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The Moment Before

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In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. ~Frederick Buechner

I’ve been thinking a lot about the silence of those 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. Especially about what it was like at the end of that 400 years. Those days right before the angel appeared to Mary. The dark nights leading up to the star that led to the King. What were those like? After four centuries and many generations had come and gone, were God’s people desperate? Were they still clinging to hope? What astounded Mary more–the news that she was going to carry the Savior or the news that her Savior was finally coming?

Why would our God who has the power to speak a word and cause the seas to gather and the bush to burn and the stars to splay–why would He ever wait?

What if the wait is for us?

“Then Jesus became explicit: ‘Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.” John 11:14-15, The Message

For those of us in the wait, we’re about to be given new grounds for believing. We are in the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent.

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Friday Favorites ~ Thanksgiving Edition

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A favorite Thanksgiving memory from two years ago. The firecracker wore her swimsuit inside out and backwards the entire day. 

My little kitchen has been a flurry today whipping sweet potatoes, chopping pecans, and making Matt’s grandmother’s broccoli cheese casserole. I took a moment in all the cooking frenzy to write that recipe in Lydia’s box earlier today. Matt’s late grandmother Kitty made it for me the first Thanksgiving I went to her house. Matt and I had only been dating a couple months, and I was nervous about the first holiday with his family. I really wanted his grandmother (and grandfather) to like me because I really liked their grandson.😉 So when she passed me a dish and said it was broccoli casserole, I put a big spoonful on my plate even though I was very doubtful about how this would go down. But like everything Kitty made, it was delicious. I ate three servings that first Thanksgiving, and she loved to make it anytime she knew I was coming. We miss her so much, but I love making her recipes and telling my girls stories about her.

In case you have some reading time over this holiday, may I suggest…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp: I read this the week of the election, and it was the perfect quiet place for my brain and my heart that week.

A story about one of my most favorite homes ever. Mrs. Becky is the mom to one of my most favorite people, and her home is just about the coziest spot imaginable. (Jess and I call it the Hagood Bed & Breakfast.) I loved reading how she made this home their own. In a culture that says everything needs to be Pinterest-perfect in microwave speed, Mrs. Becky whispers a different story–a home that grows and changes as the people within it live out their God-given story.

There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene: I bought this one because it was (and still is) $1.99 for the Kindle version and I saw that it was about Ethiopia. It was an eye-opening and emotional read for me. The book weaves together the author’s personal story of international adoption with the AIDS crisis that contributed greatly to Africa’s orphan crisis.

Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg: Feinberg invites us to “awaken to the nearness of God” which on the cusp of Advent seems perfectly fitting. I loved this one, and the Kindle edition is $3.

And if you’d rather watch something…

Make sure you have Kleenex before you watch this video about a Sudanese man being reunited with his family. Amazing.

The Crown on Netflix: Matt and I are a few episodes in, and we love it. All about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it’s fascinating stuff and I really like the actor who plays the queen. Perfect for turkey coma time.

And with that the girls are in bed (not asleep, but in bed), the food is all prepped for tomrorow, and Matt and I are going to watch more of The Crown. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

And if Thanksgiving finds you brokenhearted or missing someone, that’s okay. I texted a friend earlier saying we can be both grateful and brokenhearted. Or grateful and sad. Or grateful and longing. Or grateful and waiting. Our God sees us. He knows what our hearts are feeling. Holidays don’t have to be all “happy” or all “merry.” Our God made us with wonderfully emotional souls, and I bet if we were honest each of us is a mix of emotions with every holiday we celebrate. One of the things I’m most grateful for are friends who are a safe place where I can share my real emotions even if they don’t match the sugar-coated expectations of a certain day on the calendar. Maybe we could each be that for someone else this week. A safe spot for another broken soul.

 

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Outside the Gate

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The world right now feels a bit like an eggshell, like that thin film that coats the inside of the broken egg is all that’s holding people together. I don’t know what the big answers are. I don’t even know what the right words to say are.

Last week in the middle of all the election cacophony when my head thrummed with a thousand questions about what all this would mean for our daughter, for the visa she will need to enter the U.S., for the harsh rhetoric surrounding immigrants, I was reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way. Ann shared a story about Gordon, a man without a home that Ann’s brother brings to her house asking her if this man can stay with Ann and her family for a little while.

You are where you are for such a time as this. Not to gain anything, but to risk everything. Gordon doesn’t need me to beckon more than once and he’s in the cool of the house, yanking off those boots. I’m in the kitchen finding a cup. My brother’s standing in the doorway, waiting to see whatever’s coming. The water streams from the faucet like it can’t wait to give itself away and I hold out all our cups for the filling.

I turn, hand Gordon his, one to my brother, and I swallow my own right down. We’re all more than a bit parched.

We could all be the ones outside the gate. We all could have been Gordon, fallen on hard times into hard ways; we could have been the ones fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting our child’s throat in the middle of the night; we could be the one born into a slum, violently raped and left for dead, the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of Christless desperation. The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this–is to risk your life for those outside the gate. 

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, emphasis mine

For such a time as this . . . I don’t have answers or even decent words right now. But I have this life–this one life I can risk for those outside the gate.

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Steel. Marriage, Waiting, Fire and Eleven.

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Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetMy alarm clock was going off. It was time to go running. The baby was calling out “Momma” in the monitor, so I snuck into a dark nursery and grabbed her out of her crib and snuggled her between us in bed. I looked over to see the Firecracker and her crazy bedhead backlit in our bedroom door. You leaned over and said, “Happy anniversary.”

I love that ours is a story of November. You asked me to marry you with the maples ablaze, and a year later we tucked those same fiery maple leaves in boutonnieres for you and your groomsmen. I looked up what the traditional gift is for the 11th anniversary. It’s steel. And while it might seem less than diamonds or crystal or something traditionally gift-worthy, I kind of think it’s the best gift ever.

Because you can’t make steel without fire, and you can’t go through eleven years together without pain. We are promised suffering in this world, and while we each carry a different story with different pain, as believers it’s a guarantee that there will be pain.  There will be fire. But it’s the very process of going through the furnace, searing hot and licking flames, that gives steel its strength and tenacity. It’s been eleven years since two twenty-one-year olds stood before family and friends to make a covenant between each other and before God Almighty. Eleven years of walking through the fire together, eleven years of God refining us through this gift called marriage.

Maybe the gift of steel isn’t something tangible you give. Maybe it’s something you build, deep within yourselves, within your family. Two souls saying yes to the One who first put a fire in their bellies. Two souls who know the soul-refining weight of grace. Two souls who have walked through the furnace of pain and waiting and sanctification.

Whenever I think of fire, I think of the story I first learned as a child about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 ESV)

And that’s where we find ourselves on this November day as we celebrate eleven–like two pieces of iron waiting in the fire. But we know the God we serve. We know He is able. We know that with every degree of heat He is refining us into steel. And we know that no matter what we have given Him our yes. We will serve Him and only Him.

And the thing is, when every day you wake up and give God your yes you don’t have to worry about giving your spouse your yes. It just comes with it. This thing God created, this thing He’s refining, this covenant relationship we are living out–it is an overflow of the daily yes we give God. The daily surrender to His plan. His sovereignty. His fire.

I’m proud to stand beside you in the fire, Matthew Hudson Roberts. Ours is a story of November, and I’m flattened with gratitude that it is your hand holding mine as we wait and pray and watch God move. I heard this verse this morning on my run, and I thought it was the perfect gift from our good God on this our 11th anniversary.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. ” (Job 42:5 NIV)

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Adoption Update

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“Everybody wants to see the Red Sea split, but no one wants to walk up to it. We pray asking God to see a miracle, to be part of a miracle, but then with the very next breath we pray asking Him to never ever put us in any position where we would actually need a miracle.” ~Priscilla Shirer at Propel Conference

Whether I was brave enough to ask for it or not, we are at the Red Sea. We are right up on it, maybe smack dab in the middle of it. In his book The Red Sea Rules, Robert Morgan offers up the possibility that the Red Sea didn’t split all at once from coast to coast. Perhaps, with each step God hemmed back more and more of the sea. Maybe the whole time the Israelites saw water, water, and more water, but they kept walking.

We are stepping forward, and with each step the mighty hand of our God pushes the sea back. We got word that we have been submitted to court and that our family coordinator expects to have our PAIR papers very soon. We are at the point that we will have two processes running concurrently–our court process and our PAIR process. PAIR stands for Pre-Adoption Immigration Review. The PAIR process allows USCIS to review the child’s case for immigration status prior to our adoption in Ethiopian court. While that is going on, our court process will be moving along as well as we anxiously await our court date.

Please join us in praying for both of these processes to move with supernatural speed and efficiency. Speaking of prayer, I cannot say thank you enough for your response to my request for prayer around the clock for our girl. You flooded that page, even the middle of the night hours (thank you friends in Israel, Australia, and all of you with wee babies for covering those spots!) I am printing off a copy of her prayer tribe for her story book. Together, we are watching God do a miracle. And I’ll be filling out some more paper work and singing Bethel’s “Jesus We Love You” on repeat.

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Would you take a slot to pray for our E?

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Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetI was looking through some old stuff in my prayer notebook the other day, and I found notes from a Women’s Conference this spring. Tucked into the bottom corner, I have these words from teacher Dana James, “We’re all brave until we realize the cockroach has wings.”

That’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. The cockroach has wings. My faith is being tested in ways it never has before. I feel more desperate than brave. If you’re in a similar place, meditate on these words from Psalm 71.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. (Psalm 71:17-21 ESV, emphasis mine)

Until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come–that’s my anthem. There have been so many days recently that I wanted to give up. But this journey isn’t just about me and Matt. It’s about proclaiming His might to another generation, His power to all those to come. And it’s preparation for the journey to come, for the hard, grueling work of turning over tender, vulnerable parts of our daughter’s story (and our own brokenness) to the Redeemer so He can do His healing work.

This was my prayer to God this morning after reading this psalm, “You showed us her face. You gave us her name. You did that. Now you bring her home.” I’m believing the tribe praying for our E is impacting far more than just our one beautiful daughter. I believe they are impacting an orphanage, a city, an entire country to proclaim your might to another generation. 

With everything going on in Ethiopia right now, I would like to get a prayer list going where E’s tribe takes different times of the day to pray for her and for Ethiopia–a relentless call for our God to do what only He can do. You would have one time slot per week. The time slot will be an hour long, but you can set an alarm for your time slot, and you can take a few minutes during that hour to pray for E and for Ethiopia. Would you be willing to help carry our girl home through prayer? You can leave a comment on the blog or FB or IG if you’d like a prayer slot.

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Is Jesus Enough?

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I gave my key away–the one I wore around my neck, the one my Mamaw jokingly thought was my house key, the one with the word dwell engraved into its aged brass. This isn’t a story of my generosity. If you knew my initial reluctance, you would see a glimpse of my selfish brokenness.

But I was in the shower a few weeks ago (read: a mom’s semi-quiet space to think) when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give away my key to a friend. Matt gave me the key last Christmas because he knew my word for the new year was dwell. In the shower I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it to her at Christmas. That’s a great idea, Holy Spirit.” But I felt Him say to me, “No, now. Give it to her now.” I love this friend so much, but the giving away of the key was more than giving a necklace. It was a surrender, a declaration to a trusted friend that even if my desires don’t come to fruition, Jesus is enough. I wrote her a letter to go with it, and it went something like this . . .

Dear friend,

I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to give this to you. As you know my word for this year was dwell. At the beginning of the year, I hoped this might be the year we got to put down roots in a new home, to spread out a bit and create a new space for our family to dwell. But then we got the call and knew we needed to stay in this house for home study reasons so as not to mess anything up with our dossier in Ethiopia. And so I thought the word dwell would represent our Ethiopian daughter coming to dwell with us, united with her forever family. And while I still pray and hope God does the impossible, I recognize that unless God intervenes in a supernatural way she won’t be here before the end of the year.

While God might not have answered my prayers as I originally desired and on the timetable I had in mind, He gave me something even greater. He has shown me that in the midst of much uncertainty and right in the middle of the pain of waiting His presence dwells within me as a child of God. He has shown me that the opportunity to dwell in His presence is always there and always enough. I’ve prayed many prayers and sung many songs to my God with my hand wrapped around this key. Now, it’s yours to grip while you pray the prayers He has placed on your heart and sing the song He’s given you, while you dwell in His presence as He writes your next chapter.

With all my love,

Liss

Sometimes, for reasons He knows and I don’t have to, He moves in ways different than I prayed for. Sometimes, the loved one isn’t healed and the job isn’t saved, the pregnancy isn’t rescued and the timeline isn’t quickened. But the gift of this year has been finding His presence is always there. I can always dwell under His wings, and He is always enough. My raw, broken heart can be honest with Him, and He is always a safe place for my weary heart to find rest.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2 ESV)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2 ESV)

Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:22-24 ESV)