From the Waiting Room

From the Waiting Room

It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.

Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.

I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.

As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.

Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…

My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.

Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!

I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.

There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.

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Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!

With much love,

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No, He Doesn’t Complete You

No, He Doesn’t Complete You

Dear Daughter,

I see you. The girl with too-thick eyeliner and overly contoured cheekbones. Your clothes reveal precious secrets about your body. The pictures you share with the world show a beautiful girl who doesn’t quite believe it, but you desperately try to convince everyone else that you do. Everything about your life revolves around getting him to notice you and then stick around. You compromise who you really are if it means the guy you’re crushing on likes you back. When he looks your way and smiles, you know he must be The One. He gets you. He says the things you need to hear. He completes you.

I see you. The woman who never has to share the remote when it’s time to binge on Netflix. You fill up your free time with all the things you’re into because you can. You schedule weekly girl’s nights and countless first dates, but long for the familiarity and companionship of a spouse. The image you project to the world is one of an independent and confident woman – and you are – it would just be nice to have that special someone to walk beside you. To fill the empty spaces in your heart. To help complete your life.

I see you. The wife who dotes on her husband, treating him like royalty. Your daily desire is to meet his needs above all others. Your social calendar suffers, but if his clothes are clean and his belly is full you don’t mind so much. To outsiders you appear to be the perfect wife, but you humbly brush aside their praise. Serving your man is the least you can do – after all, he’s a keeper! You’re so lucky to have him. You tell yourself it’s ok to obsess over his life because he’s seamlessly completed yours.

I see your striving, hurting, longing heart. I get why you’re tired of being single. I know how easy it is to pour yourself out for the one you love. I just wish you could see that it’s not a boy or a man you need.

No, he doesn’t complete you.

But Jesus can. He will. He does.

The Enemy has made you believe that everything you need can be found in an earthly relationship. The truth is, no relationship will ever come close to what it’s meant to be until your relationship with Christ has become the most important thing.

You see, I was that girl. Riddled with insecurities, I had daddy issues that left gaps in my heart. I met a guy who swept me off my feet and quickly became the axis on which my world revolved. To keep him interested, I morphed into a chameleon of sorts, molding myself into what I thought my boyfriend wanted me to be. I felt a constant need to be in this person’s presence so I let my friendships suffer. I lost interest in my own life and instead forced my way into every detail of his. He tolerated this for a while, but eventually the pressure I put on him to be my everything was just too much for him to handle. He broke up with me and utterly shattered my entire world. I didn’t want to be alone, but there I was. The pain I felt was magnified by the fact that I didn’t know who I was without him.

Months later, in desperation, I cried out to God. Literally. In my dorm room I crumpled into a pathetic heap and wept. I was suffocating myself on heartbreak and I could not bear one more minute of the intensity of it all. I opened my bible to Colossians, and there I read a verse that rocked me to my core:

“and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:10‬

In that moment, I began to realize my mistake. I had misplaced my affections. The ardor that my soul had been created to lavish on my Savior was being directed at a mere boy instead. What a tragedy! All this time I had been essentially worshipping my boyfriend and neglecting the Lord.

If you find yourself relating to my story, I’m here to tell you that Jesus Christ is better. If your identity is wrapped up in another human being, that relationship can never be healthy. Until you truly believe that you are a uniquely created, valuable, cherished daughter of King Jesus, you will continue looking for someone else to make you whole.

Just as He did for me, Christ tells you in His own words the truth: you are complete in Him. God alone holds the key that unlocks the deepest desires of your soul. He knows you better than anyone. He loves you so deeply and perfectly. Nothing else compares!

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When someone breaks your heart, Jesus steps in to heal every wound.

When loneliness overwhelms you, Jesus offers comfort and friendship.

When you fix your eyes on Jesus, He breathes new life into your marriage.

Daughter, we’re all incomplete. We’re all looking for love and acceptance – it’s just way easier to access than we dare to believe. My prayer for you today is that you will find your wholeness and identity in God alone. That you will let Him complete you as only He can.

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The Other Woman

The Other Woman

So I had a moment when my child’s pediatrician appointment morphed into a therapy session…for me.

Has anyone else ever been there – in that frustrating place of feeling overwhelmed and “not enough?” This is exactly where I found myself last week. My second daughter was born recently, and at this particular appointment the goal was for her to gain back enough weight to break even with what she weighed at birth. As Dr. Jackson and I discussed my daughter’s eating habits, he paused and said, “You know, the expression on your face is telling me that maybe you just need a break.”

With this astute observation from a wise and seasoned doctor, the dam broke and all the insecurities, guilt, and doubt I had been holding inside came flooding out. The gentle, non-judgmental way Dr. Jackson spoke to me made me realize that the voice I had been listening to was the complete opposite: my inner voice had been speaking harshly and critically to my heart. It had been lying to me, and I was believing the lie yet again.

I think that as women, we all have a tendency to buy into the lies our Enemy tries to sell us. Depending on our age, circumstances, and desires, the lies we believe are as unique as we are. These lies feed on comparisons, dissatisfaction, and self-absorption. As I drove home from that appointment, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thought I had been clinging to subconsciously for days…the lie that was currently holding me captive:

“Somewhere out there, there’s a woman with a three-year-old and a newborn baby, and SHE’S handling life better than I am.”

HER house is clean.

SHE exhibits saintly patience while meeting the needs of two attention-demanding children.

SHE has managed to shower every day and looks refreshed and pulled together.

HER postpartum body is already bouncing back…abs are showing…jeans are fitting.

Do you see what I did there? It’s amazing to me how effortlessly my mind can be convinced that these statements are absolutely factual, although I personally don’t know anyone who proves the validity of even one of them! So my lie starts to look more and more like truth, unfounded in reality but propagated by the ungodly amount of pressure I put on myself to be some sort of superwoman. Then there’s the guilt I heap upon myself when I fail to be perfect. This cycle of thought is what caused me to break down in a doctor’s office. It’s what grips each of us when we allow ourselves to dwell on that other woman.

For me, the other woman is a mother and wife who has a Pinterest-worthy life complete with planned out healthy dinners, beautifully decorated, uncluttered rooms, and kids who don’t need screen time because their days are filled with art projects, play dates, and enriched learning experiences.

Who is the “other woman” for you?

Is it the newlywed who just shared glamorous wedding pics on Facebook?

Is it the co-worker who dresses impeccably and has an “in” with the boss?

Maybe your other woman is strong, fit, and dedicated to her health. You scroll past her gym selfies while indulging in your favorite fat-filled snack and instantly feel defeated.

Or, perhaps like me, your other woman is mythical, a figment of your imagination. She has everything you wish you had or think you need, and your life seems so “less than” by comparison.

While you ponder the lies you might be harboring in your own heart, consider these three truths about your other woman as well.

1. The other woman is not my competition.
2. I can learn from the other woman.
3. I am the other woman to someone else.

The Other Woman is NOT My Competition

The next time you or I find ourselves comparing our lives to others, I hope we would have enough truth hidden away in our hearts to combat the lies. Galatians 5:26 speaks volumes. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Wherever you are in life, whatever season you find yourself in, is where you are meant to be in this moment. Instead of being jealous of those who have already reached the next rung on the ladder of life, try to focus on what’s good and holy about your current situation. For me, the harrowing nights with a newborn are a true test of my character. Instead of kicking my feet tantrum-style under the covers and wishing away the multiple midnight feedings, I can choose to focus on the sweet helplessness of my baby and soak up the warmth and innocence of new life that disappears all too soon. I am right where God wants me as I care for my family, and there is joy in claiming that truth.

Envy and resentment make a convenient couple. The more you compare and find yourself coming up short, the more space you’ll find in your heart for bitterness to take up residence. That bitterness acts as a wall, keeping you from forming friendships and building a support system with other women. This is one way Satan works to keep us bound by lies. The only way to break the cycle is to bravely reach out to the women who fit into the “other” category. I’ve found in my own life that the very ones I compared myself to or judged to be too good for me have ended up being some of my closest girlfriends. It took vulnerability and authenticity. It took time. But it’s been worth the effort and my life has been enriched by the deeper relationships that formed once I gave up my tendency to compare and compete with others.

I Can Learn From the Other Woman

Sometimes God uses the other women in our lives to teach us lessons we can’t access anywhere else. I remember when I was in the throes of infertility and it seemed that everyone around me was announcing pregnancies and giving birth. These women were living my dream. It was hard to receive their good news without a twinge of self-pity. To this day I can tell you the names of celebrities who carried and delivered babies during the three years my husband and I longed for a child of our own. But guess what? As I heard stories from these “other women,” I realized many of them had been right where I was. They too had struggled to get pregnant or had lost children through miscarriages – a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Their wisdom gave me hope. They shared verses that I learned to cling to myself. I understood how to faithfully walk through infertility because I let these women in.

Who can you learn from? The women who seem to have it all likely don’t. And what they do have has not come as easy as you believe or been without a high cost. What if the key you need to finally unlock contentment in your life is being held by the other woman? Are you willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from her story?

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I Am the Other Woman to Someone Else

In the journey to learn from these other women, maybe all you need to adjust your outlook is a fresh understanding that you yourself are someone else’s “other woman.” Now that I am a mother, I have dear friends and family members who are where I was all those years ago. They see my daughters and their hearts ache for the children they so desperately want. Now it’s my turn to pour into their pain and love them the way I was so tenderly loved.

So, my friend, the next time you catch yourself comparing or competing, make it a habit to identify lies and replace them with truth. Get to know the other woman in your life and learn from her. And when you begin taking precious gifts for granted, remember that you know someone who deeply desires the very thing you’ve become accustomed to.

Think about those around you and how they might view your life with a sense of longing. There are countless ways to turn your status as the “other woman” from something negative into a thing of beauty. If you allow your life to be a conduit through which God can pass blessings, truth, and love on to others, you will be the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!

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The God You Know

The God You Know

While reading in my Bible the other day, I stumbled across a verse that struck me. I’m sure I’ve read this verse many times before, but on this particular day, it pierced my heart afresh. It was Judges 2:10:

“Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. “

Just to give some context – the generation coming of age in Judges 2 follows the generation who lived through the parting of the Red Sea, wandered with Moses in the desert, saw God as a pillar of fire and a cloud, partook in Joshua’s victory at Jericho…in short, a highly unique and privileged generation to have experienced a Holy God in such an intimate way. And yet, this generation failed to pass on to their children and grandchildren all the wonders they had seen.

This up-and-coming generation of God’s people did not learn to appreciate the miracles He performed. They did not know the Lord.

Why didn’t they know?

What communication gap caused the elders in this community to fail to mention their personal experiences with a real God who made His presence fully known? How did an entire generation come of age without hearing these compelling stories of survival and victory? Maybe it’s because the adults in the room were too busy complaining about current circumstances or trying to forge their own path – one without the Father. Perhaps they were so wrapped up in the drudgery of daily life that they just forgot to tell the younger ones in their midst who couldn’t remember or who likely weren’t even born yet all the incredible things God had done for them.

So the younger generation grew up without hearing about God. They did not know Him. They had no reason to follow Him.

In our modern society, we might not experience seas parting or pillars of fire. But in each of our lives, God has been and is continuing to work. As believers, we have all uniquely encountered a REAL Heavenly Father – and we each have a story to tell. Failing to recognize and articulate how He weaves the pieces of our days together is failing to raise up the next generation to love and seek Him for themselves. It’s our responsibility to pass on to our children the story God has written in our own lives. They need to hear of His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. If they only hear complaints and grumblings…if they see us chasing after other gods besides Him, how could the next generation possibly want to follow Christ?

How are you representing your savior to the youth around you? Are you inspiring them to worship with awe the One who worked miracles in your life, or are you pushing them towards idols of this world with your misrepresentation or avoidance of talking about Him altogether?

Let’s be a generation of believers committed to unabashedly proclaiming our devotion to and worship of the God of the universe. Let there be no room for doubt in the minds and hearts of the ones who will follow after us. Let’s introduce them to the God we know!

May this generation be a living witness to

His majestic mercy,
His glorious grace,
His time-tested truth,
His pervasive power, and
His limitless love.

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Love Shows Up

Love Shows Up

 

Love shows up in a friend.
In the ones you know you can rely on and depend

Whether you’re in the middle of joy or deep sorrow
They don’t stay away or wait until tomorrow

They show up with coffee, a meal, a listening ear
They speak words of truth and of life without fear

With these you don’t have to pretend
Love shows up in a friend.

 

Love shows up when a stranger
Shows disregard for their own potential danger

And lifts those up who are living on the fringe
The homeless, the orphan, those who make the self-righteous cringe

They offer peace and hope to all whose paths they intersect
They protect, give respect, have an eternal effect

These people are the real world changers
And to God it’s no small thing; its major
Love shows up in a stranger.

 

Love showed up in a stable.
Not in some nursery; not in a cradle

That night when His life here so humbly began
Was part of a grander, divinely-breathed plan
To give His life; to save fallen man
To gather His children – no matter how far they ran

This baby, so often mislabeled,
Was the One to do what we are unable
(It’s not just some Christmas time fable!)
Love showed up in a stable.

 

Love showed up on a cross
He suffered our pain; He endured our loss

For three bitter days He fought against Hell
Bringing freedom to all bound by sin’s prison cell
He arose triumphant – He loves us so well –
Of that kind of Savior we should always retell!

Jesus is the bridge we can now walk across
Love showed up on a cross.

 

So now in this season of giving
Let each of us examine the life we’ve been living
If it’s truly in Christ we’ve placed our trust –
Then let love show up in us!

 

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What I Missed In The Melting Pot

What I Missed In The Melting Pot

I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman. I was southern-born and raised, and I currently live in the heart of Bible Belt country. I’m an organ donor, mother, wife, Christian, and an introvert. And there’s a good chance that as you read the previous statements you have begun forming an internal opinion about me.

I, like you, have been labeled by things I cannot change or control, like the region I was born into or the color of my skin. Then there are the labels I chose and I love, like being a mom or trusting in Jesus Christ.

I was an extremely sheltered child. My parents exposed me to plenty of scripture, but my interactions with people from other cultures and ethnicities were limited. When it came time for me to fly the nest and go to college, I was most comfortable with people who looked, talked, and thought like I did. I felt safe with “my kind of people.”

It wasn’t until I was twenty-four years old that my eyes were opened to the treasure it is to know and befriend those from cultures unlike my own. With my husband, I lived on a Caribbean island for two years, followed by another two years spent living on Long Island, New York. I was a newlywed and a young school teacher experiencing life on two islands, both melting pots, that shattered so many preconceived notions I didn’t even know I had formed. So many new things going on in my life at once!

Our roommates and closest friends for those four years influenced me tremendously. The families of the students I taught gave me glimpses into their world and I eagerly soaked it all in. The children and their parents even re-defined the concept of grace to my legalistic mind. God used so many people in those four years to chisel away at my label giving, self-protecting heart, forever impacting my life.

But here’s the thing…while my soul was beginning to be awakened, I still wasn’t fully awake yet.

Not once in those years when I saw her every day did I ask my Muslim roommate what it was like for her growing up. I don’t remember ever sitting across from her and genuinely making an effort to get to know her or her roots better. I didn’t take time to ask my precious students’ families what life was like in Asia or Africa – or even Europe for that matter – before they made the move to New York.

All the affection and interest I had for my new friends never made it past my lips. Although intrigued by the different cultures that surrounded me, I still warmed myself by the fire of self absorption and found shelter and refuge in my own little bubble. My southern comfort zone and my severe insecurities prevented me from looking outside myself for even a few moments to make connections. I wasted opportunity after opportunity to form relationships that went beyond the shallow and superficial small talk.

As I have reflected back on that time, I wish I would have done things differently. I’ve had to ask myself some uncomfortable and REAL questions…

What is most precious to you and God?

Is it rules and legalism or relationships and love?

Has your pride engulfed your ability to be humble?

Do you value tradition or seek truth?

Would you rather argue to be right or listen to gain new perspectives?

Are your words dripping in hostility or bathed in understanding?

Have you sought self-preservation over loving your neighbor?

Who have you written off with a label?

Couldn’t you wrap them up with love by pursuing a sincere interest in their lives instead?

I often ask myself these questions trying to redeem the time I wasted, trying to make right where I missed the mark.

God and people – the two most important things on this planet. It may sound cliche, but I’m going to write it anyway. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you’re struggling to understand what exactly that looks like, you can take a look at the greatest example who ever walked the earth: Jesus – God in the flesh. He lived a life of sacrifice, daring to venture into the world of those nobody else even noticed. He spent zero time pushing a political agenda. He never responded out of fear, hatred, or self promotion. He responded with intentional love focused solely on PEOPLE. He did not live unto Himself; instead He lived to die for us. The ultimate servant.

THE. Servant.

Today we are watching people hurt each other with no desire to love them or understand them. From my experience, insult has never been an effective form of persuasion. But Love has. Let’s follow the example given to us from God himself. Let’s SERVE one another and seek to know, understand, and love others…just as Christ loved us. There’s no better way to show people who God is than to live as He lived. That’s the whole point isn’t it?

Will you join me in breaking through those self protecting walls? Let’s open our lives up to be vessels and let God use us to show others who he REALLY is.

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Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption has been on my mind lately. I have a few friends who are adopting, and hearing their stories has made a significant impression on me. For weeks I have been mulling over what it means to adopt, and I’ve reached the conclusion that adoption is God’s will for every Christian.

When you think of adoption, you probably imagine actresses bringing home children from third world countries. Maybe, like me, you personally know someone who is adopting or has adopted. A less common viewpoint is the adoption we experience as children of God and how the word “adopt” is a perfect picture of the Gospel in action. This is what I can’t stop thinking about.

According to the dictionary, to adopt is to choose or take as one’s own, to take and rear as one’s own child, to take or receive into any kind of new relationship. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, a door was opened that allows any human being to be adopted into His eternal family. He takes us as His own when we put our trust in Him. He calls us His children. He eagerly receives each one of us into a new relationship with Him. In short, adoption is taking those who are without and bringing them in.

The Bible puts it this way:

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:5‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:15‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:4-7‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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Adoption is the Gospel lived out. What Christ set in motion with his life, death, burial and resurrection can and should be emulated among His followers. What adoption looks like in your own life depends on a few things…your place, your passions, your possessions, and your perspective.

1. Your place

Where has God located you? You live where you live for a reason. Your job is no accident. Each community, city, state and country is filled with people who are struggling – those who are outsiders to the knowledge of Jesus. The people you see on your daily commute or at the supermarket might desperately need the Light you carry in your soul. They aren’t part of God’s family – yet. There is not a place on this earth untouched by sin and therefore anywhere you happen to do life is going to be filled with people in desperate need of adoption.

2. Your passions

What stirs your heart? When God created you, He made you unique with specific talents, interests, and passions. They are not random. These gifts are an intentional part of who you are and are best displayed as you wrap adoptive arms around someone else who needs you.

Who do you love? Is your heart drawn to children? Perhaps literal adoption or foster care is perfect for you. Do you have a soft spot for the elderly? Think of the difference maker you could be just by listening to their stories or caring for them. Is your heart broken for the homeless? Restore a piece of lost dignity to these downtrodden people by making eye contact, serving a meal, or volunteering at a shelter.

There are countless groups of people who need adopting. Victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. The physically or mentally disabled. Civilians living in the midst of war and violence. Inner city youth. Single parents. Widows. The neighbor across the street. The list is endless, really. You know where your heart is, and if you don’t, make it a point to find out. Who do you notice and then can’t stop thinking about? Just as God the Father sought you, it’s time to pursue that person or group who tugs at your heartstrings the most.

3. Your possessions

As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, “This all sounds good, but how much can I help with my limited resources?”

It’s so easy to talk yourself out of making a difference when you believe you don’t have that much to give.

While we can’t all give millions to every cause we believe in, most of us have a few extra dollars on hand. Donate to a local non-profit. Pay for dinner. Buy groceries for a stranger. There are so many tangible ways to make a difference for the Kingdom with your money.

Time is your number one resource. Nothing else you possess will make much of an impact if you can’t or won’t sacrifice some time. Adoption takes time. Relationships take time to grow into something real. Be patient with yourself and the process – in the end it will be worth it!

4. Your perspective

What life experiences have shaped you? Good or bad, what you’ve lived through thus far is often the perfect catalyst to guide you on your adoption journey. Abuse, poverty, even affluence and celebrity can be used for good.

I’m thinking of professional football players who grew up on the streets and who now use their wealth and status to go back to their old neighborhoods and mentor young kids.

I’m thinking of abuse survivors who passionately rescue and support other victims.

I’m thinking of men and women who went to law school or medical school and who use their skills to advocate and care for the least among us.

I’m thinking of women who may seem unremarkable to strangers, but who are actively changing the lives of those around them. The world would not mourn their departure, but to the ones these women have adopted, the void left in their absence would be severe, aching, devastating.

I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of me. Alone we seem insignificant. But each story, every talent, each heart – they all matter to the Father. They matter to someone out there who needs what only you can offer. The most significant thing about you is what you will do with this whole idea of adoption.

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Everyone who believes, who has a personal relationship with Jesus, is called to adopt. As Christians our life’s work is meant to glorify God, point others to Him, and continue to be molded into His image as our lives progress. I can think of no better way to follow Christ’s example than to adopt someone or some group into your life, and ultimately, into eternal life.

Where has God placed you? Who around you is without? What are you passionate about and how can you use that to bring someone new into the family of God?

Who needs you to adopt them today?

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A Benchwarmer’s Take on Life

A Benchwarmer’s Take on Life

Hi. My name is Emily, and I’m a benchwarmer. To be more precise, I’m a spectator. The closest I’ve come to playing any sport was that one semester in sixth grade when my P.E. teacher made me play basketball. Suffice it to say my team did not win the tournament.  I’m pretty sure I faked injury after the first two games and spent the next few days keeping the bleachers company and avoiding the suspicious gaze of the coach. Not an athlete, this one.

So it’s slightly ironic that as I write this I’m watching the Olympics, mesmerized by each sport and the dedicated champions who dominate their field. There’s nothing like the summer Olympics to make one feel slothful, unaccomplished, and just plain mediocre, am I right?! And yet, there’s something so inspirational about seeing a human being use the talent they’ve been given to its fullest potential. That’s what draws me back in every four years.

I find myself similarly stirred when I catch a glimpse of someone I know personally doing what they were created to do. My soul leaps when I witness 1 Peter 4:10-11 in action. I am overwhelmed sometimes with the level of expertise that surrounds me. From amazing mothers to wisdom-filled teachers; creative geniuses to faithful prayer warriors; spirit-filled worship leaders to selfless behind-the-scenes operators. It’s a captivating and beautiful thing when a daughter of the King knows her calling and steps into it skillfully and with true humility.

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My sixth grade self would never have guessed it, but this benchwarmer has also found a spot on God’s team.  I’m still one of the most unathletic people on the planet, but I’m ok with that now.

I’m realizing my own divinely-appointed gifts.

I’m better now than I used to be at claiming and affirming what God has uniquely placed in me.

I’m through with comparisons that leave me enviously wishing my own talent away in exchange for someone else’s.

So here’s my take on life:

The happiest people I know are the ones who have unreservedly stepped into their calling. Christ is most glorified when the abilities He places in each of us are used in service to Him.

Take some time to discover your unique gifts. Find ways to use them – not to bring honor and attention to yourself, but to share God’s message with others. When you notice someone exquisitely shining for Jesus, make sure you give them props – their success does not equal your failure.

Whether you’re an elite Olympian or more of a benchwarmer, there is a place for you on the field of life. Don’t live the life of a spectator when the Father’s desire is to add you to His starting lineup.

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The Back Room

The Back Room

Jesus stands at the door. He knocks. I answer and let him in.

He takes up residence in my home, and I willingly grant him freedom to access the front rooms – those I’ve already cleaned out. But I’m a bad hostess. I don’t interact with Jesus because I’m too busy guarding the back room.

The back room is locked and barred. It’s where my darkest secrets lie. I’m trapped in that room, stuck in a mess of my own making. My shame and guilt are stacked high like moving boxes. There’s barely room for me in there, but still I sit. Surrounded by my failures, I spend my time categorizing and alphabetizing so I can easily rewind and remind myself of what a dismal disappointment I must be to my most prestigious house guest.

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So Jesus finds himself knocking again – this time he’s at the door of the room where I hoard and cling to my garbage. He’s gently trying to coax me to just open up. He’s telling me that it’s not as bad as I think. That my boxed sins aren’t scaring him at all. That he’s better company than the depression I’ve found in that cramped space.

And I hear him. I want to open the door, but I’m paralyzed with fear. What if he takes one step in and the depth of my darkness is fully revealed? Will he change his mind? Will he consider me too far gone and run away? Will he look at me with disappointment and condemn me to a lifetime lived in isolated despair? Will he force me to get rid of the sin I’ve worked so hard to store away and hide? Will he make me bring it all out in the open and show the neighbors just how filthy my living situation has become?

What if I allow Him to enter that room and cleanse it? What if I give each box over to him and release the hold it’s had on me for so long? What then? What do I do with all that free space? Will I fill it with new sins the first chance I get? Will I run out to the dumpster and salvage whatever remains of those soiled boxes?

I decide I have to know.

In tears, I slowly unbolt the locks and ease the door open a crack. I see Jesus smiling and reaching his hand out towards me. I’m shaking all over as I step aside and he enters that black room. I can’t meet his eyes, but if I could I would see love overflowing and overwhelming me. I can feel it, even though I can’t rip my gaze from the stained floorboards.

He begins to unstack each box, one by one. He takes them as far away as the east is from the west, working steadily and carefully. He sweeps the cobwebs aside, opens the shutters, and light floods in. He fills the emptiness left behind with peace and mercy.

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In the far corner I notice new boxes I’d never seen before. Hidden behind my hoard I now glimpse beautifully wrapped packages, gleaming bright and begging to be opened.

So I tear the paper and open each box expectantly. Inside I find the house warming presents Christ delivered on that first day I allowed him into my heart-home. These talents and passions that make me who I am have quietly been sitting in that corner, unable to be fully accessed. Not until I allowed Christ to come in and clean up the mess that overwhelmed me could I begin to put these gifts to use.

I’m clean. I’m forgiven. I’m healed. There’s no place for guilt and shame to take up residence in my heart anymore. That once-barred door is wide open. I’m finally allowing Jesus Christ to have full admittance and free reign in my home. I’m inviting him in. I’m admitting that there’s nothing I can do to improve my darkest places without his help.

My friend, Jesus is a master restorer and maker of new things. He’s at work in my heart, demolishing my past and recovering each surface with new grace. Are you living in that grace? Do you have a back room? Open the door!

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When God Doesn’t Show Up

When God Doesn’t Show Up

Today is June 5, 2016. I remembered the significance of today while sitting in church this morning. I realized that today is going to be just another day. A day where I’ll attend church with my family. A day where my husband will rush off to work after lunch. My daughter will nap. Our small group will meet. Nothing earth-shattering will happen today. Today will not go down in history like I thought it would one year ago…

It was June 5, 2015. I was enjoying a women’s ministry event in my community. At the end of the night there was a time of prayer. My sister wasn’t there because she was attending a friend’s wedding. But she was on my mind that night. As I prayed, I found myself pouring my heart out to God and asking Him that by June 5, 2016, something would be different in Martha’s life. That she would have a baby or be pregnant within the year.

My little sister is BraveGirl Martha. She’s a gifted writer with a hilarious and gentle soul. In my opinion, she’s one of God’s best creations. You may have read her recent BraveGirl post HERE where she talks about her struggle with infertility. For years I’ve watched her as month after month the waves of disappointment crash around her. Sometimes she stands strong against that fierce tide, but other times she gets taken under by the current. I’ve never once heard bitterness in her voice. I’ve seen nothing in her but a quiet dignity, a strengthened faith, and the spiritual growth that only occurs when you’re in the middle of a storm. She’s right in the thick of it, and she’s a beautiful testament to how God can and will work on His children when they cling to Him.

I admire the way she deals with the pain of waiting because I walked the road of infertility myself – very impatiently and with WAY less fortitude than Martha has shown over the years. One of these days I’ll write about my own infertility struggles, but today it’s not about me.

Today is June 5th. The day that God was supposed to show up, make His miraculous power known, and be praised for answering my selfless prayer. Because that’s the way He works, right?

We pray. We ask. We pass the time. Then God moves, swooping in, handing out answers to prayer the way Oprah gives away cars. And He’s also supposed to adhere to the deadlines we impose on Him…right? Am I the only one who secretly treats God as if He’s a genie in a lamp, just waiting to grant me my every wish?

It’s days like today that leave me questioning. Doubting. Wondering why, and why not? My faith feels a little shaky when I’m confronted with the idea that God didn’t come through. He failed to show up. I mean, He could have easily answered my prayer and today would have been a day of rejoicing and bragging on my Savior’s sovereign power and love. I tell myself, I would have given Him all the credit.

“God, you really missed an opportunity to be glorified,” is what my sulking heart wants to say to the One who loves me, my sister, and you beyond measure. Days like today make me feel like a toddler on the verge of a very loud and public meltdown.

Ever felt that way? Ever wanted to shake your fist at God over some unanswered prayer? Maybe you’ve already walked away because He never showed up for you when you thought He should.

Maybe today you get how I’m feeling. As I sit here writing, in the midst of my questions and hurt feelings, I know it’s decision time. It’s time for me to make a choice that perhaps you need to make as well. I’m choosing to remember my place. To remember who my God IS and who He ISN’T.

I’m choosing trust instead of a tantrum. I’m choosing what I know to be true over what I feel in this moment of doubt.

God IS NOT a magical genie. My Heavenly Father doesn’t exist to please me or you. He doesn’t sit around waiting on one of us to tell him what we want and when we want it so that He can bend His will to match ours. He doesn’t have to prove Himself because He already has.

Christ IS faithful. I’m choosing to stand on that truth today. And He isn’t faithful because of some prayer He has answered or will answer – He is faithful because HE IS FAITHFUL. It’s inherent to who He is. Even though it might seem like He didn’t show up today, He did.

He put breath in my lungs.

He surrounded me with people who care about me.

He gave me His living, breathing Word.

He chased hard after me today to remind me of the things He has promised me, Martha, and you! Promises He keeps. Promises like the one found in Proverbs 3:5-7:

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So that’s what I choose to do today. If you’re mad at God, disappointed in prayers that have gone unanswered, or just doubting His existence altogether, try something with me.

Let’s send up a new and different prayer to the heavens. Let’s admit that we are small but arrogant in our view of God. Let’s honestly bring our doubts, fears, and desires to the foot of the Cross. Let’s stop treating the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as if He’s nothing more than a well-stocked but faulty vending machine for our lives. I’m in…are you?

And on the days I forget to remember just who my God is, I’m going to follow the example of Martha and others like her, who are waiting faithfully, acknowledging their Savior at every turn, and allowing Him to direct their paths in His own perfect timing.

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