Lucy

Forgive me for being a little late writing this – the new baby haze is no joke. But we would like to introduce you to our new little girl, Lucy Taylor.

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We named Lucy after one of my favorite characters in literature, Lucy Pevensie, the little girl who walked through the wardrobe into Narnia and eventually became Queen Lucy the Valiant in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. Lucy was the first to recognize Aslan and faithfully follow his lead, and the person who most fervently believed in the good in people around her. It is our prayer that our Lucy will follow after Christ with that kind of sensitivity, passion, and devotion. Her name means light – and already this little girl has lit up our world.

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.” ― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia

We are very blessed, and very happy, to introduce her. Thank you for your prayers and your love, especially the last few weeks of my pregnancy when I was sick. We have been showered in every way – with prayers, gifts, meals, encouraging messages and visits. We are so grateful for the family and friends the Lord has given us who show us community and love.

Lucy is the easiest baby – she has a calm sweet demeanor, rarely cries, and doesn’t seem phased by the three-ring circus that is life at the Wells house. She fits in so well! The girls (and even the dog) adore her and race each other to meet her every need – and Justin and I are absolutely captivated. We basically sit around all day holding her and telling each other how beautiful she is and how much we love her – and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Lucy is, like Grace and Rebekah, tangible evidence of God’s grace to us and we are so thankful for her.

For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 1 Samuel 1:27

The Substitute: Part 2

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post called “The Substitute” about a friend who subbed in for another friend in the middle of a long difficult trial. It was a very well-received, shared, and talked about post because it seemed to strike a nerve with everyone just as the lesson struck a nerve with me, which compelled me to blog.

I have an update to that post, and it is truly amazing. My friend, the one who was enduring the unending trial, the one who was faithful in the face of very little hope over years of waiting, that precious friend who was tired and weary but straining to hope? That sweet friend has gotten her miracle. Since her friend subbed in and prayed like the trial was 1 day-old instead of thousands of days, the Lord has completely turned the situation around.

My friend’s life, and her family’s life, is forever altered. The seemingly impossible trial is ending in the most miraculous way imaginable. We have seen the victory that my friend believed and waited for over those difficult years. It is humbling and impressive and worship-inspiring to witness.

And I have to wonder, and God only knows, how much the prayers of the friend who subbed in at the point of exhaustion unlocked the miracle.

This summer is already long and hot, and many are facing daunting personal trials. People around us are tired of waiting and hoping and praying. Their eyes are straining from watching for their desperately longed-for miracle.

Maybe they need a substitute.

And maybe that substitute is us.

I believe more than ever that the time we spend subbing in for the ones around us is eternally valuable time. We get to be a part of God working miracles on the earth – turning the impossible into the incredible. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Substitution works.

Lord give us eyes to see the people around us and the burdens they are bearing. Impress upon us the value of intercession. Use us to give people comfort and lead them to You. Use us for your great glory. We don’t want to waste our lives on what is seen, but we want to make a difference in the unseen eternity that awaits us. Thank you for the privilege of prayer, for the privilege of community, for the privilege of intercession. Thank you that our prayers matter even in seemingly hopeless situations. 

Mom

My mom taught me about redemption. She taught me about searching out the hidden value in people. She taught me about righteousness. She taught me about grace. She taught me about faithfulness. She taught me about commitment.

She has overcome the world. Really.

She makes me laugh. She believes in conspiracies. Her home is a place of peace. She pours herself out for each of us in every imaginable way. She is the best grandmother I’ve ever seen.

I rise up today and call her blessed.

I thank God for you everyday, momma. You are God’s grace to me.

All My Hope is in You

How many times have I sung that song? How many times have I breathed that prayer? How many times have I told hurting friends that God is in control?

And yet weeks like this – weeks where I can’t figure out just how you are going to work something out so I drive myself crazy trying to figure it out for you, where my fear overwhelms, where that human instinct to control and correct and protect myself kicks in as if you are not my shelter and provider, so before I know it I am running full-bore seeking comfort and answers everywhere but you, these weeks show the lie of my heart.

My actions show that my hope is not in you.

I confess all this poisonous doubt in my heart.

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you! Jeremiah 32:17

My confession today is that I don’t believe this verse and the thousands like it, even though I want to.

My confession today is that the things we face are so much bigger than us, and we need you to work miracles again, and I feel needy and weak for asking, even though I know you are good and I know you love me. I see you sometimes as a last resort – instead of the lover of my soul who wants me to come to you first.

My confession today is that I so quickly forget how PERFECTLY faithful you have been to provide for us. You have never let us down, you have never let us fall – and yet each time I test you again as if I don’t know that.

My confession today is that I am so quick to doubt, and I ask you to give me more faith. You are the author of all that is good in me and I want you to have more of my heart – all of my heart.

I’m sorry my faithful mighty God. I remain, as always, lost without you.

My biggest confession is that all my hope is in you. I’m so grateful for that truth today. And I’m so grateful for forgiveness and grace deeper than the ocean.

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.

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.

Humility Comes Before Honor

When I was a little kid, I remember joy. One summer, we rode bikes as a family everywhere. The library, our friend Mark and Maryanne’s pool, the store (mom’s bike had a basket the perfect size for a couple of gallons of milk). We rode bikes to the snow cone stand almost every day in the hot summer sun, laughing and racing and enjoying each other.

In my memory it was magical. The summer of bikes – like something out of a Mark Twain novel.  

As an adult, I was surprised to find there was another side to our summer-of-bikes story. The truth was that my parents were in a very difficult financial situation, and they could not afford for mom to have a car. So it was more need than creative parenting that caused my magical summer.

But knowing the truth only makes me admire my parents more. I was an intuitive kid (note the nice way of saying “nosy”) and the fact that I did not pick up on the need behind the story means my mom and dad had an attitude of gratitude despite their financial difficulty. Our home was full of grace, not discontent. My mom could have stayed home, pouting. Or she could have taken every opportunity to complain and grumble about the situation in front of her. But she didn’t. She jumped on her bike and made it an adventure.

You have to understand, this is totally my mom. She turns everything into an adventure. Her faith is precious to witness because she chooses joy, even when things are truly dark. She has no idea the impact that has had on me and on my parenting. This week I read this verse and I thought of my parents.

The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

My parents have had many seasons in their life of humility. Many times they have faced (and overcome) trials that could appear, to the outside world, like the most humbling difficult thing in the world. But they have feared the Lord and remained faithful despite the trials, choosing not to grumble but to trust.

And because of that,we honor them.

My brother, sister, and I honor my parents. We admire them, look up to them, respect them, and want to be like them. And this week I realized that the humbling times in their lives, and their handling of those times, is a huge part of why I honor them. Even when their world was shaking, they made sure that ours was not. And that love for us, and sacrifice on our behalf, makes me honor them all the more.

Humility comes before honor.

Thank you God for that truth. It makes humility easier to face, right? Because let’s be honest, times of humbling are not fun. They can really stink, in fact. But to know, to KNOW, that there is purpose in these times, and that honor is coming, doesn’t that make it more palatable? I’m so grateful I have seen this picture lived out in my parents.

Here’s the truth: Justin and I have faced some humbling things this past few years, and even now we are making some decisions that are pretty humbling. But I am standing today on the truth of Scripture and believing that honor will someday follow. That maybe, by God’s grace, in the future when my children hear of the struggles we faced in their childhood, they will be shocked to even learn we faced difficulty, because we faced the challenges with joy and trust that God is bigger, and that His plans are perfect.

Jesus, thank you for this truth and for each situation in our world that humbles us. Please shed light on the times that I grumble, and the times that I let our challenges distract me from being a loving fun mom. Please help me to choose joy and choose faith, knowing that all of this serves a purpose in my life. Thank you for mom and dad and their example. Please bless them, Lord. You are good, Jesus, and I thank you that you don’t waste any moment in our lives, especially the hard ones.