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).

When Hope Hurts

artem-kovalev-86365-unsplashOur bird mamma is back. Penelope- the one that’s decided our rotting patio cover is the perfect place to build her nest. I love this crazy, determined, cutie-pie bird.

The irony is not lost on me. I feel like I’m observing a bird version of myself. All the hopes of my heart to adopt over the past five years seem overshadowed by the decay that surrounds them. Five years of broken expectations. Four failed adoptions —  one international, three domestic — chipping away at the strength of my spirit.

But here I sit, day after day, choosing to knit my nest together with God’s promises, while everything around me threatens to cave in.

What is your my nesting egg? The desire of your heart that you believe God planted? Have you asked God to remove it if it’s not his will? I have. Over and over. Yet it remains. And even when the lies of the enemy are crudely constructed, attempting to cover up the promise that God’s plans are to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11a), His truth still is not obstructed. I can still feel it. Besides, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b–25 ESV).

I may have to grope clumsily in the darkness for a season, but it’s there. Because God is eternal and God is hope.

What is eternal cannot be extinguished.

Did you know the biblical word for hope, tiqvah, literally translates to cord, hope, and expectation? It’s used in the story of Rahab. She’s instructed to tie a scarlet cord (tiqvah, hope) in her window to remain unharmed. (Joshua 2:18). Hope protects us. It’s a holy signal to the enemy that he can’t touch us. It’s the scarlet cord we unabashedly display over our doorframe that cries out, “I belong to King Jesus!”

Grasping it like a rope, I’ve tried to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). I still struggle, asking God, Why are you making us wait so long for the desires of our heart?!

In all transparency, my hands have grown weary and calloused from clinging to the rope for so long.  It hurts. My hopeful waiting has been seasoned with suffering. But isn’t this part of the blessing? Callouses give us the ability to endure situations that would naturally tear our hearts wide open. It takes time and endurance for callouses to form.

In high school, I cursed the callouses that formed while trying to learn to play the guitar. However, the first time my fingertips were tough enough to press on the strings to play a worship song, I was flooded with understanding. The momentary discomfort I’d endured made it possible for me to sing a new song of praise. I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is a perfectly holy reason for every situation. We are called to hope (Ephesians 4:4), and that means we are called to wait. Not just to wait but also to look.

In fact, the Hebrew root of the word hope is ka-va, meaning to wait, to look for. Faith-filled hope is active. When I find myself wrestling with discouragement, I’m really wrestling with my passivity.  Hope requires that we’re eager watchmen on the tower of our days, scanning the valley for signs of life. Just like Penelope, who is oblivious to the rot around her because her eyes are on the tiny, yet wildly adored, promise beneath her. She waits. She watches.

She constantly tends to the hope among the decay. Sweet Jesus, teach me to do this!

The idea of becoming foster parents was like realizing there was another egg in the nest we’d never noticed! It’s only through the sustaining grip of God’s love that we kept diligent watch over the ragged nest perched in our hearts. I praise God for the gift of hope. I thank Him for reminding me that hope is my protection, my courage, my confidence, my calling, and my strength! I raise my hands in praise, calloused as they are from clinging to hope, to the one that gives life to His promises.

But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

God’s word is always the best source of encouragement! Click here for a beautiful printout of verses celebrating hope in Jesus:God’s Word-Marked by Love-Hope

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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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There’s More To Your Pain Than You Think

 

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When my littles were even littler, we had an epic car conversation about space.

“Mommy, name some of the planets!”

“Let’s see…there’s Earth, Saturn, Uranus, Venus…”

I’ll stop here. Because Eli didn’t hear the ‘V’ in Venus…he heard a ‘P’.

“Daddy’s (insert misheard word) is a planet?!!!”

Ummm…

It took a while to explain nothing on our bodies constitutes a planet. However, it’s pretty obvious we have trouble coming to grips the world doesn’t revolve around us.

A couple weeks ago, I wandered into our adoption journey with a woman I just met. Wide-eyed, she interrupted me, ‘Five years!?  How have you had the strength to go through all this and keep going?!’

I paused; I didn’t know a smidge about her faith, religion, or worldview. The beauty of a testimony is it belongs to its storyteller.

“God. It’s only through God. It’s the only answer I have. But, it’s the honest answer.”

I’ve no clue what she was thinking, but wheels where definitely running full speed behind her furrowed brow.

Sometimes, we forget our struggle doesn’t make us the center of the universe. At times, I’m too busy expecting everyone to revolve around me because I’m hurting.

What if…

The overwhelming amount of paper work,

Financial sacrifice,

Nights sobbing on the bathroom floor,

Naming and un-naming of children I thought were ours,

The ache of laying down my will in order to pick up God’s,

What if…all of it was to testify to this one woman…God is good. God is strong.

Would that be enough for me? Do I have the heart of Jesus to go after the one? These are questions I’m challenged with.

God’s heart is missional. He’s created me in His image to be on mission with him. Oh, how he loves us. Oh, how he wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Our lives aren’t just about us. They are ultimately about proclaiming His great name. Each trial, victory, tear of joy and wrenching heartache can be used to point someone we love to Jesus. New wine is only made through the crushing of grapes. What if the product of the pressing isn’t for us to enjoy alone?

Your friends are watching you.

Your children are listening to you.

You aren’t the only one in the midst of struggle.

Praise God in the pressing.

It may bring new life to someone standing next to you. There’s only room for ONE at the center of the universe.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)



Don’t Hoard “What Could’ve Been”

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I have papers filed, stuffed, and strategically tucked away…much like the grief attached to them.

I have official binders of completed Home Studies, one for Ghana, one for Domestic. Another folder filled with the remnants of our Ethiopia dossier. Love letters addressed, “To Our baby from Africa, From Big Sister Ciana,” randomly skydive out of shelves when I tug at a book. It’s routine for me to tenderly tuck them back in the crevice they escaped. It’s routine for me to cry as I do it.

God pressed my heart yesterday,

Why are you keeping all these papers?

Papers have no power.

I struggle releasing the hope that the International Adoption Program in Ghana will re-open. What if it did?! Even if I made gazillion copies of these documents…they’re all expired.

Yet, there’s no expiration date on hope.

When God calls the Israelites to enter the Promise land, He tells them…

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

It was time to move forward to the new place God had prepared; A land of hope. If you’re familiar with the story, they had major trouble trusting in God’s promise.  They’d rather be literal SLAVES in Egypt then to trust God’s call to move forward.

We all do this. We make ourselves slaves to the past. We’re terrified God doesn’t have a better way. So we remain on timed-out mountain-tops and needlessly wander the wilderness.

His word reminds us, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30)

Don’t hoard what could’ve been.  It devours valuable soul space.

Stop asking, Lord, what-if…

Start asking,  Lord, what- now?

If we don’t, we may miss the new thing God has for us.

“ See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) 

Snapshots of the past 5 years have indeed, looked like a spiritual trudge through wasteland. I want to perceive new things God’s springing up in my life. Physical things can clutter the halls of our spiritual house. I’m making room. But it’s not easy.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw all the papers away. I’m constantly handing my heart over for God to complete his work in me. However, I did consolidate them and move them into a garage space. Now they can’t ambush my peace. I’ll only revisit them if God calls me to.

God’s faithfully held me as I’ve mourned on this mountain for a season. But  I’ve been here long enough. It’s time to follow Him to new territory.

Honestly, there’s still sorrow in the descent.

Honestly,  I have no clear vision of where He’s leading.

I know it’s a land of hope.

I know in order for him to make a “new way”…He’s asked me to move all the papers off the path.



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