Kids

Rebel

Colossians 3:18-22

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

Rebel Elizabeth—that is the name I had long planned to give my firstborn daughter. It had a special meaning to me, too. It meant “rebel consecrated to God.” What does that mean? Well, it means someone who doesn’t go along with the crowd or the status quo, someone who fights against injustice, who responds to hatred with love. In short, someone who lives like Jesus did when He took on flesh and dwelt among us. The name was to be a blessing spoken and prayed over this little girl.

The problem was that the name actually predated her dad, who had more delicate sensibilities regarding what the name might imply to some and how it might be misinterpreted. “But that’s not how I mean it,” I argued over and over. “My intentions and reasons are good and noble and righteous…godly even.” BUT in the end, I had to consider how the name might adversely impact some unknown percentage of people for whom “Rebel” carries a very loaded meaning. Striking it from consideration was one of the greatest acts of submission I’ve ever undertaken, and one that frankly had me kicking and screaming deep in my heart (and not really all that deep, as I was pretty vocal about it). That was in 2012, shortly before racial and ethnic tensions in our country really started to flare up. In the long run, the choice to submit was the right one…at least until something horrific happens in the town of Laredo to tarnish our daughter’s namesake.

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I think this story tells us a few things:

  1. God’s desires for us do not always match our own desires—no matter how well-intentioned ours may be. He knows things in His infinite wisdom that we couldn’t possibly foresee, and we need to trust His guidance. Sometimes that guidance comes in the form of an earthly authority figure that He has placed over us, one to whom we our called to submit.
  2. Our reasons and intentions matter far less than our decisions and actions, and their consequences. Our love for the least of these, our faith in God, and our intent to follow Jesus require ACTION on our part. And the truth is that sometimes we think (or convince ourselves) that we are acting in accordance with God’s will and direction and in the best interest of all concerned, but the outcome demonstrates that we were wrong. In those cases, God calls us to repent and to make right the wrongs we’ve caused, whether intentional or otherwise. That requires more humility than is comfortable for most of us. But it is what God requires nonetheless.
  3. God’s instructions are there for our protection and our good, and we can trust HIM. We are often hesitant to submit if we lack confidence in the authorities placed over us. But look at the list of relationships outlined in Colossians 3:18-22—wives and husbands; children and parents; slaves and masters. Surely earthly husbands, parents, and masters will fail us. But this passage does not permit us to forego submission when they let us down. Instead, we are to submit to God through our submission to others, placing our faith not in them but in HIM.

Submission is hard, but it is necessary. And even more, it is rewarding, if we allow it to be. Maybe you can think of an area in your own life wherein you’re being called to submit and surrender, perhaps one wherein you’ve been resistant to doing so. Pray over it. Ask God to help you. Ask other believers to help you. And then DO it.

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!

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A Prayer for the Lady

Dear God,

Please bless Laredo on this, her fourth birthday. Help her to know how much we all love her and how much YOU love her. Help her to always believe that you have created her—your beloved child, fearfully and wonderfully made—for wonderful works and wonderful purposes. Help her to embrace her identity in you, with confidence AND humility. Help her to grow each day to be more like you in every way.

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And when she fails—WHEN, not IF—help her to know that we and you still love her, as much as ever. Help her to believe the truth that NOTHING can separate her from the love you have for her. Help her to fall more and more in love with you with each passing day and each passing year.

Thank you SO much for the blessing that she is.

Amen

Social Director

I wear a lot of hats throughout the day: Christ follower, wife, mother, professor, blogger, friend, and so many more. But this fall, I’ve been inducted into a new role—social director for one little girl who has, over the course of her nearly four years, grown accustomed to having a big brother around 24/7 for her entertainment. Well, big brother started all-day kindergarten this year, about two weeks before pre-school started for little sis. Even since her school started, she and I have had a lot of one-on-one time, both before and after school. On top of that, she had her tonsils out a couple of weeks ago, necessitating a week off from school. So, needless to say, we’ve spent a LOT of time together over the past couple of months.

And unlike her self-sufficient, independent older brother, Miss Laredo refuses to entertain herself. “What can we do?” is her common inquiry. She usually has some ideas, but they all require two of us (at least in her mind). So we have played a lot of games, read a lot of books, and painted a lot of pictures. While I cherish the quality time together, I confess that I have often felt guilty and stressed over the other duties that I’ve had to set aside, and anxious about when I might be able to catch up. And yet, I’m reminded (as I often am) of Psalm 39:5, which states, “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” James 4:14 further asks, “What is your life? It is just a vapor, appearing for a little while, and then vanishing.”

So these moments, when I sit with my little girl and make memories that will hopefully last a lifetime, I try to remember the truth about what matters most in this life, and the brevity of it all. And I try to choose her. After all, a day will likely come when she dreads the thought of hanging out with her mom. Still, though, I have to admit that I’m thankful for today—a Saturday—when Tijge is here to fill in as social director and give me a much needed break.

Here’s to you and to the memories YOU will make today with the loved ones who are longing to make those memories with you.

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Abide

John 15:4-5
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine,
so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Last weekend, I hopped between two different local sites for this year’s IF:Gathering. This worldwide livestream event allows women of God to gather, to find encouragement, and to be challenged to a deeper and closer—a more active—walk with Jesus. The premise? IF we believed that Jesus is real, IF we believed that God is who He says He is, IF we believed that the Bible is true, then what? What would that mean for our thoughts, words, actions, and relationships?

And each year, we come away with a token of God’s personal challenge to us. This year, we each received a domino, on which we were invited to write one word—one word representing something the Holy Spirit is calling us to “fall into” this year, in prayerful hope of an amazing chain reaction among God’s people across the globe.

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By the end of the weekend, my word was pretty clear: ABIDE. Abide in the Word, and in prayer, and in Christ’s presence. I can recall a time in my life when morning quiet time was a staple in my day. But then I let it slip for a bit. First it was because I was studying for comprehensive exams and writing a dissertation. Then it was because I was a new mom, sleep deprived and exhausted. Then it was because my second child came out with no intention of sleeping through the night—at least not until she was 18 months old. Then it was my part-time teaching job. Now the kids are 4 ½ and 3, and are still keeping us up at night, and my commitment to that quiet time is still sketchy.

I’ve made all kinds of excuses—being there for my kids is my calling in this season; my students are my mission field right now, and they take so much of my time and attention; my gift is encouragement, and so and so needs encouragement right now; there are only so many minutes in the day…blah, blah, blah. And truthfully, none of that has changed.

Still, the time has come to be more deliberate about spending time in the Word daily. After all, I spend so much time praying for direction, guidance, and clarity—but perhaps it’s in that abiding that God wants to speak the answers to those prayers.

How about you? What is God calling YOU to fall into during this season?

Littler Minutes

Last night, just before a had fallen asleep—and only seconds after Chris had drifted off—came the familiar sound of one Laredo Jade, whimpering from her bedroom, “Mommy…Mommy.” I went to her and asked her what she needed. “I just need you to hold me,” she answered as she wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Usually she demands that I hold her while I’m standing up, but last night, she agreed that we could lay on the couch together. After shifting around a bit, she got comfortable laying on my chest (and tummy and legs, because let’s face it, at her age she takes up quite a bit more space). Then she fell asleep, and then I fell asleep. But before I did, I thought back to a post I’d written in June of 2014, entitled, “Little Minutes.”

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Psalm 39:4-5

“LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.”

As I was lying in the hotel bed with Tijge, he took my hand and held it as he drifted off to sleep. I was reminded of a habit that we had briefly gotten into a few weeks before. He would lay down and go to sleep, only to wake up at around midnight—at which point, he would sweetly ask, “You want to lay by me a little minutes?” Of course I do. Well, invariably, I would fall asleep and end up spending the rest of the night with him.

At one point, Chris expressed concern that this might get to be too much of a habit. Probably, I reasoned inwardly, but then I thought about the day that would no doubt come—sooner rather than later—when I would no longer be able to comfort him; when I wouldn’t be “cool” enough to be seen with, let alone to lay or snuggle with. And then I will miss these nights, and I won’t remember the midnight wake-up call, or his tossing and turning, or my stiff back and neck. I will only, and very fondly, remember those few extra minutes with him each night.

Little minutes, indeed.

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Yep, that’s still about right. Different day. Different kid. Same stiff neck. Same little minutes…except they keep getting littler every day.

 

The Love of the Father

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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

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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.

The Race

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Hebrews 12:1

“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…”

Run the race with perseverance. Other translations replace the word “perseverance” with the word “endurance,” indicating that this verse is not referring to a sprint. Instead, it’s a cross-country endeavor. Think of it as a marathon. Today, as Christians around the world celebrate the freedom and forgiveness we have in Christ, our family is celebrating the completion of Chris’s 36th lap of this marathon called life.

As with any race, this life is filled with ups and downs, ins and outs. This past lap has been filled with smiles and laughs, friends and family. But it has also been filled with mundane routines, tired mornings from sleeping in a bed full of “snuggle puppies” (a.k.a. toddlers), and—most recently—POTTY TRAINING!

But through all of it, we’re in it together. Patrick, from Marathon Nation, states that “there’s no doubt that having a companion to share your miles can help breathe the life back into your training. From sharing a few laughs to pushing your limits, the right running partner will help you grow as a runner” (http://www.marathonnation.us/marathon-training/running-with-a-partner/).

So, to Chris: I am honored to run beside you through all of the joys, celebrations, expectations, uncertainties, challenges, disappointments, and setbacks that we face in this life. And I think, as we sit on our porch sipping lemonade another 36 laps from now, we’ll look back at all of these milestones, and we’ll see that all of them have been blessings. Happy birthday!

Strength to Submit

Last year around this time, I became convinced that our son, Tijge, had lymphoma. Okay, not entirely convinced, but well aware of that possibility. You have to understand—I’m the kind of person who has not only contingency plans, but contingency plans for contingency plans, almost contingency flowcharts. My mind operates kind of like a “choose your own adventure” plot map. I know it sounds like a tedious exercise to some, but for me, it’s a way to prepare myself to always accept and submit to God’s will, whatever that may entail.
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But somehow, this felt different. Even though I could see countless good things—Kingdom things—coming from any outcome, it seemed wrong for me to accept those outcomes on behalf of a 3-year old boy who couldn’t begin to understand the why behindany of it. I thought about the Bible and about the many examples that Scripture gives of people who were given strength to submit to God’s will. For example, in Genesis22:9, we’re told that Abraham “bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” Most of us picture a young boy in this story, but scholars estimate that Isaac was at least a teenager, and possibly as old as 25. Surely, he was capable of overtaking his aging father, if he had chosen to do so. But he chose to submit instead (thankfully, God intervened just in time to prevent his sacrifice).

And then in Luke 22:41-43, we read that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’” and that “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Of course, in this case, Jesus knew the reason for his suffering, but still pleaded that there might be any other way to redeem the world. As we know, there was not, and He obeyed.

I could recount example after example from Scripture of believers given supernatural strength to submit to God’s will, even when it seems like too much to ask and too much to bear (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; Daniel in the lions’ den,; and David and Goliath, to name a few). But one thing struck me about all of these examples—consent. These individuals all made a cognitive decision to submit to God. So what about when we’re asked to, in essence, choose submission on someone else’s behalf? Where is our precedent for that?

Well, having pondered it for weeks leading up to Tijge’s diagnosis, I came up with the answer. WE are the precedent. We are God’s children, and He sometimes chooses hardship for us in the interest of the greater good. Sometimes the only thing in our control is our response to our circumstances. And just as in the Garden, where an angel appeared to strengthen Jesus, God will grant us strength to submit to his will.

Ultimately, I chose to believe that a God who could help me to see past pain and suffering to His greater glory could surely also strengthen a little boy to do the same. In this case, it didn’t come to that. But the deeper faith that came through this time of wrestling will surely strengthen me when God’s plans for me call for submission.