Thursday, April 23, 2015

Whom Shall You Serve?


 Three years ago, we walked into an orphanage completely unannounced and carried two of our children out of their affliction.

  

 My son was covered with weeks worth of his own dried vomit after being fed a diet of only milk powder, of which he was severely allergic.



Our daughter had scars all over her body which had not been there when I had traveled to meet her just 3 months before.  She clung to me for dear life as I carried her out, and hid her face in fear from the nannies who approached us to say goodbye to her as we left.  

In a little guest house down an alleyway in Addis Ababa, far away from that orphanage, we peeled them out of their dirty clothes and washed them in a little tub in the base of the shower. 




We dried them off and rubbed frankincense oil into their cracked skin.  New clothes, new shoes, new life.  We left behind their pasts, which had literally been robbed of them by a few greedy criminals here in the United States, and we brought them home.






Two years later, 

we brought home two more.

  



In the past three years, 
God has REDEEMED the years that the locusts had consumed.  












But don't miss this.  It isn't about them. 
And it is not about the act of physical adoption.


It's about you.



You are, in many ways, these children.








God shows up for you.  

He visits you as you lay in your own filth, battered by the sin of this world and the thief who wants to rob you of your past, present, future, and salvation.  You may tell yourself that you do not need saving...but my friends, we ALL do.





God is not only forgiving, loving, and merciful; He is also HOLY and Just.  He cannot dwell eternally with your sin, regardless of if you believe Jesus existed or not.  We have ALL sinned (Romans 3:23).  

We know those commandments, the ones Moses carried on tablets of stone, because our Creator wrote them on our hearts.  By those commandments we all fall short of eternity with Him (Romans 6:23).  We must be reconciled to Him, and He has given us The Way.

He shows up unannounced, and He asks you to come with Him.  He provided your ransom, a sinless person to die in your place for your sins, Jesus Christ. 




He places your sin on His Son (Romans 5:8) who defeats your sin and the death you should have died by rising from the grave 3 days later and ascending into Heaven to prepare a place for you (John 14:2-3).  He provides a Father in Himself and promises to put His Spirit within you.  

He asks one thing.  






To be the Lord of your LIFE.  

Not the lord of your Sundays, or your weeknights, or some portions of your life and days...He asks for EVERYTHING.  To accept what Christ did for you as your only hope of salvation and turn from the sin that you currently love.  In return, He washes you clean, annoints your head with oil, and makes you more LIKE JESUS.  

You take on His name and He makes you love what He loves. He gives you an aversion to the things of this world, to sin, to the trappings that destroy, and gives you the desire for things of eternal value.  






When this happens, you will HIDE YOUR FACE from the sin that you once loved.  You will cease in defending your "right to sin" and take an active battle against it in your life and in this world.  

You will never again claim the "right" of forgiveness as if you had earned it, you will fall on your face in the humbling knowledge of your completely undeserved receipt of it.  






Do not love your own sin enough to be unwilling to lay it down and claim what He is offering to you (Romans 3:10-18).  

I assure you that no night of inebriation, no day of clinging to the false hope of material things, no pill, no purchase, no vacation, no diet, no drink, no job, no child, no relationship, no community service, no public standing or recognition, no reputation, no church ministry or service, and certainly no good deed will EVER bring salvation or eternal joy. 





Freedom comes ONE way, and it was paid for with a heavy price. Unshakable Joy and Peace are only available through Jesus Christ and the assurance of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1).  





Drop everything you are doing right this minute and decide TODAY whom you will serve.  You cannot serve two masters, you are either serving HIM or you are serving SIN.  If you love your sin, God says you HATE Him (Matthew 6:24). 

I don't care what circumstance you are in at this moment, today IS the day that you can hand over your entire life and truly begin to LIVE (Joshua 24:15) as an adopted son or daughter of God.






It doesn't matter if you are the most successful person in your family or the black sheep with no family.  

It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, churched or unchurched, living in sin or sinning in your mind - if you are not a servant of King Jesus, you have NOTHING.  

And if you choose Him now, you have EVERYTHING.  FOREVER.  

We know this from experience.  






Paul and I were liars, thieves, partiers, and revelers.  

We were false converts who had no love for Jesus or for His Word, and we did not seek to do His will except for our own glory.  Yet we sat in church EVERY WEEK, pretending we were okay.  We thought we had it all together.

And then He came for us both - within weeks of each other - and said "ENOUGH, COME WITH ME."


And we did (Acts 1:9).





We walked away from our idols, 
our security, and our "freedoms".
We have never looked back. 


And He has truly Redeemed 
what the locusts had consumed in our lives.


 





The story never changes...

One boy, one girl.  

By His Grace and Faith ALONE (Romans 5:1).


We have Mercy because we were Crowned in it.  



We love Him

Because He first loved us.













"Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.  Throw way the Gods your ancestors worshipped...and serve the Lord.  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day who you will serve...But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord."

Joshua 24




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For His Glory

I figured it was about time for an update.

Let's start with this guy.  We call him Piggle.






Piggle is all boy.  He is pretty much the boss of me, and he is carried or held by someone all day and night. 



Forget tummy time or developmental milestones like rolling over, this kid's feet rarely touch the ground.  If they do, he does this:




...And he is quickly picked up. 

He is fully enjoying all of the benefits that come with being the Miracle Baby.  We just can't get enough of this kid, and he knows it!



Haven and Aaron are doing AMAZING.  Their English vocabulary continues to grow, and they have learned our alphabet. 



Haven is moving ahead with handwriting and blends, while Aaron is working on fine motor skills and phonics. 



They both really love to learn, which makes the language barrier a little easier on Mama.  How could I not smile with this kid and his constant sunshine face?




Aaron has been officially diagnosed with Achondroplasia, and we are still waiting for more clarity on Haven's second genetic test to determine which syndromes and dysplasia she has.  There will be another trip to Dupont, and likely more surgeries, but nothing slows this girl down.  She never stops. 




Daisy has started Kindergarten, and Miriam is in a K4 curriculum. 

 



They say that all of the "school stuff" gets in the way of playing with the baby, which is their favorite activity, so we have to move quickly with these two.





Moses has been coming out of his shell.  Gaining two brothers in one year has brought out a compassionate, goofy, and protective side of him.  He is such a cool kid, and we feel like we have just scratched the surface with him.



My sweet Lilly.  She is halfway through first grade, and within these past few weeks has experienced that huge jump in fluency and comprehension that happens around this time. 


 

 


More children means more responsibilities for all, so we have been focusing on personal responsibility and diligence and staying ON TASK.  It has been amazing to see what they are capable of when put to the test, with everything from small chores to memorizing large portions of scripture. 



 This is truly the season of life for training, training, and more training...and I remind myself daily that the season of reaping never proceeds the sowing.



Behind all these pretty pictures of progress and growth, I have also been in training.  I am, by nature, a perfectionist.  This can become a monster in my life.  Perfectionism is not sustainable in a household with this many littles, and I am SO thankful for that.  God has used these children to break me and sanctify me.  My perfectionism is rooted in pride, flat out, and God HATES my pride. 

Pride has led me to care about what others think of myself and my family and to strive for approval - and with this many children, that approval will never come.  So in a way, my pride has led me to into complete humiliation at the hands of this world.  I find myself holding onto hurts, chasing after vapors, and breaking my Father's heart. 



By placing my value (or the value of my family) in what others think, I have been COMPLETELY trampled underfoot.  Haven't we all?  Whenever we step outside of the security of the humility found in Christ, we will experience humiliation at the hands of this world.  

This world would lead me to believe that our choice to follow God into these adoptions is only validated by the success of our children, or in my ability to "fix"them.  When I begin to weigh the value of these faces with the successes or failure of our homeschool, or by the triumphs or defeat that comes with medical disabilities, I know I have lost sight of the cross and am seeing things through a worldly lens. 
 

When I say that my value lies in Christ, this is no small thing.  It is everything.  When I lose sight of this truth, it begins to eat away at my personal fellowship with my Heavenly Father, and that fellowship is life-giving.  Without it I am useless

But God never leaves me in my mess.  He is faithful.  He has used my own perfectionism to break me, sanctify me, and draw me nearer to Him.  I am not going to lie, growth HURTS, but it is so necessary.  Discipline and growth are privileges afforded to His Children, and it reminds me of His love for me as His daughter and His desire to make me more like Christ. 



I've never been the type to be "real" on my blog.  I believe people are about as real on the internet as actors on a TV show.  You will never get a real picture of our family by the pictures I hand-pick to publicly display, but my local friends know - the struggle is real, people.  I do believe that some struggles are worth sharing, and here is what I have learned this year: 

 
Every victory is His.  And it's all for His Glory, not ours.  Every time we take credit for a good day, we lose the opportunity to hand Him our bad ones, and every last set back is a place to find rest and validation in His arms alone, because HE KNOWS and HE SEES and He will equip us for every good work.    Your children were hand-picked, and so were you.




Life is messy.  Attachment issues are REAL.  Days do not go as planned - pretty much EVER.  Sometimes doors slam and children scream. Every fun activity brings fingerprints and every life-giving meal brings crumbs. 




Sometimes homeschool looks like puzzles and circuit kits and picture books all over the floor, and Mamas get tired.  But the best parts of life are buried in these messes.


 


No good thing is easy.  Children from hard places need grace, and a lot of it.  But oh, how beautiful is a day dressed in grace in this home, or in any home for that matter.  Perfection is the opposite of grace, and people are more important than things.



What a blessing it is to have children in my home who need grace, because they remind me that I DO TOO.  They remind me, everyday, of the unmerited Grace I have received, and that my value is not determined by my performance.