Seeking Justice

This is a hard post to write. I’m going to (try to) be transparent. I’ve been home for a week from Guatemala and have had some time to reflect. I didn’t go to Guatemala with the intentions of limiting what God would do in me, but some where along the way that happened. I didn’t go with the attitude of humility or excitement of the first trip. Not that I was (intentionally) overly proud, but I think part of me “knew” what to expect in the experience. And so God had this pre-packaged version of the trip that I gave Him.

Fortunately, our God redeems. He takes what we give Him, smiles, and gives us back so much more.

Jami

I wrote about meeting Jami while we were there. I was so completely caught off guard by that moment. Honesty, that moment revealed an ugly truth about my heart: I can be nearly scientific in maintaining emotional distance and not engaging with people’s stories on a vulnerable level. I use the excuse that I’m not a “people” person, but truth be told, I don’t want to be vulnerable myself. By playing a simple game of catch and smiling through my awkward Spanish skills, God opened my heart enough to this experience to break it.

Despite being home for a week, that experience remains fresh, my heart remains broken.

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One thing that struck me on this trip is the scale and complexity of the problem of poverty. I was, in a word, overwhelmed. Our world is so very broken because of sin. Poverty and the inequality of the “system” is a symptom. What is more challenging is that by serving Jami and her family, the story of the poor wasn’t something I was reading in a magazine or on a blog, but something that personally affected me. I looked into her eyes…and I saw a person who by merely being born in Pastores, Guatemala lived in a house made out of particle board with no running water or electricity and who did not go to school. And who didn’t own a toothbrush.

That humility that I didn’t “pack,” showed up in a hurry.

Even though my human heart is overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the problem of justice, I know that our God doesn’t turn His eyes from the poor. He actively pursues not only justice but honor for the poor.

“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.”

1 Samuel 2:8

Jami now lives in a new house, with a locking door. Her family has a water filtration system that makes even the most polluted river water drinkable. She has a toothbrush, and toothpaste. Because God remembers her. Her name is written on His palm. He has a plan for Jami.

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The experience has circled back to this question for me: What does it mean for me to seek justice? What does seeking justice look like for me (and for our family)? While God doesn’t need me, per se, He wants me to be part of His plan and His work. So what does that look like for me?

I am completely humbled by the fact that God chose to use a little girl in Guatemala to bring me back to my knees. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. I am grateful that God used you in this opportunity. Thank you.

 

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The Cost

Love always costs something.

Sometimes it costs the money in our pocket.

Sometimes it costs us our pride.

Sometimes it costs us being vulnerability and rejection.

Sometimes it costs our dreams and our plans.

Sometimes it costs a life.

But no matter what, it will cost us something to truly love well.

Our church started 2013 with a fast and a tough series called “Not a Fan.” It was tough because I really had to evaluate my life as Christ follower, and the ways that I cheapen that by being a “fan” not a follower in some areas. Then we hit that 11th commandment we try to ignore.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34

As our church talked about the call of Christ followers to love others no matter who or what, God spoke to me in this question:

What does love cost me and am I willing to pay it?

If it costs my pride, would I pay it?

If it costs convenience, would I pay it?

If it costs my savings, would I pay it?

If it costs my time, would I pay it?

If it costs my vision of how life “should be,” would I pay it?

If it costs my dreams, would I pay it?

Because love always costs something. It cost God His Son. If I want to call myself a Christ follower, it costs me laying down “my will be done” for “Thy will be done.”

God has been stirring something in my heart. I wish I really knew what it was, but all I feel is this stirring: Am I willing to pay the cost to love well?

The Stone and the Snake

Someone once told me that God typically gives three answers to requests – 1) Yes, 2) No, and 3) Not yet. There’s something that I have requested from Him for years. Like Hannah, I have laid my heart before God in this one thing. And then, recently, I heard His response.

No.

Honestly, it hurt deeply. What I wanted wasn’t bad. It something that many people want. It’s something that is a good thing. But it isn’t what’s best for me at this point in my life…and may never be.

It’s hard to reconcile when our desires, what we imagine to be good for our lives, isn’t what God says is the best for us. While God will allow us to make our choice and I could choose to fulfill my heart’s desire, I don’t want to live in His permissive will. There’s too much room for mediocrity there. I long for His perfect will because I know, in that, I will grow and find life.

Still, it can be painful to leave our heart’s desires on the alter. And I struggled terribly to walk away from that request fully.

Today I was reminded of a point I heard in a message once. There’s this passage in Matthew where Jesus is talking about prayer –

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

(Matthew 7:7-11)

We typically focus on the fact that the Good Father gives good gifts. If we ask Him for a loaf, He will not give us a stone. If human fathers are can do it, just imagine how much our Heavenly Father will take care of us. And that’s very true. When we ask for what we need and it is what is best for us, God is faithful to provide that in His time and manner.

But what if we ask for the stone?

What if we ask for the snake?

What then? Does a good father give his children the thing they ask for, even when it may hurt or kill them? When it will not be the thing they need?

Our sovereign Father will not give us something that will ultimately hurt us any more than an earthly father would let his children play in bleach or give them poison ivy as a salad.

I am learning that our walk with God is all about learning that He is God, that He is holy, that He is loving – beyond my comprehension. I am continuing to learn that this God who calls me His own expects holiness from me and that holiness requires brokenness in me – it requires refining in me. This Abba Father accepts me as I was, as I am, but calls me beyond that.

Sometimes that means no to what I deeply want.

When I ask for the stone, the answer is clearly no. When I ask for the snake, the answer is no. When I want to live beyond God’s perfect will, the answer is no. Our good Father only gives good gifts meant to help me become more like Christ. I may think that my heart’s desire is good for me, but God knows that it isn’t what I need in my life, that He has another purpose.

My challenge now is to walk away, to leave that desire on the alter, and to rely on God to do this with a cheerful heart. My challenge is to remember to call Him good and faithful even when I don’t feel it. My challenge is to remember that God is I AM and I am not.

Who He Is

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!”

Psalm 46:10-11, Amplified

“We died before we came here”

I read this story the other day:

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

And now I’m asking myself, How do I live that way? How do I live with such abandon that the cost doesn’t matter? How can I make that translate to my every day life? I don’t think God has called us to live in another country, but I want that sort of perspective where God has planted me here.

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul
(Acts 20:24)

Rewind: The Season of Waiting (aka Day 21)

This post was originally written October 17, 2009. While that season of waiting is over, I was encouraged in reading this post again. I hope it speaks to someone…

 

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I’m in a season of waiting. I knew where I was going two years ago. My family and friends thought I was crazy. But when God calls you to something that seems crazy, you are able to move despite the doubt. But when you get to the season of waiting, those doubts that you ignored get louder and louder. You feel engulfed in a darkness, as if maybe you did make the wrong decision after all.

As I’ve been going through this waiting season, I’m desperately searching for God’s voice. I fell into this Psalm:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? […] Consider and answer me, O Lord my God…

David, Psalm 13

David’s heartbroken in this Psalm. He’s listening for direction from God, but feels forgotten. He can’t hear God’s voice and he can’t see God’s hand. He feels like he has to rely on himself, but that is bringing sorrow. When I read this chapter the first time, I imagined David screaming these words, shaking his fist at heaven. You know, with the rain pouring down his face, mud all around David. (CUE THUNDER!) In more recent readings of this chapter, however, I see him saying it more as I would say it right now; in a quiet tone, just more than a whisper, from a soul that is just defeated, deflated, and done.

When God gives us direction, we know where we’re going. We’re moving. We can hear His voice and see His hand. But we’re not supposed to move all the time. Sometimes, God wants us to wait for Him. Sometimes it is not about getting to that destination. Sometimes it is about getting to know God’s character.

Psalm 27 ends with a reminder to wait for God.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait on the Lord. (v. 14)

The word for “wait” in Hebrew is qâvâh (kaw-vaw). Its figurative definition is to expect, gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon). Waiting means expecting God to do something, but not rushing to do it ourselves. Waiting means that we look to God and patiently expect His voice, His hand, and His goodness to come to us again.

A good soldier waits for commands from his superior. He doesn’t rush to make the next move because he doesn’t see the Master Plan. He should wait for the directions to come from one who understands how his actions fit into everything, how what he does next will lead to the next set of actions, which all lead to a goal.

But waiting gets old after a while.

Hearing God’s silence is lonely.

Patiently expecting becomes tiring on the soul.

This is why you have to read Psalm 13 to the end. Psalm 13 concludes with an affirmation of God’s character and a reminder of why David should continue to trust in God:

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the  Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Because he can’t see God’s hand or hear God’s voice, David has to recall that this God has saved him time and time again. He chose to ignore his feelings of abandonment and focuses on what he know is true about God; He is a good God. The literal definition of qâvâh is “to bind together, by twisting.” Maybe when we get into a season of waiting, we are being bound to God. We have to rely so much on our faith of what we know of God that our faith is binding us to Him.

So, as I wait on God, as I wait for the next set of directions, I am going to recall the goodness of God in my life. He has never failed me. He has never forsaken me. Though I can’t see His hand nor hear His voice, I know that He has a plan for my life and a reason for this waiting season. I am going to allow Him to bind me closer to Him.

Sweetly Broken

One of the things this season has taught me is to find beauty in brokenness. In our culture we like to present ourselves as together, whole, complete. We don’t need a Savior because we can go buy whatever we “need.” We strive to do it ourselves. We can figure it out, make it happen, have it our way.

Until we get a point where we can’t “buy” it or “fix” it on our own.

In these times recently, I’ve had to find myself on my knees, pleading at the cross. I am learning that I am sweetly broken, broken for the cross, broken for our Savior.

And this is what I’ve found to be the beauty of brokenness: I don’t have a Savior who only accepts me in my brokenness. I have a Savior who longs for me to be restored, to be whole again. He draws me to Him through the power of the cross. My weakness is what causes me to call on my Savior. I long for this place of brokenness because I find myself needing my God more and more. I find myself reaching to touch the hem of His garment for His mercy and grace. My Savior, He invites me. He calls me to come confidently.

I am realizing (yet again) that it’s about Him, not about me, that “I am weak, but He is strong.” I find myself being healed by the love of a Savior and His beautiful cross.

James 1:27 and the Box

Living James 1:27 out has turned my world upside-down. Even before we adopted, James 1:27 threatened my normal American life. It wasn’t convenient to give up vacation and time with my husband to spend two weeks in Africa visiting and caring for orphans. My friends and family thought I had lost my mind to voluntarily go to Africa. It wasn’t easy to see abject poverty and not be able to change the way the world works so these kids will have a chance. It wasn’t fun to know that many of these children will never have a family. It was intimidating to think about what James 1:27 (or any of the other verses about caring for the widows and orphans) could mean to my nice, clean idea of my faith.

 

But that’s when I engaged my faith in a way that I think made me really “get it.” That’s when I really saw Jesus – in the eyes of beautiful children who happen to be fatherless. That’s when I felt His heartbeat. That’s when I learned that caring for orphans and vulnerable children with a $35 check each month wasn’t enough. That’s when I learned the power of holding hands and giving hugs to children who will not get them otherwise. That’s when faith wasn’t about going to church every week and meeting my “obligations,” but really living the eternal life that Christ died for (because, yes, you don’t have to wait for that to begin when you die…).

And adoption? Adoption has taken my faith to a whole other level. I now see God as a loving Father. I now know mercy and grace in a way I never would have experienced it before. I now look in my son’s dark eyes and see a future and a hope, not fear. I hold my son and know what an amazing miracle was done in his little heart and body for him to be here with us. I believe with all my heart that he would have died without a family who prayed for him for the eight months we waited for him.

So when I hear of someone tell people of his faith tradition not to adopt, to deny what I feel is a key part of our scriptural mandate(yeah, I don’t think it’s an optional part of our faith tradition) to care for the widows and orphans up close and personal and, for some of us, to adopt them to be part of our families, I am angry that people think that this little person represents my faith. I want that person to know that I pity his small version of Jesus. I think that sort of view of Christ cuts out 99% of the Gospels I read. I pity him for not wanting families to be representative of the family of God. I am annoyed at his underlying racism. And I am sad for him because he simply doesn’t “get it.” I am sad that God’s grace is limited to what is convenient to him. His version of God is confined to a nice neat American box.

I don’t think God lives in that box, Mr. Robertson.

(Thanks to my friend Kelly for sharing this video with me!)

Hope (again)

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed or messaged me on Facebook to reassure me that 1) How I feel is normal, 2) I will make it, and 3) Eventually Little Man will sleep and my sanity will return. (It might not be for 17 years, but eventually.) In the moment, it’s hard to walk this path when you feel alone. And parenting through attachment, sleepless nights, and normal toddler-hood is nothing if it doesn’t feel isolating. As new parents who had to hit the ground running, I am often baffled by the question, “Is this in the bounds of normal?”

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But the beauty of this journey is that while no one can do the hard stuff for us, we are constantly supported through encouragement by our family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We are truly enveloped by your love. Thank you for helping me to see that, yep, this is all normal.

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With another turn in our story, I’m not sure I can say that I understand God’s ways in this particular moment, but I hold fast to this truth: God is good. That alone means that He will guide us in His will, which is perfect and good for all those who love Him. Even when it feels like a desert place because of the drought, God is faithful to provide for His children through the season. I might not see the purpose, the plan, or understand the reason, but I know, I know that my God, my Jehovah Nissi, my El Roi, my Jehovah Shalom is for me.

Today, I read a post by a blogger/writer I follow. She posted it last week. I read it when I needed it (today). I hope it encourages you as it did me.

When you know your Father’s loving — what can you fear losing?

He’s as calm as a man walking on water.

He hears us. He loves us. He has us. So whatever happens, He’s good and we’re good.

I look at him — He’s like a man completely resting on water. Isn’t that it? We pray to the Lord knowing His answer is Love.

And God is no genie and we don’t pray to God to pry something from God. We pray to God to be prepared by God for a purpose of God.

We don’t pray to get more from God — we pray to become more in Christ.

We pray because entering His presence is the answer to all our prayers.

Somedays just laying our head in His hands is the way we lay the burdens down.

The scars on His hands were made to be the perfect ditches for our tears....[Continue reading on A Holy Experience]

Empty

So I’ve been MIA for a while. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I do. I have thoughts on becoming a transracial family and what race now means to me. I have thoughts about mothering. I have many, many thoughts on adoption. But I’m battling with exhaustion. Things are better than when we first came home, for sure. But I still feel like I’m in the trenches.

I am physically exhausted because Ephrem still struggles a lot with sleep. On a good night, we are up 1-2 times with him. On a not-so-good night, it’s every 45-75 minutes. The not-so-good nights are more frequent than the good nights. I wish I knew how to help him sleep better because we are all soooo sleep deprived (us more than him, I think), but for now, our course of action is just to keep doing what we are doing.

But it’s more than being worn out as a new mom.

Here’s my private confession (that I’m making to anyone who reads this, I guess): more than the physical exhaustion, I am spiritually exhausted. I am empty. I am dry. I am emotionally drained and now unsure how to refill.

Motherhood has been the most beautiful, most meaningful ministry I have ever done. Pouring love and speaking life into that almost 13 month old little boy is an amazing, treasured gift. But this ministry is one that takes every ounce of strength, patience, and endurance I have. I sit back in awe of the mothers who are doing motherhood well, and who are able to still minister to others. I knows some of my struggle relates to insecurity as a new mom. I’m constantly asking myself if I’m doing things “right.” Motherhood is a high-pressure role because it feels like everyone is watching, everyone has an opinion, and the cultural expectations are high. (Thank you, Dr. Freud.) Add to that the pressure of attachment. This in itself is exhausting.

So right now I find myself empty. Honestly, some of this is the challenge of finding the dedicate time I need to spend time in God’s word – quite a feat with a little one who wakes up at 5:30am. And naptime fails because it’s the only chance to get everything else done and/or recover from not sleeping the night before. Still, I’m trying to read a brief devotion to get something, but even with that, I feel like I haven’t heard God’s voice speak to my heart in far too long. I am in the desert place.

Until I hear This voice again, I will “cling to His garment.” Psalm 40 will be my prayer:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.

How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.

If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
(Psalm 40:1-5)