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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Soul Growing to Know Well

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works,
                                                                                      my soul knows it very well.

I remember sitting at a Women's Conference many years ago and hearing this verse read and the admonition to echo it sank from my ears to my heart. The truth immediately elicited an emotional reaction. Tears burned the sides of my face as I tried to swallow and fight back the kind of cry one would rather take place in private. The thought that my body was fashioned to house my soul for those moments--- for the years behind and ahead--- made me marvel. The complex systems humans strain to understand, from the structure of skin on the outside to the minute hormonal, cellular processes on the inside, are apologetic arguments in and of themselves. Even with the presence of wonder in what it means to be intimately created by a loving Creator, in His image no less, the thought still brought a deep measure of sadness.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Today, I feel much the same. For the past year, my thyroid, or what is left of it, has (at best guess) ceased to function. It is amazing that a gland so small can control so many vital functions! It has taken months to get me to a place where I am getting some answers. Some of those answers have come with a new set of questions. I do have a new doc--- one with a medical degree, twenty years experience in internal medicine, as well as a degree in functional medicine. I feel like I am in a tunnel looking for the light at the end. I am sure it is there, I am just not sure how long until I can see it.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

I have been unable to do some of the things I love--- including writing! My brain has been foggy, a term I had heard but had not experienced. It is a thing. 

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

I generally don't wrestle with symptoms of problems. This, along with a myriad of odd health issues peppered throughout my life and particularly in the last year, forces me into a head-on confrontation of the realization that this body is not made to live forever. The questions that most often permeate my thoughts are ones around trusting that God, who made me in fear and wonder, did so under the weight of the fall. As 40 approaches in the next couple of years, it seems this is the magic age for more to go awry. But even as I grieve the loss of taking my energy level, dietary freedom, and less dependence on interventions for granted, I am reminded of the mercy behind the misery of it all. 

I was recently teaching through Genesis 1-3 again with a gal who will soon be married. As I walked through the drama of scripture:

{the admonition given to Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, his communication to Eve about the command, their fall into sin, the consequences for all mankind, the curses to follow, and most importantly thread of hope that runs ahead of the brokenness foretelling crushing of the serpent's head and the sacrifice that allowed for the covering of the naked and ashamed couple}

the phrase that always stands out to me, left unfinished, is, "Then the LORD God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—'" First, the differentiation of the two trees is important. Before the fall, eating from the Tree of Life was permissible. Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not. Adam and Eve had to be separated from the Tree of Life, lest they live eternally in bodies encumbered by sin. I have read commentators who say that even the thought of that was too much for God to imagine (if I may be so liberal in that term), so the sentence is incomplete. They are kicked out of the garden. In a way, it seems a great punishment to leave the place they walked with Him so closely. Yet for their own good, it was a great mercy. The older I get, the more I know that to live is to sin and know that I am a sinner. There is only one way out. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Adam and Eve, forced from the Tree of Life, leave with the wages of sin both in curse and consequence. But they don't leave naked. They exit clothed in covering provided by the death of another--- animal skin. 
It seems terrifying to know that God knows all my thoughts--- my anxieties and worry, desire to know and control everything, and all my attempts to get around suffering--- unless the path of repentance and faith is safe. Just as He has searched me, he has made the everlasting way my way by the person and work of Christ. 

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Absent fruit from the Tree of Life, my body is both beautifully made for a life which will meet an end. Without that knowledge, I may have never begun to wrestle with what comes next! I find it no mistake that the psalmist says "my soul knows" the Lord's works are wonderful. My body cries, "What in the world is happening here?!" My soul knows it well--- while flesh is wasting away, my soul is being renewed day by day. A growing knowledge of my dependence on the Lord has been and continues to be a source of life. There are many good gifts that delay and help, but they are only temporary. It is going to take my lifetime for me to shift my gaze away from looking for the cure apart from the work of Jesus on my behalf. It doesn't mean that the wasting away part doesn't absolutely stink! Sometimes it is absolutely terrible. Sometimes it physically hurts. There is no diminishing those facts. But the promise remains that God is continuing to turn my eyes from temporal things to the eternal. And isn't that the struggle--- to see all things in light of what He has done and is working to do. He is unmaking my body to make me His forever. My eternal body will work properly! The days of deteriorating will not last forever. 

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 

Until then, I am so thankful for a doc who is working so hard to help me. I feel hopeful that God will use him and his expertise to get a handle on my hormone levels! I am comforted when I remember that God has always cared for me by way of many means and promises to continue be with me. I am so grateful for each moment I can sing and dance, move and breathe, think clearly, and all the things that have suddenly become difficult! I also find rest in the Gospel--- that Jesus gave His life so that I may live. He is my complete covering. The Spirit meets me and seals my soul. ~Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief~ 

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

All that said, please pray for me. This has come at an interesting time! Our dossier is now in the hands of the folks in Haiti. Now, we wait to be matched with our children. I can't help but wonder if this timing allows for some gained stability before we travel to meet our Haiti babies. I pray that my needs are met each day with daily bread, sustaining strength, courage, and most of all, faith in the finished work of Jesus. 

scripture reference, Psalm 139; Genesis 1:9, 2:16-17, 3:2-3,6-7, 14-19, 21-22; 2 Cor. 4:16

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hearts Toward Haiti

The day of the election, while our country moved on in its history, I stood at one end of my dining room table, Micah at the other, and we took another step in ours. We looked into each other's eyes and while we used different words, we spoke in unison. For the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable and open. He was resolute and firm. In the quiet spaces, hearts had shifted. Clay was being quietly, firmly molded and pressed, given over to the thought that maybe, just maybe, there may be more. ~ This seems a dramatic scene, but I assure you, it is this vivid in my mind. And sometimes I feel like I live in a novel. ~

We had prayed for a large family. God granted what we asked--- not in a way we could have dreamed or imagined but in a way that has and continues to direct our faces toward His love and grace. Micah and I have had the honor to love our five. They remind us every day that life is precious and in it, God writes beautiful stories that sing His love. They teach us more and more about His Fatherly affection, the forgiveness offered by the Son, and the nearness of the Spirit. We have had the opportunity to love more little ones beyond the five we see, even for such a short time. I am so thankful I got to know of them. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to love them with a motherly love. I am thankful to have the hope of meeting them again, when we all are whole. Until then, I find myself in the thick of it. There are dance parties, struggles, schoolwork, housework, conflicts, resolutions, tears, smiles, running, resting, failure, success, quiet, loud, and all that happens between. It seemed we had encountered a likely bookend to this season. Yet, there was always another thought. What if God would bring children once orphaned in different ways into this home? Our home?

Over the last few years, Micah and I have talked about adopting again.

((I am going to give you just a minute to gasp, or laugh, or whatever emotion that last sentence might evoke))

Until the last several months, we might mention it and laugh too, often with an eye roll. There always seems to be a little crazy in calling. I can't say I know what exactly has changed but something most certainly has. As the country was watching election results either reeling or rejoicing, he and I spent the majority of the evening reorienting our thoughts around what was happening much closer home. We were and are all in.

Adoption. Yes. International. Yes. Where would we be both geographically and circumstantially approved? Most importantly, where might a child or children live as orphans who we might call by our name? In just a few days, reckoning information, thoughts, feelings, desires, it was clear to us. The answer was Haiti.

As of right now, our home study has been approved. The piles of paperwork have aligned (with the help of an awesome social worker).

Since last November, God has given us hearts for Haiti; for its beauty, for its struggle. Micah had the privilege of visiting for a few days with an old Seminary friend of his. Many of the people there have great needs, as do we, but markedly and variably different. They also have great resilience. I try to follow the landscape of need, and am aware that there exists, sometimes in whole countries, a kind of desperation I do not know living here.

I am thankful that in the last few years, Haiti has come under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. It seeks to make children the priority and serve their best interests, limiting corruption and the exploitation of children. It addresses trafficking--- which is utterly evil. It affirms children given for adoption are true orphans.

We are praying for a child or two siblings--- opening our hearts for who might be on the other end of this. Part of our preparation has been learning as much as we can about the Haitian culture. We'd love to learn the language. It is our desire to honor their heritage and learn from them.

One thing I want to make clear, we are neither saving children or being saved by them. They will be a precious gift to us, as we hope we are to them. If there would be a child or children who would benefit leaving the home they have always known to come and live with us, we are available. We want to be their forever family. I know the people who live with me and they (as do I) have a lot of love to give, as we have been so loved first.

I am still struck by the gravity of what adoption means. It would be desirable for children to be raised by one or both birth parents and I am grateful to groups who help hold families together by helping provide the means for steady income. These orphan prevention programs are such a blessing to many families, particularly in countries where extreme poverty and the effects of major natural disasters are constants. Regardless of those efforts, and as I know well, there will still remain orphans because we live in the land of broken things. In recent past or even as I type, a mother and/or father are feeling the weight of caring for a child or children they cannot. The resources provided them aren't enough. Or, death separates. Whatever the circumstances, hearts are breaking. Lives have been or are being torn apart. This is where the need for adoption begins. The weight is necessary. It cannot be glossed over. It cannot be denied. We look to honor it and corporately remember the One who brings family together and promises to redeem broken things, us included.

So--- this is an invitation. We ask your prayers; for Micah and me, for our children, and for "Haiti babies" (as our triplets call them) who will, God willing, one day come to be with us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It Is Well

When law and life press in, I find the words I have sung so boldly meet the question, “Is this still true?” The gift of faith through grace affirms, yes. The theologian in me asks, “How can this be?” The Spirit leads again to Gospel, to the old road, to the Good News. It is the thing I quickly forget when flesh and heart fail. It is the most fleeting thought when I am sinking in sin or circumstance.

Day by day, new mercy by new mercy, the Lord continues to teach me. By word, sacrament, sermon, suffering, in holy community, my Father continues to gently remind that He is the One singing to me, in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

When peace like a river, attendeth your way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever your lot, I continue to say
It is well, it is well with your soul. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded your helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for your soul. 

Your sin, oh, the bliss, of this glorious thought
Your sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and you bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o your soul With your soul

It is well, it is well
With your soul. 

It is well, it is well
With my soul. 

Original lyrics: Horatio Spafford

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Year So Far in (Very) Quick Review

This has been quite the year so far. We traveled out-of-state twice in December, one in January, twice in February, Micah out of the country in March, and then he and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend in east Tennessee. Writing has been something I have been planning in my head, as the days continue to roll along, amid the bustle of moving around constantly. I can't wait to share some of what has been ruminating on paper! I shall soon. I did want to give a quick, mostly-pictorial, update and share some of my favorite moments over the past three months. Enjoy!

Andrew--- strong, intentional, kind, competitive, intelligent.
Elijah--- passionate, reflective, compassionate, hilarious, imaginative.
Isaac --- curious, energetic, joyful, creative, agile.
Eliana--- affectionate, nurturing, observant, determined, tender.
Isabella--- independent, fun-loving, comedian, helper, genuine.

Elijah, the adventurer

This is why I can't get through my email...
The cat that we thought was Lexie, but is actually Leo! The vet made a gender mistake!
Five-year-old cuties
The triplets birthday celebration in Gatlinburg

With GG in Gatlinburg
With Parker and Chelsea, before braving the Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge
Home base, best rest
In Dallas, TX at Chick-fil-a Seminar
Enjoying a warmer day
Maple Syrup Festival, Salem, IN
Our outside pet, who visits every morning around 7
Cardinals vs Pittsburg
13th Birthday for Andrew (and one little girl who loves him very much)
Lake Tahoe under many feet of snow

Boy, have I been feeling the winter this year. The frozen ground, colors-sleeping, bone-piercing cold makes things more difficult for me. It makes my soul still and draws out the longing, the desperation, the unmistakable humanity. So much hard here. So much pain. Even my body has been determined to force the acknowledgment of weakness. Lent is the culmination of a season of feeling deeply my limitations. Then comes Spring. We have had a few, warm, teaser days but I feel so much anticipation as I keep peeking around the corner for the first hints of the bright display of intricate, interconnected art in Creation. I need the visceral reminders that what I experience today, while real and true, is not all there is. The hope of resurrection in Easter speaks into my still soul in a way that reminds me that in Christ, all things will be new. I wait to see it in my favorite flowers, taste it from the garden, emerge in soft grass, be whispered in warm wind, and all the while, pray to be encouraged by it once again.

It is also a change in season for our family. More to come;)