Facing the Emptiness

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I have baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I have space where I hung dresses for a job I didn’t get.

Having empty space in our lives, doesn’t mean we’re called to endure emptiness. Once a woman wept outside an empty tomb and was met by the hope of the world.

Remember Mary, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In Him, she was most likely cherished for the first time. Then she witnessed the desire of her heart mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.

Mary’s new identity was mercilessly pinned to a piece of wood. Her hope was in Jesus. And now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.

Our desires may be holy and epic!  For me, wanting to adopt is that one desire I feel I’ve been watching die a gruesome death. It’s out of my hands.  All I can do is stand aside and feel the fool for believing. Have you ever felt this way; that God entrusted you with a longing but it seems it’s a no-go?

I’m guessing Mary may have felt this way. She proclaimed the hope of the world had come, and the next day they rolled a stone sealing His grave.

Still, she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead.

Dying to self is a true death.  And it’s OK to treat it that way. As long as we don’t forget: We worship a God of resurrection!

Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, terrified and confused to find it hollow. She pleaded with the angels, asking where they’d taken him. (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected.

Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation…we miss the hallelujah!

We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever.

We forget what hope looks like. When this happens, we can miss it staring us in the face.

Hope looks like Jesus.

Hope is Jesus.

Mary didn’t even recognize Him when he appeared to her outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener!  (John 20:15) She was seized by the fact things didn’t remain irredeemable. The world was whispering, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”

But the world lies. There’s always a resurrection!  Whatever’s  lifeless, looks different after revival.

Jesus looked different. He was glorified. (Philippians 2:20-21) I think it’s why Mary didn’t recognize Him right away.

It’s the same with the desires of our hearts. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, but God has something planned to take our breath away! Something we haven’t considered. Something impossible.

This. Is. Faith. Standing outside a graveyard and believing resurrection will come.

We’re completing our Foster Certification. Something mind you, we said we’d NEVER do. God, through the past five years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our powdered dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see. The idea of becoming Foster Parents was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!!” I just wanted to remain face down, ugly crying like Mary.

Sometimes, it’s easier to sit in disappointment then to step into the unknown. This is a big unknown for us! But I know the sweet face of hope. I refuse to mistake Him.

We’re approaching a desolate space and expecting the impossible to happen.

We’re expecting God to resurrect all that was lost.

We’re expecting desires to look different.

Standing right in front of us, could be the glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives.

God has the tender ability to resurrect ANY situation in our life. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration:  God’s Word-Marked by Love -Resurrection

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Fight for Intimacy

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“Let’s baby wrestle! I’ll get on my knees and put one hand behind my back. You can fight normal…but don’t tell Mom.”

My poor big brother; he desperately wished I was a boy. So I agreed, on several occasions, to “baby wrestle.”

Why did I entertain this sibling wackiness?! I’m sure a therapist would say it’s some quirky way of bonding. Whatever. Reality was, I knew- even though he was stronger than me, he wouldn’t hurt me. He couldn’t, or I would tell Mom. It was my chance to “bring it” full force.

God welcomes our desire to wrestle, too. He wants us to run full force into his arms when we’re frustrated. Of course He’s stronger, but He won’t crush us. We can’t hesitate to step onto the mat; where unmet expectations lay sprawled out on the sweaty, sticky floor, and “bring it”.

Listen loves, there’s no form of battle more intimate then wrestling…

It’s grabbing hold; skin to skin, breath to breath, strength against strength.

Reaching out and seizing God – is seizing all that is good. But we’ll never know if we don’t engage in the communion.

Do you want to know God? You must be willing to honestly approach Him.  Get in His face. It’s beautiful, steadfast & glorious.

Do you want to know who you are? Accept wrestling with God is part of your refining. Jacob wrestled with God, and afterwards, God gave him a new name. (Genesis 32:22-32 & Hosea 12:4) It was in the wrestling God clarified Jacob’s identity. We could be missing a defining moment if we abandon the arena of connection with our Father in Heaven.

Three reasons we walk away:

  1. We’re full of pride. Deep down we think, whatever God’s purposes are, it’s not valid enough for us. Therefore, we’ve no desire to hear what he has to say. We’re over it. We’re over him. We love ourselves and our plan for life more than we love God. We truly think: he’s not worth the sweat; the conversation isn’t worth our time. Simple as that.
  2. We’re full of misconceptions about God’s character. God’s always good. But if one smidgen of our heart suspects he’s a bit evil…we’re not going to challenge him. We know he’s stronger and suspect he’ll pin us down and punch us in the face. Maybe, we’ve misunderstood what it means to “fear God”? Maybe, we’ve confused loving discipline with punishment? But, somewhere along our journey, we’ve believed the lie, “God isn’t always good.”
  3. We think it’s a sin to bring our questions to God. Nowhere, I can find, is it a sin to communicate freely with God. However, it’s a matter of the heart. God sent his son, tearing down the veil separating us from direct communication with Him. He wants authentic relationship.  He formed us in His image…the image that presses in and fights for intimacy. The image so consumed with the desire to be known, he’s moved space, time and history in order to touch us. Believe me: He wants to talk to you.

The majority of “faith heroes” in the Bible, in some manner, pushed back at God when they didn’t understand his plan. Two elements of their wrestling are routinely evident:

  1. They were humble enough to be honest. If you’re reading this thinking, I never question God in my heart, I always accept His plan without a struggle, I suspect you’re lying to God and yourself. If that was true, you’d have perfect faith. You’re not Jesus, sister. And even in His perfect faith, he asked God if he’d be willing to change His plan…three times! (Matthew 26:36-44)
  2. They trusted God’s goodness. They knew God’s love was permanent. Even in their unbelief, anger and sorrow-God’s plan wasn’t to walk away. Instead of pinning them down in His strength, God firmly cradled them until they understood he was not only God, but also loving Father.

If you receive anything from this read, hear this: It’s better to run to God with your frustrations, then to run from Him in frustration. Take the first step onto the mat.

I’ve put together a list of helpful Bible verses to showcase you’re not alone in your wrestling with God’s ways. FREE DOWNLOAD:God’s Word — Marked by Love

Dear ones,

I’m writing you these truths because I’ve found myself huddled, in several seasons, in one of the “Three Reasons We Walk Away” camps listed. It’s too much to break down in a simple blog post.  I have a heavy burden on my heart for you if you’re in one of these spaces right now. Please message me.

I’m also sending you a FREE printable download when you SUBSCRIBE: “Three Things You Must Do Before Making a Big Decision.” I hope you love it!

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Be Brave. Ask for Help.

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We call it, “The Dark Hole of our Marriage.” I was thirty and had birthed three kids in 2 ½ years. Everyone around me was a total jerk. Everyone. Other mammas, my mirror, the mailman, and especially that speed-walker dude on Kellogg. Trust me – but don’t trust me. I hadn’t slept and each day was a blur of diapers, feedings and potty accidents. It wasn’t until I was thirty-three that I began to feel a bit human again. Kids were sleeping more; playing in the toilet less. I finally understood; maybe everyone around me wasn’t really a jerk. Maybe the honking lady in the Sprouts parking lot truly cared my baby was rolling away with my shopping cart. Maybe.

Perhaps, they were just offering an oxygen mask to a suffocating girl.

Life’s truly a canvas of mountains and valleys. One of the greatest dangers for extreme mountain climbers is lack of oxygen to the brain. When this happens, they get disoriented and can’t think clearly (Hello, motherhood!). They become incapable of ascending or descending the mountain alone. A fellow climber must place their own oxygen mask over the climber’s mouth and physically help them down.

This is how God designed fellowship to work. Because we all have ‘mountains’ to climb, dear ones!

On some mountains, you’ll be stronger than me. Your faith won’t falter. You’ll have a week when all the kiddos are healthy, and you’ve had bunches of quiet time with Jesus. Your oxygen tank will be 100% full with a backup in the mini-van.

On other climbs, I might be honking at your kiddo in a runaway shopping cart.

But what is our spiritual oxygen tank filled with? Encouragement? Wise words? Dinner on the doorstep?

All of  these are precious and certainly loving. But we’re talking about our sisters SUFFOCATING!!! I don’t care how epic your baked pasta dish is, it’s not going to cut it.

Two things are made from the breath of God in the Bible: Mankind (Genesis 2:7), and God’s word (1 Timothy 3:16).

This is no coincidence. When our spirits are gasping for air, we need the breath of God’s word poured into us. But what happens when we’re too worn out to lift relief to our lips? You’re not the only gal who struggles to find time to read God’s word. But you don’t need to collapse on the trail and declare it hopeless.

Look around for other climbers – other believers. Use what’s left in your lungs to cry out, “Someone, please speak the word of God over my life right now!”

This is not shameful. This is brave.

Your life, your children, your marriage, your sanity, in some way, depend on your ability to recognize, you’re too exhausted to ascend higher by yourself. Some days, we’ll need a sister to hoist us up, press the word of God upon our lips and carry us straight to Jesus.

And if this isn’t you right now, get ready for a search and rescue season! I guarantee there’s someone with an empty oxygen tank on your trail. Scoop them up, speak God’s truth into their life and take them to the King.

I’m sending you a FREE printable download when you SUBSCRIBE: “Three Things You Must Do Before Making a Big Decision.” I hope you love it!

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Breathing in the Unknown

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I kept banging around the bowl trying to corner him, “Seriously fish! Trust me!”

Talking to my blue fish has become the norm these days. He’s the kind of guy who’d never leave dirty socks on the floor. And, he never asks things like, Mommy, why do you laugh like a seal? He’s such a gentleman.

Each week he graciously swims into my net to be transferred to clean water.

But, yesterday! He gave the biggest attitude. He wouldn’t get into the net and it wasn’t funny! If he didn’t want this water, he was welcome to the toilet I’d scrubbed earlier.

I crashed my net against the glass again, “I don’t want you to get sick!”.

My heart winced. I was on the verge of being sick too…spiritually sick. I knew it, and God was getting my attention. I was all bent out of shape over this fish not letting me save it from poop water, as I defiantly swam in my own.

I recently expected God to move in a certain way in my life…and he didn’t. I was heartbroken.

I’d rather be submerged in disappointment, then be transferred into God’s perspective of my circumstances. I was over it. Over praying. Over crying. Over…whelmed.

Still, here was God, trying to rescue me, “Seriously child! Trust me. I don’t want you to get sick!”

God’s love has never failed me. He’s carried me like, a Father carries a son, out of every Egypt and wilderness I’ve faced. Why was I banging my head against the bowl trying to escape rescue?

If I enter into God’s saving net, He’ll raise me up into a pocket of air called the unknown.

Let’s be honest, breathing in the unknown, can hurt.

I got that stubborn fish in the net, he wriggled in desperation, gasping, until I plopped him safely in clean water. When we’re scooped up into God’s purposes, we don’t have to mimic a suffocating fish. If it feels like we can’t breathe, it’s because we’re choking on lies.

Here is the truth: God isn’t going to flush us down the toilet.

We can enter into the unknown, clinging confidently to the known.

We know our God is good!

Abandoning the mire and surrendering to hope, elevates us to a new atmosphere. Like those who train to climb Mt. Everest, it will stretch and challenge the lungs of our faith. The air is thin and burns our chest.

Yet, our Father teaches us a new way to breathe. Instead of gasping on lies, we deeply inhale his promises.

One by one-

He loves us. He lifts us higher.

He fights for us. We grow stronger.

He’s with us. We have peace.

Our mighty God will always deliver us to a place of hope and beauty.

“There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” -Deuteronomy 1:30-31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Fish Faith

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I ended up with a pet fish last month. I say “ended up,” because I did not want, ask for, or like this fish. I actually don’t like fish unless they have been grilled, fried or baked. I certainly don’t like them looking bored in a bowl on the kitchen counter. But my sweet eight year old daughter has her daddy wrapped around his caring finger. So when the two of them ran into the pet store to grab dog food, she came back to the car proudly carrying a fish in a cup.

“Mommy! Me and Daddy bought you a pet fish!”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because! Isn’t he so pretty? And, he was on sale!”

Well then, if he was on sale…I’d love to have another dirty animal to care for -on top of the dog, the bunny, and two leopard geckos.

“Oh, thank you, Sweet Girl. He is super pretty.”

Ugh!

I have a horrible history with pet fish. Seriously. Once I cooked my goldfish. I didn’t realize my mom had just washed the dishes with burning hot water. I filled a cup unknowingly with scalding water and carefully transfered my goldfish into it so I could clean his bowl. Within seconds, this doomed fish turned upside down, his scales white.

Poor fish. I don’t even remember his name.

So here I was, once again with the task of caring for a gilled creature. His name is London. My daughter is right. He’s really pretty. London is a Betta fish with long, flowing fins circling all around him.

Two weeks in, London stopped eating. He sulked at the bottom of his bowl. His fins looked burdened and heavy. He had weird white spots. I actually felt sad! I needed to find out if I could help London. I had a responsibility to keep this fish alive.

For one thing, it was a gift from my daughter. Second, I wanted to somehow redeem myself for murdering what’s-his-name all those years ago.

I Googled, “What to do if Betta fish gets sick.” I went to the pet store, bought special water drops. Our family prayed for him before dinner.

While washing dishes a few days later, something caught my attention. A bright blue, poetic-like thrashing called me to London’s bowl. He was at the water’s surface, fins fanned and dancing around his body. He was hungry! I dropped one small fish food pellet in at a time. He literally jumped up out of the water to catch the first one. He was ravenous. He shimmied and waited intently for more. He was healthy again.

Believe it or not, God’s Spirit spoke to me as I fed this silly little fish. He has been chasing me down with a verse from the Psalms for months. It’s been in worship songs and every podcast I’ve decided to turn on. My daughter even wrote her own devotional using the same verse. When I cleaned out the garage last week, I opened a devotional and on the top of the page was this same verse…again.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

My response to to this verse had been, “Yes, Lord, I know You are good. You are so good.”  But, as I watched how breathtaking this fish was when he was hungry, deeper truth whispered to me.

Just as London had become gorgeous in his hunger…we are gorgeous in our Father’s eyes when we hunger for Him. He is longing for us to hover at the top of every moment, intently waiting to receive from Him.

If I want to taste the full goodness of God, I must first be hungry for Him. Not just hungry, but ravenous. Ravenous for His Word, His presence, His direction, His love. I must be swimming to the top of my prayer life, jumping out in faith to taste His goodness.

If God looks upon me and I’m sulking at the bottom of my day – with no desire to taste His goodness, no desire to be nourished by His Word – it’s an indication that I’m spiritually sick.

How can we taste of God’s goodness if we are not coming to His table to eat? And, why would we come to His table if we weren’t hungry? We’re  not called to come to His table as an afterthought. We wouldn’t insult a host by filling up on a meal we cooked ourselves before we went to their home for dinner. In the same way, we owe God our full appetite.

What had I been filling my soul with BEFORE coming to the Lord’s table? Was I leaving only enough space in my spiritual stomach for a small sampling of the Lord’s goodness?

Our mighty God is not an appetizer.  

He is not a dessert to finish our day with.

His very Word, His presence, His love is to be the bread that sustains me all day, every day. Nothing else. The Lord will only fill us with what we’ve made room for. The more we come to be filled by Him, the greater and fuller the filling will become.

When we’re ravenous for the Lord, people notice. Just like London’s movement at the top of his bowl made me put down my sponge and watch.  London is healthy, full of color and life. This is how God intended him to be.

God has designed His children to make the world stop and stare. The world should look at God’s children and ask, “What are they so hungry for? What makes them so passionate that they would jump up out of the mire of life to reach for more?”  Then we can pull up a chair and invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.

My husband teases me, “God wanted to teach you to have blue fish faith”.

Cute. But if he buys me another fish, it’s going in the frying pan. Just sayin’.

 

Who is Watching You?

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My arm was starting to fall asleep, just like my 6 year old daughter in my arms.  My hubby and I were at the Christmas Concert at church with all three of our kiddos.  We knew it would stretch them well beyond their normal bed time, but there is truly something holy about worshiping as a family.  It would be worth it!

For the first hour all three kids were clapping and doing their best to read the words on the screen to sing along.  They even feigned laughter at the first musician’s jokes…jokes they were too young to really understand.  An hour and fifteen minutes in…BAM!…two kiddos passed out.

I held my daughter’s collapsed body and stood in worship for a good 30 minutes.  (Too bad God used this to show me I’m getting old!)  My lower back was starting to seize up…one arm was completely tingly and my neck was tight.  Seriously, why did I wear these Uggs?  They were crazy hot!

I found myself praying, “LORD, give me the energy to still focus on You and not on my aching body.”  So I stood, holding my sleeping daughter.  My 7 year old son was still rocking out.

Then the music slowed…”Come let us adore Him, O Come Let us adore Him….”  My body wanted so badly to sit down, but  my spirit and my heart refused to let me sit.  Then we reached the last chorus, “For You alone are worthy…for You alone are worthy….”  My soul wanted to lift up hands in praise, but if I lifted my hand, I might collapse from holding my daughter with just one arm.  But…how could I NOT lift my hands in praise?  FOR HE ALONE IS WORTHY…”  My body was so tired, my arms literally felt so heavy …but…HE ALONE IS WORTHY!”

I heard these words in my heart:  Your burden may feel heavy, it may be hard to lift your hands in worship right now, Daughter, but HE IS WORTHY!  No burden you carry outweighs the weight of my holiness; no pain in your body or heart negates My worthiness to be praised. YOU LIFT YOUR HANDS AND WORSHIP JESUS!

I untangled my left arm from under my daughter’s legs and flexed my right arm to prepare for the extra weight.  I lifted up my shaking arm and reached out to my Jesus.  I am not going to lie, I was sweating and my legs felt like they would buckle beneath me.  I felt God’s eyes on me.  He saw this tired Momma holding her child while reaching up to Him.

I opened my eyes to find my son looking up at me. He was watching me struggle to worship.  He had seen me clumsily thrust my arm up into the air and reach out to God. We locked eyes and together we sang, “For He alone is worthy, For He alone is worthy…!”

Maybe this sweet little lesson about worshiping through the pain and numbness of life wasn’t for me alone.  How was God going to use this little glimpse in my son’s heart?  Only God knows.  How many times have you had a real life struggle and come to find someone was watching you as you struggled to worship?

What a huge witness you are to the broken when you “push through” the ache and lift your arms to the sky and sing, “For HE ALONE IS WORTHY!”. I am so thankful Jesus gives us the strength to do this in our every day lives.

God met me in my little place on this Earth that night.  He poured into me a lesson through something as simple as holding my sleeping daughter.

People are watching us this Christmas season.  Most likely, they are people we don’t expect or see.  Pray for strength and endurance to give Him the worship and praise that He is due!

Dear Jesus, help us not to grow numb to You this season.  Allow us to feel our burdens and aches so that we may give them over to You. Use our lives as a living hymn to those around us, lives which sing loudly, ‘FOR HE ALONE IS WORTHY!’

My God: Father

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God sent his son, so I could be his daughter. I have no problem accepting that I am God’s child. This knowledge has wrapped me up in safety and peace my whole life. I belong to God.

I was reading over The Lord’s Prayer this week. It begins with, Our Father. For the first time I realized, I never began my prayers by acknowledging God was my Father. Always, my prayers have begun with Dear Lord or Dear God. Never did I pray, Dear Father. I felt God challenging me to pray this way for the first time.

That shouldn’t be hard God, no biggie!

But it was.

I couldn’t do it. It didn’t seem right to me. It almost felt disrespectful. He is my Holy God; He is the maker of all things. I felt like I couldn’t begin my prayer with such an earthy name as Father. I have an amazing earthly Father. I didn’t need to extend the term upwards to heaven. I was all good in the Daddy department.

God really went after me over this issue. This week in bible study, it referenced Romans 8:15:

‘…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,

“Abba, Father.”

This is what was happening. God’s spirit was relentlessly after me to testify that I should be crying out, Abba, Father’.

Abba is a very personal Hebrew term for Father. It literally means Daddy or Papa. This is what Jesus cries out as he falls to the ground in prayer in the book of Mark:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.’

Then we go to Galatians, and again:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ”Abba, Father”.

Why was I pressing down the spirit that wanted to call out Abba? Why was it so hard for me to call God my Daddy, my Papa?

God wants extreme intimacy with us. By calling him my Daddy, we must acknowledge God wants more of our trust.

God was casting his net a little further into my heart. He was showing me that there are parts of myself I haven’t trusted him with. I struggle a lot with this.

It is hard not to view intimacy through the eyes of my experiences here on earth. If I let someone in just a little too far, it can result in a lot of hurtful disappointment. But God isn’t someone…He is God.

God does not fail us. He finds us.

Wherever we wander, He is always our Father. If my child was lost, or struggling; I would pour every resource I had into finding them and restoring them. But my resources are limited.

God, with his unlimited resources, is pursuing me. He finds me over and over again. He is never failing.

He will never grow tired of pulling me in closer. He will never grow too old to bend down and look me in the eye. He will never be weak and unable to carry me on his shoulders. He will never be too busy to lift up my chin and ask me what is wrong.

He will never lack wisdom to point me in the way I should go. And every time, He will go with me. Every time, He will hold my hand.  He will never look away when I am attacked; He will go before me and fight. He will always win.

He will never be too poor to feed me. His love will never dry up and leave me aching for acceptance. He will never lose his voice; He will sing and shout and whisper words of love to me. He will never be sick and unable to run the race with me.

He will never be ashamed of me. I am his workmanship.

He will never leave me without shelter. He bled on two pieces of wood so he could build his dwelling in me. He will never go blind, unable to see that I have tripped and scraped up a part of my heart. He sees me.

My Daddy sees me. Every time.

My Daddy answers me. In His time.

My Daddy holds me. All the time.

My Father loves me. From Heaven, to the cross, and back again.

My Father is not just someone. He is God.

Our love will turn to dust…

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by Jenna DeMattia Masters

Pride is such an ugly thing.  I don’t know how to talk about our decision to adopt without it sounding like we are doing something out of the kindness of our own hearts; That it is truly ‘our’ idea.  Adoption is God’s idea. Adoption is God’s plan.  We humans, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, have zero to do with it. ZERO! I feel there is just no way to emphasize accurately the enormity of this truth. It has nothing to do with our goodness, and everything to do with God’s goodness.

You want to know how ‘good’ of a person I am?  I found myself praying through tears on the floor to God that I couldn’t do this, that ‘this will be too hard, I already have 3 kids that I can’t clean up after.  How will I do that much laundry?!’   I was throwing the towel in over this stuff.

God is so patient.

He let me go on and on with questions as to how this would affect  MY life. He was quiet. He let me finish.  Then he whispered firmly, ‘Child, everything you asked was how adopting this child would affect you.  Not one word from your mouth asked how it would affect the child if you didn’t adopt them.’ Smack down.  Seriously. There are times when God speaks so lovingly in his rebuke that it smacks me down on my face in repentance.  This was one of those moments. Yes, there would be more laundry, and more sibling disputes to referee. There would be some sacrifice on my part.  But isn’t sacrificing the cost of redeeming a life?  Jesus endured far more than a few extra socks to wash when he adopted me. This quote by Derek Loux just wrecks me:

“Adoption is redemption.  It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.” Continue reading