Adoption

Good Things, God Things, and GO Things

You’ve probably heard that there is a difference between “good things” and “God things.” That is, we may find ourselves very busy with sports, clubs, volunteer activities, civic duties, Bible studies, church services, and so on and so forth. But not all of these activities turn out to be God-honoring or God-glorifying, at least not for all of us. On the other hand, there are activities and commitments that do honor and glorify God, when situated within the context of our lives and our responsibilities.

But it seems to me that there is another distinction that bears mentioning—namely, there are some things that I would call GO things. For each of us, there are likely some hopes, dreams, and inclinations that we have considered. There may be some that we are deeply drawn to and feel called toward. That list looks different for each of us, and may include everything from becoming a mentor to becoming a missionary. My list has changed a bit over time, but has included things like adoption, foster to adopt, and living kidney donation.

I think that we tend to have one of two reactions to these leanings: 1) We put them on a bucket list and figure that maybe someday, we’ll have the opportunity to pursue them; or 2) We rush off to pursue them now, figuring that “if God didn’t want this for me, he wouldn’t have placed the desire in my heart.” But God may be telling us something different. You may be making someday plans when God wants you to act today. Maybe he’s trying to tell you that you’ve thought about it long enough, prayed about it long enough, put it off long enough. And he’s telling you to GO and to GO now. On the flipside, you may be anxious to get on with what you’ve determined to be God’s call on your life, and God is actually telling you something else. He may be saying, “Not now, not you, or not at all.” He may say that through Scripture, trusted sources of wise counsel, or the closed and open doors of opportunity that you come to.

Our job is to truly listen to what God is saying to us. When he says to go, GO. When he says to wait, WAIT. And when he says, “No,” accept that with all of the grace that God has given you through Christ Jesus. These responses are easier said than done, but we can find rest in the knowledge and promise that we can do and endure all things through Christ, in whom we find our strength (Philippians 4:13).

IMG_0470 (3)

Receipts

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the time was right, God sent his Son, born of a woman,
subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law,
so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”

Do you save receipts? I do, although not as religiously as I was raised to. But at some point, don’t we all purge those old receipts. Some we may keep longer than others, but none will last forever. Maybe some we’ll toss out once they’re past the store’s return policy date. Or maybe, if you have a warranty on something, you would save the receipt until the warranty runs out. Or, at the very least, when you do a deep cleaning of your house and you come across receipts that are so old there is literally no ink left on them. If that’s you, come on, it’s time to let go.

Do you know how long God keeps receipts? Try not at all. When God bought us, redeemed us, adopted us, that was it. No return policy, no 100% satisfaction guarantee, no extended warranty. He just paid for us outright, through Jesus’ blood on the cross. He ransomed us from the power of sin, death, hell, and the law, and purchased our freedom. And adopted us as his very own children.

Imagine the most expensive, the most costly, thing you’ve ever purchased. Maybe it was an entertainment system, or a car, or a house. Now imagine shredding the receipt on the spot. I think most of us would be mortified at the thought—at least I know I would. But essentially, that’s exactly what God did for you and for me. His sacrifice, his purchase, his redemption is OURS to accept, to trust, to rest in, to be transformed by, to be grateful for, and to share with others. We don’t have to deserve it or earn it, indeed we never could. But if we do accept this gift, we belong to God, and he stamps us: “ALL SALES FINAL.”
 

Run YOUR Race!

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Wow! November is getting away from us SO quickly. I’m usually much better about posting regularly, especially during Adoption Awareness Month, which is one of my favorite times of the year. This November, I have a confession to make. I get kind of envious when I see mothers with new babies, or who are expecting, or who have adopted children, or who are fostering to adopt. With my youngest having just turned four years old last week, I feel like that phase of life is just slipping away.

And the further away from it we get as a family, and the closer we get to our arbitrary self-imposed adoptive-parent age limit of 40 years old (I will be 38 in February, can you believe it?!), the less likely it seems that we will end up pursuing adoption after all. Granted, we always say we’re open to burning bush moments and clear direction from God to the contrary, but for now, it seems unlikely.

Still, I STRONGLY support adoption. I think it is one of the most amazing and miraculous things you can do, and I believe that it offers such an indescribable blessing to everyone it touches. So I may ask God, Why not us? But as I read Hebrews 12:1-2, I hear God instructing me, “Run with endurance the race that is set before YOU…” While we ultimately all run a race designed to glorify God and advance his kingdom, we do not all run the exact same race, or the exact same route.

And, at this moment, the race set before me is not one that necessarily includes adoption (as sad as it is to admit). Instead, it includes being a wife and mother within a family of FOUR. It includes mentoring young women as they transition into the next stages of their lives. It includes praying for others at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It includes befriending the elderly, who have too often been neglected in this fast-paced world of ours. It includes teaching college students not just about subject matter, but about responsibility and character. It includes writing research papers that draw attention to important social issues of our day. And so many more things.

Your race may look very little (if at all) like mine, or like anyone else’s for that matter. But whatever it does look like, I would encourage you to embrace it and pursue it with diligence, as unto the Lord. And if YOUR race involves the joy and blessing of adoption, know that while I will feel a twinge of envy, I will also cheer you on, champion your cause, and do whatever I can to help you to run that race, and to run it well. You have my prayers and my admiration.

Run YOUR race!

IMG_0470 (3)

Star Wars and Heart Wars

1 Chronicles 17:1, 3-4

After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.”….
But that night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David,
‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.’”

Last week, in his God in the Movies sermon series, our pastor taught on the faith lessons to be gleaned from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, you have to know that I am NOT a Star Wars fan. Every 10 years or so, I try again to watch A New Hope, but I fall asleep before they get out of the desert. I once tried to watch The Empire Strikes Back, but couldn’t manage to stay awake for more than about 20 minutes.

Even so, the spiritual significance of this new installment was not lost on me. Our pastor highlighted the main theme running through the film, namely that there was a generational handoff afoot. The old guard was giving way to the new, and there were tensions and sacrifices associated with this transition. He compared this transition to one depicted in 1 Timothy, wherein the Apostle Paul is handing the ministerial baton to Timothy, his understudy.

This epistle has at least three lessons to offer to both the old guard in the faith and the new. For the older generation, Paul sets the example of being willing to: (1) serve for as long as he lives, even if the capacity of that service may change; (2) serve with humility; and (3) provide wise counsel as a mentor. For the newer and younger members of the Body, Timothy sets the example of: (1) having a teachable spirit; (2) finding confidence in his calling rather than his experience; and (3) being willing to sacrifice his own desires for the sake of the greater good.

This handoff reminds me of another story in Scripture, one that is recounted in both 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17. In this story, David wants to build a temple for God. God has other plans, however. He intends for David’s son Solomon to build the temple. David sacrifices his desire in the interest of God’s. And sometimes we must follow in these same footsteps.

As I have reflected on last week’s sermon, and these passages, I can’t help but relate them to my own desire to adopt a child. I’ve had a heart for adoption for a long time, but have not received clear direction from God to go forward. Sadly, I have no Nathan in my life to speak directly on behalf of God. But something in Brady’s sermon did catch my attention. He said, in relation to Timothy’s calling, that our callings should be “affirmed by Godly leaders.” So I thought back. I’ve been talking about adoption for a long time, to pretty much anyone who would listen. But try as I may, I can’t think of anyone who has actually affirmed that desire as my calling. People listen, they promise to pray, they ask if we’ve come to any decisions, they have even pressured us to come to a decision (one way or the other). But if I’m being honest, that affirmation hasn’t come.

Lesson #3 from Timothy also caught my attention. God’s people must be willing to sacrifice their own desires for the sake of the greater good. It’s one thing to make sacrifices for things we desire—although certainly not easy. But it’s quite another to consider the bigger picture and the greater narrative, and to give up our own desires for the cause. And what if, for me, adoption is just that—a desire? What if it isn’t my calling after all?

What if I’m actually part of the old guard in this narrative? What if I’m meant to pass the baton to the newer and younger followers? What if my role now is to move on to a new stage in life, and to serve in any way that I can from that position? What if my job is to offer wise counsel to those who follow? What if I am called to mentor and disciple future leaders, investing in their spiritual growth? What if I am meant to shine God’s light in a classroom, rather than being confined to the walls of my home?

I have to tell you, I don’t have all the answers. But I’m willing to ask the questions, and I figure that must count for something, right?

Here’s to you, and your own search for meaning, purpose, and calling in this life.

DPP_2653

Chosen

Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

“Even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

I hope you all will forgive me for digressing from my “Who I am” series for this week. But God spoke to me this week in an illustration that I want to share with you. You see, as I was walking home from dropping the kids off at school on Wednesday, I came across a random Chihuahua. He was in a yard that I didn’t recall him belonging to, and he started barking at me, and then he followed me briefly (and forgive me, the picture is a bit blurry–he wouldn’t stand still). He finally decided to stay where he was, but as often happens when I encounter a stray dog, I began to daydream. What if he followed me home? What if he refused to leave? What if he chose us to adopt him?

Now, you have to understand—and I mean no disrespect—but we are NOT Chihuahua people. We like BIG dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundlands, those sorts of dogs. But there’s something about the idea of a pet choosing you, isn’t there? About them adopting you, if you will. At least there is for me. So, I thought to myself that, if this dog indeed were to choose us, we might find ourselves inviting him into our lives and our home and becoming his forever family. We might.

There’s just something about being chosen. It’s like destiny, do you know what I mean? That’s one thing (among many) that I love SO much about God. He has chosen ME. He has chosen YOU. Psalm 11:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” There is such comfort in knowing this. The old hymn states, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” But I dare say, “Blessed assurance, I am HIS!” Know this assurance today, and rest in the peace that comes from being His chosen.

Our Unreasonable King

Joshua 10:12-13

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel….
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down
about a full day.”

Have you ever read the book, The Little Prince? I first read it in graduate school, and I have finally decided that Tijge is old enough to read it as well. So I’ve been reading it out loud to him over last month or so. There is a point in the book where the little prince is travelling among planets near his own, very small planets, each inhabited by only one person. On the first planet, he meets a benevolent king…

“…the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable.” And then a bit later, the little prince “ventured to ask a favor of the king: ‘I’d like to see a sunset… Do me a favor, your majesty… Command the sun to set…’” The king replied, “…One must command from each what each can perform….Authority is based first of all upon reason….I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable….You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But I shall wait, according to my science of government, until conditions are favorable….around seven-forty!”

When I read this section of the book, I couldn’t help but think about how different this king is from ours. Of course, God is benevolent and kindly, but I realize with great joy and peace that He is far from ‘reasonable,’ at least by this king’s definition. You see, God needn’t wait for conditions to be favorable to make a command and have it obeyed. All throughout the Bible, we see accounts that assure us that God’s commands defy the laws of nature, the laws of science, the laws of man, the laws of the universe….and as unreasonable as they may be, they are OBEYED.

God parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13); Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25), walked on water (Matthew 14:25), calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41), brought the dead to life (John 11:43), was crucified under the cover of darkness at midday (Luke 23:44-45), and rose again on the third day (Luke 24:6).

This is how I know that God is with my friend, Russell, who is fighting for his life after a heart attack at age 39. It’s how I know that if there is even one kidney on the face of this earth that is a match for Emily, God knows exactly where it is, whose it is, and how to get it to her. It’s how I know that if God wants us to adopt a child, He is perfectly capable of providing divine intervention, divine revelation, divine wisdom, or divine peace. And whatever you’re facing today, our God—our King—can be trusted to command the absolutely unreasonable on your behalf. And to Him be the glory!

The Archer’s Aim

Psalm 127:3-5

 “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”

Children are indeed a gift, a blessing, a heritage from the Lord—like arrows in a quiver. But this analogy raises an important point: an arrow’s aim is only as true as the archer’s. Sometimes I’m not sure that I’m getting it right. I don’t always know what footwear is going to be appropriate. I occasionally forget to brush the kids’ teeth in the morning. I don’t always know which battles are worth fighting, and which I should let go. There are a lot of responsibilities and decisions to juggle as a parent—just to keep the kids fed, clothed, rested and safe.

More importantly, we as parents are responsible for aiming our children in the direction of truth, righteousness, and love. Their spiritual development rests largely in our hands. It isn’t something that we can pawn off on others—grandparents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, motivational speakers. And in order to point our children in toward the paths they ought to take, we must ourselves be moving in that same direction.

To be sure, none of us have—or will ever have—arrived at the destination of perfect holiness, godliness, or righteousness. The process of sanctification will end only on that day when we see the Father and are made whole in Him and in His presence. And until then, we will stumble and fall and fail. But our aim MUST be true. Our words and actions must reflect hearts tuned into God’s. Our kids need to see Jesus in us.

I pray that God would mold all of us into the kinds of parents, or archers, who will be able to aim our children toward a saving relationship with Jesus and a deep love for God and other people. In the meantime, I take comfort in this: There is a sinless archer, One who never misses His mark, and One who chose my kids (now and future) for me and me for them because He knows that we each need exactly what one another has to offer. And during this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for this truth.

Dear Prospective Birth Mother

Dear Prospective Birth Mother,

For years, I’ve dreamed of one day adopting a baby. I’ve spent time praying for him or her—and that God would bring us just the right child and that we would be uniquely qualified, gifted, and equipped to care for him or her. I’ve prayed that we might be instrumental in helping them become everything that God has created them to be.

But for a while now, I’ve been thinking of and praying for you. No doubt you are in the midst of making some of the most difficult decisions that you’ve ever had to make—that you ever will have to make. The decision to entrust the life and care of your baby—your own flesh and blood—to a couple of virtual strangers must be both terrifying and heart-wrenching. At the same time as you experience those fears, questions, and uncertainties, though, you are probably overwhelmed with hope, dreaming of the many wonderful opportunities that your child may have as a result of this bravest of choices.

Of course, the other burden that falls on you, a responsibility that no mother should have to bear, is CHOOSING which couple of strangers will be the best fit for your child. That is a choice that I can’t even fathom—and again, you show immeasurable courage by undertaking that responsibility. A couple of women come to mind whose stories you may find encouraging. In Exodus 2:1-10, we find the story of Moses’ mother—who placed her baby boy in a basket in a river, in hopes that he would be adopted by one of Pharaoh’s daughters. As a result of this act, Moses was used mightily by God—as an instrument of His emancipation. In another story, in 1 Samuel 2, Hannah—a woman who had long struggled with infertility, pleaded with God for a child, vowing to in turn return that child to the service of the Lord. And that is just what she did; she entrusted him to Eli the priest. Again, her son became a powerful instrument for God’s purposes.

Neither mother knew their children’s adoptive parents well. But they did know God—and they trusted in His faithfulness to care for their beloved children. And through challenges and trials that those mothers would never have wished upon their sons, God carried them safely home and into eternal rest.

Still, your decision weighs heavily upon you. It’s unsettling, to be sure. So let me leave you with a couple of verses that I believe God has given me to share with you:

  • “If anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5; NIV)
  • “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3; NLT)
  • “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

I hope these verses bring you hope and peace. Know that you remain in my thoughts and prayers, and that you have my deepest respect and admiration. Be strong in spirit, but humble before the Lord—and He will surely guide you, now and for all of your days.

With Love,

Brooklynn

cropped-lj-with-mom-51.jpg

The Love of the Father

DPP_0329
God’s heart is most certainly beyond our ability to comprehend this side of heaven. But I love how He offers glimpses into Himself through our experiences. You become a parent and all of a sudden begin to understand God’s love for His only begotten son. You see a beautiful sunset in Hawaii (as we hope to soon)—or out your back door at home in Waco—and you see a faint portrait of God’s creativity and artistry. You commit the unforgivable sin and begin to see the depths of God’s mercy. You battle with a strong-willed child who is just like you, and you start to get a picture of the patience that God shows you daily. A stranger shows you ridiculous kindness, and in so doing reflects the kindness of one who is infinitely greater. You make a sacrifice that seems impossible and you finally have just an inkling of the sacrifice made by our savior.

But in spite of my experiences, the glimpses He’s given me, there is (at least) one thing I still don’t quite understand. I don’t quite get God’s love for ME. I get sacrificial love, unconditional love even. I (sort of) get God’s love for Jesus, his OWN son. But fathom as I may, a just can’t fully grasp His love for me. After all, according to Scripture, I am a daughter of God only through His willingness to adopt me into His family.

Romans 8:15-17

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Galatians 3:26

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:7-9

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

God, of course, chooses the gifts He gives to whom. But what a blessing and gift to be chosen as an adoptive parent—to be given the unique ability to see your precious child and yourself through God’s eyes. If that’s you, don’t take it for granted. Treasure every moment!

Changing the Narrative

DPP_0039

Well, y’all, it’s November again, probably my favorite blogging month of the year. That’s because it’s Adoption Awareness Month. And that means I’ll be writing a month’s worth of blog entries on my thoughts, feelings, and prayers regarding adoption. Whether or not adoption turns out to be in God’s plan for OUR family, my hope is that these words will encourage others who have gone through, are going through, or are considering going through the process of adoption.

When I tell people I have a desire to adopt one day, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Why?” The truth is, I sometimes have difficulty answering the “why” question. Of course, I want to provide a good home to a child who might not otherwise have one. And of course, I love the life we’ve made and want to share our memories and experiences with another child—I mean, we are blessed to be a blessing, right? But thanks to one of my students this semester, I recently realized another dimension of that desire.

You see, we have two kids—a boy and a girl. That’s exactly what we wanted, exact birth order and everything. And yet, the possibility of adoption continues to cross our minds. And apparently, that’s pretty uncommon. I know that our local adoption agency says that the majority of adoptive parents have struggled with infertility. But evidently, according to the “research,” this trend is more widespread than one agency, one locale. In fact, research studying families comprised of both biological and adopted children is quite rare, simply because there are so few of such families out there.

One unintended consequence of this is that a stigma now exists, whereby adoption is seen by many as a “second choice” or even a “last resort.” And that’s not me talking, that’s the research. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This is not the view among all adoptive parents. Even among those for whom adoption was not a first choice, many would now likely assert that they wouldn’t have it any other way, that they wouldn’t trade their child or children for anyone or anything.

And yet, the stigma persists. So people ask, “Why would you adopt, when you have children of your own?” And they will continue to ask. Until people begin to see families in their neighborhoods, communities, and churches pursue adoption purely out of a desire to do so, they will continue to ask why. Until people stop viewing these families as the exception, they will continue to remain as such. To change the stigma, we need to change the narrative. I think that part of what drives my desire to adopt is my desire to be part of that change. Perhaps one day, we will be. In the meantime, may I encourage you to reject any stigma that paints a picture of adoption as an inferior pursuit, for it is anything but.