Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Mountain and the Valley

When I was pregnant with Poppy I realized my need for God. It had always been there, but for the first time I understood what it meant. I didn’t want to go one day without His help—or maybe more accurately, I knew I couldn’t make it one day on my own without disaster. I had spent so much of my life up to that point putting God on the back-burner, forgetting about Him in my busyness, and going in my own strength for days at a time before stopping to realize that I was doing it. I loved God, but the realization of my need wasn’t there. And without an awareness of my need, my growth was stunted and my relationship with Jesus was stale—comfortable, but stale.

Once I tasted the richness that comes from a desperate need for God, I knew I didn’t want to go back. Living each day with the conscious understanding that I was going on His power, not my own, was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. I can’t tell you the comfort that comes with giving the control I never really had in the first place completely over to God. Even with the weight of the situation pushing in all around me, in many ways I felt lighter than I ever had before. That was something I didn’t want to lose, but something I feared I might when I was out of the valley, firmly planted on flat, level ground again.

Finally, nearly 9 months after Poppy’s birth, I am here: the place where life is easy and good without any imminent crisis or tragedy on the foreseeable future. In other words, I’ve entered into the potential breeding grounds for complacency; the land where autopilot can be activated without even realizing it! Because of this, I felt a little self-evaluation was in order, and this is what I found.

Yes, it is easier to fall into a cruise control mentality when disaster isn’t looming, and yes, it’s easy to forget my need for Him when so many of my needs have been provided. But being in this place of ease does not dictate a blasé relationship with God! Sure it’s different, but it’s not impossible. Here’s the difference: before, I didn’t have to work to be reminded of how much I needed Him—the reality I was faced with did that for me—whereas now I make a conscious choice to keep Jesus first and ask Him for His strength for each day, even those when I feel like I can do it on my own. In many ways it’s harder than before, as crazy as that sounds, but it’s the truth. The stormy seasons of life have a way of helping us to grow faster than the sunny ones ever will. But that doesn’t mean that God can’t use me, that I can’t love Him more, or that I can’t walk closely with Him like I did when grief was right there beside me.

One of the things I realized I needed to do to keep myself from getting fat and happy, was to get involved in something where I was serving and being actively reminded of my need for God. And just as soon as I started looking for what that was, God plopped it right in my lap. He provided me with the chance to volunteer with Life Choices, the crisis pregnancy center that we adopted Adrienne through. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this, and how much I needed this in my life. I guess what I learned is that God never intended me to just sit and soak, reveling in the easy times of life, being content with little or no growth in my life. Instead, He wants me to be doing what He intended every one of His children to do: be His hands and feet to the hurting and needy all around us. So whether I’m in the valley or on the mountain, God is there. He is just waiting on me to recognize my need.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Girls

I wanted to share a quick glimpse of what everyday life is like right now for me, Nathan, and the girls. I don't know if it's really any different with adoption than with having a natural child, but we definitely went through a transition period, probably close to six weeks, of truly becoming adjusted to life as a family of four. We knew that Marianna was going to go through something when we brought Adrienne home - we just didn't know what that something would be. As it turns out, there wasn't any one thing in particular, but rather a whole series of behaviors that showed us that her little world was rocked by the addition of someone else to split her time with us. But a little time does wonders, and before long, Adrienne settled, Marianna settled, so Nathan and I were able to settle into the wonderful, busy, never dull life we are enjoying to the fullest.

Adrienne is doing better than great. She is the sweetest, most content baby I could ask for, and to top it off, she seems perfectly suited to life as the second child. I guess I'll just chalk it up to a crazy blessing from God, but she just seems to have an internal clock that knows when it's bedtime! Her most pleasant hours of the day are the two before bedtime, after which she slowly drifts off to sleep on her own. I am not lying when I say I have never once had to work to get her to go to sleep at night. I know, it just seems wrong, but I'm running with it without asking any questions! She is content being held, content on the floor, content in the swing, and pretty much anywhere else except for her car seat, and she is definitely not content there. She is smiling, and we are hoping for a giggle in the next week or two. At her last doctor's appointment the report was all good. She is small, weighing in at the 4th percentile, but the doctor said that didn't really matter since she was healthy and growing. Right now she is 3 months, happy, healthy, and doing as well as I could have dreamed.

Marianna is a great big sister, and her love to do things with and to Adrienne has not diminished a bit, so I keep busy trying to come up with things they can do "together." Marianna likes to go outside in the late afternoon so that Adrienne can watch her riding her bike, strolling her baby, working in her garden, or blowing bubbles. She likes Adrienne to go to gymnastics and watch her class. She loves to lie on Adrienne's play mat in the morning and watch Super Readers together. She picks out Adrienne's clothes, helps with diaper changes, and assists me at bath time. It has taken a little creativity, but we have found that Marianna can do more than you think with her 3 month sister.

Life is busy, but it is wonderfully busy. I wouldn't trade any of it for a moment, and you're prayers for us as we have travelled this road have meant everything to us. God has been so, so good!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Fire

One of my absolute favorite accounts from the Bible is the one found in Daniel 3 about the three friends who are facing the fire because of their unwillingness back down from their beliefs. I love the pure, courageous faith that we see from these young men who stand up to the most powerful king reigning on earth, even when they didn't know what the outcome would be. The crowning moment of their faith comes in verses 17 and 18 when they say, "If it be so our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up." Don't miss the even if He does not part of this story! They didn't know the outcome when they made their stand. They didn't know that not only would they walk around in the fire unharmed, they would see the 4th man - the Son of God!

Yes, this story has a glorious ending, but what makes it all the more spectacular is the fact that they didn't know that ending when they exercised their faith.

I was so grateful for their example when I was pregnant with Poppy, because more than anything else, I wanted their kind of faith. I wanted to trust God completely before I knew the outcome, even when I was close enough to feel the fire hot on my neck. Jesus answered that prayer, and even as they were wheeling me to the delivery room, I knew that I could say in my heart, "God, you can heal her and make her whole, but even if you do not, I will still serve you." In my story God did not choose to answer in the same way that he did with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but don't think for one minute that He didn't deliver me, because He did! Let me explain how.

Recently I have been doing Beth Moore's Bible study on Daniel, and I love her insight into this passage in particular. She says that God always delivers His children from the fire, but the ways He chooses to do it are distinctly different. For some, He chooses to deliver them from the fire, for others he delivers them in the fire, and still for others He delivers them through the fire. This perspective helps me step back and take a look at my life and see the ways God has delivered me already through all the fires, small and big, I have encountered in my life so far.

Sometimes - undoubtedly many more times than I realize - God has chosen to deliver me from a fire by allowing me not to have to face it at all. Only He knows the hurts He has saved me from as He has held me in His hand, safe from everything that He doesn't allow. I admit openly that this is the kind of deliverance I pray for! Yet I also realize that this type of deliverance, while much more comfortable, does not result in the same gut-wrenching faith that brings me closer to Jesus. The next two types definitely do.

The second type of deliverance is the kind the men in Daniel 3 experienced. It wasn't until they were right in the middle of the fire that they were saved from the heat. When I think about this in modern terms, I think about those who are healed miraculously from cancer's deadly hold, or the amazing testimonies like those of Corrie Ten Boom who was miraculously delivered from the clutches of a Nazi concentration camp just days before her death was to come. God is still in the business of working miracles, just as he was in the days of ancient Babylon when these three men walked through the fire.

The final category of deliverance is the hardest one to accept at face value, but bit by bit God is giving me new eyes to understand how sometimes instead of saving us from the fire, or in the fire, he saves us through the fire. What that means is that even when the fire seems to consume, what it has really done is taken that person straight to Jesus for the perfect deliverance - the one that makes broken bodies whole and frees them from all traces of this earth. This type of fire usually results in death for the physical body, making it so hard to accept for those of us left behind, but in the light of eternity, I know I will finally be able to see it just as He does. I know this is how He chose to save Poppy. He chose to take her through the fire, allowing her to know Him immediately and leave her broken body behind before she even realized that it was sick.

I believe almost all of us have lost someone who has been delivered through the fire, straight into God's arms. Whether it is through a battle with disease, a sudden tragedy, or infant death, it is always so hard for those of us who are left behind. But just as God is faithful to deliver those through death, He will be faithful to those who are left behind. We are stronger from having walked along the fire's edge with our loved one, and through the heat, we have been refined.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a political view

Today is voting day in Tennessee, but in a country where the voter turnout is less than impressive for even a presidential election, it’s not likely that today’s primary election will draw out even 15% of registered voters. That figure bespeaks the apathetic pulse of this country loud and clear, but what is most disturbing to me is that the same hands-off attitude is prevalent among Christians. The widespread belief that politics and biblical beliefs don’t mix has led many people to keep their hands out of the dirty business of politics, believing all the while that they are taking the higher road by not getting involved. I couldn’t disagree more, and I want to explain why.

As I look back through the Old Testament, it is undeniable that God placed men who loved him passionately in positions to make a difference in the political infrastructure of the ancient world. The two most notable examples that pop into my head are Joseph and Daniel—and two men with more integrity and faith would be hard to find! Both of these men were used mightily of God, as they stood uncompromising and faithful in the midst of a political climate that was anything but friendly toward their religion. The kingdoms of the Egyptians and the Babylonians were filled with every kind of wickedness, yet Joseph and Daniel served God anyway! They didn’t run away, using their relationship with God as an excuse for refusing to get involved in the politics of the day. Instead, each man in his own way served the king faithfully while at the same time remaining faithful to God. It was because of this that God was able to use each of them as shining lights to bring Him glory to two cultures that were dark in sin. Similarly, God used prophet after prophet to speak to the political leaders and beg them to turn from their sin and honor God. What a far cry from the hands-off policy so many of us adopt today!

I don’t know where the belief that politics and Christians don’t mix originated, but it certainly wasn’t from the Bible. Quite the contrary, I believe it is our duty to serve God in every area of our life, including the political arena. In this country we have been given the right to vote, and I passionately believe that that right should be exercised to elect men who will protect the values that the Bible embraces. Don’t read into that statement that I believe morality can be legislated—obviously only God can change the heart of a person to want what is right. But still, I believe from the examples in the Bible that it is God ordained for His people to be involved in the political environment. And regardless of your stance on the issues, it is our God given responsibility to pray for our country and for our leaders. We might not feel like we can change the course our country is heading, but do you think Daniel or Joseph did either? The point is that we do what we can. We can all pray and we can all vote. And after we do what we can, we rest in the knowledge that it is all in God’s hands.

I know this is a deviation from my usual kind of post, but it is something that I am passionate about and I wanted to share. I do hope each of you takes advantage of your right to vote whenever you get the chance, and more importantly, I hope that we all will be faithful to lift our country up to God in prayer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Today I took the girls up to the mall to meet some friends and enjoy the air conditioned in-door play ground. It's an outing that is usually fun, but not without it's ups and downs when it comes to ideal behavior. I think anyone who has a child or has witnessed a child (that should be all of us) can agree that the public domain is not always a place where manners shine and obedience is at the forefront of the mind. Today was no exception, with two particular situations standing out in the midst of an otherwise pleasant experience.

The first happened at the play ground. It gets crowded fast when the heat index is over 100, so before long there were kids everywhere. Marianna and I have been talking a lot lately about the importance of taking your turn in a line, so I was watching carefully as she stood to wait her turn to go down the slide. So far so good until Marianna got to the top of the steps and the child behind her shoved her hard enough to propel her forward, face and hands first, onto the slide. Keep in mind that the slide is no higher than two feet off the ground, so there was no serious danger, but she was scared and a little hurt nonetheless. That kind of thing is almost to be expected in the high-energy environment a busy playground engenders, but what was surprising in the incident was the subsequent action of the mother of the offending child. She had run over when she saw him push Marianna down, but not one word of rebuke came out of her mouth. She simply helped him sit down and encouraged him down the slide with no mention of the behavior whatsoever. No doubt she wasn't happy, but for whatever reason, she chose to do nothing at all.

It was nearly an hour and half later when the second snafu occurred, and this time it was Marianna's turn to shine. We were in a store and I had asked her to try on a pair of pants. She did it gladly. What she did not do gladly was to take the pants back off. When that request came she reared back and did every mother's nightmare - she started to wail at the top of her lungs. I can honestly say that doesn't happen often at all, but that doesn't lesson the degree of horror when it does. I immediately tried to hold her to calm her down, but that made her scream louder. I whispered in her ear that she would be punished when we got out to the car, and again, that only made it louder. There was no way I was backing down once the battle lines had been drawn, so the pants eventually did come off and Marianna returned to her seat, but not before I was reminded how humbling it is to be a parent. It's difficult to stay cocky about parenting abilities or styles of discipline when a display like that pops onto the radar and won't go away without a fight.

I'm zoned in on this kind of thing right now because I've been reading a book by Dr. Dobson on the responsibility of the parent to bring up a child with both consistent love and consistent discipline. I believe with all my heart his assertion that permissive parenting is no favor to the child, as it creates a human incapable with dealing with life in a reasonable way. I also think that the Bible lays out a plan for parenting that stands in direct conflict with the permissive philosophy. God put me in my child's life to be her compass and to set her boundaries. If I fail to do anything when she goes off course or crosses the line, I've done her a great disservice! It's so hard to have a swift consequence in public in this day and age when the spanking spoon is akin to the plague, but I guess we all know that parenting isn't a walk in the park! Some days are easy and some days are hard, but what I'm asking God to do right now is to help me teach Marianna how to have a heart for God above all other things. And at this age, it all starts with obedience. Sometimes the task is daunting, but it is a responsibility I don't take lightly. When it comes down to it, I guess the most important thing is to pray and ask God to give me the wisdom to deal with each situation as it comes, even when that happens to be in public!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Walk for Life

We were able to adopt Adrienne through an incredible non-profit organization called Life Choices. Life Choices is a pregnancy help center with a mission to minister to moms in every variety of crisis pregnancy situation. I've been familiar with the ministry almost my entire life, and absolutely everything is done with integrity and compassion. It is a place where lives are truly being put back together again - a safe haven for the women who walk through those doors.

It's because of this that we turned to Life Choices when we made the decision to adopt. While not primarily an adoption agency, they do offer adoption for those moms who wish to make a plan for adoption for their babies. Obviously, we have been forever changed because of this fantastic organization, and it is my hope to dedicate much of my time in the future to doing whatever I can to volunteer and help make the ministry a continuing blessing to the women in our area.

Once a year Life Choices hosts a Walk for Life that all four of us will be participating in on Saturday, September 13, and we have been asked to try and get 12 people to sponsor us for $25.00. I wouldn't ask normally but I realized that there might be some of you out there who truly have a heart for this type of ministry. If that's the case, you can send the gift to

Life Choices
5575 Raleigh-LaGrange
Memphis, TN 38134

Just put on the memo that it is in honor of Adrienne. Every gift is tax-deductible. Please send me an email and let me know if you would like to participate, and I'll give an update if we reach our 12 sponsor goal!