In THIS Day

John 11: 21-27

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask Him.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she answered, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Prayer is a funny thing—and it tends to confuse a lot of people. There’s this obvious dichotomy between praying for what we think we want, while knowing that God’s will is perfect, and that His vision is infinite. So I’ve found that I often pray like Martha—with a future focus. Now, sometimes I think Martha gets a bad rap, because of her OCD and all, and because of her tendency to try to boss Jesus around. But think about it. After Lazarus dies, Martha has no trouble at all believing that he will be resurrected with the saints at the last day. At this point, there’s no precedent for that. Jesus hasn’t even died yet, let alone risen from the dead—and yet she believes. She’s like Noah, believing for rain! But she doesn’t ask Jesus outright for what she really wants—her brother back. Somehow that’s too audacious to even want, much less ask for. But Jesus clearly wants her to ask, and He wants to give her what she desires most—in more ways than one.

I confess that I often find myself in her shoes—praying that God would redeem my circumstances in the end, that He would somehow reconcile my unfulfilled desires, and that He would ultimately use it all for His glory…someday. I guess that’s why my thought life often leads me to an imaginary distant future wherein He brings it all to pass. And because I know that His infinite wisdom and perfect will are so much greater than mine, I hesitate to tell Him what I really want now. But it’s in bearing my heart to Him that He gives me more of the Holy Spirit, which is after all Whom I truly desire.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad a couple of years ago. I had already developed a deep desire to donate a kidney to someone in need, but I had recently begun to question whether I would be medically able to do it. I told my dad that, If I couldn’t do it, I would intensely grieve the lost opportunity. “Really?” He asked. “But you would know that it wasn’t God’s will.”

“I know,” I said. “And I believe that, I really do. But I would still be sad.” Telling him that let him know my heart, to draw closer to me, to counsel and comfort me. If I can share that honestly with my earthly and imperfect father, then why in the world shouldn’t I be able to honestly share my heart—however finite and imperfect it may be—with my perfect and all-powerful Heavenly Father?

Of course we can, and we should. Jesus Himself gives us this permission when He prays in the garden that the cup might somehow pass from Him. We can pray likewise if we pray with God’s promises in mind. One promise brings me particular comfort when I pray for what I think I want. It comes from Luke 11: 5-8.

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you goes to his friend at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’

And the one inside answers, ‘Do not bother me. My door is already shut and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’

I tell you, even though he will not get up to provide for him because of his friendship, yet because of the man’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

I don’t think I ever noticed before how this story ends—He will surely give you what you “need.” I think I’ve always thought of this passage as somehow saying that by my persistence, like that of a nagging child, I could wear down God’s resistance, causing Him to give me what I am asking for—even if He knows that it will bring with it a wasting disease (Psalm 106:13-15). But no—this passage promises that no matter what I pray for, no matter what I want, God will give me what I NEED.

Selah.

Thank you, God! Thank you that you can be trusted with every desire—trusted to do what is good, what is right. Thank you for the freedom to ask, not just for resurrection and redemption at the last day, but for resurrection, redemption, and abundance—in THIS day!

Amen.

P.S. Thanks to @jpokluda for the reminder, the challenge, and the permission to pray big!

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Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul reminded the believers in Thessalonica that we don’t mourn like those who have no hope, because we have the hope of heaven. Most funerals I attend do happen to be for believers, and I LOVE celebrating their lives, but even more so their “home-going.” So many happy tears, even in the midst of sorrow.

This celebratory feel is much more salient when we are (relatively) assured of our loved one’s salvation. But we don’t always have that luxury. Such is the case with my grandmother, who passed away on Friday, at the age of 88. Her quality of life had declined severely, due to complications of COPD and congestive heart failure. We all wanted to see her at rest and in peace, but saw her continued suffering as a gift from God, in his patience, mercy, and compassion. After all, He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Perhaps He was just giving her more time.

You see, Grandma was never much into Jesus. She spent her life in the pursuit of self-reliance. She was strong, independent, fiercely opinionated, and proud—and all of the other things that help a person to survive here on earth, but that make it hard to surrender to God, or to admit to needing Him. Nevertheless, her friends and family poured into her the truths of the gospel. She knew the “answers,” even though she staunchly resisted them.

To the best of our knowledge, she never confessed out loud the lordship of Christ, she never verbally acknowledged her sins, her need for forgiveness, or her acceptance of Christ as her savior. BUT…as Grandma’s days grew short—in fact, on the eve of her passing—her daughter sat with her, and prayed a sinner’s prayer over her in intercession. She closed, saying “Amen.” And Grandma, quite surprisingly, echoed a hearty, “Amen!” Could she have finally accepted? We won’t know until we get to heaven, but this moment gives us what we are promised—hope that we may see her again one day.

Interestingly, the next day, as the end drew nearer still, Grandma rolled onto her side, and seemed to be talking to herself—albeit unintelligibly. Could it be, though, that just as the thief on the cross did so long ago, she was looking to Jesus, asking Him to remember and forgive her? If so, His answer would have certainly been the same—“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Again, the gift of hope. Thank you Jesus!

In Memory  of Dolores E. Winget

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Wellsprings of Life and Deceit

Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”

Well, here we are. We’re about a week into 2019, and some have adopted resolutions, some have abandoned resolutions, and some of us have avoided resolution out of principle. Nevertheless, we probably do look out over the new year, casting visions and imagining what might come over these next 12 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if in your planning for the year ahead, you’ve heard, or perhaps offered, the advice to “follow your heart.” Lady Antebellum would put it, “Let your heart, sweetheart, be your compass when you’re lost, and you should follow it wherever it may roam…” Lauren Alaina would tell you to “trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle…” No offense to either of these, but this is just about the WORST advice EVER! Why in the world would you want to trust that which is inherently deceitful and untrustworthy?!

I’ve been reflecting on this lately, and in particular on Proverbs 4:23 and Jeremiah 17:9, and how they relate to one another. Somehow, in my childhood, I memorized this first verse in hodge-podge format. That is, my version is pieced together from several different translations of the Bible. The way I learned it was this: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And based upon this version, I’ve had a hard time reconciling the juxtaposition of this verse with the verse in Jeremiah 17 that refers to the heart as “deceitful above all things.” I think that is at least partly because of how I was personally interpreting “wellspring of life.” Namely, I was looking at that as positive—it’s the source of life, after all. That’s a good thing, right?

But in comparing different translations of the verse lately, I’ve seen that this may not be an appropriate interpretation—in fact, it’s most likely not. In my research, I—for the first time—discovered the CJB, or the Complete Jewish Bible. According to this translation, we must guard our heart above everything else, “for it is the source of life’s consequences.” That makes more sense. The Good News Translation puts it this way: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Each of these translations is more in keeping with Jeremiah 17:9 than is the BJV (the Brooklynn Joy Version).

So now we have something that is so powerful, and yet so deceitful, that it must be guarded, kept, and protected, with absolute priority. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find support for this interpretation. Proverbs 23:19 (NAS-1977) warns, “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 28:26 (NASB) suggests likewise that “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”

As I’ve wrestled with these verses, and with the temptation to despise the heart—almost as an enemy, I’ve had my heart softened by the analogy of a child. No, children aren’t inherently deceitful. But they are inherently self-serving and impressionable, are they not? Proverbs 22:6 (BSB) states that we should “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In just the same way, we must train our hearts in the way they should go, so that they will not depart from the path of the righteous. This must be our #1 priority—above all else (Provers 4:23). Because surely we want our hearts to follow after the true treasures that God has for us (Matthew 6:21), rather than the counterfeit ‘treasures’ that the world offers (1 Timothy 6:20).

So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever you do with your 2019, DO NOT follow your heart!

Lenten Blossoms

For This Child I Prayed

Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

1 Samuel 1:27

“For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.”

When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. But He doesn’t always do that in the ways we expect. Often, He changes our dreams and desires to conform to His, and we realize that our previous dreams were just a foreshadowing of what God was planning all along. Along the way, He may reveal to us many more possibilities than we ever imagined.

I remember hearing a story some time ago about a mother of two who never felt like her family was “complete,” but who hadn’t had the opportunity to build it further, either through birth or adoption. As her kids grew older, and as she grew older herself, she wondered and prayed about why God would give her this passion, if not to fulfill it. Years later, in a tragic series of events, her family ended up adopting her niece. Only then did she realize that SHE was the reason, and the missing puzzle piece that completed her family.

I often wonder and pray, just as she did—why the desire, without the fulfillment? In my imagination, that fulfilment used to look like adoption. I mean, obviously. My mom was adopted, and I’ve seen so many families and adopted children whose lives have been forever blessed through this beautiful gift. And of course, that is still a dream of mine. If I were overseas somewhere, and I had no one to answer to, and a child just fell into my lap, I would bring them home—no question.

But then, I don’t know what God has in mind. And as I seek His will, I can imagine more and more possibilities each day. Maybe I am meant to mentor and disciple young women—my friends’ kids, my kids’ friends, nieces, students, kids at church or at the early childhood development center where I volunteer, and so on.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking of the many high school kids in our city who experience homelessness. In Waco ISD alone, there were 335 homeless students in 2017-2018—many of whom were unaccompanied. These kids are significantly less likely to graduate from high school, and significantly more likely to experience negative long-term outcomes. In a few short years (or in 12 long years rather) we will have three empty beds in our house. Who knows what God has planned for them?

And maybe as I delight myself in Him, He will continue to re-shape the desires of my heart, and open up new possibilities. One thing I have to believe, I choose to believe, is that one day, I will look into a pair of eyes and know immediately, that it was for THIS child I had prayed.

Garner State Park 12

Mike

Mike McGregor

Psalm 23:4

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Where to begin…I guess the best place would be December 10, when I noticed a Facebook post from my friend Victoria in the wee hours of the morning, saying that her stepdad, Mike, had had a massive heart attack the previous afternoon. Her plea was for prayer, and it was clear that she and her family were praying nonstop, and believing for HUGE miracles. I know they prayed without ceasing, and they recruited so many others into this prayer effort, including myself. I found myself logging on to Facebook specifically to check for any updates. Those updates were very specific, as were the prayer requests. I believe that, throughout this trial, Victoria and her family have embodied 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Let me elaborate.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the Bible tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In each of Victoria’s posts, she shared praises and prayer requests. She petitioned for an around-the-clock covering of Mike in prayer. And people responded—family, friends, and strangers. It was beautiful to see just how bathed in prayer he was.

In 2 Samuel 12:15-23, David has learned from Nathaniel that his first child with Bathsheba—the one conceived in sin—would die. Nonetheless, David “pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground.” After seven days of this, the child did die. And then, “David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” When asked about his strange behavior, David responded, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’” At one point, Victoria shared that the doctors were only giving Mike a 5% chance of living. Her response? “Our God is bigger than 5%!”

Later came the update that: “Our precious Mike is fully healed. He is celebrating his victory in Heaven….Our God is GOOD. He is very good. And while this doesn’t feel good, HE is good. And He did not leave 1 prayer unanswered, down to the very last minute.” Amen. Such faith, such strength in Jesus, such a testimony of what it means to mourn, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

This blog is called, Fathoming Heaven: Living a Life Inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:11, and Victoria and her family are living that out right now. God has set eternity in the hearts of Mike and his family. And that makes a victory of what otherwise would be a tragedy. We pray for comfort, peace, and JOY for Victoria and her family, even in the midst of this great sorrow. God be with you (Psalm 23:4). Amen.

I Can Do THIS

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
Calvin Coolidge

I remember years ago being at a Women of Faith conference, and listening to—I believe it was Sheila Walsh. The conference always partnered with Compassion International (or maybe it was World Vision, it’s always so hard to remember). Anyway, it was Sheila’s turn to tell us about the organization, and the child packets that were available for sponsorship at various tables on the concourse. She talked about how she had been blessed throughout the years to sponsor many children. Then she held up a packet, one that was apparently handed to at random, and began sharing about a little girl. Basic statistics, but one clearly caught her attention. I think it was the girl’s name or maybe her birthday. Because as she was talking about how great the need is and how many people feel paralyzed by the greatness of the need and the fact that we can’t do everything for everyone, she began to say that, yes, it was true that, “I can’t do everything”—and then there was a long pause of reflection, after which she closed, “but you know what, I can do this.” Normally, she would have invited someone to come up and take that packet from her and back to the sponsorship table. But this time, she tucked it under her arm and walked off stage, as if to say, “This one is mine, you’ll have to go pick out your own.”

Her words have stuck with me for years: “I can do THIS.”

I’ve had to apply them over and over ever since, because for some reason that is far beyond my comprehension, God has given me dreams and callings and passions that He has (at least thus far) not allowed me to fully pursue. But in the meantime, He has allowed me small and sometimes seemingly insignificant ways of being involved in those larger scale dreams. Here are a few examples from MY life.

  • I can’t adopt a child from a far-away country, but I CAN sponsor a child through Compassion International.
  • I can’t adopt a child domestically, but I CAN help others to do so.
  • I can’t be a foster parent, but I CAN be a certified babysitter for others’ foster children.
  • I can’t always care for the orphans, but I CAN minister to widows God has placed in my life.
  • I can’t mentor a young child, but perhaps I CAN mentor a young adult (Lord willing).
  • I can’t always DO the things God has placed on my heart, but I CAN always pray for those who can.

I don’t know what your cause is—if you’re anything like me, you probably have more than one. Maybe for you, it’s poverty, or homelessness, or human trafficking, or ________________. Whatever it is, it is most likely too big for you to accomplish on your own. But I hope and pray that, whatever it is and however God invites you to join Him, you will not focus on those things that you can’t do, but rather on those things that you can. It may take reminder after reminder, but know that you CAN do THIS.

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An Adoption of the Heart: Compassion International

I am often eager to talk about my kids and share their photos with anyone who will listen! I have watched them grow, seen them develop spiritually, prayed for them during hard times, and celebrated triumphant moments with them. But as much as I love these children, they don’t actually live in my home because they have families of their own in countries around the world. I sponsor them through a Christian organization called Compassion International which works with local churches to provide food, medical care, school supplies, mentoring, and an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

Sponsorship is an adoption of the heart. Each child only has one sponsor so the relationship that you build and the mentoring you provide through letters is just as important, if not more so, than the financial commitment. If you didn’t get to see the movie “Beautifully Broken” when it was in theaters, I encourage you to rent it to see the dramatic impact that sponsorship can make not only on that one child, but on you and other people that God connects along your journey. In this true story, two families on opposite sides of the war in Rwanda were able to experience forgiveness and transformation through a mutual connection with one a family in America who sponsored the child from one of the families and began serving alongside the other family who had traveled to the United States as refugees.

Compassion gives sponsors a path to go beyond letters and prayers in the form of mission trips which include a visit with your child. My first trip was a life-changing experience for me when I got to meet Lucson after many years of sponsorship (pictured below). When I told my mom that I was going “over-seas” to Haiti, she very sweetly informed me that Haiti wasn’t overseas – it was below Florida! So, as you can tell, I had a lot to learn. The week that I spent there was very eye-opening and humbling. The families, who had so little in terms of material possessions, were so full of hope. My group arrived on Easter Sunday in time to celebrate with a local church. Later, Compassion brought all the children to a central, old resort and as we stood waiting for our names to be called, I already spotted Lucson and he started waiving to me! It was an incredible day that I won’t forget. Lucson brought me a gift which was home-made peanut butter, and I treasured it. I asked him what he wanted to do first and he wanted to swim … I said ok as I was secretly reminding myself that I only knew the “dog paddle” and we were in the ocean! He and several other kids said they had never seen the beach – even though they live on an island.  My trip to Haiti took place right around the time digital cameras were becoming available so most of the people in my group had one and the kids loved to have a photo taken and then run around behind us and see it.  You can probably imagine our dilemma when a couple of people took photos with film cameras instead and did not have a preview screen for the kids to see! I had sent Lucson birthday money in years past and he had written me to say he bought a goat, and then a second goat, and a third. Well, as I said – I had a lot to learn because I thought he was adopting pets and was a little unsure why he needed extra mouths to feed. So, when we met, I asked him about the goats.  He told me that he was very happy to have them and that he was still taking good care of them like I had told him to do. And then he said something that I honestly did not realize, but you can probably guess – he got the goats not for pets, but so that he could have milk to sell in the market to help his family.  Lucson has now graduated, but he is still a big part of my family and we even exchange an occasional email.

I returned home from that first trip with a deep desire to help other children and to spread the word about Compassion. I became an Advocate and started speaking at churches along with volunteering at concerts and other events. And my family grew! Since then I have sponsored more children and have been blessed to meet five more of them. Each Compassion trip has been a unique adventure. In Kenya, I met Pirante and went on a safari, which was a dream come true.  I learned about the Maasai tribe and saw the contrasts in that beautiful country between the rural landscape that we all picture and the crowded slums in the city where most of the kids live in poverty. In the Dominican Republic, I experienced heartbreak with the family of a little girl I had sponsored named Nancy (pictured below).  I had registered for the trip and a couple of weeks before it began, I received a call from Compassion. They told me that little Nancy had died in a house fire along with two of her siblings when a kerosene lamp fell. I decided to sponsor another child, Romeilyn, and go on the trip anyway, where I met her before we had even exchanged a letter. But when I got there, the leaders told me that they wanted to take me to see Nancy’s parents. At first, I didn’t want to go because I thought it would be such an imposition on a family that just buried three children, but I was told they were the ones who asked for me to visit so I did. We sat and prayed together, and I found out that both parents and an older child had accepted Christ a few days earlier despite the tragedy because of the way Nancy’s church had supported them and shared the Gospel with them. Even as they grieved, they wanted me to know that I was part of their family and that really had a profound effect on me. Other trips have been filled with laughter and lots of hugs including ones to meet my three artists: Edward in Bolivia (pictured below), Josue in Ecuador, and Pedro in Brazil!

So if you aren’t in a position to have a child live in your home either permanently through adoption or temporarily through fostering, would you consider inviting one to live in your heart? You can make such a difference and I think you will find that ultimately you are the one that receives the greatest blessing. Just remember the 4Cs of Compassion – Christ Centered, Child Focused, Church Based, and Committed to Integrity. And if you already have a child, I want to encourage you to write letters – they mean so much! If you have any questions or want to see/hear more, my email is:  drbeckysue@gmail.com. Sponsorship costs $38/month and you can select a child at www.compassion.com/beckysueparton.

Adoption: A Portrait of Grace

Y’all, it’s November! This is one of my favorite months because it is Adoption Awareness Month. And I LOVE sharing not only my own heart for adoption, but also the stories and experiences of others whose lives have been touched by this beautiful gift. Today, I want to kick off Adoption Awareness Month with a guest entry from a long-time friend, Ashley M. Wolfe. As you will see, adoption is a HUGE part of her story. I hope you enjoy!

What is adoption? In Latin, the translation literally means “to choose.” However, my favorite definition depicts adoption as: “the act of taking something on as your own.” Both of these definitions perfectly portray the experience that I have had with adoption.  When people ask me about the factors that have shaped my spiritual walk, two things always come to mind—grace and adoption. These two factors work hand in hand, even more so than I initially realized.

The first time I saw God’s providence in the form of adoption, was in the love that my dad had for me. Bryan, who I refer to as Dad, is not my biological father. He legally adopted me on my 10th birthday. I remember the hurt I felt when my own biological father willingly gave up his rights to me. I was his daughter, the only blood child he had left, after the accident my older sister, Ally, and I were in. An accident that left me scared and confused. And yet, reflecting on my pain and thinking of the things that followed, I hear Romans 8:28 come to mind. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

I remember worrying that people in school would think I was weird for changing my name, because I had always been known as “Ashley Bridwell” and now I was going to be “Ashley Wolfe.” My grandmother eased my nerves about what my peers might think by telling me, “You’ve always been a Wolfe, we’re just making it official.” Reflecting now, the significance of my own personal story of adoption holds such great meaning, because now I can appreciate that my biological father signed away his rights to me. Bryan Wolfe did not stumble upon us by accident. Bryan has been my father, and so much more. I cannot think of a better man that a woman could possibly search for. And the grace in all of it is- God saw my mother as being recently divorced, alone with two children, and he not only gave her an amazing husband but also gave Ally and me a father. The special thing about my dad and grandparents that makes them unique to others in similar situations is that they always loved us as their own. They never for a second considered the technicalities of me being half, step, or anything like that. To Bryan, I was his from the second he saw me, and that is something so precious and rare.

The next time I saw divine intervention in the form of adoption is with my brother, Andrew. Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach is responsible for my 3 siblings who were adopted. The distinctive thing about APO is the birth mom is the one to select the family that she wants her child to be placed with by looking through “lifebooks” or scrapbooks of the families who are applying to adopt. Drew was our first adopted child that I was there for. I remember taking him home, and wondering if I would ever really feel like this was my brother. Little did I know that boy would have us all wrapped around his finger. And just like any of my other siblings, I always find myself in a rage if someone ever hurt his feelings, or even if he falls down and scrapes his knee. Drew is 100% our baby. I enjoy watching people’s faces when they see Drew walk in somewhere with us. Most of my siblings are blonde hair blue eyes, and Drew is mixed. They look so genuinely confused, which always makes me laugh because to outsiders he looks out of place, but in reality there is no place more fitting. Something amazing about Drew Wolfe is how perfect he is. I know that I’m biased, but he is incredibly handsome, smart, sweet, and a goofball. From a young age, my parents told Drew he was adopted and we have a spectacular relationship with his birth parents. Even when we see them, and are all together it makes my heart full seeing him recognize who they are, and what they have done for him, and still calling my parents “Mom and Dad.” Andrew literally means “manly and strong,” and what a name for this boy. He is always looking to help, to learn something new, or eager to do acts of kindness. Not only is he strong, but his 7 year old self has blessed my family and strengthened our bond since the day we brought him home.

As of recently, we have two new additions to our family. They have lived with us for the past couple months, and we are finalizing their adoption this month. My siblings and I were shocked to hear we would be adopting not one new sibling, but two. My parents delayed telling us because they hadn’t thought we would be selected to adopt them. Again, I felt that old fear creep up on me—that fear that our family wouldn’t be the same or that we wouldn’t get used to being all together, or that Drew would feel forgotten because these new children needed extra care getting adjusted. Fortunately for me, God reined me in. He reminded me of the purpose that adoption serves. He reminded me how I had felt when we adopted Drew and how I feel about him now. Finally, he reminded me that he is sufficient and that our parents would never risk shorting us in any way. They were adopting because it was God’s will, and because we were able and called to do so. In hindsight, this fear was so foolish—these children strengthen our family, and are absolutely precious. Just as Drew did, they already have everyone wrapped around their fingers. These two just happened to have names starting with A— a tradition among us siblings. They are also the same age difference as Ally and I were, and Anna and Alayna are. This is the grace of God, not only that we were chosen by their grandparents but because they had each other and we were able to adopt them together.

But the biggest way I’ve seen grace in the form of adoption is the one that relates to all of us. God has given us grace, and the ability to have a relationship with him and by that same token when we accept him he adopts us into his family, and our old body and soul is gone replaced with one that will strive to live our life for HIM. Adoption is so closely correlated with the grace of God that there is a verse in Galatians 4:4-5 that says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” This is not only my personal adoption story, and those of my family, but as children of the Lord, it is the story of faith and providence for all of us. What greater correlation to adoption is there, than the God of the universe taking us as his own?

Wolfe Family Photo

 

Hearts and Words

I’ve always been one of those who has said that I am more patient with my kids than most, that I yell at them less than most. And granted, that has a bit to do with the miracle of modern medicine, but that’s beside the point. It’s beside the point because I’ve come to realize that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to be able to say that I am usually patient or that I’m usually respectful. You see, it has come to my attention that they don’t necessarily hear, remember, or believe what is most frequent.

Instead I believe that they hear, remember, and believe what seems most authentic. And what seems most authentic? It’s what comes out under the greatest pressure. Sadly, that means that what they may be internalizing is what I say that is most negative—when I’m in a bad mood, when they’ve been difficult, when circumstances haven’t panned out as planned. One unkind word, one hard day, one fight—it can cancel out a month of good times.

How do I know this? Because I’m the same way. I don’t believe your fair-weather words and accolades, if they don’t hold when the pressure is on. It doesn’t matter if we’re friends, family, colleagues. What matters to me is what I believe to be authentically you. What do I believe you really think about me? How do I believe you really feel about me? That is what I will believe. The question becomes what to do about it. I think what we do depends on whether we are on the giving or receiving end of others’ words.

As a speaker and actor, the Bible has a lot to say about how WE should treat others:

Psalm 141:3
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Proverbs 12:18
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:1
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:4
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

Luke 6:45
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Likewise, when it comes to the words that others speak to, about, or over us, the Bible tells us that we should find our worth and value in what GOD declares to, about, and over us.

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Psalm 62:5-6
“Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.”

Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:15
“The battle is not ours, but God’s.”

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, in either case, perhaps the first step is to begin by meditating on HIS words, and by letting those become the inpouring and outpouring of our hearts.

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Skipping Showers

Luke 10:30-35

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

That title might sound strange. What does skipping showers have to do with anything? Well, it so happens that I read a blog a few months ago that listed a bunch of things that we should all do or embrace this summer. One of the recommendations was to let the kids skip showers on pool days. Now, if we did that, the kids wouldn’t get a bath but twice a week. And I simply cannot skip a shower myself. Bangs = greasy hair. But I did feel like I should embrace the spirit of the suggestion.

And what does that look like in my own life? It might look like having coffee with an old friend, or a mojito and a good laugh with a new one. It might look like stopping to visit an elderly neighbor whose health is ailing, and allowing my unofficial therapy dog to cheer her up. It might look like visiting with another student’s grandma during swimming lessons, instead of using that time to catch up on work reading. It might mean setting course prep aside for a spontaneous game of Old Maid with the kids. It might mean going swimming with the kids four or five days a week. There are so many things, actually.

To be honest, you’ll often hear me say, “I really need to get some work done.” But that’s because on so many occasions, I set that work aside to be in the moment that is set before me. I don’t want to miss whatever divine appointments might come my way, so I reason that the work can wait. But what if those unexpected opportunities actually ARE the work, the work that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)?

It makes me think of the story of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus once shared with a religious leader. I find it hard to believe that this guy was just aimlessly wandering the road to Jericho, with nothing on his agenda for the next two days. And yet, while the other passersby where too frightfully busy to stop, or maybe too skittish at the sight of blood, the Good Samaritan stopped, cared for the stranger, saw to his care in his absence, and returned to check on him later. This is the work to which we are called, and it’s how I want to live my life.

So what about you? How might you be able to figuratively skip a few showers in this season of your life? I pray that you find and take some opportunities to live in the moment, to be present for someone in their time of need, to slow down and take stock. I assure you, it will be worth it.

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