Lucky #108




I’ve lived through a lot of numbers in my life.  I celebrated turning sixteen at Cherry’s soda fountain with my closest friends.  I married my dear friend at nineteen, he was twenty-one in the First Baptist Church on Main Street in my hometown.  I waited five long weeks, that’s thirty-five tortuous days for Annabeth’s heartbeat to show up on ultrasound after our doctor told us the pregnancy didn’t “take”.    I survived seven years of college and graduated with a doctorate without losing my mind or my family.  I have three children ages nine, five and two.  But I can honestly say I’ve never been number 108.  We knew we were on the bottom of the list.   We expected to be at the bottom of the list.  We just didn’t know the list was so long.  I’m not sure who I felt sorrier for, me or the adoption consultant who had to inform me.  It wouldn’t seem so large if there were more referrals, but for the last 90 days not a single child has been matched with a family within our agency.  So with odds like that a family could be waiting for a long time.  Initially, I took the news in stride.  I joked, I laughed, I made statements like, “you can’t get to the top if you don’t start at the bottom”, but secretly in the bottom of my heart I was disappointed.  For a few days I just let the number marinate.  I just let it hang around our house and get to know us.  And I prayed about it, but mostly my prayers were short because as Lydia says, “God can hear you from your heart, you don’t have to say everything.”  Oh, how I love that kid!  And I read his word.  And just like he always does my friend Jesus directed me to the words I needed to hear,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
He reminded me that Isaiah is not a project!  In fact, none of my children are!  They are members of our family and that the entire process of raising each of my children is a marathon not a 20 yard dash.  Our family story doesn’t begin when Isaiah arrives; it’s just a new chapter.  He also brought to my attention that a lot of folks are watching our actions, i.e. the witnesses.  And the longer this process takes the more closely people will be watching.   Are we who we say we are?   Absolutely!  But, the proof is in our actions.  Can we live it?  Yes, we say we love Christ and that we’ve committed our entire lives to his service, but if we have no race to run then how will others see that and come to know him for themselves.   As my daddy says, “love is just a word, unless you back it up.”    And oh, how my Savior backed it up!  He waited thirty-three years on this earth, that’s 11, 748 days, to walk the hill to Calvary for me, for you.  He knew we could never make that walk.  We just don’t have it in us to pardon our own sins.  He ignored the shame.  He bore the unspeakable pain of that day for my daughter, for my son, for your son so that they would never have to.  So that they would never know what it means to die in such a way.  He fixed his eyes on his father and the home he once knew.  He knew his course.  It was already marked.  Just like mine is.  Only mine is so much easier.  I have only to wait and work.  I have only to tell his story.  That is all he has asked me to do.  It seems such a small thing really. In perspective the number 108 seems like what it is, just a number.  So here’s what I’ve decided to do.  I’m going to choose to be joyful every single day for however long we have to wait.   And I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’m going to embrace every opportunity to tell others about the love Christ has for me and for them because I don’t want them to miss the chance to know the greatest guy that ever lived. I’m going to grab on to my best friend Jesus and run this race for however long he says to, and I’m not talking about waiting for my son anymore.  He marked my course himself and he’s waiting for me at the finish line, so I can’t lose.  Neither can you.  If you’ve got some numbers in your life that you’re dealing with maybe it’s time you gave them to him.  Third divorce?  Second miscarriage?  Tenth time in Rehab? He can handle whatever you’re carrying around.  But you have to let him.  Verse one tells us that these things can hinder and entangle us.  Don’t let them.  Don’t let them hold you back from the race he has designed for you.  Let him use you for his glory.  It’s what we were made to do.  There’s no number in your life he can’t help you through. There’s no number in your life that he can’t forgive. He tells us so in John 6:37, “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

715,040. That’s approximately how many days it’s been since he finished his race. He’s doing his own waiting now; on the right hand of God.  Waiting for the moment he can collect his children.  Waiting for the moment he can finally bring them home.    Watching them suffer and knowing that he must wait until God’s perfect timing says he can bring them home.  I can understand a little bit of what he must be feeling.  715,040…suddenly 108 doesn’t seem so big after all.   


We are often asked if there is anything someone can do to help us so below you will find a prayer list.  Please consider praying for us on a regular basis.  We would greatly appreciate it.
1.  Pray for our son’s family.  Pray that he & his family come to know Christ and his love for them.  This is the most important thing to us!
2.     Pray for our children to grow in their understanding of God’s love and grace for them.  Pray that God will knit their hearts to their brother’s before he ever comes home.
3.     Pray for God’s timing and will for our adoption.  We do not want things to proceed any other way.
4.     Pray for our son to love us as much as we already love him.  Adjustment & attachment can be very difficult for some babies.
5.     Pray for the other families waiting on children.  For some families the wait is nothing short of brutal.



Filthy

Someone I love very much recently told me that another person I love very much feels intimidated when they’re around me because they think my life is perfect.  Now before everyone reading this starts thinking my ego is beyond enormous let’s understand I didn’t say the word perfect nor do I think the word perfect applies to my life or me at all.  (That word “perfect” nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown earlier in my life but that’s a whole other story.)  In fact, I detest that word so much I’ve pretty much banned it from my house.   So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get down to the real business at hand.  How imperfect I am.  Really and truly, let’s talk about how filthy I am.  You see, the truth is I’m the worst sinner there ever was or there ever will be.  I can be greedy and grouchy.  I get tired sometimes and yell at my family.  I lose my temper and say things I shouldn’t.  I hurt people’s feelings and don’t apologize.  I get angry and then say more things I shouldn’t.  I’ve gossiped….a lot.  I’ve spent money I don’t have on things I don’t need.  I’ve been more concerned with what people thought of me than what God thought of me.  I overeat and don’t exercise even though I’m overweight.  I judge others.  I wasted 30 years of my life serving God by following rules instead of following Him.  See, there’s nothing “perfect” about me and there never will be.  I am a daily work in progress.  Christ will never be through with me.  Praise God that He will never be through with me!  I love that Christ never ordered one sin to be worse than any other sin.  So my envy is just as bad as someone’s murder.  My wandering eye is just as guilty as the person who followed through.  Ouch!  For some of us, that hurts.  It’s human nature to compare ourselves to one another and think, “Well, I may have lied to my husband about the money I spent, but at least I didn’t cheat on him!”  It makes us feel so much better than someone else.  But to Christ, it’s all the same.  A sin, is a sin, is a sin.  Each thing breaks His heart just the same.  Thank goodness we’re all covered.  Thank goodness Christ looks at our filth, all of our filth and says,” It’s ok, I still love you.”  For the prostitute and the kindergarten teacher, His grace is the same.  For the preacher and the pedophile, His grace is the same.  We don’t have to understand it, for it to be true.  We just have to accept it for ourselves and allow Him to change us for the better.  But don’t take my word for it.  Paul tells us in Romans 3:22-24, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”    And I fall short every day, but every day He still gives me grace to cover my filth and make me His kind of perfect.  In fact, if there is anything good about me you see, it’s Him.  It’s Christ.  I can promise you that.   

Lessons from the Valley

Becoming a Christian is the single greatest decision you can ever make but it doesn’t guarantee that your life is going to be easy or dare I even say fair.  This is a tough one so we might as well start here.  We as Christians often feel that because we are living honest, righteous lives that we should escape the bumps and scrapes that accompany the lives of others.    I feel that I have an obligation here to inform you of something you may not realize.  When you commit your life to God you’re going to catch Satan’s interest.  I’m sorry.  I wish it wasn’t that way.  Truly I do.  You see, Satan’s just not that interested in the people he’s already got playing on his team.  Nope, he’s going to go after the folks on the other team, especially the starters or the coach.  And here’s another warning for you.  He plays very dirty.  He’ll empty your bank account, he’ll turn your friends and family against you,   he’ll take your health, and he’ll turn your life upside down.  Don’t believe me?  Read 1 Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  When I see words like prowls and devour you’ve got my attention.  Friends that means he’s after you and he’s after me.  It means he’s going to play on your insecurities and doubts.  He’s going to find every weakness you have and exploit it to the utmost point you can bear.  And that means things are going to be at times very difficult.  Around my house we call them valleys.  And just in case you’re wondering we’ve been in a pretty deep valley since the week we started saving for Isaiah’s adoption.  Looking back over the last nine months there have been different reasons that we’ve been in this valley, but it’s still the same valley.  As a family we have personally experienced all of the things I mentioned in the above paragraph plus a few others that I won’t mention.  And by the way, it’s not fun.  But battles never are.  And make no mistake about it that’s what’s going on.  Satan is using everything at his disposal to distract us from our goal:  living a life that brings others to Christ.  I have a dear friend, Brother Glen Tropp who often says, “Where there is divine operation there is demonic opposition.”  For a long time I had a no clue what he was talking about.  Then I got busy serving God and Satan got busy trying to distract me.   This particular valley has been beyond difficult for my family but if you’ll allow me to I’d like to share some things that we’re learning about Satan and his guerilla warfare tactics but more importantly how we’re learning to be stronger warriors for Christ.
·        Satan lies….a lot.  Christ was the real whistleblower on this one when he said, “…….When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44  So when you find yourself overcome, overloaded, and overwhelmed and you are certain there is no end in sight just remember, that’s a lie.  When you think the situation is impossible, just remember, that’s a lie.  Every negative thought that keeps you distracted from the kingdom’s work is a lie set forth from him.  Because as long as you’re focused on yourself and your suffering you’re not focused on Christ and Satan has achieved his goal.  So reveal him for what he really is, a liar that isn’t deserving of a minute of your time or energy.  Just keep working and serving and let Christ handle the Father of lies for you.
·        You’re going to need help.  You are going to need some serious prayer partners.  These need to be strong Christian people who you can contact day or night and ask for them to intercede for you in prayer.  You cannot serve Christ alone.  We are all members of the body of Christ and as such we need one another.  There have been days when the only thing that kept me from sitting down in the middle of the floor and losing it was the knowledge that certain women and men were lifting me and my family up daily in prayer.  So take off the “I’m ok” and the “my life is perfect mask” and start fessing up to the people around you when you need help.  Because if there’s anything Satan loves more than an unbeliever it’s a Christian who believes they are alone in their fight against him.  Everybody knows there is strength in numbers.  Christ himself reminds us of this in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”   So take advantage of the Christian people that God has placed in your path and ask them for their help. 
·        You are not alone.  Every person who ever gave their life to Christ has suffered at the hands of Satan.  None of this is new behavior for him.  Christ knew it would be this way and even prayed for the protection of his disciples in John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of this world but that you protect them from the evil one.”   In the years to come we see that Stephen was stoned.  Peter was crucified upside down.  Paul was beaten and imprisoned multiple times.  And dare I say millions of saints have given their lives as a testament to their faith in Jesus Christ.  I know what some of you may be thinking.  That was a 2,000 years ago.  That kind of hardship from Satan just doesn’t apply in the real world today.  Satan may be real, but he’s not involved in my everyday life.   Really?  Think about some good Christian people you know.  Do any of them ever seem to have one difficulty after another?  One illness after another?  One hardship after another?  Do these same people maintain a sweet spirit of Christian service and devotion?  I could name quite a few.  They’re the folks that remind me day in and day out that God can sustain us through anything.  So take heart, you’re in good company. 
·         God never abandons his people.   And for those of you who feel like you’re receiving more attention from Satan than you’d like that’s good news.   The scriptures overflow with the writings of God’s fulfilled promises to his people.  In the book of Exodus we see Moses leading God’s people out of Egypt.  Let’s read what happens when they are stranded between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army in Exodus 14:13-14.   “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”  Oh, how I love those words!  Perhaps it’s because I find it incredibly difficult to be still or perhaps because this verse brings such imagery to mind.  My God fighting for me.   It is still true today that the God of Moses fights for us if we will be still and let Him work.  I wonder how often he stares at us shaking his head and thinking silly child, get out of my way and let me work.  Our God loves us as much as He ever loved Moses, or David, or Paul, or Abraham.   And if you will be still and let him work He is capable of fighting these battles for you. 
·        Tough times make you stronger.  I know this one seems like a no brainer but it’s still worth mentioning.  When I look back on everything God has brought us through I understand now why He allowed us to endure it to begin with.  Sometimes the lessons we learn in the valley can be learned no other way.  Sometimes the person we become is far better because of the battle scars we have earned.  And here’s another thing I’ve noticed.  The more difficult things get the more I reach for Christ.  The closer I want to be to Him.  The more I long for home.  Because I know that whatever or whomever I may lose in this world I’m still going to have Him.  I hold fast to Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” 
·        Don’t lose your focus.  This past year I started noticing some odd symptoms, tingling fingers, pain that radiated down my arm, and then things got worse, and I got scared.  When I could no longer ignore the pain my doctor ordered an MRI and the diagnosis threw me off my game, which I suspect was just what Satan ordered.  Two bulging discs, degenerative arthritis in my spine, and cervical stenosis.  Wow.  Didn’t these people know I have three children to raise and one on another continent to go pick up?  I wish I could tell you I was some sort of Christian powerhouse that handled everything without missing a step but the truth is I panicked.  And here’s why.  I took my eyes off Jesus and started playing the what if game.  You know that game, right?  What if things get worse?  What if I need surgery?  What if I become disabled?  And on and on and on my imagination went down the rabbit hole of disaster.  I’m fairly sure Satan was enjoying himself immensely.  Meanwhile I was miserable.  Not only was my physical pain getting worse but my anxiety was reaching an all time high.  Fear was around every corner of my mind.  It was excruciating.  And for a few weeks God seemed very far away.  And I lost my focus.  Until some amazing women prayed over me.  No, I didn’t get better overnight.  But my broken spirit received their prayers like a dying crop in need of rain.  And I began to pray for strength, and healing, and peace.  I stopped trying to control an uncontrollable situation and started focusing on what I’m meant to do, serving Christ in whatever way that I can.  After many months of prayers, treatments, and physical therapy I’m better, not completely, but still, I’m much better.  The truth is, I may never be who I was before, but guess what?  That’s ok, because I’m focused on the One who called my name.  I love what Paul tells us in Acts 20:24, “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  Oh, that God will give me the strength to just keep taking that next step and to keep telling that next person about him and  all the amazing things He has done!
·        Pray, Pray, and Pray some more.  When you are in the midst of the battle I can promise you that you will understand the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which states, “Pray without ceasing.”    You will learn to live those words day in and day out.  Prayer will become like a jacket you wear every moment of everyday. You will reach for it and the assurance it brings and you will soon wonder how you ever made it through the day without uttering small prayers of thanks, of strength, of gratitude and of forgiveness.  There’s something else that might surprise you too.  You will learn how to better pray for others.  You will see their pain and without being prompted or asked you will lift their name to the one that created them and ask for mercy on their behalf.  You will intercede for people over and over because you will understand what it means to suffer.  You will have a depth of compassion that you never knew existed and you will be thankful for it.
·        Christ has already won the war and we’re going home.  I saved the best one for last.  No matter what happens to us here on this earth.  No matter how deep the valley.  No matter how intense the battles.  No matter what we must endure physically, mentally, or emotionally.  We are still going home.  And that’s the best news there is.  Satan may try to tell you otherwise.  He may try to convince you that this pain will last forever, but truly it won’t.  It really, really won’t.  Because the One who saved us has already risen.  So take comfort in the words of the One who defeated death so you don’t have to, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3 I don’t know about you other battle worn warriors but I’m ready to go home.  I’m ready to get out of the valley for good and live on the mountaintop.  I hear the views are to die for.

Love One Another

“My command is this:
 Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12
In the seven months since this process began I’ve long since lost track of how many times someone has asked me why we are adopting a child from Ethiopia, much less counted the folks who’ve said things like, Don’t you already have 3 kids, or,  Are you crazy?, or my personal favorite, Keep it up and you’ll be the Duggars!  I understand, really, I do.  People are curious,people are interested, heck, some people are just plain nosy.  Before now, I would have been right there with them wondering the same kind of things.  What kind of people who already had a house full of kids and their hands overflowing would want more?  More laundry?  More dishes?  Well, basically, more work?    Trying to explain the why to people in the cereal aisle in Wal-Mart in 2 minutes or less can be a little overwhelming to say the least.  Then there’s the consideration that this is a family matter, and don’t we have the right to keep some things private?  Isn’t it enough to say that it’s our decision and leave it at that?
After several months of debating with myself over whether or not to share our story God kindly used my husband to bring it to my attention that it's His story not ours and that keeping it to ourselves keeps His glory and power from being seen. So here I am, unworthy, untalented, and definitely unqualified yet God has chosen me to tell this story and I could not be more grateful or more humbled to do so.  I should warn you though, this story starts with a blog, and a sleepless night, and a heart open to what God wanted for our lives. So don't be surprised to hear him calling your name next.
            It started with snoring.  I spent an hour tossing between Steve and Lydia who both happened to be sawing some serious logs.  I know they couldn't help it,but neither could I. Steve has sleep apnea and Lydia was sick and running a fever and of course only sleeping in our bed  would make her feel better.  But still, their snoring was the stuff of legends.  After an hour I bailed out of bed and hit the laundry room, started the washing machine, grabbed the clothes out of the dryer and headed to the living room.  (Any of this sounding familiar?) I popped a movie in the DVD player and started folding clothes, it was 11:30pm. A little while later I grabbed the laptop and meandered over to a blog my friend Jenny had sent me a link to called, 
http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com.  I thought Jenny was a better friend than this. She really should have posted a warning, or a disclaimer, or something that read like this:  DANGER!!!! Reading this blog can cause a change of heart and bring you face to face with your Savior!, something, anything to let me know that my life as I knew it was about to change forever.  You see Katie lives in Uganda.  You know, the Uganda that's in Africa.  She moved from Brentwood, TN at the age of 18 (that's not a typo) and a year later made the decision to follow where God had already led her and stayed.  Today she's the mother to 13 (again, not a typo) little girls and runs a nonprofit called Amazima that assures that  400 children receive schooling each year and that more than 1600 are fed weekly in the area in which she lives.  She is living and breathing Christ's love to the Ugandan people, especially its children.  The more posts I read the more my heart ached. I began to pray, “God how can I help these children?  What is it you want me to do?  Father, show me what you want me to do.”  But, you know in my typical selfish fashion I began to plan things out on my own.  I thought sending money was a good idea. I would write a check.  I'm really good at writing checks. More importantly, I’m very comfortable writing checks.  I even prayed for God to help me find a way to make Katie's ministry a part of our monthly giving.  And, of course, money always helps, but that's not what God was asking from me.  Once I settled on my plan I went back to reading Katie's posts so proud of myself it makes me sick to even remember it much less admit it publicly.  A funny thing happened though, the more I read about these children, the more God worked on my heart.  And I'm not talking about feeling sorry for these people I'm talking about seeing them through His eyes and not my own.  I began to see them as the precious souls he created, and loved, and died on a cross for just as he did mine and the little girl that I could still hear snoring down the hallway.  I'm telling you that there was a complete and total paradigm shift in my life.  And it scared me more than anything else ever has before.  I knew then what he was asking me to do, but I dared not utter the words out loud.  Surely, I was mistaken.  Surely, with all I had to do God wasn't asking this of me.  I began praying questions in such rapid fire succession I was sure He would see how terrified and unqualified I was and find another, better mother who was up to the task.  How could we afford another child? How can I care for another child without neglecting my other three?  How can I raise a child of a different ethnicity?  How will our families react?  What will people say?  Always, always, He answered that He would handle that. In tears I prayed,” How can you ask this of me?”  And He answered, “How can I not ask this of you”?   And so several hours later, exhausted from wrestling with my Savior in prayer, I simply obeyed.   I stopped asking questions, I stopped thinking about myself, and simply said yes.  Yes, to Christ being the Lord of all my life and not just the parts that I was comfortable with.  I prayed with a brokenness I have never known that Christ would take my life and use it in whatever way he saw fit from that moment on.  And although I have been a Christian from the age of 13 it wasn't until then that I understood what it meant to allow Christ to be the Lord of my life.   
The next day I was reeling. I mean how do you tell your husband that you believe God wants you to adopt a child, and oh by the way, we have to fly to another country to get him.  I prayed for the right words and when I explained what had happened he simply said, "I like kids and I trust you.  If you believe that this is what God is asking us to do then I trust you."  Did I mention that he’s one in a million?  Strike that, he's the only one.
 I was still wondering how we would manage another little person in the house.  I prayed, and prayed and then I prayed some more.   I wondered, what we would name another child, and immediately the name Isaiah came to mind.  Later that day I looked up its meaning.  In Hebrew, Isaiah means, the Lord helps me. I felt certain that God meant this name for our child.  But still I wondered, how can you know when you are in prayer or in communion with God what he wants for you to do?   I poured over my Bible for comfort and strength.  God brought me to John 10:27: “ My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  
So I guess that’s it.  I listened to his voice.  I followed it and I haven’t looked back.  It’s really that simple.  I’m sure some of you are thinking no, no it’s not that simple.  Yes, it really is.  Our lives are changing at my house, and not just because we’re adopting a child.  They’re changing because our love for Christ will settle for nothing less than all we have.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command”  John 14:15
Application Day:  July 7, 2011