Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whose Kingdom?

One thing I have really been enjoying this year is my first Bible Study Fellowship class. We are studying the book of Revelation, and it is INTENSE. I have loved having an in-depth study of such a complex book and have really enjoyed sharing with and learning from a diverse group of women. 

Spending so much time in Revelation has been both awe-inspiring and sobering. The raw power of God on display in such a vivid way is incredible. His grace and mercy truly exceed our ability to describe them. And His wrath is holy and righteous. The scene that unfolds in the cosmos is huge and terrifying. 

For me, it is easy to think of myself as an insignificant figure in God’s Kingdom. Yes, He loves me, but how much impact and/or influence do I really have? Does the course of my life have a role in the cosmic battle that will ultimately play out when God defeats Satan once and for all? For the sake of avoiding the feeling of responsibility, I like to tell myself no. 

But that’s really not the case. Each of our lives does matter. We do play a role. And I was struck afresh with this reality at the end of the lecture portion of Bible study last night. Our teaching leader posed a question to us. 

“Whose kingdom are you advancing?” 

It’s a powerful question to consider because there are only two options. God’s or Satan’s. That’s it. Each day I have the opportunity to advance God’s kingdom and point others to Him... or not. It’s hard to think of my life in terms this absolute, but it is reality. All of creation is moving toward this day, this moment, when God’s power and glory will be on full display and there will be no doubt that He is absolutely Lord of all. Am I living in such a way as to point people to Him now? Are you? Or are we just keeping our heads down and trying not to stir the pot, lest we offend anyone? 

If I’m honest, then I have to tell you that, more often than not, I fall into the second category. And I admit that much to my own shame. 

Reading about and studying the judgment that I know is coming, I somehow manage to keep the truth quiet, when I should actually be sharing with everyone I know. 

I had this huge epiphany last night that when I am not activity advancing God’s kingdom, I am actually advancing Satan’s. I do it by doing nothing. It’s so sly, so subtle. But that is what he does. He deceives with almost-truths, and I fall for it. By not saying anything, by not pointing people to Christ, I am allowing Satan to keep the blinders on people whom God loves. 

Who on earth do I think I am? How can I keep silent? 

And so I am praying that God gives me the courage to always look to Christ, to always give Him the glory and honor, to always speak His truth and love. 

And I’ll be honest. There is a part of me that is not even sure what this will actually look like. I spend 95% of my time with an 18 month old. While I love him deeply, our conversations are not yet theologically profound. But I can do much better modeling Christ’s love for him on a daily basis. I can talk to him about Jesus because even though he can’t understand me now, I am praying that he will not be able to remember a time when he did not know Jesus. So why not start now? 

What about you? What are the ways you can intentionally advance God’s kingdom in your life? In your circles of influence? Consider the question and come up with a real answer, not a theoretical one. And if you have an awesome idea, please share with me. I love a good, practical idea. 

With deep love, 

Monday, January 11, 2016

It Matters

I have been a mom for less than six months. Not long. So I don’t claim to have any sage advice or wisdom to impart, but God plopped something in my lap today that I feel most compelled to share.

If you have small children and you are anything like me, then perhaps there have been moments when you question if what you are doing day in and day out really matters. Maybe you wonder if your kids are watching you and actually learning anything from you, or if all of the teaching and modeling you do all day is just pointless. Allow me to reassure you. What you are doing matters, and your kids are learning more from you than you realize.

This morning was tough. We had been riding the high of a truly beautiful weekend with my dad in town and then a gathering of friends and family for Bradley’s dedication. Bradley had a wonderful time playing with his grandfather and namesake. And then he was the center of attention at his dedication yesterday (at least until he fell asleep). We had a wonderful time. But as we sometimes experience after a big weekend, Bradley was a little agitated today.

It started out in the kitchen when we got home from the grocery store. I was unloading everything, which he doesn’t like because I am not able to be completely focused on him. So he began opening all of the drawers in our kitchen and pulling everything out. Dishes, tupperware, baking pans. All of it. And then he started throwing them across the kitchen and screaming. As he is doing this, I am trying to figure out how to install the child locks on our kitchen cabinets and drawers. Apparently, my lack of engineering degree is a major obstacle now that I have a toddler. Between the screaming and the epically failed lock assembly (not to mention my raging third trimester hormones), I am rapidly approaching the edge of the cliff.

Right around this time, my darling husband facetimes us from work just to say hi.

Well, wasn’t he in for a surprise!

Baby shrieking. Wife near tears.

As he almost always can, he talks me of the ledge and promises to figure out the child locks tonight while I am at Bible study.

During our conversation, I start B’s lunch. The sight and smell of food ignite a frenzy.

At this point, all I want is to get the food on the table so he can eat and I can put him down for his nap and then go cry in my closet.

I get him into his chair and get our plates on the table. I set his in front of him and say, “Here you go.”

My child {mere moments before screaming his head off} stops, looks at his plate, looks at me and holds out his hand for me to take and say the blessing before he will even touch his food. I am stopped in my tracks.

Mother of the year over here was ready for forgo the blessing today to get him to fill his mouth with food to stop the screaming.

We have been modeling holding hands to pray for a while now. We put his plate on the table, but out of his reach, and usually he gets so frustrated with food so close that it’s a battle to get through the prayer. But today, he stopped me with his plate right in front of him to bless our food. Now, I know he does not fully understand what we are doing when we pray before we eat, but he knows that there is something our family does at the table before we touch our food.

So I stopped and prayed for us and for our food. I thanked God for my son. And that is something I was so ready to miss in the midst of my frustration.

Today I was reminded that I am the primary example of God’s love and grace in the life of my son, that if I do not model Christ for him, then I am not loving him the best I can. I was reminded that toddlers are hard, and that I cannot parent one without Jesus. I was reminded that the small things I do in front of Bradley can have a huge impact on the man he ultimately becomes.

So maybe you are frustrated today, or maybe you will be tomorrow, and you will be tempted to skip those little things because they don’t seem to matter anyway. They matter. You matter. It matters.

With love,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year, New Goals, Lots of New

Oh my stars. The end of the year completely got away from me. I have so many things I want to share just swirling around in my head, and I always have the very best intentions to sit down and write, but I am just so darn tired. No more! In 2016, my goal is to write at least once a week. You’ll notice we made it all the way to Thursday before I sat down to write this week, so perhaps my goal is a bit lofty, but I’m going for it.

I’m working on a post about Bradley’s first Christmas home (it was awesome, by the way), but I want to focus on the year ahead today.

So much has changed since January 2015. Last year, we were still riding the high form receiving our referral phone call and hearing that we were FINALLY parents. We were working through final paperwork and starting to dream about meeting our boy. It was a time full of joyous anticipation and aching longing to have him home.

January of this year comes with its own brand new set of circumstances and emotions. Being Bradley’s mom has rocked my world. I love him so deeply, and at least once a day I find myself staring at him in COMPLETE AND UTTER DISBELIEF. He is here. He lives in my house. Within all of that, I have been stretched to the very limits of my being. God is using this boy to refine me in ways I did not know existed. Parenting a child from a hard place has been more difficult, draining, rewarding (basically more everything) than I ever imagined possible.

And then we have little Miss Asher joining us in less than three months time. Ummm...what? That reality is dawning fast and hard. Her life has humbled me beyond words. God has gifted us beyond what we could have imagined, in a way that we were so certain would never happen for us. That I get to carry her into this world... Well, that is something for which I do not have words. We are so excited to meet and know this little girl. At the same time, as I watch Bradley grow and change and weave into our family, I find myself wondering what will happen when she is born. It scares me. I want to be a good mom to both of them, and I am painfully aware of how not equipped I am for that.

In those moments, God reminds me that my lack of ability is precisely why I find myself in this situation. Where I am weak, He is strong. It is my prayer and hope that God will be glorified through my weakness and inabilities. That His strength and goodness will be magnified. Adam and I always say that we want our life to point back to Christ, and I am excited to see how God helps us do this in the next chapter.

In a rather vulnerable conversation with some dear friends of mine this week, I shared some of my struggles with being a new mom, places I feel like I fall short time and again. And one of my VERY wise friends shared a thought that has been bouncing around in my brain since she said it. God knew I would fall short and fail in all of these different ways, and He gave me Bradley anyway. He made me Bradley’s mom anyway. What an incredible thought. I just love that. It helps me to know that I can rest and find my strength in Christ, my identity in Christ.

So that is my big prayer heading into 2016. That I would return to the Lord in a fresh way. That I would go to Him first in all things.

There is a LOT coming our way to test me in this. And that does make me nervous. But I am ready to see the Lord move yet again in my life and in my heart. I used to joke that if we ever completed our adoption from Ethiopia, I couldn’t imagine what would occupy my mind all day, every day. I guess now I know.

With love,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Photo Catch Up

It’s been so tough to have time to sit down and write lately. Our little Bradley Bear has become so BUSY. He is into every little thing, and it’s so fun to watch him explore and learn how things work. He is growing like crazy, and it is taking basically all of my energy to keep up with him.
 We’ve been getting our Christmas shopping done. 

 Putting up our Christmas tree. 
 Getting all kinds of new teeth! 
 Looking adorable while sleeping. 
 Spending LOTS of time at the library. 
 Exploring the McWane Center
 He loooooves the water! 
 And all the fishies! 
 And he’s been getting lots of time in with his daddy. 
 Family photos! 

 And leaving his mom with zero personal space whenever possible. 
 Someone has grown SEVEN INCHES in height since coming home! 
Probably because he loves to eat. A lot. 

And our most exciting news is that Bradley Bear started WALKING last week! 

Little Asher is doing well, too. She is moving around all the time, which is awesome and quite reassuring. All doctor appointments have gone well, and we are getting ready to meet our sweet girl in just three months. Yikes! 

There is a lot I have to write about, and I’m hoping to have some time leading up to Christmas to get it down. For now, though, all of t these cute pictures will have to suffice! 

With love, 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bradley’s First Thanksgiving

I LOVE Thanksgiving. I love being with family. I love being reminded of all that I have to be thankful for in this life. I love eating. And I especially love that it was two days after last Thanksgiving that we got our referral call and saw Bradley’s sweet face for the first time. It’s a good day. Our Thanksgiving this year looked a little different than we had originally planned. We were supposed to spend the holiday with Adam’s mom down on their family farm, but my sweet MIL came down with the flu. We asked my doctor about the risks of exposure, and he responded by telling me that the three groups of people most susceptible to the flu are the elderly (not us!), pregnant women (check) and small children (check). So he recommended that we stay home, and while we were so sad to miss out on time with family, we were still able to enjoy our first Thanksgiving with Bradley home here in Birmingham.

We started our day out by taking Bradley and Daisy girl to a park near our home. Little Man is SO close to walking, so we took his push toy to help him get in some extra practice.

 We walked all over the place, played on the swings, went down some slides. It was all going so well until another family drove up on a golf cart. All B wanted was to ride in it, and the morning ended with a back-arching fit because we would not play with someone else’s vehicle. 
Oh, the inhumanity of it all! 
 So because we were not planning on being home for Turkey Day, my meal preparations consisted of nothing. Thankfully, Adam’s wonderful boss and her sweet family invited us into their home to celebrate the holiday. It was a wonderful evening full of good food and great company. 

Adam and I have so very much to be thankful for this year. One year ago today, we did not even know that Bradley existed, and now he is so much a part of our family that I cannot imagine being without him. The Lord has done great things. 

And then today we braved the Black Friday crowds for the first time ever. Well, technically it was the second time. A few years ago, Adam and I went to Wal-Mart to try to find a TV. It was pure insanity, and we did not get what we were looking for, but I did see a woman wearing a sweatshirt that was a map of the Mason-Dixon line. I thought that was a nice touch.
  Anyway, two crazy hours in the mall earned us a family dinner at Chick-Fil-A. Bradley and Adam had quite the time in the play area. 
These boys. I love them. 

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was beautiful and that you were able to bask in the love of your family while reflecting on all the Lord has blessed you with! 

With love, 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Orphan Sunday

November is National Adoption Month and today is Orphan Sunday. I'm sitting here trying to sort out all that this means for my family and for the Gospel. Needless to day, there is a LOT swirling around in my head today. The care of orphans is so very central to the heart of God. His love for the fatherless was the catalyst for sending Christ to the cross. His death and resurrection are the means by which we can be adopted into God's family. A deep sacrifice that led to the creation of a beautiful family.

This truth is one I have heard countless times before. But it is different this year.

This year I know what it is to get a phone call telling you that you have a son. I know that it is to walk into an orphanage and see the child you love, your own child, sitting among the fatherless. I know what it means to stand before a judge and tell him, "Yes, I understand that this {the adoption of my child} is permanent and cannot be undone.” I know what it is to walk out of an orphanage with your child in your arms and know that the term “orphan” no longer applies to his life. I know the vast and glorious reward that comes from fighting for your child.

The harsh reality is that there are 153 MILLION orphans living on our planet today. That number is far too staggering to comprehend. I don't think I have ever seen 153 million of anything, let alone children who need and DESERVE families. And because that number is so mind-numbingly huge, it is easy to ignore. I used to have this discussion with my students when we studied the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jewish lives in one war. We would talk about how the enormity of the number tempts us to hold it at arm's length, to keep it impersonal. And then we would talk about how wrong it is to do that.

The same holds true here. One hundred fifty three million children without families is not acceptable. It should not be acceptable to a secular society with any kind of moral compass, but it most certainly should not be acceptable to the church.

We, as Christians, have been adopted. We were spiritual orphans, and God DID SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. He MOVED. He SACRIFICED. And He did so because of LOVE. He loves us. Enough that He was willing to do the unthinkable to redeem us unto Himself.

How then can we, as recipients of such lavish love close our hearts and homes to those who are exactly where we were? We simply cannot. We cannot let that number intimidate us or keep us from action. We cannot fall victim to the lie that because we cannot do everything that we might as well do nothing. There is not an immediate solution to the orphan crisis. It is something that will be taken on one life, one child at a time. And that is OK. All we have to do is being willing to walk where God leads.

Clearly, I am an adoption advocate. Adoption gave me one of my most precious gifts: my son, but please know that I am not saying every Christian should adopt (although I would love that!). I am saying that every Christ follower must be involved in some way in caring for the fatherless. It is God's heartbeat. He commands it. And it is too beautiful for words.

There are so many way to do this:

-Foster care
-Orphan care ministries
-Orphan prevention ministries
-Birth mother ministries
-Respite care for foster families

God calls us to love the world and that means loving the people who live in it.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 
John 13:35 

“For He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in accordance to His pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Ephesians 1:4-6

With deep love,

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Love That Grows

I'm constantly amazed by how much the Lord is teaching me and revealing to me as I make this transition into motherhood. He is changing me and molding me, yet again, into a completely new person. In one of my recent posts, I talked about how some of that has been painful and less than pretty. A lot of sin has been brought to the surface during this very sanctifying experience.

But there is this new phenomenon I have been seeing take place over the last two weeks.

When you are going through the adoption process and attending countless classes, conferences and online seminars, you are warned time and again that it is not always "love at first sight" with adoption. That for some families, it takes time to get to a place where you truly feel like a family. God was very gracious to us in that we both fell head over heels with Bradley the moment we saw him. Then that love was confirmed when we finally got our feet on Ethiopian soil to meet him.

Then we got home and the reality of parenting a child from a very hard place set in. It was so much harder than I ever imagined possible. I loved Bradley so much, and I knew that he was my son. But he didn't know that. To him, I was just a lady who had taken him away from all he had ever known. I had to FIGHT SO HARD for his heart. Day by day, minute by minute showing him that I love him, that he is mine. And that those are good things.

And rarely was that love returned. The first several weeks home were mostly trying to get him to stop crying. I have hesitated and wavered back and forth about sharing a lot about this period of our family's life because it is so personal, and it is part of our son's story. But I do feel a sense of obligation to be honest about what adoption really looks like after the airport and behind the pictures. So I am going to use broad strokes here.

Bradley was scared. Everything in his little life had changed. Every single thing. How terrifying for a baby. So every moment of my day was spent teaching him that this is a safe place, that he is loved, that he will always have enough to eat, that he doesn't need to be afraid, that he can stop crying. Please stop crying.

I loved this boy so much, but life did NOT look like I wanted it to.

The Lord sent His Spirit into our home and carried us through those first weeks.

But over the last few weeks I have noticed a shift. It was very subtle at first, but now I am seeing it more and more clearly.

Bradley loves us back.

We have crossed the shaky bridge from being a source of food and cleanliness to being people he truly loves and wants to be with. I see it in the way he reacts when I walk in a room or when Adam comes home from work. He smiles and giggles, lets out a squeal of delight and reaches for us without screaming. When playing, he will randomly crawl into my lap just to give me a hug and then go right back to what he was doing.

He sees us as his mom and dad. He has learned what those words mean, and, more importantly, he has applied them to us. I could collapse on the floor and weep for this. My son sees me they way I have always seen him. The Lord has grown his love for us, and truthfully, He has grown our love for Bradley, too. Each day we feel more and more like a family.

Don't get me wrong. There are still a LOT of hard days. There is still a TON of crying. But the undertone is different. He wants to be consoled, and he wants me to be the one to do that. He wants to play with us, not just sit in our laps or be held.

He is learning what it means to be a family, and it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Our God is a God of miracles. Truly.

With love,

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