Three Things to Do When You Can’t Plan the Future

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Knowing you may not hold someone you love for much longer leaves the days feeling fresh and fragile. I remember sitting next to my Poppa when he was passing away. I listened carefully for the next breath, knowing any moment the next breath wouldn’t come. I wanted to be with him, inhale deeply next to him, sing to him, pray with him, hold his hand while it was still warm.

I find myself watching our foster daughter with similar thoughts breaking ashore–just allow one more day with her; Father God, give me more than one more breath.

With our baby girl, I can only plan for her needs six months at a time…because that’s how long it is between court dates and decisions. I turned down bigger sized clothing, walkers, and high chairs when she was first placed with us. Now, I’m turning down toddler beds and trikes. I don’t plan for her life past April, our next court date. I find myself thinking, “this may be the last time we (fill in the blank) with this sweet girl.”

I’m waking up. I want to be as diligent and intentional to soak in every life around me, not just my foster daughter’s. We’re not guaranteed one more breath with anyone. Many of us know this truth well. Life can change in a flutter.

This journey has taught me to stand in awe, awakening to each day as one more gift from God. The sunrises are stunning, snoring husbands are cute instead of irritating, stinky soccer socks cause me to pause and give thanks for healthy children, and every baby milestone feels magical. Seriously. Baby girl shoving puffs into her mouth (and all over the floor) makes everyone in this house party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine. It’s so stinkin’ cute.

We’re trying to dig into every day over here. And although we cannot plan out the future, God is teaching me three things we can do: Pray, Prepare & Play.

  1. Pray for God’s purposes.

Instead of trying to force the future into the box I’ve delegated for it—I can lay that all down and pray, “Lord, I ask that your perfect purposes for the future be accomplished in my life and the lives of my loved ones. Let nothing stand in your way.”

  1. Prepare your heart.

God’s plan may not line up with my limited ideas of perfection. We can remember God’s good and always trustworthy. This helps us prepare our hearts to accept whatever the future holds. Since we’ve become a foster family, I often pray, “Lord, please prepare my heart (and the hearts of my children) for whatever lies ahead. Give us peace.”

3. Play with the people you love.

Grab the people you love and take pleasure in them. We may not have tomorrow, but we have today! I’m not sure why we don’t memorize this scripture in Sunday school, but maybe we should make it a thing (especially the part about bread and wine),

“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,,”  (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 MSG)

Dear Lord,

      I don’t know the future of my children and loved ones, but I pray for it. I ask that you go ahead of them, paving the way for peace and provision. I pray you are parting seas they don’t see. I pray you are planting people of godly influence in their path before they get there. I pray for wisdom when they are pressed against the hard rock of life. I pray for forgiving friends who point them to your love. I pray for protection over their hearts and bodies. I pray faith rises fiercely in their soul when doubt pushes down. I pray for eyes to see your blessings when they feel cheated. I pray they run to you, instead of away, when their hearts are broken. I pray they love bravely because that’s why you made them. I pray your voice reaches them when mine cannot and whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I pray they know love because they know you. Amen

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

Seeking Answers or Abba?

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The phone rings. It’s just the eye doctor. I send the call to voicemail and surrender to tears.

Please, Father. Give me answers.

It’s court day. I’m waiting to hear if our foster daughter will stay with us for six more months, or if she’ll go back to her biological mother.

I slide my phone over so not to sob over the screen.

I text a veteran foster mamma, hoping she can predict the outcome. She’s can’t say for sure. I text another foster mama. Goodness, how about I just throw the question out to my Facebook foster group?

Someone. Must. Know.

God, please. You know. Let me know, too.

And just like that, I was a modern-day Evedesiring answers more than I desired Abba, my Father in heaven.

Eve had the honor of walking in the cool of the evening with her Father God. She had unimaginable intimacy with the craftsman of her soul. Yet when she was offered the chance to know more—more than the presence of God—she bit.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6 NIV, emphasis added).

Eve traded intimacy for information. Soon after, Eve and her husband “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 NASB).

I do the same thing. Most the time, my appetite to know what God has planned overtakes my desire to walk with Him. When He doesn’t share His plan with me, I run from Him. Sometimes I flee in anger, sometimes in shame, sometimes dragging grief, but always looking for someone else to tell me what the Lord won’t.

The trouble is, the moment we pull ourselves from the presence of the Lord, anxiety rises. We do crazy things (like sew dresses out of fig leaves), and our joy deflates. Because only in the presence of the Lord is the fullness of joy. Only by spending time with Him will He make known the path of life (Psalm 16:11). And, yes, waiting for answers is exhausting, but “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB).

I turned my phone on silent, closed my eyes, and prayed, “Father, help me to pursue your presence over understanding your purposes. I want you, Abba, more than I want answers.”

I know now that answers, knowledge, even wisdom, do not give peace.

Peace is not a revelation; peace is a person. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14 NIV).

It’s Never Too Late

jenn-evelyn-ann-UYDoE_AyJQs-unsplash (1)He didn’t ask me to tuck him in last night.

I heard the click of his light and waited for the invitation. Silence. Why wasn’t my Eli calling for me?

Maybe he’s praying, or stretching, or reading with a book light? Was something wrong?!

I’ll tell you what’s wrong – my boy is growing up. And I’m not ready.

I crept out of bed and peeked into his room. He looked longer, his jaw a bit wider, with those man-boy feet (now bigger than mine) sticking out from his Star Wars blanket,

“Are you okay!? You didn’t call me to ‘Kentucky’ you in…”

He opened his eyes, cracking a smile. Had he lost all his baby teeth?

“Oh, my goodness! You’re freaking out, I just thought it was too late to call you.” He laughed. Apparently, my mama-meltdown was hilarious.

But something squeezed at my heart, “Never. It’s never too late. You can always call me!”

And just like that, I realized my longing to be understood was much like my Heavenly Father’s. How many times had he sung the same ancient truth over my life- It’s never too late, you can always call on me.

 “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer you; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Psalm 145:18 NIV).

Being a mother reminds me I’m made in the image of God. And although the love I feel for my kiddos is a teeny glimpse of His love for us…there’s nothing on earth more consuming and eternal, besides God himself. It’s that big. At times when I’m desperate for my son to hear my words, God confirms -He feels the same way about me. His Spirit pleads, “Why aren’t you calling on me, daughter?”

He’s listening at the door of my heart while I sit in the dark, cold and unsure. Always present, but desiring me to utter His name, to invite Him to turn on the light. But I make excuses- I’ve waited too long, my need is too great, or the most dangerous…my need is too small.

What areas of your life do you hold back from God’s loving comfort? In what space do you prefer Him not to come? Where have you cuddled under the lie, “My longing is too insignificant for Him to care”? Push these things aside; they’re smothering your access to child-like faith. All we need to do is, “cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.”

P.S. I reserve the right to tuck my “babies” into bed as long as they live under my roof. I’m fairly certain it’s in the Constitution somewhere…or a Dr. Suess book. Either way.

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Summer Tradition: Teaching Our Kids to Pray for the World.

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I’d love to travel the globe with my kids.  I imagine we’d get lost down colorful alleys, pop into every restaurant oozing with the smell of butter and spice…but right now, we spend most our time at soccer practice, and in the school drop off lines. It’s our life stage and I adore it. But I long to instill a sense of passion for the world and all God’s created into my children.

Teaching our children to pray for the world is a powerful act of love.

God’s entrusted us with the upbringing of eternal souls. If we desire these precious souls to be world-changers for Jesus,  they’ll need a love for its people, because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). How do we do this?

This is one tradition that’s brought us a step closer to God’s heart; one small way to start loving on a global level. I pray it inspires you to have some meaningful fun this summer!

  1. Choose! Each week we take turns choosing a country on our world map. We have a map that you can scratch off the color of each country as you go, but I also love the idea of sticking a colorful pin in a cork map.
  2. Pray! After we’ve chosen a country we open up our book, “Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation by Jason Mandryk. I can’t emphasize how I cherish this book. Here you’ll find all sorts of interesting nuggets about the country. My favorite – the most urgent prayer needs. This is what we focus on. Whatever those prayer needs are (poverty, persecution, government corruption, child exploitation, orphans, lack of natural resources, etc.), we include them in our family prayers over dinner. The book also includes a section of answered prayers for each country!
  3. Give! After our eyes have been opened to the immediate needs of others, the heart is always moved to action. If one of your kiddos shows particular interest in the need of another nation, help them research an organization that they can support through their allowance. My kiddos have even set up lemonade stands in the past to raise money for water wells in Africa.
  4. Cook! We chose recipes from our chosen culture and cook meals together. This can be a beautiful mess at times! Some of my major #kitchenfails include Russian borscht and Ethiopian injera (Yes Eli, I’m sure I followed the recipe. No, I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the picture!)
  5. Learn! We go to the library. I let the kids run amuck and grab whatever books they can find about the country. It’s so fun to share with each other what we’ve learned after we read our books.
  6. Have fun! We plan a fun movie night. If your kids are older, you can choose a documentary. The library has great choices for documentaries for littles too! You don’t have to get super serious about this. When my kids were babes we totally counted “Beauty and the Beast” as French culture (ya know, because of all the baguettes and bonjours in the opening scene). You’re making the effort, no one’s judging you!

Here’s the point: Taking time to learn and pray for others around the world, demonstrates to our kids that we should care; we should care about hearing people’s stories who are different than us. We should be intentional to understand the needs of the world outside America. Our children won’t learn to cultivate a love for all God’s people if we don’t model to them that it’s the heart of Jesus.

Here are some links if you’re interested…

Book:

“Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation” by Jason Mandryk  https://www.amazon.com/Operation-World-Definitive-Prayer-Nation-ebook/dp/B00QKKJ96K/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?keywords=Operation+World%3A+The+definitive+prayer+guide+to+every+nation%E2%80%9D+by+Jason+Mandryk.&qid=1559581376&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr1

World Maps:

Scratch off: https://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Off-Map-World-Cartography/dp/B07B1R327L/ref=pd_sbs_229_6/144-4299772-1090345?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B07B1R327L&pd_rd_r=f6b4d734-8621-11e9-a9ce-814cf5dd9e62&pd_rd_w=VqAvS&pd_rd_wg=qBnYh&pf_rd_p=588939de-d3f8-42f1-a3d8-d556eae5797d&pf_rd_r=WHDSSWKZVHNMC7SXHB44&psc=1&refRID=WHDSSWKZVHNMC7SXHB44

Cork:https://www.amazon.com/Cork-Board-Map-World-Frameless/dp/B01N4J45XM/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=cork+world+map&qid=1559581661&s=office-products&sr=1-3

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Inviting Grief to Dinner

tamara-bellis-125877-unsplash (1)The Southern California rain surprised all humanity this year, giving my kiddos a false sense of hope, “Mommy, do you think they’ll close the schools because it’s raining?!”

Um, no. That’s not a thing.

The brown hills by our house have exploded into yellow flowers. They press on their tippy-toes waving hello. Maybe California should cancel school, offering a day to admire the new life with neighbors. Because when it comes to new life, we really go out of our way to celebrate it don’t we? If we desire the company of new life, we’ll find she always brings a guest.

Life and death sit side by side. So often we shoo the experience of grieving to the “obligatory guest” table. No one wants him at the party…but sooner or later, he shows up. I photographed weddings for years, and I promise you, there’s always a wacky relative in attendance (psssst… it’s your uncle). One wedding reception, the exuberant uncle was on the dance floor, flat on his back, pretending to look up the bride’s dress. Yeah. Sometimes grief acts like that guy.  Meaning- he has no sense of social awareness. We find ourselves asking, who invited him anyways?! 

But it’s not his fault. When we shove the process of grieving far into the burrow of our lives; he’s forced to rear his head at the most inconvenient times. Can you relate? The checker at Vons asks if you have bags and you burst into tears because you left them in the car. If grief wants your attention, he’s ruthlessly successful. I’m finding that depriving him the attention he craves, only makes him fervently jump up and down.

I’ve decided it’s best to offer him a space to be heard.

Learning to set a place for grief at our table is a grueling and powerful act of faith. But it needs to be done. Joy is painfully birthed out of sorrow. When we pull the chair out from under him and ask him to leave, we’re telling him he’s not important to our story; that he has nothing of value to add to the conversation. When in reality, God often uses our grief to scoot our chair closer to joy.  God wants to speak to each of us through our sufferings.

Many believers experience guilt over admitting they’re sad. The idea of feeling guilty for grieving is not biblical! We’re taught we should rejoice in our sufferings, to always be happy because we have Jesus. There’s truth here. However, the rejoicing does not negate the suffering- it accompanies it.

God has filled me with inexplicable joy over our new journey to be foster parents. But honestly, it’s the grief of failed adoptions that brought us here. It’s impossible for me to separate my new joy from my concurrent grief. They’re powerfully intertwined. Have we forgotten that Jesus wept three times in scripture? Each time, coupled with an occurrence of great joy: before the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:35); right after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and in the garden before his own death and resurrection leading to the salvation of mankind (Hebrews 5:7).

It is possible to sit next to joy and grief at the same time. It’s healthy to look grief the face and “talk it out” or “cry it out” or slap him in the face. Whatever you need to do to acknowledge they’re times he’s going to come to dinner and you can’t ignore him. We’ve got to deal. But we’re not alone. God’s table is big. It may mean we pull up more chairs for counselors or sisters in Christ to help us mediate the conversation. Or, maybe we need to excuse ourselves for a “prayer break,” or take a moment to wash our wounds in The Word.

As we become more intentional in setting a place for grief, we can’t lose sight that where God allows sorrow, he assigns great joy.  “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

God’s word beautifully reminds us that he’s with us in our suffering. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration: God’s Word-Marked by Love- Suffering

p.s. If the voice of your grief is consistently louder than the voice of your loving Father, you may be experiencing depression. They are not the same thing. Please feel free to message me and I would be honored to help you find a counselor.

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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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Three Ways to Comfort a Friend When They’re “Ugly Crying”

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Definition of Ugly Crying: The kind of crying that scrapes at the bottom of your tummy, leaving you raw and sore; Crying that sounds like a wailing cat; Crying that renders all make-up, ice-packs and chocolate – useless.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years. One, I need to grieve alone. Some people drive quickly to friends or family and throw themselves into their arms, sobbing when soul-breaking hits. Not me.

Leave. Me. Alone.

Jenna, want to walk and talk it out today?

No.

Jenna, let’s grab a coffee and you can process with me.

No, thank you.

Can I at least call you and affirm you?

Nope.

I’ve wondered if something is wrong with me? Am I too proud to accept help?  I’ve come to find, telling my precious friends I’m not ready to talk…IS asking for help.  I’m asking them to help me grieve in the way that works for me. Finding friends that don’t take offense to this = ginormous blessing!  All of us process heartbreak in different ways.

This is what it looks like for me:

  • A LOT of ugly crying.
  • Lying face down.
  • Uglier crying.
  • Praying.
  • Grisly crying.
  • Reading the Bible.
  • Civilized Crying.
  • Prayer journaling.
  • Dainty crying.
  • Repeat for minimum of one week.

True friends give us the space to ugly cry alone- if that’s what we need. Seriously, if I even look a friend in the eyes during this time, I burst into uncontrollable tears in school parking lots.

I just can’t.

Profoundly, the women in my life honor my request. They don’t come bursting through my front door. They stand outside my door and patiently wait for me to come out.

I recently had a season of mourning and each time I opened my front door, there was a mocha, or a croissant, or flowers or chocolate, or a note saying ‘You are loved’…even homemade Tabbouleh salad (UH-mazing).

Each treasure a reminder, “We’re here for you – when you’re ready.” This helped me in the healing journey more than the physical solitude. Because,  I don’t really want to mourn alone. My body wants to be solo, but not my spirit. My spirit was being loved and prayed for as my body was huddled on the floor. I could feel it. And it made all the difference.

It’s teaching me to ask questions about my own role as a friend. How do my friends feel loved by me? How do they grieve? What makes them feel seen? How am I showing them I’m here?

This is sincere friendship. Meeting others in the spaces they understand as support. It may not match up with the way we receive support.

Three ways to help a friend who’s having a brutal week:

  1. Ask them what they need and accept the answer. If they don’t want to hang out, don’t push the subject. Find a way to love them outside the door – a thoughtful note, their favorite chocolate, cozy slippers. If you offer a coffee date and they say, ‘yes!’…jump in your car and hustle over there. Elijah affirmed his friendship with Elisha saying,As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” (2 Kings 2:2)  The point is to affirm they’re not alone.
  2. If they don’t want to talk, text them your prayers. I have a best friend who texts me prayers as though she is speaking them over me. Complete with, “Dear Lord” and “Amen”. Sometimes a simple, “I’m thinking of you right now,” is all we need. “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. (Job 16:20) The point is to affirm you care enough about them to carry their pain to God.
  3. Bring them joy. Make them laugh. I have a dear friend who knew I was having a rough week, and instead of asking how I was feeling over and over, she texted me a photo of her newly cracked treadmill with the line, “I killed it with my fatness”. I literally laughed out loud. This gorgeous Mamma isn’t overweight, she’s 8-months pregnant! Laughter brings our spirits up for fresh air. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”(Psalm 30:5 MSG) The point is to affirm perspective. They won’t feel this way forever.



Something on the Brink of Death is Stuck Under My Oven

 

 

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I’m on all fours, straining to flick out the blue, wriggling tail that’s slide under my oven.

I need something long, but not sharp.

 Alexa…Will a butter knife cut a beta fish?

Alexa…how long, can this thing live out of water?

Goodness, my daughter is crying. She begged to help me transfer the fish into his clean water bowl. She didn’t want to help, she wanted to do it herself.

I knew it was a bad idea. We’ve had London two years now. I’ve made it clear to him,

If you jump out and fall on the floor, I’m not picking you up. You’ll die there, buddy.

However, when the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t let him die, undignified, on a sticky kitchen floor.

No. I’d save his life! And I did. He was softer than I’d imagined. Gross…but soft.

I kinda, sorta, totally love him.

I imagine we’ve all pleaded with God to give us something. Unlike me, he’s a perfect parent. My fuzzy feelings for London the fish, are nothing compared to the love God has for the desires of my heart.

He knows when we’re ready.

He knows when we’re not.

We may drop the responsibility on the floor, shrink behind a stool and cry. Not because we don’t want to please God, but because we aren’t equipped yet for the call.

For years, I’ve asked God,

Why have you allowed so many trials in our pursuit of adoption?

I’ve begged and begged…

Just let us do this Lord!!

He’s answered on several occasions the same way,

I’m making you stronger.

I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is perfectly holy reason for every situation. Sometimes he waits because I haven’t allowed him to shape my desires to his perfect will.

Desires of the heart aren’t docile and tame. More often, hope slips out of our hands and wedges itself in a hot, messy crevice. When it does, we can’t flip out and pronounce it dead. We need to be ready to get on our knees and breathe life into it through arduous prayer.

The third time the door shut on adoption; I swear the rupture in my heart was audible.

But I remembered, Jesus was, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

I also know he pushed through, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)

There was a joy our Savior didn’t reach until he endured great suffering. He knew the suffering was worth it because there was incomprehensible joy on the other end.

God cherishes the desires of our hearts so immensely, he won’t hand them over until our hands are perfectly aligned with his for safe transfer. Then, we must allow his hands to cup our own and lead us in the right direction.

So many times, I’ve pulled away from his will and forged the journey on my own.  He’s super patient. He’s watched countless ‘fish’ splat on my life’s floor.

Every so often, by his grace, my hold stays in perfect unison with his. This doesn’t mean things move forward without a hitch. I can’t flawlessly love and persevere like Jesus. But when something on the brink of death is stuck under my oven, I don’t freak out like I used to.

I understand desires of our hearts require constant care and dedication.  We need to love them as much as God does. Sometimes, it’s necessary to face things that once grossed us out; like picking up a fish or seeing the corrupt underbelly of adoption institutions.

Whatever God places in my little hands, is something he totally adores. He doesn’t give it to me to watch it suffocate. He has to make me brave enough to stretch into the unknown and fight for its life when things get shaky.

God withholds, until we’re prepared to take holy-hold of the things he loves.

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “

Ecclesiastes 3:11



Resurrecting Love

‘With much prayer and consideration, we have decided to close our International Adoption Program in Ghana…’

I read the email again. I felt nothing. I tried…but nope. Nothing.

Three years of working towards International Adoption, shot down with a bullet-like, single, sentence. Fifteen thousand dollars, non-refundable, seemed a single cent up against the late night prayers, longing hopes and maybe baby names scribbled on the edge of my journal pages…all, non-refundable. The hundreds of times I glanced at our family photo hanging on our red wall, imagining a beautiful brown-skinned girl sandwiched between me and Eli. There was just enough space there for her, I thought. When we get matched, I can Photoshop her in! I wanted her to know she was always with us, even before we even met her.

We knew there were five children ready to be dispensed to families in the program. We were number three on the list. It was just a matter of time before we received the file with our child’s photo tucked inside. But all it takes is a new person in power sitting at the adoption desk, to halt these international adoptions.

Just. Like. That. These five children, who had no other living relatives that could care for them; no one who wanted them in their own country, were left frozen in an orphanage. Across the sea, there were five, waiting families frozen in shock.

We planned on naming her Zellie Anne Hope. Zellie was short for Gizelle; which means ‘a pledge’. Aaron and I were pledging to God that we would care and defend the cause of the orphan, and our precious, ransomed daughter. Anne; honoring Aaron’s Mom who passed away unexpectedly 5 years ago. Hope; because that is what people would see when we walked hand in hand in Trader Joes.

All of these imaginings: Non-refundable. Two nights later, I sat on the floor, holding all of these thoughts like a sack of potatoes; heavy and awkward to manage for my small frame.

Ok God, you shut that door, but what do I do with all THIS? All these things I can’t return, I can’t get back. It feels like I’ve wasted so much on something that wasn’t even real.
I wish I had a poetic way of describing how I felt, but the truth is, I was sad. Just so, so sad. Deep, I’m so heavy, I may crush-and -crack -the -floor -beneath- me, kind of sad. The truth is, I am still sad over this loss. It feels like a death to me.

Jesus knows a thing or two about death. He knows a thing or two about resurrection, too.

Sometimes, he allows death, to show us he has the power to resurrect. He loves us that much.

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea” (John 11: 3-7 NIV).

Catch this: Jesus chose to stay where he was two more days. If Jesus had gone to Lazarus as soon as he heard he was sick, he could have made it in time to heal him. He would not have died. Even Martha says this to him when he comes, “Lord…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11:21-22).

But, he did die. Jesus knew he would; he intentionally waited until Lazarus was buried in a tomb. But why did he wait? The Bible tells us one reason in the preceding sentence, “Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, SO…he stayed where he was two more days”.

In other words: Jesus loved them, so he allowed death. This side of heaven, this is a hard truth to comprehend.

In this specific instance, Jesus chose to resurrect the dead. He did this so the disciples traveling with him would believe in his power, “for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:15). But what about Martha? She already believed, saying, “I know that even now God will give whatever you ask”.

Could it be, he allowed the death not to show her his resurrecting power, but his resurrecting love?

“When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see’.  Jesus wept” (John 11: 33-35).

Martha witnessed the man she confessed to be, “Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27), moved with compassion.

She watched the King of the World, the Alpha & Omega, the Saving Messiah, the Creator of all things: Weep.

I find this to be more powerful than the resurrection of a dead man.

I find this to be more powerful than the resurrection of our adoption dream.

We have a God who mourns with us.

Martha did not ask Jesus to come. She sent a messenger to tell him her problem. I imagine she knew he would come.  It appears Martha didn’t expect an earthly resurrection at that moment (John 11:24). But, she did expect Jesus.
We may expectantly pray for Jesus to resurrect certain things in our life. But in most cases, that is not what we really need. What we really need, is Jesus to come.
We need to understand that he is deeply moved with compassion for us. We need to see that he is willing to sit next to us and cry.

I do not know if God will allow adoption in our lives. It is a confusing time for us. I used to pray that he would resurrect this situation and blow me away by opening doors in Ghana again, or in the U.S.A., or anywhere! These prayers were not bad. But my heart and focus have shifted. He has heard my ‘problem’, and he has come. Jesus is with me. He has shown he is deeply moved in his spirit for me. He has wept with me.

Oh, I still believe Jesus has the power to resurrect this situation! But let me clear, the King of the World has wrapped his arms around me and whispered: I have come. I see you. Let me cry with you. I love you.

When all is stripped away, the only resurrection that matters is HIS. I trust him in all things. In death, in resurrection, in the waiting. I trust that whatever he allows, is because he wants more people to witness his compassionate love and faithfulness. So I write this to declare, even when I don’t understand his ways: My God is good! My God is with me!

 

Show Me.

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The prophet Isaiah was called by God in one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring ways in the Bible. Read his account and imagine yourself in Isaiah’s place:

‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7

Breathtaking. Frightening. Awesome. Humbling.

Even more mind blowing: Isaiah’s God is my God.  With the same power and holiness He is high and exalted in my life.  He is seated on the throne now; just as he was in Isaiah’s time.

I realize I don’t ask to experience God in his most powerful holiness in my everyday life.  He is my friend.  My comforter.  My Father. My Solid Rock. My salvation.  He is all these wonderful, holy things.  But how often do I walk hand in hand with the ‘Lord Almighty’? How often to I see him seated on a throne, high and exalted?

How often do I pray: ‘Show me your glory, God’.  The answer: Not enough.

All these emotions of unworthiness came to the surface of my heart as I read a Muslim women’s testimony this week. Latifa was praying to God : Show me! Show me the way! Show me.  If Jesus Christ is the true way, show me.

I was so blessed by her bold prayer. I cried as I read on how she was at the beach with some Christian friends and they asked her to partake in communion with her. They asked her to read from 1 Corinthians 11.  This is what happened:

“As I was reading,” Latifa recalls, “I was in the Spirit. I was transferred to the upper room. I could see Christ. I could hear Christ. I could sense him saying, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ ” I didn’t know how I looked. Everybody disappeared. Time stopped.  I was there with Christ, with the awesome presence of his holiness. I started looking at my life with his eyes.  Suddenly  my life, with which I’d been content, looked terribly dirty.  I wanted to run away. then I heard him say, ‘Eat. I came not for you to run away, but, on the contrary, for you to come close to me.’(Daughters of Islam, Miriam Adeney).

Tears welled up in me from a deep place as I thought of Isaiah and Latifa. They both reacted the same way in the presence of God’s holiness. Isaiah cried, ‘Woe to me! ‘ He immediately saw his uncleanliness.  Latifa immediately saw how ‘terribly dirty’ her life was. Isaiah thought he was ruined! Latifa felt she had to run away. But God is the same today as he was in 740 BC. God reacted in the same spirit to his children…thousands of years apart from each other!  Isaiah was cleansed and his sins were forgiven. Latifa was told to ‘Eat’ at the communion table. She was told to come close to him.

Such grace. Such holy, holy grace.

We must see how worthy God is, to understand how unworthy we are.  We must understand his mighty power, to understand his grace.  Our God, with his robe filling the temple, being worshiped by seraphim, their voices shaking the thresholds as they cry,  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’– this true God: He could wipe us out.

He has every right to leave us dirty and unclean. We are sinners. He is sinless.  How dare the unholy enter the presence of the holy? Only by the blood of the Lamb. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Matthew 27:50-51 reads:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”.

The veil was torn the moment Jesus gave up his spirit as a ransom for us. We can enter into the temple with confidence.

Only because our holy, powerful God, is good. 

He is always good. Forever holy and always good.

So this week, I am praying for the boldness to pray like Latifa and Moses. Moses declares to the Lord in Exodus 33:18  “Now show me your glory.”  I pray that I have a passionate heart to see God seated high and exalted everyday. Isaiah’s God is my God too.  He is sitting on his throne, waiting for me to enter into his temple.

At his feet, I will be cleansed.

At his feet, I will be loved.

Dear Lord Almighty,

     Show me. Show me your glory. Teach me to want your presence above all else in my prayer life.  I only want you. I want to see my life through your eyes. I want to have a deeper understanding of your holy grace.  Give me a deeper understanding of your holiness. Set me apart for you. Amen.