Sticker Shock

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At first glance, this magnet on the back of my car is nothing special. It’s hardly as cool as my “Team Oxford Comma” sticker or the logo of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Heck, even my Valdosta State University alumnae badge of honor is more unique.


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Like hundreds of other folks in the place a call home, it indicates that I have a curtain climber or two involved in an afterschool activity known as, you guessed it, “Kid Chess.”

Each Tuesday, our dastardly duo finishes their school day and heads for the cafeteria to learn about “the immortal game,” beloved by commonspun philosophers, kings, and titans of industry. For ninety minutes, they learn strategy and play a game or two with classmates on the same skill level as they. Some weeks, the boys sprint out, their faces flushed with the thrill of conquest. Other times, they more closely resemble Eeyore, the beloved sad sack of the Hundred Acre Woods because they’ve been beaten like a tied up goat. But I’m happy either way because they’re learning how to think critically, to be good sports, and to take risks.

But that’s not what makes that goofy blue knight sporting the Def Leppard do so special.

When we were going through the adoption process—filling out mountains of paperwork, taking IMPACT training classes, and meeting with advocates and case managers, every so often, I would think to myself, Do we REALLY want to do this? Are we sure that we’re sure about this life-changing choice?

Most times, the answer was yes. But there were days (more than I care to admit) when I backpedaled from the entire thing. Days when I heard adoption horror stories in the news or from the mouths of well-meaning friends. Days when I came home exhausted and realized just how difficult life could be for a working mother. Days when my selfishness overruled my willingness to obey.

I prayed for peace about what sometimes seemed like an altogether foolhardy endeavor. I asked for confirmation from God, some grand symbol like the ones he gave Moses in the wilderness or during Belshazzar’s feast. Heck, I decided I’d settle for a little dew on some fleece. But the Lord, as we all know, is not in the earthquake, fire, or whirlwind. It’s the still, small voice we should be listening for, the gentle question that comes to us from just outside the safety of our caves.

Days before our paperwork was approved, I was still wrestling with adoption and with all the worries and expectations that are part and parcel with becoming a new parent. But driving home from work one afternoon, I saw a car with one of those silly magnets on the back, and I found myself saying, It might be fun to raise a kid who plays chess.

Wham.

Just like that, I went from worrying about all sorts of things (most of which have not come to pass) to thinking, It might be nice.

And now—one year after children were placed in our home—that magnet is proudly on display on the back hatch of my filthy yellow car. Evidence that God is indeed at work in the details.

 

At the Risk of Robbing Tim O’Brien

There are things I carry. Cumbersome things like a satchel full of work that needs doing. Things to put away and up, out and down. Armfuls of things from this store or that.

And there are weightier things too. The grief that hangs over me at the thought of my grandfather’s death. The worry that comes from lingering too long over world news. The dull panic that only an adult can know, the kind that comes with the understanding that success and security are ephemeral—the line between them and their antonyms thinner than the logical edge of Occam’s razor.

I pick them up each day and place them on the shelves of my shoulders, bear their invisible weight like Sisyphus once did his stone. And even at rest, I never quite manage to put them down. Instead, I brace myself and pick up new burdens in an attempt to lessen those I already have. A freelance job to cover the cost of that new whiz-bang-gotta-have-thing that might make life easier, safer, better, or more pleasing. A relationship that should make me feel less vulnerable. And in these things I put my trust, though they’re as costly and as ineffectual as Maginot Lines. The peace I crave is not in them, and yet I soldier on, dragging them behind me, leaving ragged scars in the earth.

But I’m not the first to think such madness wise. The prophet Isaiah (46:1-4 ESV) says:

Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
    their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
    as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
    they cannot save the burden,
    but themselves go into captivity.

Old gods of Babylon—deaf and dumb as the gold that bore their image—can do nothing for the men who made them or the flagging beasts who lug them to their hollow temples. But then there is the promise of the One who tells me His yoke is easy and His burden light.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
 even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save.

I was borne—carried, supported, held up—before the world began. Sustained eons before I took my first lungful of air. Borne before I was born. And until my hair turns gray and brittle as old paper, until the very moment I wheeze my last, He will bear me still. Why? Not because He owes me. Not because He needs the challenge. Four simple statements make the reason plain.

I have made, and I will bear. I will carry and will save.

No if you… conditions, no because you… stipulations. “You are mine,” He tells me. “Mine to carry from before birth and beyond death. And I do so because you are my treasure. I loved you before I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Before I gave you brown eyes and long fingers, a love of words and an ear for music. I carried the weight of you, light as an eyelash, in my righteous right hand.”

And so—for the moment, until I stubbornly and disobediently pick up my load again—I bask in that love. And it is so beautiful I can hardly bear it.

Lyrical Witness

As someone who’s spent a lot of time performing and contemplating church music, I know how hard it can be to keep your passion for it intact. That’s why speaking with Keith and Kristyn Getty was truly refreshing. Not only do they have a great love for leading worship, they also are intentional about creating music that helps the church sing well together.

This Q&A with the talented husband and wife duo is featured in the September 2014 issue of In Touch magazine. If you’d like to receive your own copy of this magazine free of charge each month, please visit this page and give us your name and address. There are some great articles and series in future issues, and I’d love for you to be as blessed by reading them as we have been putting them together!

 

 

 

Step Up

Adopting children involves a great deal of preparation–everything from your home to your heart–and we did a bit of both this past weekend.

Our couch and chairs, which were perfect in a two bedroom apartment, left us looking a little house poor in the new digs. So we decided to go ahead and buy a sectional that we could use for entertaining and for what we hope will be many fun family movie nights. So we spent most of Friday hauling the old stuff to Goodwill and then filling the empty space with the lovely piece you see below.

The cat is scoping it out, trying to find the best place to sit.  And yes, we are changing the wall color.
The cat is scoping it out, trying to find the best place to sit. And the walls have been painted since. No more gaudy mint green!

 

The new monstrosity comes in four sections: chaise lounge, center couch, end couch, and ottoman. Three of the four pieces weren’t too much trouble, but the end couch (the one closest to you in the picture) was an absolute bear. Even after we removed the wooden feet and tried wedging it through the door from multiple angles, it still refused to go in. However, twenty minutes (and several frustrated grunts) later, we managed it. And I thought I’d never use geometry again after high school.

The schlepping wasn’t the part that got to me, it was getting the pieces up and down the back stairs. The reason? I don’t like moving around when I can’t see my feet. I just don’t believe I’ll hit stable ground when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll find the one hole to step in or that my foot will slip, either of which will end with me crashing to the ground. My brain knows that I’m okay—but for some reason, if I can’t see it, I don’t believe it. And until I can get my bearings, my stomach slushes around in my gut like a boat bobbing on choppy seas.

I felt much the same way on Saturday in our IMPACT training classes at Bethany. As we sat and listened to all the signs a child has been sexually abused and the ways in which he/she might act out, I felt that place in me go loose again. I floated on a sea of incertitude, lost and wondering where this process might take me. The questions flashed in my mind, all strobe lights and gaudy neon…

Who exactly am I bringing into my home?

What kind of damage has already been done, and is there enough love in me to help undo it?

Am I ready to raise a child who has faced horrors I’ve never even imagined?

How am I going to manage this and a full time job?

I honestly don’t know the answers to any of these questions that now hang in the air like an unresolved chord, dissonant and jangling.

I’m in the cavernous space between them and their answers. It’s a place of uncertainty where I can’t see my feet, spiritually speaking. I don’t know where this process will take me, if I will land on solid ground or find myself tumbling down the stairs. “Just show me a few details,” I ask God. “Like how many kids we’ll have. Or how about a heads up about the kinds of behavioral issues they’re going to have so I can research and prepare myself. Just a few clues, God. That’s all I need really.” But He’s silent. Not because He can’t answer me, but because answers aren’t what I need.

The other day, a good friend said, “Jamie, it’s in the act of faith that courage becomes a reality.”

That’s why (as much as I hate it) I need to stand, my foot hovering above the unknown, and trust God to take care of me when it lands. Why? Because the courage comes when you act, not as you wait.

Tim Challies put it this way in a recent blog post about making decisions:

“The thing we want [an answer] is a thing God does not give us. He is far too wise for that, and does not give us that view of the finish line, that sneak peak of the future. He could, of course….But he doesn’t.

Instead, he does something far better: He gives us a view of himself. We don’t need to know the future when we know the one who holds the future. God does not want us to put our hope in a future outcome, but in him. We don’t ground our faith in a result, but in a Person. If we could see the future we would take our eyes off him. If we could see the future, our faith would be in the future. But when all we see is God, our trust must be in him.

God doesn’t comfort us by showing us the future, but by showing us himself. He shows himself as the all-powerful, all-knowing God who is for us, not against us. He shows himself as being far more committed to us than we are to him. He promises that he will never leave us nor forsake us, that he will work all things for good, that he will hold us firm to the end. He guarantees that he has purposes in this world and that nothing can change or interrupt or thwart them. He assures us that he will be glorified. He says, “Don’t look at the future, look at me!”

That’s what I have to remember in the empty, hollow space of dissonance—the resolution will come. Yes, the questions will be answered.

Perhaps they will be fast, miraculous, onomatopoetic answers….Zap! Bang! Boom!

But I think it’s far more likely to happen over a slow passage of years. I’ll get them as I help my children untangle the knots of pain in their souls and put themselves back together. Getting them will hurt, yes, and there will be tears of both joy and sorrow. But I cannot allow the lack of them to delay God’s plan for my life. So bring on the next piece of unwieldy furniture, the next challenge, and the next question.

I’m ready to step up.

Small Change, Big Difference

I was honored to share the story of Liberty Baptist Church, a small congregation in Fulton, Kentucky, in the June 2014 issue of In Touch magazine. This amazing group of generous people gave enough money to send ten Messengers in Ticuna (a language spoken only by people groups in the Amazon) into the mission field. And their gift has yielded tremendous results in the lives of people they may never meet this side of heaven.

Remember, if you want, you can subscribe to In Touch magazine for free. You can also read our articles online, and if you do, please leave us comments there. We love hearing readers’ thoughts on each and every article we post!

 

 

 

Consider the Bees

For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a journeyman beekeeper. That means our basement is filled with wax, wood, and all sorts of weird things like buckets on sticks and a specially-designed vacuum that can hoover the little critters out of places where they’re not wanted. No kidding.

I’m not as involved with the care and maintenance of all the little divas as he is, but I help out enough to know what’s what. And doing so has taught me a few lessons about God and the wonderful and awe-inspiring ways in which He works.

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