Today didn’t go like I was hoping…

Today didn’t go like I was hoping…

Today didn’t go like I wanted it to. After waiting an entire week to get our court date (longer than usual because of Ethiopian courts being closed Friday and Monday for Easter), we anxiously awaited news of our court date today. Instead, we got word that court had requested a new copy of a form from our daughter’s first orphanage. So, we have to wait a little longer. I cried a lot today. I know it seems like what’s another week when you’ve been waiting for almost five and a half years. But it’s hard. I’ll just leave it at that. I have a feeling a lot of you know what it is to be on the roller coaster of waiting, no matter what your waiting is for. 

We went to IKEA tonight. We needed to get out of the house, and I didn’t want to cook. (And free kids meals. The end.) I got a little pale pink kalanchoe because I need to hold life and the promise of beauty from dirt–green grass, bluebird eggs, worms wriggling in freshly turned soil. When we got home, Matt dug up some dirt around our mailbox and the girls and I planted morning glory seeds by the last light of dusk. Halfway through I remembered we were supposed to nick the seeds before we planted them. Each seed is covered in a hard shell and nicking helps the seed germinate. There’s a gentle whisper there for me. This nicking process, this long wait, this hard struggle, is germinating something in me too. It’s painful, but I’m believing there is beauty ahead. And like the blue morning glories that will soon wrap their way around our mailbox, I’m clinging to that promise that He who began a new work will carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6). 

Where Does the Hope Come From?

Where Does the Hope Come From?

Oil shimmers in the bottom of my Le Creuset, the gleam hinting to the heat at work. I pour in the risotto and hear that familiar hiss and pop like Rice Krispies hitting cold milk.

Early this morning I couldn’t go back to sleep and I scoured the internet researching the drought in Ethiopia and learning about the nannies who work at our orphanage. It’s the worst drought in Ethiopia since 1984. The year jolts me. It’s the year I was born. I start reading short snippets of stories from the nannies at our orphanage. Many are single and care for children not from their womb–siblings, nieces, nephews, children from the streets. One of the nannies says her prayer request is for the drought. When the sky seems empty and the dirt is bone dry, where does the hope come from?

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6 ESV)

Noonday. When the sun is high in the sky, when the cotton mouth dry of drought must be the harshest. I look up the Hebrew for “noonday.” It comes from the root word “tsahar,” a word that means to press out oil, to glisten.  I think of this as I stir the risotto and watch the kernels soak up the oil shimmering in the bottom of the dutch oven.

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10 ESV)

Pour. Pour yourself out for the hungry. Like when Jesus took the Passover meal with his disciples before going to the cross, when He took the cup and gave thanks, when He gave the cup to them, when He gave them a tangible picture of the grace He would soon give them, the pouring out of His blood that would redeem them.

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV, emphasis mine)

Satisfy. Satisfy the desire of the afflicted. Like the time Jesus fed a crowd of hungry people in a desolate place, fed them not just enough to quiet their growling stomachs, but enough to satisfy them, to fill them.

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. (Mark 8:4-8 ESV, emphasis mine) 

When the sky seems empty and the dirt is bone dry, where does the hope come from?

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 ESV)

Hope comes from the Word of God. The Word that does not return empty. The Word that brings death to life. The very Word that broke and poured out for me with a crown of thorns upon His head. The Word that put flesh upon dry bones.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:1-14 ESV)

I keep stirring the risotto, wooden spoon breaking down the starches in the risotto, dry kernels transforming into creamy perfection. The people cried out that their bones were dried up, and their hope was lost. But God showed them the eternal Hope, “I have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 37:14). Our hope is His Word. The Word that spoke creation into existence. The Word that broke and poured out. The Word that breathes life into dry bones. The Word that calls me to action. The Word that brings forth justice as the noonday–that glistening reminder that He is always enough and we can always have as much of Him as we desire.

 

When Christmas Isn’t Merry

When Christmas Isn’t Merry

Two friends texted me last night asking their circles to pray for a woman named Molly Remmert Rossell. When Heather sent me Molly’s story, I cried in the parking lot of Hobby Lobby. She is my age with three little girls. My day had been hard with sick girls and a baby who has a nasty double ear infection. Heather’s son had flooded her house, once again, with a toilet mishap. But everything comes into perspective when you read Molly’s story. And while I was out trying to shop for a few last Christmas things, it was a sobering reminder that Christmas isn’t about presents. It’s about presence. Our presence with family, friends, and a world that needs to know Love. And His Presence coming down as a Baby to redeem this broken world. Hope isn’t the removal of our awful circumstances. Hope is the promise of our Savior’s return and His complete and victorious redemption of this world. Molly, this Bama girl is praying for you and your husband and for those three beautiful daughters.

Last year in the wee hours of the morning, I wrote the following post. I was feeding my one month old, and my heart was broken for several I loved who were walking through a very painful Christmas. I don’t know where you are today, but I hope these words encourage you.

When Christmas Isn’t Merry ~ Originally published December 23, 2014 

Right now someone is buying a sparkly ring and practicing dropping to one knee. Someone is getting in the car to head to the hospital to welcome a tiny newborn to the world. Someone is arriving home from college glad to be in the safe embrace of home with a home-cooked meal at last. Someone just got news that her loved one is in remission. Someone just got a job.

And at the same time someone is facing her first Christmas as a single mom. And someone is devastated because there isn’t a new stocking on the mantel this year just like last year and the year before that. Someone heads home from college to fighting and a tense home. Someone just heard there’s nothing more the doctors can do. Someone is facing her first Christmas without a parent. Someone just found out she’s been downsized and doesn’t know how she will pay the mortgage next month. Someone is stuck at home with sick littles or desperate for a good night’s sleep. Someone is worried and afraid. Someone feels lonely and forgotten.

We feel like if Christmas isn’t merry and bright, all smiles and good cheer, then we’ve somehow messed up and missed out. But we haven’t. My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’
Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine

There we are in all our brokenness pining for the Only One who can make us whole. But when He appears the soul feels its worth. At last. The thrill of Hope. Our weary heart rejoices.

The world tells us that our Christmas has to be merry and bright. But God whispers the truth. Fall on your knees, sweet child. I’ve got you. I know you’re broken and weary. I know your burdens. And I am shattering your darkness with the Light that brings Hope. I know you’re in the pitch-black of night right now, but I’m going to show you Divine.

God didn’t wait until morning. He didn’t wait until our circumstances were better or we had our act together because He knew that would never happen this side of Heaven. Instead, He comes to us in our weakest moment and brings the Light.

You don’t have to pretend your Christmas is merry if it isn’t. All you have to do is fall on your knees and hear the angels’ voices, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Fear not, weary one, your Savior has come.

A Letter to Sutton

A Letter to Sutton

Dear Sutton,

Today you took your first breath, and you met you first hero. Of course, you already know her because she has carried you for nine months–your mom. I have known your mom for two decades, but to know her now is to know a hero. A warrior. Sutton, most moms would have given up before now. Having been through a fraction of the pain and loss your mom has, they would have surrendered to the fear. But not your mom. She’s a hero. A warrior.

She continues to put her heart out there, a heart that has been gingerly pieced back together, pieces that are held together with a special brand of Scotch tape. She is a wounded warrior, but I think those are the bravest of all. For they know not to take victory for granted. They have seen the other side but choose to fight another day anyway. She is a hero, and now that you’ve looked into her eyes I know you’ve seen it too. Sutton, you are a miracle, but you’re a miracle in the arms of a hero. A woman who would not give up believing, praying and begging the Lord to give her a child to hold. He has heard her cry, and as He was through every loss and every dark day, He is faithful.

Sutton, you and your big sister are so blessed. For every day you get to do life with a warrior. She isn’t perfect. No mommy is. But she is brave. The bravest kind of mom I know. And if you watch her she will show you how to be a warrior. How to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. How to believe and hope when your heart is smashed. How to hold on to the Faithful One during the darkest of days. How to be brave.

If you’re holding on today to a desperate prayer, don’t give up. You aren’t alone. And God is always faithful. In the dark days where hope seems far away and on days like today–when a million prayers are answered in the single sound of a baby’s first cry. Happy birthday, Sutton. I pray you’ll be a brave warrior who dares to believe that with God nothing is impossible. Just like your mom.

One Thing We Can’t Ignore

One Thing We Can’t Ignore

Hope. A little word that often eludes us. After our second miscarriage, I stumbled across Romans 5:3-5 and gripped those black and white words like a life preserver thrown to a drowning woman.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of our God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

Hope heals. 

After sharing this verse with my mom, she gave me a gift. I opened the small box to find a figurine, a small child holding a metal balloon with the word “Hope” written across it. The figurine has been on my bedside for years now, and during those dark days after our miscarriages every morning I would wake up and stare at the little metal words spelling out H-O-P-E. Hope seemed elusive, but even in my suffering, the Holy Spirit filled me with hope. And over time hope has healed my broken heart.

Hope redeems.

More than anything else, God’s Word is a redemption story. A story of a broken and damaged people redeemed by a merciful and mighty God. I never cease to be amazed at how God uses imperfect people to bring hope to a hurting world. Time after time the Bible illuminates ordinary men and women, boys and girls who change the world because God has changed their hearts. God is inviting us to be a part of His redemption story, to rescue and love those who have lost hope, to show them hope redeems.

Hope perseveres. 

We are guaranteed suffering in this life. It is the painful consequence of our sin, but we know our suffering is not the end. When we persevere, God uses our suffering to produce character and out of that character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. Hope doesn’t disappoint us because as believers we carry within us the Holy Spirit Himself, God’s love poured into us. We can persevere because we know our suffering ultimately produces hope.

For six years now, Matt and I have loved a brown-eyed girl in Kenya. And a couple years after we first fell in love with her, we came across a cute Bolivian boy we couldn’t say no to. Sponsoring children through Compassion is all about hope. Someone once told me…

“Once you’ve seen the need, you can’t ignore it any more. Once you see their eyes and know their story, you can’t turn away.”

It’s easy to look at widespread devastation like famine and the HIV crisis and get overwhelmed. We think to ourselves, “I’m just one person. What can I do?” But one little person and one little word can change a life. You may not be able to change a country or a continent, but you can change a child’s life.

You can show a child that hope heals, hope redeems, hope perseveres. Please sponsor a child today.