Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Depth of His Love. The Weight of His Sacrifice.

On any given day throughout any given year, there will be moments when I find myself completely and utterly overwhelmed by the grace and love of God. Most of the time, when I think about exactly what God did in sending His Son to the cross, the depth of that kind of love and mercy in that kind of sacrifice… Well, my heart falls silent, and all I can manage is a soft and shaky, "Thank you."

One Sunday a year, we specifically celebrate that love and that sacrifice. Easter, the day Christ conquered sin and death and Satan himself by willfully giving His own life and then resurrecting Himself in victory. As humans, I don't know that we will ever be able to fully appreciate what this means. 

In Genesis, God created man and woman as His crowning work. The epitome of all there is. A reflection of Himself. He created them to live in communion with Him and with one another. 

And mankind rebelled. Walked away from God. Decided to follow his own will instead of that of his Creator.

And God did not just wash His holy hands of us and walk away.

He already had a plan set in motion to redeem us to Himself. A plan so audacious that I think we would be hard pressed to find anyone on the face of this earth who would do the same.

Jesus.

Jesus and the audacity of the cross.

Audacious because the Creator of all that there is humbled Himself, condescended to being man just so that He could give Himself up to ransom us back to Him.

The depth of His love. The weight of His sacrifice.

This is a truth worth celebrating.

I live right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. Church culture is very much a part of life here in Birmingham. For most of us, it is not, "Do you go to church?" but "Where do you go to church?" And while I love being in a place where Jesus is discussed so freely, it is hard sometimes to break ties with cultural Christianity. To move from Jesus being something you do on Sundays to having an authentic relationship with Him.

And this was heavy on my heart this weekend. As I sat in church on Sunday morning listening to our pastor present the truth of the Gospel, I felt my heart hurting. I think this is springing up from a lot of things. The struggle I see with cultural Christianity. The belief held by many that we can make Jesus who and what we want Him to be so that we do not have change anything in our lives in order to follow Him. The rite and ritual that have replaced relationship. The watering down of the Word of God and commands of Christ so as not to offend. The things I read from professing Christians that seem quite contrary to Biblical truth.

It can be a bit overwhelming.

And in the face of all these things, it is so easy to lose sight of the thing that matters most.

Jesus Christ.

It is much easier to argue doctrinal differences, assert my opinion over that of another, judge from afar, make Jesus fit into my life, treat my faith as something that must be convenient in order to be real. But that is not what Jesus is about.

Jesus is about a drastic departure from the ways of this world. He is about abandoning what is comfortable, easy and convenient for me in order to give Him the glory He so richly deserves. Jesus is about the recognition of sin and repentance. He is about standing firmly rooted in faith and truth in the face of adversity. And He is about love, the greatest love there is: sacrifice.

Looking at the life of Jesus and everything leading up to it since the creation of the world, none of it makes much logical sense. God created, man rebelled, God pursued, God sacrificed, man is redeemed. But that is our God. He, in His great love for us, abandons reason and "fairness" in order to bring us back to Him, choosing the most unlikely way of doing so in sacrificing His own Son in our place. Giving Jesus what we deserved, what should have been ours to endure. And our response to that, I think, should be one of overwhelming humility and gratitude. Our response should not be about us at all. It should be about Him. About the depth of His love and the weight of His sacrifice.

And I hope you know Him. I hope you love Him and are letting Him love you.

And if you don't know Him, I hope and pray that you will give Him a chance. He has demonstrated His great love for you by laying down His own life and then conquering death to ransom your heart back to Him. Life with Him is not easy, but it is worth it. It is worth being loved and redeemed by a great and glorious God. It is worth giving up conveniences and replacing them with faith in the hard things. It is worth knowing, really knowing, the Savior.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, 
Christ died for us." 
Romans 5:8 

Love,
Baylor 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hello, Good News!

After months and months of sad, hang in there, good things have to be coming soon, clinging to elusive hope blog entries, I am overjoyed to be writing to share something GOOD.

I wrote the other week about the result of some important meetings regarding adoptions in Ethiopia. The decision was made that all children who have been cleared for adoption must be put up for domestic adoption for a period of two months prior to bring declared eligible for international adoption. For us and our kids, that meant another two months waiting before any children would be matched with their families. Even the kids who have been paperwork ready for the last six months and just waiting on a final signature.

We were devastated. Two more months. Sixty more days before we would hear any good news. Eight more weeks that these children have to wait to be matched with their families. Cue hysterical tears at work and then all the way home.

But then I got a text today from my adoption soul sister, Amy.

"3 referrals went out this weekend!!!" 

Our agency posted an update online that yet another change has been made. Usually, this is where my stomach does a free fall and I brace myself for news of further delays. NOT TODAY! 

The Ethiopian government has amended its recent decision, and now all children who were pre-approved at the time of the policy change are automatically eligible for international adoption! That means that the two month domestic adoption rule applies to children who are newly being processed, which in turn means that referrals can and will go out starting immediately. 

This is an absolute miracle. We had no indication at all that this was even possible. The Ethiopian government had made its decision. It was final. But then this great God I love, who sent His own Son to redeem mankind to Himself, this same God kicked down the door of impossibility and moved a mountain. Thank you, Jesus, for overcoming the humanly insurmountable. 

And our agency gave out THREE referrals over Easter weekend! Three beautiful children matched with their families. 

Oh, sweet good news, I had almost forgotten what you look like! And I sure am glad to see you! 

Thank you, Lord, for breaking through our manmade barriers and prevailing Your will over the decisions of man. And let this be just the beginning! 

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory,
 the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord, 
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
Psalm 3:3-4

Love, 
Baylor 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

RWANDA!

So I have let it slip on Facebook, and I have let all of my Noonday customers know, but now I want to shout it from every rooftop I pass…

I AM GOING TO RWANDA THIS SUMMER!!!!

Oh. My. Word.

I still really cannot even believe it. So here's what happened.

I got an email a week ago Friday that my Noonday sales in recent months had qualified me for an Ambassador trip to meet our artisans this summer. In Rwanda! We only had the weekend to decide, and things just fell into place REALLY quickly, so after much discussion and reassurance from my husband that it was really OK for me to go, we made the decision, and I am GOING!

So before I say anything else… THANK YOU to my beautiful, wonderful, world-changing customers for shopping with Noonday Collection and making a global impact right where you are! It is because of  YOUR purchases that this opportunity came my way, and I cannot wait to meet our artisans, see the impact your purchases are making and then come back and let you know exactly how your purchases are impacting our artisans! You ladies (and the gentlemen who shop for them) are the BEST!

Ever since making the decision to go I find my eyes randomly welling up with tears just thinking about all that this opportunity is. I can't quite explain it, but this feels like the culmination of so many things from different places throughout my life for years, even since high school. And I can't lie; I am excited beyond words to have my feet on the same continent as my children, even if it's just for nine days. It is my hope, prayer and expectation that the Lord will use this experience in a mighty and powerful way.

I am going to share more about this trip in the coming weeks and months, but I wanted to go ahead and shout it out today.

I'm going to Rwanda!! Woohoo!

And in preparation for and celebration of all this awesomeness and as we gear up for Mother's Day, I am hosting a Noonday giveaway all this week! If you make a purchase, any purchase, this week, your name will be entered into a drawing to win your choice of either the Juna's Wristlet or a Market Tote, both made with love in Rwanda! The giveaway will run from now until next Sunday, which is the last day for guaranteed shipping for Mother's Day! I will draw TWO names on Monday of next week, and if you are one of the winners, I will contact you right away so that you can choose your new Rwandan treasure! So jump on over to my Noonday Collection site, find a gift for that mommas in your life and be entered to win a handmade Rwandan bag!

Love you all!
Baylor


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Meeting

Last week I posted asking you to pray for the meetings that were to take place in Ethiopia over the weekend. Both meetings did take place, and the overall outcome was positive. Thank you so much for praying with us and for us. Here is the news.

-Adoptions are going to continue to move forward in Ethiopia. This comes as such a relief. If you have been reading here for a while, you might remember the big scare we had right at Christmas when it looked like adoptions from Ethiopia were going to halt altogether. We were terrified. And it seemed to be true, as NO paperwork was processed for SIX months. But the Minister of MOWA has completed her investigation and come to the conclusion that international adoption is still a necessary last resort for orphaned children in Ethiopia.

-Things are not going to get moving as quickly as we thought. At first, it looked like things would start right away and that we would see movement (for the first time in six months) by the end of April. However, that is not going to be the case. The Minister has decided that an extra step should be added to the process wherein orphaned children in Ethiopia are put up for domestic adoption for a period of two months prior to being made eligible for international adoption. The goal is to exhaust all avenues for keeping children in their country of birth before allowing them to be adopted by families from other countries. I see the value here; I really do. What I am struggling with now is that these children who have been paperwork ready for the six months during which nothing was happening now have to wait an additional two months before they can be adopted. I just do not understand the reasoning behind that part of this decision. And then, selfishly, we are devastated that this means two more months with no referrals, no children being matched with their families. We got the news on Monday, and I will be transparent here and tell you that I completely broke down before I could get out of my school building. In fact, two of my students walked in on me sobbing at my desk. Marvelous. I cried the entire rest of the day. So much of this seems so unfair. These kids (and their families) have already been waiting. These kids need parents, homes. And under the new system, we will not see any of these kids matched with their families until mid June. We already love our children so much, and it breaks our hearts to know that even more time will pass before we get to see their beautiful faces.

So that is where we are now. The result of these meetings will ultimately be good, but right now it is one more mountain for us to climb on exhausted legs.

I would humbly ask that you continue to pray for us, especially for our hearts; they are raw. We are hurting. It seems as though this process continues to stretch out in front of us, far beyond the horizon. Pray that we would turn to God during this time and not let this be something that hardens our hearts. Please pray for our children; they are the innocents caught up in this mess. We long so desperately to meet them and tell them how much we have loved them for so long.

Love,
Baylor

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Please Pray with Us

I mentioned in yesterday's April 2014 Update post that there are two very important meetings coming up soon in Ethiopia.

Friday, April 4: There is a meeting between the Minister of the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWA) and orphanages on the ground in Ethiopia.

Sunday, April 6: There is a meeting between the Minister of MOWA and adoption agency staff on the ground in Ethiopia.

Our agency seems very hopeful that these meetings will be a turning point and bring an end to the standstill that has been Ethiopian adoption over the last six months. We have seen evidence that things are moving in a good direction: families being issued travel approval and court dates and the recent release by the U.S. Department of State. These things point to good news on the horizon.

Here is what we are asking.

Will you please join us in prayer tonight at 9 P.M. CST (5 A.M. on Friday in Ethiopia) and again on Saturday night at 9 P.M. CST (5 A.M. on Sunday in Ethiopia)?

Here is what we are praying.

-That the hearts of all those involved with international adoption in Ethiopia would be softened and that all involved would think first of the children who are having to live in orphanages while they wait for their families.

-That the Minister of MOWA would see that adoption can be a beautiful solution to a the problem of fatherlessness and that adoptive children can thrive in their families while still maintaining strong cultural ties to their birth country.

-That these meetings bring the turning point we have been longing for, that differences are resolved and that referrals begin to go out quickly to match these children with their families.

If you are willing to commit to praying with us, please leave a comment below, email me or Facebook me. We would love to know who you are.

 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, 
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 
If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."
John 14:13-14

Love, 
Baylor 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wait List Update: April 2014 and BIG Happenings in Ethiopia

Wellllll…

We are still waiting for things to be resolved over in Ethiopia, and that means that another month has passed and we still have not moved up on the waiting list.

I will say that this is the first time I have gotten that news and not cried, so that, I think, was a good thing.

A big part of why I think I am not feeling so terribly down this month is that our agency has said that it looks like things are about to be resolved in Ethiopia. The U.S. Department of State has issued an official statement that things are being resolved and that referrals will soon begin to be given out at the previously normal rate. And now there are two HUGE meetings scheduled over the next few days. Here's the deal:

1. There is a meeting scheduled for this Friday, April 4, between orphanages in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Minister in charge of the branch of government that deals with international adoptions.

2. There is a meeting scheduled for Sunday, April 6, with this same Minister and adoption agencies on the ground in Ethiopia.

We, along with our agency, are very hopeful that this meeting will bring the end of this six month standstill. I would love for you to pray along with us that this will be the case and that the countless children who have been stuck during this time will finally be matched with their forever families.

Please pray that God's favor would be all over this situation, and that international adoption would move forward in a  positive way in Ethiopia.

Thank you so much for coming alongside us during this difficult time. Hopefully and prayerfully, the tides are about to turn and we will see a GUSH of referrals during the month of April. Please pray with us!

Love,
Baylor


Monday, March 31, 2014

If You Had Kids: A "Say What?" Post

It has been a while since I broached the "Say What?" category on my blog. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe I am worried about coming across the wrong way, being perceived as snarky and rude. Please know that is never my intention. My goal is to simply bring awareness that some of the things we say (even without intentional malice) bring a lot of pain to those around us.

So today I wanted to address something that is said to me with decent regularity, and usually by people I do not personally know. There are a few forms this phrase usually comes in, and here they are:

"Well, you would understand if you had kids."

"I mean if you had kids, you would know."

"You must not have kids."

And the one that hurts the most:

"You'll understand when you have a family."

So often, these things are said with a laughing and conspiratorial tone, as if we are all in on an inside joke together. And I know that those who have said this (or some other variation) have done so without malicious intentions.

I want to take a minute to talk with you, candidly, about what I hear when people say these things to me.

"Well, you would understand if you had kids." 
"I mean, if you had kids, you would know." 

I hear that, because we do not have kids, I don't count. I don't know how hard life is. I couldn't possibly relate to you. Because I am childless. My heart drops every time someone says this to me. I don't know how to respond. Because, they are right. I don't understand what it is like to have kids. But I want to. I want to give up sleeping through the night, to change diapers, to rock my kids to sleep, to make meals that end up mostly on the table and placemats, to do endless cycles of laundry, to baby talk and miss adult conversation. I want to understand. And when I am reminded that I don't, I feel like somehow I just don't measure up. Like I am not a real woman because I don't understand what it's like to have kids.

"You must not have kids." 

I hear that there is something about me (maybe a brand on my forehead; ha!) that shouts, "Hey! I don't have children!" This has been said to me several times, but one instance stands out the most. This was said to me once by another teacher. Not someone I even work with, but someone who was looking over my shoulder at a professional development meeting while I was organizing some papers I had been editing for my students. She asked to see them and when she saw my commentary on them, "You must not have kids" was her very loud response. I totally froze. I had no idea what to say. I don't think she meant anything by it, but it felt like she did. I MUST not have kids? Must not? I just offered up a weak smile and shook my head, acknowledging the lack of pitter patter of little feet on my floors. Wearing that truth like a badge of shame. 

"You'll understand when you have a family." 

I hear that Adam doesn't count as my family because he is "just" my husband. I hear that I won't really have a family until we have children. This hurts more deeply than I can explain. My heart wants to shout, "But I DO have a family! I have the most wonderful husband. And I have parents and a sister and a dog that I love too much. They count!" I know what people mean when they say this. But that is not what I hear. This is one of the reasons I never call trying to have kids "starting a family." I know some people will think that I am picking over semantics, but these are real feelings, real implications. 

This is one of those posts for which I really wish you could hear my voice. I am not ranting and raving. I am not angry. My goal is to come from a place of love and gently encourage all of us (myself definitely included) to consider how our words might sound in the ears of those who hear them. Let us all resist the urge to say the first thing that comes to our minds, especially if it is exclusionary in nature. Instead, let's include and encourage those who need it. Let's reach out to those who are hurting.  

To those of you, and there are too many to count, who have gone out of your way to be sensitive to us during this difficult season of waiting to be matched with our little Ethiopian babe(s), I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have not gone unnoticed. 

Love, 
Baylor 


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