to run. I couldn’t find the audiobook I wanted, so I was listening to a message from my old church in St. Louis. When that message finished, another one automatically loaded from Tim Keller, well-known pastor and Christian author, called "An Immigrant's Courage", about Ruth and Naomi and Boaz. It’s a great message and I could talk about several ideas in it, but what struck my heart was when Keller spoke about how the Lord did not abandon Naomi. He provided Ruth for her, and, through Ruth, a future and a hope and an heir.

Naomi thought that she had lost everything. Her husband and sons were dead and she was too old to work or to marry. She went back home telling everyone to call her “Mara” because it meant “bitter”. However, God had a plan for her. The book of Ruth is only four chapters long and will tell you the whole wonderful story.  God ultimately provided a husband for Ruth, and, through Jewish custom, an heir to Naomi’s son. The Lord did not abandon Naomi, and He has not and will not abandon me. That doesn’t mean that I will get a child. It does mean that the Lord is with me and communicating during the wait. Today God used the message I heard and the truth of the book of Ruth to remind me that, though things may not work out according to my plan, He will not leave me alone.

So, I will call more agencies, take the foster care classes, continue to figure out Instagram, keep praying that God will bring us a child, and wait for the end of the story.

P.S.
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

What Martha Got Right

Mary versus Martha. If you have spent any time at all in church, you have probably heard a message about Mary and Martha. If you are a woman who goes to church, you have probably listened to at least one teaching contrasting Mary with Martha, with Mary being the role model. The account of these sisters and one of their encounters with Jesus is found in Luke 10:38-42:
 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Usually the lesson revolves around how to be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus--which is a useful, excellent, and necessary teaching. Usually, Martha is portrayed as the bad guy of the piece. Usually, I feel sad because in my soul, I am a Martha. I am often "anxious and troubled about many things." If I have visitors, I want to serve enough food, I want to display a clean home, I want to care for friends' needs. I can justify all my bustling under the umbrella of service.

A few months ago, however, God showed me something new about this passage. Yes, Martha is worrying and fretting and ignoring the better choice, which is to sit at the feet of Jesus. She is annoyed with her sister for not helping her to serve Jesus (and probably at least some of the other disciples). She feels put-upon and justified in her grievance. I have felt much the same way before--why are people standing around talking when there is work to be done? And I have fretted. And stewed. And gotten mad at the people who aren't doing their part.

Martha, however, goes directly to Jesus. She doesn't hint around to Mary or walk around sighing loudly as she cleans. She doesn't talk to all of the other guests about how Mary isn't helping, "Bless her heart." She doesn't holler at Mary later. She goes to Jesus, tells Him what she is feeling, and asks Him to do something. Her actions are exactly what we should do when we are upset. Go to the Lord, tell Him how we are feeling, and then request what we want (whether we're right or not).

Notice that Martha received an answer from Jesus. He directly addresses her desire--probably not as she wishes Him to, but He answers her nonetheless, and immediately. Jesus gives Martha the wisdom and the directive that she truly needs to "choose the good portion."

I wish that I would instantly choose the right action like Mary did in this instance (because, if you keep reading, there's another encounter  described in John 11 in which Mary is not necessarily "the good one".) Unfortunately, I am much more likely to be distracted by my agenda and miss God's. When I do and when I start to get frustrated with someone else who is not doing what I think they should be, I hope that I will be wise as Martha and take my grievance directly to Jesus and hear what He tells me to do. Martha may not have sat at the feet of Jesus that night, but she did walk in relationship with Him, and I can imagine where she would have been found the next time Jesus came for dinner.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Change at Last

So, so long since I have felt like I had any thoughts or insights worth sharing.  Months upon months I have spent feeling distant from the Lord and trudging through the disciplines of reading, praying, and worshiping. I had almost become resigned to the idea that I would never feel connected to God again. Emotions aside, the truth is that I am in reality always connected to the Lord and loved by Him. However, I missed the feeling of communion and the amazement of hearing from Him.

A consistent frustration of my Christian life has been navigating the tension between what I do and what God does. In this dry spell, I have battled anger at the Lord at why He didn’t just do His miraculous work and fix whatever was between me and Him. I have been annoyed at people telling me all the things I should do to bridge this gap. I have been frustrated at my own inability to figure out what the problem was and make it go away.

A few weeks ago, through no act of my own and no fireworks, the Lord changed something in my heart. My husband and I had had an emotional talk about some hard things, and I was also battling a fog of perimenopausal PMS hormones. As a result, I didn’t sleep well. But, when I awakened, I prayed, and God opened my eyes to see how selfish I had been lately and how I had forgotten the whole focus of following Jesus. He used my husband’s words to remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing:  Believing that God is at work where we are. Having faith that He will lead and guide us. Loving others without expecting love in return. Believing the best about people. Forgiving. Walking in love and faith.

The Lord also brought to mind something He had showed me when I was a part of Beth Moore’s “Believing God” Bible study. I have always struggled with understanding what it means to have faith. During that study, I had the epiphany that faith is “simply” believing that the Lord is at work right now, in everything that is happening in my life, and that He is working it out for good, and I can trust that He is here and active.

God did this change. In the middle of the night.  As I was awakened. When I wasn’t even trying. I did nothing other than wake up and listen.

I am reading through the Bible this year, and recently began the book of Exodus. The Israelites are enslaved to the Egyptians, they cry out to the Lord, and God hears them:
  “. . . and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exodus 2: 23-25)

Yay-God hears them, God sends Moses, the people will escape and be free. Not so fast. God heard them. Then He has to convince Moses to go. Moses comes and tells the people that God had heard them and will deliver them.  Then the pharaoh makes their jobs even harder and their lives more miserable. The people have been told that God is going to deliver them, but it is not immediate. They endure ten plagues. They flee through the desert and are almost overtaken by Egyptians. Finally, they are free from Egypt, but it is still years before Israel as a nation inhabits the Promised Land.

I am already free from sin because of salvation. However, on this earth, the day-to-day deliverance is often not instantaneous. Sanctification is a process. I can grit my teeth and pursue God even when I don’t feel Him and don’t hear Him, and I think there is some value to that. Ultimately, however, it is God who changes hearts and who, at just the right time (usually way later than I think it should be) breaks through to us and shows us what we need to know and more of who He is.

I am thankful to feel connected again. I am thrilled to read the Bible and have verses leap off of the page as relevant to me and my life. The grace of God is the only catalyst and cause of this revival.  Do I yet know why there was such a season of drought? Not yet. I am purposing to believe that there was a reason—maybe simply my own sin and inability to see it. I am grateful that, as 1 John 3:19-20 says: 
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

I am thankful that the God whom it all depends on is much, much bigger than my human heart.