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.

Planted by Streams of Water

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

I am visual and because of what I imagine when I read it, I love this verse.  Doesn’t your heart rate slow when you read this verse and picture that tree?

I read this passage this week and immediately thought “Lord, I feel withered.  I don’t feel planted by streams of water.  I don’t feel like a tree. I feel like a weed.” In that moment, I realized I had a choice – turn from this passage and believe that either this is not really true for Believers or that I am abandoned in my sin, or dig in and figure out why my feelings aren’t matching up with truth.  I realized, quickly, the context of this verse is that the person living deeply invested in the Word of God is the tree.  Ahhh – there is my problem.  I have been disobedient in that area.  So I returned to Him, and sought His presence, and began to feel the streams of water reenter my parched soul.  My perspective began to shift from inside this tiny life I live to the bigger picture of His grace and glory.

And I saw something in this verse.  “Which yields its fruit in season.”  I know from previous study that there is a symbolic meaning to fruit – and I know what this passage is trying to say.  But I also saw something else – another definition of fruit.

One of the MOST amazing things about this past year has been the private messages I have received via Facebook or email, particularly after I reveal some aspect of my terrible nature on this blog.  I have received confessions of weakness or sin from women and men who I’ve known throughout my life, small “me too” messages that reveal that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have received PRECIOUS notes of encouragement from people who have defeated similar sin and many people have joined with me and prayed for me.  I have had the great privilege of praying for, and maybe encouraging, some other people who are struggling alongside me as they have walked their walks with the Lord.  One thing I’ve realized – many many people wait with us on the Lord.   This waiting room is more full than I ever imagined.  But in the waiting room, if we’ll look around, is grace and true Biblical fellowship with other Believers, also waiting.  We can learn from each other.  We can relate to each other.  We can find lifelong friendships.  Amazing.

Another great thing about this time, since I have decided to speak out loudly about our desire to adopt and our desire to support adoptive and foster parents, a number of people have privately messaged me that God is calling them to adopt or foster.  Someone wrote today – it just thrills my soul.  That calling is a daunting one.  I read somewhere that only a very small percentage of people who investigate adoption actually adopt.  And I can understand why.  The process is sometimes confusing and challenging, and it is scary stuff to ask for the permanent care of a child from another environment – not because we fear the child, but often because we don’t feel worthy to handle the challenges that could be associated with adoption and we worry we’ll mess up everyone’s lives in the process.  So I get these quiet messages – “Do you think I could do this?”  I love getting those messages – I love that people trust me with that secret desire and I love that I get to, in that moment, affirm that what God begins in us, He is faithful to complete in His power.  During this past two years, we have gotten the amazing privilege of praying with people, encouraging people, and in tiny measure maybe even helping people do what God has called them to do.  It has been overwhelming and humbling.  When I get those messages, I shake from the honor of being a small part of God’s movement in their lives.

It has been priceless to me.

I wonder had all of my dreams, and my plans, come true in my timing, would I ever have known that community and that privilege?  Had it been up to me – our house would be on its way to being full of little people from around the world.  It is likely I would have been puffed up in my success and busy in my own pursuits, and I would have missed out on the joy of this avenue of true Biblical fellowship.

For that reason, I love this time while we wait.  We can’t adopt now, but we can encourage now. We can pray.  We can advocate.

So this week, when I went to the Lord feeling weak and lifeless, He reminded me that even in Fall and Winter, He is working to bring forth Spring.  And even if I get to be a small part of bringing forth Spring in the lives of others, it is worthy wonderful work.  If that is some of my fruit of this season, I’m in.  I may not be seeing fruit at this moment in our home, but I am seeing others bear fruit and joining with them in community.  Rock on.

So that was a sweet new definition of fruit for me, as pertains to the Psalm 1 passage.

And speaking of bringing forth spring – the Lord has been pruning me so that I can produce fruit in my parenting.  This wait has revealed in me some deficiencies that I needed to correct before I was ready to adopt.  About six months ago, I began to be aware of my inadequacies parenting my girls, in particular Grace.  It was like she was a mirror reflecting the worst side of my nature, and what I saw in myself was ugly.  It killed me.  I longed to parent her with grace and wisdom, and I knew I was failing.  So I prayed.  I begged.  I blogged.  And truthfully, my parenting style, and my sin nature, didn’t revolutionize overnight.  I started having more good days than bad, but sometimes the sin that so easily entangles would overwhelm me.  And I was frustrated.  I felt broken.  I knew my problem, knew some of my wrong thinking, but wasn’t sure how to correct it.  But in my chaos and confusion, the Lord was working quietly and perfectly. Over time, He weaved several seemingly small interactions together that have helped me see my purpose in parenting and helped me identify and correct much of that wrong thinking.  Through a verse, a couple of conversations with friends, some messages from Brandon Thomas, a note from a high school friend over Facebook, a couple of books, the Tapestry Adoption Conference, and the prayers and accountability of precious sisters in Christ, He spoke.  Today I confess that I am not perfect yet (Ha – I wish!), but that I am tapped into the source of change and everyday realizing the grace that is mine both for myself and for parenting my loves.  I am seeing, in Grace, the same struggle I face everyday, the struggle to protect and control what we see as ours, and finally I am feeling empathy for her, not frustration.  Loving, obeying, understanding, and dying to ourselves is not natural.  It is hard, lifelong work.  I am an adult with the person of Christ living in me and yet I struggle, but I expect my three year-old to get it?  It is terribly unfair.  So finally I am seeing that for what it is – sin in me that needs to be dealt with.  Thank you Lord for your refining of me for my and my sweet daughter’s sake.  Protect her Lord from my habitual sin, and continue to be a source of love and grace for my girls.

I remember after therapy realizing that there is power in the knowledge of our brokenness.  Sometimes healing takes work and often it comes later, but a great victory is won when we see ourselves as we truly are – in need of healing and help.  In that moment, we can turn to the Lord and confess our brokenness and He begins to heal.  That is why the enemy of our souls fights to tell us that we are okay, that our problems are always due to other people in our world.  The enemy wants us to believe “It’s all good.  Don’t sweat it.”  But the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin for our benefit, so we can become free.  And I am so grateful to God for that.  He could leave us to walk through life clothed in the stink of death and sin, unaware of our own stench, covered by the grace of His Son’s death but unable to live an abundant life.  But He doesn’t.  He has made us positionally pure in Christ, but He reveals Himself to us and reveals our sin so that we can become completely pure.

That is what streams of water is all about.  Filling with Him so there is no room for our sinful selfish ways until we grow taller and stronger than we ever could have grown in our own power.

Sign me up for that.