I have 2 prayer requests for you today:
- My uncle who is very ill and all of his family who loves him dearly
- These sweet children, who just lost their second set of parents, right before Christmas
I have 2 prayer requests for you today:
A friend recommended the workbook for Experiencing God to me last week, and it arrived today. We were having a stressful day, so I put on a movie for the kids and snuck outside with the book and my last piece of Salted Caramel Chocolate.
I’m ready for Christmas. I try to hold off as long as I can, but I broke down and got an evergreen scented candle.
These are Gus’s favorite books right now. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Llama Llama Red Pajama.
“Dat ‘moke!” (That’s smoke!) . . . “Mama coming?”
Bedtime. It looks like this was edited with heavy vignetting, but it was actually taken in a dark room with a flashlight. Lena was still awake.
I don’t generally share much about my personal beliefs or my testimony. It makes me squeamish to open myself up to that scrutiny and I have no interest in that kind of debate. And, this is blog is more to do with our family and adoption. However, this is something I’ve been carefully thinking about and trying to find a way to share for years now. As a disclaimer, this is a post about my faith and is directed at other followers of Jesus.
I graduated from the university near where we live now, but before that, I went to a small private liberal college for women in a very liberal town in the Northeast United States. I was very young, my views on the world still developing, but up until that point, if you were to survey my beliefs, I would have ended up somewhere on the moderate side of liberal. My family didn’t regularly attend church growing up, but I was certainly somewhat familiar with the bible and Christians. I knew a few decent Christians, but for the most part, I thought followers of Jesus were quick to throw the laws at you. Quick to remind you exactly why you would be burning in hell. And even if they didn’t say it, they were certainly thinking it. Especially quick to condemn gay people. Yes, there were more liberal denominations, more liberal Christians, but from what I’d heard from the most vocal Christians in my life, they weren’t even following their own bible. The bible said that homosexuality was a sin so those liberal Christians might be even worse. Watering down their own faith to make it fit in America.
At college, I met a ton of cool people. People who identify as lesbian, gay, transexual. People born with female anatomy, but who use the men’s bathroom. Beautiful people, who came to this college because they were welcome, free from judgement. People who cared about social injustice. People who volunteered their time to help others. It seemed to me like those people cared a lot more about those who Christians would call “the least of these” than Christians did. The Christians were a bit too busy smacking people over the head with their book full of laws and finding the the verse which would send you to those eternal flames.
I ended up leaving that college. A straight girl who didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life and wasn’t too interested in the tight knit college atmosphere, I just didn’t fit in. Not because of my beliefs, but I just couldn’t find my place in a sea of women.
That was when I joined AmeriCorps. That was when I met my husband. He fascinated me. Not in a lustful way, but with genuine curiosity. The first thing I learned was that he had spent 7 months in New Orleans, volunteering full time to help with disaster relief after Katrina and now he was committed another year of his life to serving. I had spent several weeks in New Orleans, not even close to his length stay, but we had this in common. We both loved the hands-on helping and serving others that we found in NOLA.
But, there was another thing that possibly fascinated me even more. He was a Christian. I would find him praying or reading his bible and while he didn’t engage us in his faith, he’d talk about it when asked. One person on our AmeriCorps team was particularly fond of debated, so he’d engage Aaron. Aaron would disagree firmly, but not in a way that felt imposing or close-minded. Even though I agreed with the other guy on most things, Aaron always approached things with reason and without being inflammatory. That earned him my respect.
Aaron told me his beliefs. He explained why he believed the bible was truth, what he believed it said and how he lived that out. I told him how I didn’t think I could be a Christian, because I couldn’t love a God who condemns people to hell just for being gay. He listened. He never compromised his beliefs, but he always considered my point of view. This was such a strange experience for me. We could disagree on everything that mattered to us and still talk about it and enjoy our time together.
For the first time, I had a genuine curiosity about God and the bible, not because of what anyone had told me it said, but because of who my now-husband was. That was what led me to Christ.
Since then, I’ve learned about grace, how who Jesus died for on the cross, and what the bible says and how biased individuals use different translations to prove their point on any number of issues.
I didn’t write this post to share my own political beliefs. I’m actually not going to– sorry, as I’m sure that’s what some of you were waiting for. I wrote this because I’ve seen the harm it causes when Christians lead with condemnation. When it takes the form of a Facebook profile picture, or a political rally, or a causally written blog post. When the lead isn’t that Jesus loves us and died for all of us, but that marriage is threatened by gay people. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely a time and a place to share even controversial beliefs and it doesn’t serve anyone to water down or edit our faith to suit everyone. But, when you casually share in a public setting, remember that that is the first thing that what you are sharing is the first and perhaps the only thing that people will know about you and Christ in you.
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
I have not been writing much lately. I have a hard time writing when I am stressed. Everything seems to come out negative or frustrated and I have a tendency to say things which just aren’t honest, valuable, or uplifting. I don’t shoot for all of those things in every post, but I try to at least find one– especially honest.
Life is stressful. Having someone’s life in your hands 24/7 is a big deal, especially someone tiny and sneaky who seems hell-bent on putting himself in the most danger possible. I find parenting so hard and sometimes I question whether or not I am really cut out for it. I get angry, frustrated, and tired often. I am weak and tell myself that I am not enough.
Last night, I was praying about that, and I wanted to share something that I wrote…
I ask God, “did I hear you wrong? Did you create me for this life?”
I dare to question if I am capable, instead of resting on and seeking counsel in my creator, my husband’s creator, my children’s creator, my friends’ creator– the creator of all things and the author of all of our stories.
I can tell God that I am not able. I can let go of any of my own weaknesses and my own strong will and instead ask him to work in me and through me.
I can chose to never be more than I am today. I can chose to “stay stuck” as a friend of mine would say. Or, I can chose to be more. Simon to Peter. Saul to Paul. They could have held on to their weaknesses and never grown into who Christ called them to be. Simon Peter could have given up and only been known for his denial of Christ, but instead he became the rock of the church. And Paul could have lived in guilt over his persecution of Christians, instead of sharing the gospel throughout the Roman empire. What would the church and the gospel be without Peter and Paul?
I am human. And it is okay for me to make mistakes. But, it is not okay for me to know myself by them and build my life around my mistakes.
So, I am choosing to be more. I am choosing to belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. I am choosing not to limit myself, but to let Christ renew and change me.
This is one of my favorite verses, and I know I’ve shared it a few times before, but I need to share it again.
But he said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That’s why I delight in the weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
An everyday occurrence. Gus screamed at me as I turned quesadillas. 30 seconds left until his favorite food was in front of him, but he wanted more food now! My frustration crept up with each second as he kept screaming. If only he got what I am doing for him right now.
(how both of us felt)
Then I heard it… that’s you.
As I ate my lunch, I realized that I can find myself in Gus’s tantrums. Screaming on the floor because he doesn’t want to get up and walk into the kitchen to get his drink. Demanding more when he already has plenty on his plate. Violently throwing an unwanted snack on the ground.
That’s me. Daily, I squirm in my frustration about life instead of trusting him and his promises. Ungratefully, I demand more. I demand that God hand it to me here and now, instead of patiently waiting or inching closer to Him. Telling God this is not what I wanted.
Gus’s tantrums are age-appropriate, expected. Mine remind me that I have so far to come. But, today, I’m thankful for my child who screams through meal times, to remind me that as I meet all of Gus’s needs and try to teach him that I always will… God will meet all of my needs, always.
“Which one of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11
As I laid down with Gus for a nap, I thought about how his future has changed in the past few months. As an orphan, at 16, he would have been turned out onto the streets of Moscow. Many orphans commit suicide, because they see no other option for their future. Others turn to crime to get by. Life looks pretty bleak for an orphan, like this sweet boy was a few months ago.
People often make the parallel that adopting a child is like being adopted into God’s family. I never quite saw the entirety of it before.
At our church, “repentance” is often defined as “changing direction”. When we said our “yes” to Gus, his life changed direction.
Yes, we will love you forever. Yes, all of your needs will be met. Yes, you will always have enough. One “yes” can mean so much. An orphan no more, loved and treasured.
God used us to change his life forever, and him to change ours.
Isn’t it interesting that when we say “yes” to Jesus, our lives change direction, too? We are no longer wandering the streets of life, alone, trying to figure life out and struggling to get by. Our eternal needs are met.
Unlike Gus and other orphans, we don’t need someone to say “yes” to us… we must willingly change our own direction, to meet the One who already loves us.
Just my tiny glimpse of the bigger picture.
My dear little man,
I had a moment of panic tonight… actually, I won’t lie, I’ve been panicking the last few days. What business do we have adding a third child to our family when I am so stressed right now, as a family of 4? Fortunately, I have a dear friend who spoke truth to me and a God who can put my heart right again.
After I was praying tonight, I was flipping through my prayer journal for a particular verse, but before I could get there, I found your list of medical diagnoses. It’s the only page of my prayer journal I have used for anything but prayer; I wrote them down when I was trying to memorize complex medical terms for court, with no other paper on hand.
I had forgotten. I had forgotten all of those labels someone has attached to you, all the things “wrong” with you. Big scary words– even though everything on that list is harmless, they still label you with them. But, I had forgotten about your convergent squint and delay of motor and pre-speech development and all the other terms.
To me, you are just my baby boy, Gus, August Andrey, loved, amazing, ours. The child of two parents who adore you. A child of God.
That’s how I see you, that’s how my heart knows you.
I learned so much from you in that moment.
In a world, where I see all the things wrong with me, all of my failures, all of the ways that I’ll never be enough, all of the labels I’ve given myself and let others give me, all of the burdens I gather up daily…
that’s not how our God sees me. No, He doesn’t first look to my labels of what’s wrong with me. He doesn’t see me as messy, or fat, or… no, He loves me, like I love you. He knows me as His child, like I know you as mine.
Just 5 days left and then forever together.
P.S. That verse I was looking for?
But He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9