A Time to Rest

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Grace, leaping off the dock. So proud of my sweet girl for conquering her fears and leaping.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28

We just went on a big family vacation with my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and her boyfriend to Lake Martin, a beautiful lake in Alabama. It was a week at a beautiful place, with my favorite people in the world, and everything in me needed to disconnect and refresh and relax. Since we moved to Houston seven months ago, and even the months leading up to the move, we have been sprinting. Our world, and our children’s worlds, were turned upside down (in the best possible ways), and we haven’t had time to really catch our breath. So we go on vacation knowing we need it, that God has ordained rest for us, and that we are ready to receive that rest and renewal and enjoy one another. I, in particular, had several goals in mind as we left Houston:

1. A rest from being me-centered. Fifty one weeks a year our girls have to comply with our schedule, getting up at a certain time, following certain rules, being places sometimes for hours on end while Justin and I work and serve our church. Although they are not deprived (#firstworldproblems), and they love COF and get our mission here, we also know they deserve a week off to relax and enjoy us. So we try, for these times on vacation, to turn our normal paradigm on its head. They can wake up and go swimming at 7:40 in the morning. They can have ice cream sandwiches at 8:30 pm. We bought fireworks for them to shoot off the bow of the boat. If I had just sat down for the first time that day, but they needed something, I tried to not sigh and make it a big deal, but to get up with joy and let them see that they were more important to me than my rest. I don’t believe in a kid-centered home, and I don’t believe in making our children happy at the expense of making them holy, but for this one week, this fantastic week, I determined to do everything in my power to give them magical childhood memories and make it all about them.

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The cousins.

2. A rest from fears. I am a creative mind, and one of the manifestations of that is that I imagine every possible horrific scenario that can occur at any given time, so I can somehow prepare for it. I do this more when I am stressed or tired or feeling out of control, so I went on vacation at an eleven in the freakout category, to be really honest with you. I was having visions of car accidents, drowning, secondary drowning, heat stroke, boating accidents, critters, brain eating amoebas, furniture falling on children, all of it. So this week I asked the Lord for a rest from that nonsense.  I decided to not give those voices an audience in my mind, to pray when I felt fear, and to not be that mom keeping my kids from having fun because of a Facebook posting of a crazy scenario that is designed to perpetuate fear-based news cycles, that could keep a mother and her children curled up in the fetal position forever. So we swam in lakes, let the kids shoot off fireworks, went tubing, let the kids run around with freedom. And guess what? No nightmare scenarios happened, even without my watchful worrying guard.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn't do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn’t do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

3. A rest from ingratitude. Vacationing with kids is hard, as a mom, and a few times I let myself slip into a pity mentality where I felt tired and wanted a break, but I was continually countering that state of mind with the truth that I am blessed, and that this trip was evidence of how blessed I am. I asked the Lord over and over for the gift of gratitude. One morning I was on a kayak in the middle of the quiet cove where our lake house sat, looking back on the dock where our kids were swimming and laughing, with tears in my eyes. This was my dream for our kids, this idyllic childhood moment, and I was not going to miss the chance to be grateful for it. To be grateful to serve at a place where we have not only the vacation time, but the extra funds to pull off a week like this with our kids. To be grateful for a family who loves us and who wants to travel with us. To be grateful for a mom who conquered her fear of lakes to swim with my kids everyday, and a dad who is the best grandfather I could ever have wished for. To be grateful for the relationships with my siblings that are healthy and affirming, full of life and peace. To be grateful for all the Lord has done in our family’s lives this past year, and how He has carried us. Something about my heart needs beauty and quiet to give God the due He always deserves, and in that moment, on that lake, all I could do was cry with gratitude for where we are in life, all by His design.

It was a great vacation, and was the rest my spirit needed. I met God there, in the squeal of my daughter as she jumped off the dock, and the quiet moments alone, and the love of my sister-in-law as she made a meal for our kids, and the laughter of my family. I am grateful for every moment of it.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1

Take a rest, my friends, sometime this summer, doing what your soul needs. You deserve it, and the Lord will use it.
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He Makes All Things New

This is a new season in the Wells home. Grace starts Kindergarten tomorrow, oddly enough on the same day I start full-time college. Today I’ve had school supplies strewn out in my living room, one pile colorful and fun, one slightly more serious. We’re both excited and giddy at the new adventure God is beginning in us.

He makes all things new. 

The beginning of fall is in the air, and change comes with it. I have one friend who is starting a new job as a teacher, another is soon to return to work after the birth of her new little boy, another waits to hear word that she can travel to go get her new daughter from the country of her birth, and another is adjusting to a new normal after her world collapsed into what seemed like an unholy mess, but for God. Today in church I got to sit next to a new friend, and I pray the Lord will bring her back to join with our little messy body of Believers.

He makes all things new.

New hopes rise, sometimes in the shadow of hopes lost. That is certainly my experience this Fall. In my head, the countdown to what would have been my due date is still ticking away. I thought it would have stopped by now, but I am still learning to grieve and trust even when the grieving takes longer than I wanted it to take. In some ways, although this fall brings great blessings, it still feels like there is a hole where the new baby was “supposed” to fit into the picture. And I’ve had to come to peace with that void and with that feeling of incompleteness. Our little family in my head and heart is five, even though it stubbornly remains at four. And I’ve had to wrestle with that over and over this year. In the quiet, after the wrestling, I remember that God is still good, is for us, and is still doing new things in our hearts and minds even if the new thing we were expecting isn’t going to happen.

He makes all things new.

I’m so grateful for that truth. He even makes new our hopes and dreams, and our visions for the future. My heart that felt weary and full of doubt as I cried out my fears and questions to people who loved me just as recently as last week – that heart today feels hopeful. And that is a miracle of our God. He brings fall every year, with the death of some things and the change of others, and in all the change, He remains loving toward us, accepting of us, pouring on us His mercy. He shows us that death is never the end, because of the cross, and we never have reason to lose hope.

He makes all things new. I pray that truth is real to you this Fall, despite your circumstances.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

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.

 

A Faithful Man

This past weekend, a man walked into my church, and when I saw him I started to cry. He was hard to miss, tall and broad, a former Dallas Cowboy, but that wasn’t how I knew him. I knew him because he had given the eulogy at the funeral of a man I deeply respected, John Weber, and I hadn’t seen him since that day. It shocked me how much it impacted me to see this stranger and how quickly all of the emotion from the day of Mr. Weber’s funeral came rushing back.

John Weber was a wonderful man. He had an important job – he was the chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys. But when I met him, I didn’t know that. I knew him as my friend Sarah’s dad. I was in high school, new to faith, new to church, and new to the idea of a Christian family that prayed together more frequently than at Christmas and Thanksgiving. And what I saw in the Weber’s home was absolutely amazing to me. I studied it like a creature from another world.

They loved extraordinarily. They laughed freely and cried bravely. They somehow seemed more together than other families. They all seemed to have this amazing ability to look directly into your soul and they cared about everyone around them. They valued people – me included. They loved Jesus. We had a few Bible studies in their home and stayed there for a Disciple Now – and every time I was there I basked in the love and the light of their family, feeling part of something extraordinary. As an adult I know that the warmth of their home was due to real community and the nearness of Christ, but then I only knew that it was different and wonderful and I never wanted to leave.

After Sarah had gone away to college, my encounters with the Webers became less frequent but always that feeling of being a part of them and valued by them remained. I loved them and looked up to them. Mr. Weber was not a tall man (in fact the Webers are all tiny people with massive hearts) but he was huge to me. Every time he saw me he focused on me, hugged me tightly, and asked about me and my family by name. I could tell he genuine loved me, and frankly, that both shocked me and made me feel important. Since his death I’ve heard dozens of people say it and it’s true. When you talked to Mr. Weber you felt like you were the most important person in his world. I certainly felt that. He had a gift of making others feel significant.

Mr. Weber

After I was married, I saw Mr. Weber a few times when he would come to speak at churches where I worked. He always touched people’s lives and it was fun to see the effect he had on others. Men, in particular, were impacted by him. He would speak at a men’s retreat at our church and men would return home changed – more loving and present and serious about leading their families in the way God intended. Mr. Weber was powerfully used by the Lord.

One fall morning my mom called to tell me Mr. Weber had passed away suddenly. I remember the shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that he was gone. What a light he had been to so many. I thought of Mrs. Weber and his kids – I couldn’t imagine how they felt. I ached for their hurt. I called the Weber’s house to offer to make a video for his service and to tell them I loved them. To my surprise, they took me up on my offer. I was humbled to get to honor him in this way.

As I went to the Weber’s home to get the pictures for the video – I was a little anxious. This place was always one of love and warmth for me, and I walked in afraid to intrude on their grief. But there were people everywhere, crying, hugging, laughing, sharing. The same love and energy that had been there in the bright days of my high school memories was there that day, on the hardest day. I was so grateful. It felt like the Lord was near. The magic wasn’t broken. Death hadn’t won.

I’ve written before about his memorial, but I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how it impacted me. I honestly feel like, at the end of my life, it will be one of the pivotal moments in my journey with the Lord. Person after person filled that room, some very famous by the world’s standards, but all equal in our hurt and our powerlessness in the face of grief and death. It made us humble. It made us listen. We all wanted to matter like Mr. Weber mattered. That room was so full not because of fame, but because of impact, and every word spoken about him was so honoring. He had gotten it – the elusive key to a life well lived. And we all wanted to get it too.

In my mind that day is frozen – as real as if it occurred yesterday. That’s why I cried when I saw the poor Cowboy who had no idea he was inspiring a minor breakdown. I remembered.

Person after person spoke – all calling Mr. Weber their hero. But their words weren’t trite – they were genuine. He had changed their life. They talked about the value of a name and a reputation, and someone very famous with a well-known name said “Nobody ever had a better name than John Weber.”

His kids all spoke at that service, and their love and honor of their dad was overwhelming. I was a brand new mom, clinging to my husband’s hand, and in my head I was begging the Lord, “Please let us parent like this.” Each one spoke of Mr. Weber’s faithfulness and his wisdom. I didn’t know this until that day, but he had a saying he told his kids countless times and each of them talked about it in their eulogy.

Don’t strive to be extraordinary. Strive to be faithful.

It was his life goal. When I heard it – it rang so true. That was what Mr. Weber was – he was faithful. A faithful man. A faithful husband. A faithful father. A faithful friend. And his faithfulness made him extraordinary.

Last week after I saw the poor man who made me cry, I took a walk around the church building to pull myself together. But I couldn’t shake the memories. I cried as I walked and prayed. Again I begged the Lord to use me like He used that faithful man, both in my home and in the world around me. I begged Him to raise up men like Mr. Weber in our new little church. On the day of Mr. Weber’s memorial service I had seen a glimpse of the potential of a life lived in faithful service of our God, and I was changed by it.

Mr. Weber’s life made me want more God, more love, more humility, more purpose and most of all more faithfulness in my small life. He was ready for death because he lived a life faithfully focused on Christ. I have no doubt in my mind that the moment he closed his eyes on this earth he opened them in the presence of Jesus. And that gives me hope.

Lord, please let me be, both at the end of my life and everyday until then, a faithful woman. I confess that my flesh cries out to be extraordinary, but I want more to be faithful. I thank you for Mr. Weber’s faithful life. Please be near to his family today and everyday, give them more of You and fill the void of their loss. You are good and we are grateful.

The Revolution of Motherhood

When I became a wife, I advanced as a person. I (slowly) began to consider another person’s feelings, I (slowly) began to realize that my way of thought and action was not always the perfect path, and I (slowly) grew into someone grateful for the protection and release of control that my husband brought into my life. Going from single to married was, and in fact still is, an experience of sanctification, where I am slowly transforming from sinful and selfish to graceful and considerate.

Becoming a mother, however, was a revolution for me. It wasn’t slow, in fact it was instantaneous. And the change in me can only be defined as “a sudden, radical, or complete change”. 2

I became, literally overnight, a creature that I myself didn’t recognize. I transformed from a very practical person into one who was often driven by sentiment. I was overwhelmed with the insecurity and enormity of parenthood. I remember being in the hospital with my oldest daughter Grace on her second day of life, looking at this beautiful frail little human reliant on me for survival, and feeling utterly incompetent for the task. I was humbled. Before I was a mom, I was convinced I would be great at it. Since becoming a mom, I am painfully aware of how far I have to go. I have cried many tears over my girls, begging God to make me more than I am for their sake. I want to be better for them. I want to be rid of the things in me that hurt them – the anger and selfishness and coldness to their needs that often stubbornly remains. I am changed. Even my body changed, from angular and thin to curvy with pounds I cannot seem to ever shed. I was shocked at the power, both during my pregnancies and immediately postpartum, of the hormones that rushed through my system. It was profound, definite, and sudden. I was altered by things completely out of my ability to control. I was vulnerable. My first daughter was sick through most of her first year of life with kidney and esophageal reflux, and I was acutely aware of how little I could do to control her health and welfare. I would pray over my girls’  beds as they went to sleep, begging the Lord to protect them and fight for them through the night. I so often felt powerless, but for God. It made me desperate for Him – fully aware of my dependence. As they grew older, I would watch them on a playground, praying to calm my anxious mother-heart, watching for slights or falls and telling myself the truth that letting go is good for me and them. I have had to learn to hold my children in an open hand and not a clenched fist – daily lessons in trusting my Father’s heart for them. Parts of me have died, replaced by stronger stuff. My friends laugh about even the small, silly ways I changed. I went from a fast, reckless driver to a hands-at-10-and-2, slow, deliberate driver and I went from a person impatient with silliness to regularly shopping on the Disney aisle of Target and actually enjoying it. It was revolutionary.

When we left the hospital with our first child, we were terrified. We had this little person in our backseat, and we didn’t feel up to the task. If the hospital would have allowed it, I would have loaded my nurse Diana into the backseat with me. I was frozen with fear that I could not do this without her. Driving home (so slowly and carefully that we laugh about it now), the world looked different to me. I kept staring around me in shock and exhaustion. Was I really that different? Why did everything look so weird? The actual road to our house looked different, and it took me a moment in my ‘new mother haze’ to realize what had happened.

Here in Texas, we have thousands of different variations of pear trees. And during the 4 days I was in the hospital, the pear trees that lined our street had gone from fully green to fully bloomed with white. It was beautiful, and completely unexpected. In the dark little cave of a hospital room where I met my daughter, I didn’t see the gradual but complete transformation. But it happened, and driving home I experienced it, and I cried because it seemed a metaphor for what I was feeling.

It was like the world was new, and I with it.

My girls’ birthdays are a day apart and this week, as they do every year on their birthdays, the pear trees have begun to bloom. Every year when I see them change I am moved – remembering the change in me now 5 years ago. I tell my girls that all of these trees are their trees – that they bloom on their birthday as a sign from God that they are loved and special. And I believe it is true, and that I share in that blessing. The girls even call the trees “Gracie and Bekah Trees” and they squeal in glee when they see them. And I’m touched by them too. Every year their bloom is like my own personal love-note from the Lord – a reminder that every little death in me is good and only serves to bring life because of our resurrection Savior.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and springs in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Becoming a mother was a revolution. It has been the most difficult, overwhelming, priceless, beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I am forever altered by it. I am constantly reminded that in my weakness, He is strong. I know now that I need Jesus desperately, and I’m so grateful for that lesson of dependence.

I have loved being a mother. This week, as my girls turn five and three, and as the pear trees bloom transforming the world once again, I am grateful that I was chosen, incompetent as I might be, to be Grace and Rebekah’s mother, by a Father that does not leave us in our sin and selfishness, but transforms us into people of grace and holiness like His Son.

We are all being made new, friends, and that is revolutionary.

*I am always aware as I write a blog like this that many of my friends, despite a desire for marriage and children, have not yet been granted that desire. I pray nothing in this blog would discourage you. A friend once told me that she believed she had gotten married early because the Lord knew she needed the sanctification of marriage to grow. I thought that was a great perspective and that idea resonated. I am fully confident that the Lord who loves us is good, whether He chooses to sanctify us through marriage, through greater lengths of singleness than we would desire, through financial or other difficulty, or through parenthood. I pray that today you would rest in the truth that the Lord has a perfect plan for each of His sons and daughters and that He loves you and has not forgotten you.

Family Talk

I have an amazing friend named Jan, and she truly is one of the women I want to emulate in my life. She brilliantly shines Jesus and grace and beauty and love. Many of you reading this have been impacted by her and love her dearly.

She has this expression she uses often, and I love it. She’ll be sharing something, and right before she shares, she’ll say, “This is family talk.” When I hear it, I feel treasured. I know she considers me family. She trusts me. Also when I hear it, my spirit agrees with her. We are family. We share a purpose and a Father. We can rejoice together in the good and pray together in the hard because we give each other grace.

Family talk.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31

I was talking with Justin and another friend this week about the family of God. We certainly have our moments of frustration and division. We certainly have been through struggles together and sometimes there are hurts that need to be healed. But still we are family. We rejoice when God uses a member of our family to bring Him glory, wherever that may be. We pray when a member of our family is hurting. When someone from the outside of our family criticizes someone inside of our family, we can get a little defensive.

When I joined the family of God, it was at a large precious church that I still adore. Many many people became my family members at that place. I had father-figures and mother-figures and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters all over the place. We saw God move there. We were used by God to do big things there. It was an amazing time.

Image courtesy of calvaryinglewood.org

A few years later, that place went through some struggles. There was hurt. Many of us scattered all over the place during that time of transition. We were like baby birds pushed out of the safe warm nest. For a while there was some division and confusion and hurt. There were things we all needed to confess and forgive. We needed to let go of the former things (Isaiah 43:18). But if you look around that family, whether people left or stayed, wherever people landed, God continues to use us. He took us from ministering at one church to ministering at that church plus a dozen more. He was faithful. He did not give up on us. We healed. We grew. We were forgiven for our part in the struggle. We forgave others.

We are family – even across the miles and across the hurts. We don’t have to agree on everything because we agree on the important things. We can still rejoice in the good, we can still ache and pray in the difficulty, because we are family.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:9-10

We serve in an area with many churches. And it’s easy and human to compare and compete a little. It’s easy to focus on our differences and not on what unites us. But we are not called to live easy and human. We are called to be set apart. We are commanded to rejoice with each other and pray for each other. God is moving in many ways across the world, and every move He makes deserves to be celebrated by us all whether we have a part in it or not. Because we aren’t just an organization, we are parts of an organism. We are family, parts of the same body. We are joined together with Christ, and there is no room for division in this body.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

I am just filled with gratitude today for my family. I want each of you to know I love you and thank my God for you – truly. You have welcomed me into your family, and you have welcomed my brave wonderful husband and my beautiful little girls. You have treated us with grace. You love us, and I am so grateful for you. I love the Lord more because I know you and because you have treated me with love. I am grateful.

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.