Sunday, November 20, 2016

National Adoption Day

My dear friends, Gary & Marlynn started doing foster care about a year and a half ago.  I remember her telling me that they felt called by God to do it and that they weren't doing it to adopt any children.  After all, they are a blended family with almost 10 children between them and they're almost 60 - it made no sense to adopt.  I mean that's crazy!  -right?

In December of last year a little boy was born.  He was born addicted to meth.  His poor little body was struggling and he spent almost three weeks in NICU alone.  St Francis (a foster care agency) stepped in and took custody of him.  They called Gary & Marlynn to see if they'd come "take a look" since they had no family for this little boy.  They went to the hospital to visit Luke.  It was January 1st.  The start of a new year (That might have been slightly prophetic actually!)  

Up to this point Luke wasn't taking a bottle at all.  When they arrived at the hospital, Marlynn wanted to hold him.  So she did.  She then proceeded to try to give him a bottle.  And guess what?  He actually took it!  The first bottle he ever took was in Marlynn's arms.  I knew, after hearing their story, they were smitten with this little boy. 

So, on January 6th, this older couple, who already have 10 kids...and grandkids, took home a sweet little baby boy with nothing but unknowns about what the future might hold for him: would he have massive health problems, developmental delays, would he be placed with biological family or back with his biological mother....they had no guarantees, no promises, nothing but uncertainty and unknowns.  But they did it.  That's what faith looks like. That's what it looks like to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge Him, because He directs your path." (Proverbs 3:5-6)  After all, God did say, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways my ways. (Isaiah 5:8)  So true.  

After Luke was home, he would often struggle to even take a two ounce bottle.  So one night, as the struggle to eat continued, Marlynn starting signing the song, "Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within..." and now that is Luke's song.  The one that calms him and causes him to relax.  Think of it.  A child born addicted to meth, left alone in the hospital for two weeks, is now being snuggled and rocked to sleep while listening to hymns about God's beautiful grace.  Its perfect. A perfect picture of selfless love.  A beautiful example of God's love for the very least of the these. A convicting example that we should follow anywhere God leads even if it doesn't make any sense. It reminds me of the following verse: "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." (I Peter 2:15)

Yesterday, I had the privilege of celebrating Luke's adoption.  I saw this faithful couple go before a judge and, with complete joy and excitement, commit to love and raise this little boy forever.  It was so moving.  I am absolutely inspired by their example of fearless obedience. Their counter-cultural and radical obedience is a beautiful example of God grace, love and perfect sovereignty.

  Isaiah 55:8-9. 
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

 Baby Luke in his daddy's lap

 Praying at the National Adoption Day ceremony

 Sweet Boy

 My girls and Ashlee's kids came to see the adoption and take part in the ceremony at Exploration Place

 Can't you tell how much Gary loves him!

 My sweet girl!

 Sweet Luke!

 They released doves - one for each child who was adopted.

Swearing they"ll love him and support him as mom and dad.


 Such a cute baby!


 Shaking hands with the judge.

 He's ours. Forever.

 The proud Daddy.

 Mom, Dad, baby Luke, and the judge.

 After they signed all the adoption paperwork, Gary held up his little boy in joy.

Luke having a moment with his sister.

 Safe, loved, and held tight by God's perfect design.

 This is my very favorite picture.  Luke's big brother Garrett, was just holding him tightly and snuggling him close after the ceremony.  The sweetest thing ever.

 After the adoption festivities, we all (Us and Ashlee's crew) hung out and enjoyed Exploration Place.

 Alonzo.  Aliah's older brother.

 Elijah loves Aliah.  Its so sweet.  He was chasing her around the place and she was just giggling and loving it!

"Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!"  (Psalm 95:2)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Overwhelming Thankfulness

 Lately, I've been so overwhelmed by God's undeserved and lavish love on my behalf.  Last year was an incredibly rough year for us, and I wouldn't say I did well handling all of the upheaval.  I can definitely say that spiritually, I failed miserably.  This unexpected failure (because prior to this, I thought my faith was pretty strong) taught me several things: First, I know that the only reason I am God's child is because He has me in His grip and He is holding onto me.  I'll be very honest, there were times I asked God to remove His hand from me because I felt like He was crushing me.  He didn't let me go.  Not only did He not let me go, He held me closer. 

 In addition to this, He also graciously changed several important circumstances which I had given up all hope of ever changing.  When I say I had given up all hope, its quite true.  I prayed all year and God either said no, or was silent.  His silence was devastating to me.  His sovereignty was a crushing reality that I believed in but couldn't understand - I couldn't grip this truth and reconcile it to my circumstances.  It was rough.  God however, changed everything.  He didn't have to . He doesn't always. I didn't deserve it.  I did nothing to warrant the gracious turn of events.  (In fact, I deserved some type of  Biblical redirection and direct reprimand from God honestly - certainly not more lavish gifts and expressions of love.)  but inexplicably, my God, my Father, my King, looked down and literally gave me the most precious gift.  I disobeyed. I raged in anger, I did nothing right, I questioned Him, yet He forgave me completely, and not only that, poured our excessive grace, forgiveness, mercy, and unconditional love for me, his child who He held onto when I was an intolerable failure and didn't even want Him near.   

There really aren't words to express how much this moves me.  His love has touched me deeply.  His patience is so vast, his mercy is unyielding, His love so abundant and His grace is scandalous and undeserved that I when I stop to muse over God's lavishness, I just about cry and most of the time.  He loved me when I was horrible.  He gripped me when I begged Him to leave, He forgave me completely and illustrated his complete forgiveness and love through the most precious of gifts. 

 Every time I took at her, hold her, and see her sleeping, I am reminded each and every time of God's indescribable, inexplicable, lavish and undeserved love for me.  She is a living, breathing reminder of this every single day.  Only God can do that.  Only God loves like that. Only God responds that way to rebellion. Only God.  It moves me beyond words,  To God be the glory.

1 Timothy 2:13 - If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

1 John 4:19 "We love because He first loved us"

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Deuteronomy 31:8: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Psalm 13:5: "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation."


Psalm 66:20: "Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Psalm 25:7: "Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good."

Psalm 31:7: "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul."

Psalm 31:21: "Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love..."

Psalm 36:5: "Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies."

Psalm 36:7: "How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings."

Psalm 40:11: "Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me."

Psalm 42:8: "By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life."

Psalm 59:16: "But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble."

Psalm 63:3-4: "Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 86:13: "For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths."

Psalm 86:15: "But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."

Psalm 89:2: "I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself."

Psalm 94:18: "When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me"

Psalm 100:5: "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

Psalm 138:2: "I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness..."

Psalm 143:8: "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life."

Psalm 106:1: "Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Psalm 118:21: "I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation."

Psalm 89:16-17a: "They rejoice in your name all day long;
    they celebrate your righteousness.
 For you are their glory and strength..."

Psalm 23:6: "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life."

Psalm 27:13: "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord..."

Psalm 109:21: "But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me."

Psalm 68:4: "Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord."

Psalm 33:21: "In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name."

Revelation 19:1: "“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,"

Romans 16:27: "to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen."

Psalm 115:1: "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."