What it Feels Like for Me to be a Christian Woman in 2012

Disclaimer – this one is going to get deep, and not necessarily be pretty. And I am not on FB or Twitter right now to explain or clarify my positions, so I just pray that my heart would accurately come across as I write and process. I just want to be light in darkness, and I pray that nothing I say would cause shame or hurt. This is my perspective – and I am warning you it is messy.

I know I can be more sensitive than most, but to be a woman in this culture of rhetoric and soundbites is really difficult. Politicians and the media are hurtling words across the aisle without thought – words like “rape,” “pregnancy,” “abortion,” and “contraception” – like these are arrows slung from a bow and not real personal issues that carry with them memories, hurts, fears, and a visceral reaction.

I feel assaulted by it.

I am tired of signing onto Twitter and seeing snarky comments about rape and abortion. I am tired of rhetoric about pregnancy and abortion without a meaningful plan to help women and reduce these shocking statistics that mask a terrible reality. I am tired of pregnancy, infertility, and contraception being issues hurled about in the public sphere without a heart for what these things mean to the women and men making these decisions. I am tired of women’s rights and women’s equality being words without complex meaning in a world where women are battered, raped, maimed, enslaved, and reduced to being less than we are worldwide on an astonishing scale.

Don’t people understand these are REAL women and REAL babies they are talking about? That these decisions and topics are gut wrenching?

Our world is so broken, and we need Jesus so much.

I hate abortion. I’ve written about it before. I hated it even before Roe, when it was done in the dark of night, when women were maimed in back offices, sometimes not even given a choice because they were too young and they weren’t the ones paying so they were ignored. They endured it without anesthetic or a voice. What a cruel world that would steal from a woman even the choice to bear life, but it happens worldwide every single day. Abortion isn’t an American issue – it is a world issue. I hate the fear and stigma that backs women into a corner, the broken systems that entrap women. I hate that even decades later in some homes, a past secret abortion is not dealt with so peace can be found, the growing crack in the wall that reveals the facade behind the “happy healthy family.”

I hate it now that it is legal in the US and “more simple.”  I hate when it is convenient and it can be done without thought, except that it is not without thought and millions of women will tell you it haunts them decades later because there isn’t support for after. I hate it when it is done in deception, when a “simple” pill is given that makes the woman horribly ill for days, in pain bleeding alone in her home, unable to tell anyone. I hate when it is done after viability, when the baby could actually live outside of the womb and should, without question, have the rights of every other human. I don’t understand how we justify that. I hate when is agonized over – a terrible choice in the middle of a difficult life made in quiet and shame and fear of discovery. I hate that anyone has had to face that terrible choice and live with the results. I hate that it has stolen from so many of us, including me, family members. I see tiny newborn children and I hate that so many of them have vanished in violent ends, taking with them a part of our world’s future. I hate that it has left some women as shells, pieced back together and afraid of discovery, unable to forgive themselves. I hate that it places the burden on these women and takes the lives of these babies, and either gives men no choice or voice at all, or it enables boys to stay in suspended adolescence and not grow into men. It leaves nobody unscarred.

I hate it. It has stolen so much. It is not a simple right, it is an anchor. And it is taking us all down with it.

And I hate that it has become a political tagline. I think that grieves the heart of God as much as it hardens those of us who hear it over and over. I think since the beginning of time we have tried to find human solutions to the problem of sin we created in the garden (God didn’t want to give us kings, but we wanted kings, and when we got them they ruled over us without kindness. God didn’t want to give us divorce, but we insisted on divorce, and we left untold damage in our wake. We keep demanding the things that only damage us and distance us from Him, and then we blame Him when the mess we insisted on creating is messy). Even still, I wish there was a human solution, like legislation, that could erase the terrible reality of abortion, but the reality is that abortion is part of our broken world and has been since Adam and Eve made their choice. The numbers have increased since Roe vs. Wade, certainly, and the price has been immeasurably high on our culture and our values, but abortion has been a reality since humans have had the ability to fear and the desire to control each other and our future.

I think abortion is a consequence of fear. Fear of the future, fear of consequence, fear of discovery, fear of inadequacy. And you can’t insulate someone enough, provide them enough healthcare and options and support, to erase fear. Only perfect love drives out fear. A genuine love for women, a genuine love for children, a genuine love for God and trusting Him with our days – those things are the only answer to the abortion crisis and they will never grow from a political affiliation. We have to ALL quit numbing ourselves and start looking around, not judging each other but jumping in and getting our hands dirty – loving women and men in the messy realities of life. Loves drives out fear. So it means we support our children and nieces and friends when they are faced with terrifying decisions. It means we love and trust others enough to cry out for help when we find ourselves entangled in a nightmare scenario. It means we love selflessly, opening our hearts, homes and wallets to help each other and to meet needs. And it means we stop ignoring the orphan crisis – how can we ask women to choose life when more than 170 million children worldwide need homes? We need to love the orphan and the birth mother – no matter how messy that gets. If our prayers are answered and there are less abortions, that will mean there are more adoptions, and we need to be ready for that.

And let’s all agree to stop using abortion as a hurtling arrow.

And let’s add rape to that list. Rape is not rhetoric, and it can never be boiled down to a soundbite. Rape is complicated. Sometimes it is violent. Sometimes it is quiet and quick, devastating in its ambiguity. The moments leading up to it are confusing, the years after it are devastating. I know women who only, after feeling safe enough to do an honest assessment of the past, have realized that what they experienced was, in fact, rape. That their rights and their bodies were actually violated and that it is okay to call it that. I would bet that the statistics on rape are far lower than the reality of rape. No politician has a right to judge it on the degree of force or desire. It is intensely personal and can devastating.

Rape and abortion are the epitome of brokenness and to treat them casually destroys the thing about us that makes us human.

This world is broken. And more and more, I believe that the political rhetoric is contributing to the brokenness, not solving it. It makes us hard. It makes us mean. Anything can be taken out of context and spun and the heart of the person and the complexity of the matter completely annihilated.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go outside and spend some time in prayer and check your blood pressure after that. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, talk to yourself and listen to your voice. Then watch your favorite political commentator for an hour – the guy you agree with. Then try the experiment again. Look in the mirror and talk, listen to your voice, check your blood pressure. Even when you agree with the person, I have found you will sound and look more defensive and angry, your adrenaline will probably be flowing, and your blood pressure will be higher. People who watch and listen to the rhetoric all day are growing more numb, more angry, and more hard by the hour. We need to step away from it. I’m convinced this stuff is toxic to our systems. It is the same human solutions to a divine sin problem we’ve been trying since Adam and Eve sewed together leaves to hide their nakedness.

We need Jesus. We need healing. We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need miraculous protection from the darkness in this world – the sin that so easily entangles. We need to pray. Prayer can help with the abortion statistics and the rape statistics. It will open our eyes and soften our hearts. We will draw close to God and He will lead us in the way we should go in helping and assisting moms and adopting these kids who need homes. Only God can grow a boy into a man – giving him the strength to be honorable in this deceptive world that tells him he doesn’t have to live with honor. When that happens, rape and abortion numbers will go down. When heart-change and heart-softening happens, as we turn to Christ and light, this darkness must flee. We have to pray for that – that God will do it. He’s the only one who can.

Jesus this world is broken. It makes me shake. I look at my children and I ache for them – the statistics are scary and I pray they never experience these things, but I know they will at least be touched by them in this world. I see the women I know who have experienced infertility, unplanned or lost pregnancy, rape, and abortion and I ache for them. They all carry the scars – they all have lost so much. I know if this rhetoric stuns me it may devastate them. Or maybe it doesn’t – maybe that part of them is so walled off. Either way, Jesus, please draw near to the hurting and offer your healing mercy. Help us please. Government is not our answer – YOU are our answer. Human solutions stink – they only make things worse. We need you. We have done it our way and we have screwed it up. Please call your church to be salt and light in a broken world. Thank you for the people who get this – for the men and women who stand on your Word as a light to the world – being light as they embrace the complexity of loving a broken world. This is not simple, and we need people brave enough to admit that. Thank you for pregnancy centers filled with volunteers and staff who actually love women and desire to help them. Thank you for people who are unafraid to jump in and do the heavy lifting. I know even as much as Planned Parenthood is reviled on one side of this debate, there are many people there who deeply desire to help women. Please lead all of those people to yourself  – you are our only hope. Help our country. Help our leaders. Convict them. Convict us to pray for them and not be cynical and hateful toward them. I need help with that – I can feel so hopeless about the weakness of our country’s leadership. Help us to turn off the rhetoric, turn on our ears to hear Your Spirit, turn from our evil ways, and turn from our dependence on human solutions. And Jesus, please, please, heal our land.

The Battle for Adoptive Families

As most of you know, my husband and I want to adopt. As we have waited for our opportunity, we have felt a strong clear calling is to support and encourage families who go before us in adoption and foster care. Our wait has made us “students” of adoption and prayer warriors for adoptive families. There is so much we did not know before we began this journey – and as our eyes have opened, our prayer life has increased.

One of our previous misconceptions was that the adoption struggle and the adoption story was the process to get a child home. We now know there are two main struggles of adoption, and the initial struggle to get a child home is only part of the story. The first struggle includes the sometimes nightmarish bureaucracy that has to be painstakingly navigated, the many thousands of dollars that must be raised, the process of educating and developing a support system to surround your family in the process, the uncertainty inherent to such an emotionally charged decision, the potential for great pain and even disruption of the adoption, and the logistics of travel or legal processes. This struggle can be simply annoying, or it can absolutely break the hearts of the adoptive family. We have seen families survive difficulties and hurts in this struggle that are the worst-case scenario. We’ve watched God redeem and restore even the most broken.

The second struggle is the process of healing and adapting to the new normal within the family once the children come home. This is not talked about very much outside of the adoption community, because frankly it doesn’t often feel “safe” for an adoptive family to share that there are challenges after the new children get home. The common misconception is that once the child gets home into a safe loving home, the work is done. But it is just beginning. These children from hard places are hurt, often deeply. Even if they are adopted at birth, they may have had prenatal exposure that will impact their ability to connect. Trust needs to be established, boundaries established and enforced in love without the child overreacting, and the people in the home need to connect as a family. None of this is simple. Just like we don’t /poof!/ become completely angelic creatures without sin at salvation, but instead we work out our salvation “in fear and trembling” as we gradually grow more like Christ, so a child doesn’t always trust completely and meld perfectly into the family God has chosen for him instantly at adoption. The work of connection after a child comes home is hard for many of our adoptive families. Occasionally it feels “impossible” – to quote a dear friend who has endured the worst. And they don’t feel free to share that struggle because when they do, they are often faced with people who say “I told you so” or who judge the way the family is handling the adjustment or who judge the child as “broken.” Very few people can be trusted to know the deep struggles that come along with adoption, and not judge or criticize. This creates a situation where the family can be isolated, and we all know that the enemy of our souls works in isolation. So this struggle is often longer and more painful than the first struggle, although there are few articles about it on the internet and few discussions about it over the dinner table. But this struggle remains, and this is a major prayer need of an adoptive family.

We have also seen God work huge miracles in this struggle. We have seen Him make all things new, although that journey can be tough. I recently heard someone say that when God calls families to “visit orphans in their distress” (James 1) it is more often us entering into their pain and distress with them and walking with them to healing, rather than plucking them up out of pain and bringing them into our world of wholeness. It is painful for us and them, but God is faithful.

During these years we have waited, we have intentionally reached out to adoptive families on Facebook and in person to get to know them, to let them know it is safe to be honest with us, and to come alongside them in prayer. It has stretched our faith to walk through the valleys of these two struggles with these families (as much as we are able). But as we have done so – there is a really interesting phenomenon we have noted.

In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about difficulty in our world. He says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” During the two struggles of adoption, it can seem like you are fighting all kinds of things. It feels like you are fighting a bureaucracy that is fundamentally broken, it feels like you are fighting to advocate for a child that has often been forgotten, it feels like you are fighting against the misled and often false assumptions of others, it feels like you are fighting against societal norms, and it even can feel like, after the child is home, you are fighting the walls in your child as you try to get them to trust you. It can feel like you are fighting the world. But this verse makes clear who you are actually fighting. You are fighting the enemy of our souls, which is why the battle is so difficult.

The Bible says God “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68). The Bible says that adoption is a picture of our salvation (Romans 8, Galatians 4). The Bible says that God gives special care to the orphan  and watches over them as a Father (Exodus 22, Psalms 10, James 1, Psalms 68, Deuteronomy 24). The Bible says that all Christ-followers are called to serve the orphan (James 1, Isaiah 1, Proverbs 31, Matthew 18, Matthew 25). It is clear that the call to adopt, as difficult as it may be, is something we are called to do and God is faithful to provide for and equip the called, because it is important to Him. So of course, if adoption is so important to God, then thwarting it is important to the enemy of God.

One of the things I have noticed as we’ve watched and prayed, is that time and time again, my friends in the adoption world seem to have simultaneous victories and struggles. It is like this fabric across the world is attached to every adoption. And when God breaks through a struggle and works a miracle on someone’s behalf, there is a ripple that goes across the world, and there is a consequence of that breakthrough in many families. It happened again this week. A precious friend’s adoption of a little girl from Haiti finally passed through a certain government office where their adoption had been stalled for months. It was a great victory, and we rejoiced. But on that day, several completely disconnected adoptive families shared with me through different avenues that they had experienced a really difficult day with the healing of their newly adopted child. It was like the fabric was shaken, and it affected everyone. This concept sounds crazy, I know, until you look at the verse from Ephesians 6. If all of these adoptive struggles were separate and not related, then they should not impact each other. But if we are all fighting one enemy, set against adoption, against the lonely finding families, opposed to the healing and connection of a child, then it isn’t so crazy after all.

Not to overdo the imagery, but since I am visual I have also seen this like a dragon who experiences the swipe of a claw against his face. It hurts him, and He swings around in rage, lashing out with his tail at anything surrounding him. He was wounded, so he wounds. That is how I have seen the adoption community this week. It seems connected. God is moving (praise Him) but our enemy is reacting and his goal is to wound. We need to be praying. In a spiritual battle, against an enemy we cannot see but can feel his effects, prayer is our weapon. We know that the Lord has the victory, and we know that He is more powerful, but we also know that for a time, the enemy has some level of authority on the earth. Revelations 12:12 says “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” I believe that the wrath and fury of the enemy is focused many places, but certainly adoptive families are included in that list. I don’t believe those families are without hope (thank you Jesus), but I also believe that we who are not in an adoption process have a responsibility to battle these forces of evil with adoptive families in prayer throughout both of the struggles of adoption, the initial struggle to bring a child home and the secondary struggle to get a child healed and connected. We who stand around these adoptive families must fight our human instinct to criticize and correct, and instead act on our spiritual responsibility to humbly enter into community, acting with compassion and grace, praying as we go.

I count myself humbled, and honored, to get to stand with you families fighting these battles. This week has felt heavy and my prayer has felt especially necessary this week, and my heart cries out on your behalf. I am grateful for each of you. My faith grows because of your sacrifice and your faithful obedience to the call of our Father.

Take heart friends. Just as this past week we celebrated Christ’s victory over death and sin, so this week we stand with you and proclaim Christ’s victory over your struggles. Your children will be made whole because of Jesus, and your family’s struggle will be redeemed. And until that day, we stand with you in prayer.

Jesus be near, give grace, be mighty to save, fight for these beloved children, give encouragement and peace to adoptive families. We stand in simple faith and tell you that we trust you, we are grateful for the victory you promise, and we give you the glory.

Resources:

The Prayers of Many

I have a friend who is in the middle of a very difficult adoption trial. I want to protect her privacy, so I’ll call her M. She is a kind, wise, godly person who loves children, a school teacher, who adopted a little girl last summer (I’ll call E) out of the foster system. Months after bringing E into her home, M found out that CPS had made serious errors in the removal of E from her previous home. Although there was definite evidence of abuse and neglect, these errors have put the adoption of E into indefinite hold just days before the adoption was to be finalized.

E has been bounced around from home to home most of her young life. She has been neglected, forgotten, and abused. Last year she finally got a mommy who had prayed for her long before she knew her. She was safe and loved. She has made strides this year to trust M and to start to let down the walls that she built around herself in her early life. They have walked through some serious trials together and truthfully they are still walking through difficulty. The wounds in E are deep. She’s afraid, and justifiably so, that M isn’t permanent. The therapist working with E has encouraged M that once E’s adoption is finalized, she can really begin to trust and heal.

So not only does this indefinite hold effect M and E because it seems to have the potential to split them up, it is actually delaying E’s healing and making M’s home feel like just another “holding tank” that E has been placed into, not the home of permanent stability and safety she so desperately needs.

It is a terribly difficult situation. M lives in a rural community, works all day with her students, comes home and focuses intently on E and her healing, and then after E goes to bed grades papers until she finally falls asleep exhausted. She does not have much community around her, outside of her family, who “get” what she is doing. She is not on Facebook, attached to the amazing community of adoptive parents that I have been able to meet, and she isn’t in a church that has other adoptive parents.

So the purpose of this blog is to change that. It occurred to me today that I know an army of people who fight for kids like E and moms like M everyday. So I am going to send this blog to every adoptive mom and adoption advocate I can think of and to members of the church who have stood with us in trials. I want people to come in droves willing to pray for M and E, willing to write them letters of scripture and encouragement, willing to stand with them in intercession before God that He would fight for them, give M peace, and heal this sweet little girl. So if you want to join me in this army of prayer support and encouragement for my friend, would you leave a comment, or send me an email at jenniferlwells@me.com? I will send you updates on the situation, and a way to send encouraging “snail mail” and email to M and E if you feel led to send them encouragement and prayers.

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I believe that together we will rejoice (and I pray it is soon) when the Lord has worked a miracle not only in the case, but in M and E’s home, in the love, trust, and permanency of a family. And until then, Jesus please be near my sweet friend.

Waiting (the curse word)

I had a dream last night that we were chosen by a birth-mom and we were adopting a newborn little boy. It was incredibly real. Everyday things were in the dream, like how we found out about the birth-mom, how much money we have in our account and how much we needed, how we were going to get a home study expedited, health insurance concerns we are facing, even where our car seat was in storage and how we were going to tell our friends, family, and spread the word through FB and Twitter. It was as if, today, it were really happening.

When I woke up, for a minute, I thought, “Today we get to go to the hospital to get him!” I was overwhelmed with love for this little person.

And then I realized it was a dream and it wasn’t real. Or I guess I should say, I realized it isn’t real yet.

I am a person of action. Once I determine to do something, I do it. And waiting? Oh it’s like a curse word to me. Almost every day of my life I like to do something to move forward towards our dreams. And for some reason, in this area of adoption, we have not been able to move forward. And for the first part of our wait, that drove me crazy. I mean, CRAZY. And I, in turn, drove my husband crazy as I agonized over this.

I prayed and begged the Lord to help me wait. I was tired of trying to figure all of this out and plan when we would be able to move forward. I was exhausted. And for a while, I felt distant from the Lord over this. It was like this topic of adoption became the measuring rod for how I determined if God was good or not. And that was totally wrong. One day, the Holy Spirit convicted me about that. God is good and has a plan whether or not I get to experience adoption firsthand. His plans never fail – mine fail regularly.

And the day I was convicted about my wayward heart, I knew the Lord was telling me to trust Him, and trust Justin.

My husband is a wise man. He is measured. Steady. Consistent. What I say in 1000 words, he says in 5. And for a while, truly, I didn’t let him lead our home like I should have. And over and over, Justin was proved correct in his plans for our family and his decisions (and I was proved incorrect – and that was humbling for this proud girl of action).

So when it came to this adoption thing – for a long time I led. I gave him a “Holy Spirit guilt-trip” every opportunity I had. I showed him every sad picture of every orphanage the world over. Never mind that doors were slamming shut. Never mind that our circumstances were unstable (but for God). I was ready and if he was holy, he should be too. And the Lord convicted me of that. He told me to stand down. To let my husband lead. That when it was time, and when it was God, He would let Justin make the call that we should move forward. That God was going to speak to Justin and when and if He did – we’d be blessed with a child in this way.

So I’ve learned, falteringly, to wait, and at the same time I’ve learned to trust my husband and my Father more.

Today I cried as I told Justin about the dream. Before I told him, I had to confess to the Lord my desire to lay a “Holy Spirit guilt-trip” on him, and I had to carefully tell him as a wife tells her partner and protector, not as someone seeking to manipulate. And he was so kind and caring of my heart when he heard about it. He knows what I desire, and he desires it as well. It was good to tell him – for us to share those moments of waiting together and for me to realize again what I always seem to forget – this really isn’t about me.

I know that when the Lord leads, we’ll together locate the car seat out of storage, pick a name, and head to the hospital (or airport, or CPS office) to pick up the child the Lord has for us.

And until then, I’ll wait.

 

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me

So I have a new person I want to be when I grow up – Dr. Karyn Purvis. She’s a precious, lovely, brilliant child-development guru who wrote The Connected Child and spoke at the Empowered to Connect Conference this weekend that Justin and I attended. She has spent the last 15 years of her life helping adoptive parents and adopted children heal and connect and I just fell in love with her heart for children from hard places.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a poser when it comes to the adoption thing. I love it, know we are called to it, but also know that our time has not yet come. So we go to these conferences and we’re surrounded by people in the trenches who are giving their lives, time, money, energy, and hearts to adopted and foster kids in the room, and there we sit with our two bio kids and a dream. And sometimes I feel a little foolish, frankly. But I also know that there is purpose in waiting, and that our vision for adoption has shifted even in these 3 years we have waited. I know that I am a better mom now than I was even a year ago (partially because of the amazing parenting strategies taught at conferences like the one I attended today). I know that the Lord is realigning my priorities even this week to focus on my family and He continues to shave the rough edges off the crazy woman that is Jen Wells. I know that this past few years, while we’ve waited, I’ve identified pretty unrealistic expectations in my heart of how this will all turn out, and I’ve watched those expectations die. I’ve learned to trust my Father more this past 3 years. I’ve become more of a person my kids can trust. So I can see that this wait has definitely served a purpose.

But still we wait. And we pray. And we read books and blogs. And we attend conferences. And we try desperately to be a light for our friends who have adopted, and be a safe person they can vent to and turn to when they need to take off their capes and be human and frustrated for a second.

He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30

Now that verse sounds holy, right? But in recent weeks the life of John the Baptist, who made that beautiful statement of faith, has come up time and time again in my personal studies. This guy had spent his life predicting and proclaiming the coming Messiah. And He comes! John gets to baptize Him and hears the voice of God proclaiming that this is His Son. All of this is a huge mountaintop event – John is rare in humankind in that even while he is touching the shoulders of the flesh-bearing manifestation of the Son, He is seeing the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and hearing the voice of God the Father. So in essence – He experienced, with human senses, the Trinity. And that’s pretty amazing.

But then he’s sent to prison. While in prison, He sends Jesus a question – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Basically John is suffering, and he wants to make sure he’s got it right. And Jesus sends a message back confirming miracles that have been prophesied about the Messiah – but He leaves one really important part of the prophesy out. He leaves out the part where the Messiah sets the prisoner free. And at the end of His message, He sends a note to John, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I’m not an expert on the Bible – but basically if I’m reading this right, Jesus’ message to John says something like this: “I am the Messiah. But I’m not going to free you from prison, my plans for you are different from what you expect. But you’ll be blessed if you still love and trust Me even unto death.”

That is some crazy deep stuff. I’ll be honest, that is hard stuff for me to wrap my mind around. But in so many ways – this idea of living unoffended is the message of people I admire and respect, was the message of this conference, and is the message I think the Lord has been trying to teach me during the last 3 years of my discomfort (it’s hard to call what we’ve experienced a trial after being in the room I was in today with people who have experienced real trials and who are parenting kids who have come from unimaginable trauma). We can choose to not be offended by Jesus in those places of pain and suffering, and because of that choice, we will be blessed. It isn’t natural and it isn’t easy to experience suffering and remain unoffended. It kind of makes you an oddball in this comfort-driven world, actually. But by God’s grace, we can choose to live that way. We can find joy, peace, and grace in the absolute middle of impossibly hard places and we can choose to love Jesus with every pitiful ounce of strength we have left in the midst of trial and pain – and when we do, we are blessed.

Today I sat in a room full of people who have counted the cost, and who have joined widows and orphans in their distress. They get this concept. They live unoffended while they live out James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” That verse took on new meaning to me this weekend. I think in my mind I saw adoption as rescuing orphans from a world of chaos and bringing them into our world of safety and love. But today I was taught that James 1:27 says we’ll visit them in their distress – so more often it is us entering into their pain, their suffering, and their trauma so that we can walk with them to safety and healing. It’s messy and beautiful and holy.

I don’t really know how to wrap this blog up, as I so often like to do. I just know that I want to love and encourage people who are doing their best to be faithful, even in suffering. Jesus said it, and I believe it – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” God please help us to live unoffended.

Kisses from Katie

Oh my friends – I just finished a book that absolutely shook me up (in the best way possible). Kisses from Katie – the story of a girl who followed the Lord to Uganda at 19 years-old. I had heard about this book, and this girl, for a while. So I came to the story with expectations and assumptions.

And they were blown out of the water.

Katie’s perspective on life and ministry is unbelievable and yet absolutely right in every way. She takes the Bible and Jesus seriously and she is changing lives as she follows Him and says “Yes”. I actually cried reading it (and that’s unexpected for me), I highlighted more than half of it, and followed Justin around reading parts. It’s the kind of book you have to put down and process because it so changes the way you think and relate, and it makes you want to do something meaningful with your life.  She says over and over (and I believe her) that she is an ordinary girl saying yes to an extraordinary God, and He is working extraordinary miracles all around her. It’s not just about justice or mission, although it certain is one of the best books on justice I’ve ever read. It’s about faith and life and possessions and purpose and motherhood and pain and how God intends us to live our days on this earth.

Please get this book.

I struggle to know a passage to share, because truly, so many were absolutely precious and profound, but here’s an example of why this book will forever be one of my favorites:

“I learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred school children and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year-old. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for. 

Many days, I am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need and the incredible number of people who need help. Many days I see the destitute, disease-ridden children lining the streets in the communities I serve and I want to scoop up every single one of them, take them home with me, and feed and clothe and love them. And I look at the life of my Savior, who stopped for one. 

So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can only do what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” 

And another passage I loved here:

“I do not know my five-year plan, even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. Some call it courage; some call it foolish; I call it faith. I choose to get out of the boat. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Lord may we choose you every moment of every day. We want to be fully committed to You. We want every day to become a day we say “yes” to You. We repent for lukewarmness, from mediocrity, from normalcy. We want to shine so brightly for You that others can’t help but see and feel Your love. Let us look at every encounter as an opportunity to show Your love. Lord, on the days where helping just one more person seems like too much, help me to choose You. on the days when Satan whispers, “You can’t save everyone, why are you trying?” let me choose You. On the days when it would be too easy to pop in a movie for my children instead of reading Scripture with them, let me choose You. When harsh words are easier to find than kind ones, let me choose You. Father, like Paul, I know what I want to do, what I should do, and yet I find myself failing and discouraged. Thank You for Your grace. Thank You that You who sit so high would look low upon people like me and use us as a vessel for You. How blessed we are to even be called servants, to be able to share in Your kingdom and share Your love with others. Thank You for the cross, where You have given us peace and holiness. Father, we long to say Yes to You.”

Here’s the video trailer of the book: 

Brace yourself friends… this one is beyond challenging. I pray we will be changed.

Bloodlines & Adoption

This video speaks to my heart and I adore it. In it, John Piper tells the story of his life growing up in the south and his adoption of his daughter, Talitha. Please watch it – it will touch your heart.

I was, because of God’s grace, raised in a home with a mom who got the importance and beauty of diversity, and taught it, and lived it. I pray my heart for people honors her as I try to live this out. And I am grateful I get to fight for the same cause in my life. I ask Him to allow us to be loving parents of children from all races and nations. Because it’s important and it’s right and it’s beautiful and it’s God honoring.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“God did a remarkable work in us. He taught me this. He said, “Look. If you act consistently with your convictions about interracial marriage and the nobility and beauty of diversity, this choice will commit you to this issue until you are dead. And that swung it for me. Love for my wife, love for this little girl, and love for this cause. The cause of Christ-exalting racial harmony and racial diversity, because if I lock in to my family, the issue, this beautiful little woman created in the image of God and say “You are mine” then I won’t ever be able to run away from this, and I wanted to draw that line in the sand…

When I look at her I’m going to see a human being created in the very image of God, and then secondly, down the line, I’m going to see a particular kind of skin or hair. That’s huge. The Bible brings the image of God to bear on this issue and it is massively important. The second way the Bible brings it to bear is it talks about there being one Father of us all.  All the nations came from one Father according to Acts 17, which means we’re all related. You can’t look with disgust or dismay or dishonoring on another human being as if they’re not in the same family. They’re in your family. You try to demean them, you demean your family.

It is fundamentally a cross issue, a blood issue, a gospel issue that is at play here and what is so amazing is how the Gospel, by faith alone, having our sins forgiven, triumphs over these sins that militate against racial harmony and racial diversity.”

Love it.