I had already planned on running this morning. In fact, I was going to take a quick jog around the pasture even before we milked the cow. But as I made my way into the barn, I remembered I had just bought horse feed and needed to dump the bags into the containers in the feed room. As I did this, all the animals- the horses, dogs, chickens and the dairy cow- looked at me so expectantly and noisily! that I didn’t have the heart to leave them hungry until I returned from my run. So Thadd and I did the chores first.
I noticed that our oldest horse, Mercy was not at the barn, as she was usually, waiting to be fed. This was so unlike her as she was normally the most vocal of our four horses, neighing heartily any time she saw one of us come toward the barn. I knew she was the oldest of our horses and so genuine concern grew within when I whistled the two tones that call our horses: a low note and then another a fifth higher, and she didn’t come. We had opened up our lower pasture so the horses and the cow could graze there, so I went running down the road, past the creek to see if Mercy was in the pasture beyond the creek.
We were given her by a man we met a farmers market a couple summers ago. He gave us three horses, actually, and this one was so shy and fearful of people that no one could catch her. She was scared of men in particular because earlier in her life she had been mistreated, so Jason and our friend hid in the bushes as I coaxed this timid creature into a corral with a bucket of sweet feed. It took me over an hour of luring her in and during that time, in the hot June heat, I took to calling her Mercy and the name stuck.
As I got across the bridge and looked into the pasture, Mercy was nowhere to be found. I climbed over the gate and ran into the field and through the woods and over the creek, whistling the two notes and calling her name. When I got across the creek and up the muddy bank, I found what I was looking for. There she was, nibbling on acorns by the bee hives, as healthy as could be.
I went over to her slowly, held out my hand and touched her nose. I was relieved to see her well.
I straddled the barbed wire fence that separates the middle pasture to the back pasture and climbed over. I continued my run around the back pasture, pondering the significance of what I had just witnessed.
Sometimes life seems too much to bear. At times it hits me hard and I don’t see it coming. The weight of just doing my normal activities of being a mom and meeting needs combined with the burden I feel for loved ones who are dealing with difficult and painful circumstances can bring me to a place of deep weariness. I’ve felt that recently. The needs. Oh the needs of so many hurting people! I think it’s called Compassion Fatigue where we are so sucked into the drama of other’s lives that it consumes us and exhausts us. Depletes our resources and our joy.
I remembered that I don’t have to hold the world together. A friend told me recently that her mom would occasionally remind her, “Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s okay to go read a book.” That was such a freeing thought to me. I can pray hard and intercede on behalf of others, but the outcome is not up to me. I don’t have to shoulder the weight of it all! And as another friend said, “We just bring them to Jesus.”
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Christ’s precious blood has opened the way so that we can enter the very throne room of God Almighty and plead our case and our loved one’s before Him. As His beloved children!
And when we go looking for Mercy, she will be found.
I was folding up the guest room sheets and putting them away in the changing table drawer, the one intended to hold diapers and onesies. We had put away the crib and pulled out the select comfort mattress and set it up so that we could host a missionary family with us this summer. It had been just two weeks since we had received the news that Isaac was not coming to our family, but that his paternal grandmother would be adopting him. Our whole year of preparation and anticipation had culminated to that decision from CPS. I had wept as I said goodbye to the tiny nursery. As pieces of my heart were boxed up and stored away to make room for a completely new and different reality. One which did not consist of a baby.
It was now almost five months since we received the news. I pulled open the drawer to the changing table and saw a collection of various pieces of baby clothes my mother had given to me at Christmas, confident that she was receiving another grand child soon. There, atop the clothes and few diapers, was a letter I had written to Isaac last Christmas. I sat down on the bed and read the letter. It was such a sweet read, telling him all about our children and our dogs and all the animals here on our farm. How we had gotten everything ready for him and were so excited to meet him, even though we didn’t know that they would pick us to be his parents. But the part that got to me was toward the end. I wrote:
Even though we don’t know if you will come to stay here forever, we do know and trust the Lord God, Creator and Redeemer of our lives. He is infinitely good and so we can put our confidence in Him, knowing He will do what is absolutely best for you and for us.
I sat there in our baby-room-turned-guest-room and wept because I didn’t know if I believed my own words anymore. Infinitely good! Absolutely best! Was this true? Deep, deep down I knew it to be true, but the pain was fresh again. The sorrow and the loss seemed to be more real than the sovereignty of God. And the questions I had! How it all made no sense at all. Why would we have gone through almost a year and a half of so much work and expecting and hearing very clear words from the Lord only to give birth to wind?
It dawned on me last week that Isaac turned two years old. And I had completely missed it! Last year, we celebrated his first birthday as a family, though we hadn’t met him yet, but this year we had gone on with our lives without him and had forgotten all about it. The sadness didn’t hit me until I remembered him. It is in the remembering that the pain cuts deep and the tears bleed out.
A few nights ago, I drove home in the rain after taking my daughter to a youth retreat and was overcome with the sorrow of losing Isaac. I sobbed to the Lord, “I just want to understand what last year was all about! I want to hear your voice!” Over the course of the last few months many people have given me words of encouragement and phrases they heard from the Lord for me. And they were good things, beautiful things, but I wanted more. I wanted Him to speak to me. But I think what I really wanted was for Him to explain everything to me. And every time I asked for an explanation, I received nothing.
But yesterday I asked again. I was making myself a cup of coffee and then, “You, my child, are righteous,” spoke softly to my heart. It caught me off guard. It didn’t make sense that He would tell me that. That didn’t explain anything about this last year. And, righteous? I didn’t feel very righteous!
But then I remembered something. There was one phrase from the book of Hebrews that the Lord brought to my heart a year ago, which became the theme of our long, arduous wait for a son. I remember being out in the woods, worshiping God and listening. I heard in my spirit, “He who is coming will come and not delay, but my righteous one will live by faith and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased.” I grabbed at my Bible that I had brought with me and thumbed through the concordance to find the place where it said that in scripture. It took me a while, but I finally found the place. It was Hebrews 10:37-38. I came away from that time in the woods, not believing that it promised me that Isaac was coming, but that the Lord Himself was coming and that I must live by faith, and not by sight.
I did some simple logic. If God called me righteous, then according to that verse, and though I felt a bit presumptuous in saying it, I had lived by faith this last year and He was pleased with me. I looked back over this last year and knew it to be true. We had all walked by faith in the goodness and justice of God, even though we didn’t know what the outcome would be. We trusted Him. We did all He called us to do. The thing that was driving me crazy was that I couldn’t understand why we didn’t get what we wanted. But yesterday, though I did not receive any explanation for the past year, I received the confirmation that my Daddy was pleased with my faith. His pleasure with me makes all the difference.
And as C.S. Lewis states so eloquently in the book Til We Have Faces, “I know now Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away.”
Over a year ago in February I received a call from my good friend, Laura that changed the course of our lives. She said that their adopted daughter’s birth mother had recently had a son in California and that little boy would be up for adoption. God had placed our family on her heart and would we want to adopt him?
Jason and I talked it over that night and the reality and gravity of what that would look like for our family sunk in. At the time we didn’t have a reliable vehicle. Our little farm house was falling down around our ears and would need a room added and significant work done to it to make it ready for another child. But as we prayed, we sensed the Spirit leading us to open up our home to this little boy.
That night I had a dream. In the dream I remember Jason saying, emphatically, “His name is Isaac!” I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the dream. It was so vivid and poignant. And Isaac is what I have referred to this little boy from that time on.
There is so much to this story. So many twists and turns, but shortly after we agreed to adopt him, I gave him up. There was another family wanting to adopt him very early on, who knew the maternal grandmother. This family was already certified to foster and did not have any children of their own. I read a letter that the mother wrote to Isaac’s grandmother, telling her that she and her husband wanted to adopt. And I called Jason, weeping, telling him that we needed to let Isaac go. So we acquiesced.
A few months went by and then in May of last year I received word that Isaac was still in a foster home in California waiting for adoption and this other family had since been placed with three foster sons and could no longer adopt Isaac. Oh how my heart soared with hope! We contacted my friend and told her we were all in and wanted to adopt this child. We had just recently purchased a Honda Pilot, big enough for all our children as well as this new addition. And Jason set to work planning, problem-solving and renovating our home to make room.
There was much work to be done, but little did we know just how long we would have to wait to find out if Isaac would indeed be ours.
We were finally contacted by CPS in California in the beginning of June of last year to begin the ICPC process. This stands for Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. It is the process by which a family in another state is made ready to adopt a child. We were informed at that time that there were three families wanting to adopt Isaac. Two in New York, where the paternal grandparents live and one (us) in Texas, where the maternal grandparents live. (One of the families quickly dropped out.) The biological mother had three children previously to Isaac who were adopted into different homes. Two of these siblings lived in Texas and one had been adopted by the maternal grandparents. Neither grandparents were in a position to adopt Isaac and so the process began to move forward to get these interested parties ready to adopt.
Except that we didn’t hear a thing for three months.
During this time we framed out the back porch, knocked down a wall in our bedroom to make room for an interior hallway, remade our daughter’s old bedroom into a baby room, adding a new window to it. We also dealt with head lice, hurricane Harvey and the death of our precious farm dog at the very end of the summer.
We finally received word towards the end of September that CPS was going to begin the process of a home study and that time was ticking for them to get all the paperwork in. Jason scrambled around tape and bedding the baby room and our dear neighbors carpeted Addie’s new room and helped us clean fans and AC units. We received multiple financial gifts from people we had never met. A significant one was received the very day our home study was scheduled. But it seemed we still had so much work to get done!
We went through a four-hour, extremely thorough home study, we had fingerprints done, twice! as we battled through the communication breakdown in the government concerning the correct spelling of my name (CPS had at least three different spellings for Kristin), we struggled through the correct identity of my husband, (Jason Brown being so common of a name that it pulled up another individual on the criminal background check…one with a criminal history). During the fall Isaac had his first birthday, still in California. We continued working on the rooms and finally painted them and Addie moved into her new room just in time for Christmas.
To our dismay, we realized that now that we had our kinship home study done, we were required to have yet another home study completed and this one with our fad worker from CPS here in Texas. And we would need to complete online and in person fostering classes in order for us to be licensed with the state to officially adopt. We took the classes and started work on our boys’ room, as they had been living in a room without a window and that would not pass a fostering home study. During the end of the winter, Jason also poured himself into studying for a very competitive promotional exam at the fire station. It was a crazy time and we all felt the intensity of the pressure on many fronts, but the very day that Jason took his promotional exams, we were officially licensed by the state to adopt!
It seemed as if everything was working and coming together at the last moment. And we were pretty sure that the court would rule in our favor because there were two siblings in Texas. The final court decision for Isaac’s case would be made at the end of May. The few days before court, we were painting bunk beds and the crib, painting the boys’ room and installing carpet. Then I received word from the caseworker in California that they were waiting on a third ICPC report from another family. This was very troubling. We had waited an entire year for CPS to finally make a decision. We had jumped through every hoop we were told to jump through, some multiple times. We were weary of the wait. The fact that a third party had jumped in when they did did not make it look like things would progress quickly. The boys spent their first night in their new room the day I found out this new information.
The very next day, while we were grocery shopping, I answered a phone call from the caseworker in California. He told me that they had finally made a decision concerning the placement of the child. I took a deep breath as I was told that Isaac would be placed with his paternal grandmother in New York. I was stunned! The grandmother was the third party that had come in at the last moment. I told my kids the news and we all wandered around HEB in shocked silence. My boys kept hugging me, looking at me, sure I would start crying. But I didn’t cry at first. I drove down to the Woodlands to where Jason was on shift and told him in person the news I had just received.
Grief is a funny thing. The first thing I did in my sadness was to finish Isaac’s room. I had been working towards this all year long and so the very next day after we found out that we were not adopting, I had my boys put together the crib and I set up the room. We were finally ready. But for what?
It’s been one month since we found out the news. So many emotions. So many unanswered questions. Why would we go through all we did this year and have it culminate to…nothing? I grew to love a child I did not know and to give him away twice. It’s different from fostering, different from a miscarriage. It’s its own grief. It’s the death of a vision and purpose. And when the trajectory of your life comes to a screeching halt, you find yourself lost in a way.
I have not lost hope, nor do I believe for one minute that all this was done in vain. It’s just that I can’t make sense of it all right now. I’m in the middle of the story and I do not see the resolution yet. We’ve been memorizing Romans chapter 8 as a family this year and the day after we heard that Isaac would not be coming home to us, we recited it together. And I wept throughout it. I did not realize how much of it speaks to adoption. To our longing for adoption as sons.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:22-25
What I see does not make sense. But, thankfully, the Lord has been developing in me eyes of faith this year. And I don’t believe that this story is over yet.
Several weeks ago, as we were gathering eggs all around the property, one of the kids noticed that our hen, Hosanna, was sitting on a clutch of eggs. This wasn’t necessarily uncommon, as hens will do this, especially if they’ve found a place a little out of the way to incubate eggs. We hadn’t thought to look for eggs where Hosanna was laying as she was in the attic of our storage room, nestled right in the pink insulation! We knew that it takes three weeks for a baby chick to hatch, so we decided to check on her everyday and bring up food and water to make sure she was taken care of. And so the wait began.
We’d go up the stairs to the old, rickety deer stand, making sure we stood on the studs and not the ply wood, as it was in serious disrepair. Then one of the kids would crawl to the right into the open space where the attic is and leave Hosanna food. The water we’d leave in the deer stand so it wouldn’t tip over and spill onto the ceiling of the storage room below.
Last year, we incubated a whole host of eggs and Hosanna was one of the few that actually hatched. On Palm Sunday. So here we were one year later, three weeks before Easter, and Hosanna was sitting on her own clutch. Of all the forty chickens we have, it happened to be Hosanna who was broody. The significance was dazzling.
The day before Easter the first chicks began to hatch! I enjoyed going up the steps, peering my head into the attic and having one of my courageous children, who would be lying up in the attic near Hosanna, gently show me another one of the puffy chicks who had just emerged from their egg. Life is so miraculous. At the end of the day, seven chicks had hatched, one was pipping and there were several more eggs under Hosanna. The next day, being Easter Sunday, we were due to go to Houston to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection with family, so I was a bit concerned about the babies. The eighth had hatched and Hosanna was still sitting on more eggs and one more was pipping, so we figured all would be well. We were gone all day and it was dark when we returned. Jeremiah went up to the attic anyways with a flashlight to check on everyone and returned, announcing that he had seen chicks still under Hosanna. All was well.
The next morning, as I was enjoying a cup of coffee, I heard a distinct cry coming from the barn. I knew what it was even before I had time to throw on my rain boots, as Diesel and Mira, our livestock guard dogs, greeted me enthusiastically. I ran out to the barn, as chickens scurried to me from all directions and Diesel stayed by my side. The chirping call of a baby bird in distress. It was like playing a game of hot and cold, knowing that time was precious, because if the dog or the chickens found it before I did, it was all over. I was in the yard between the barn and the chicken coop and I could hear the little guy peeping. I looked down between the hens and our roosters and there was the little yellow puff of a chick. One chicken pecked it and Diesel noticed it, but I scooped him up quickly and held him to my chest as he cried in fear. But he was fine, unhurt! I swung my leg over the wooden fence by our barn, holding the chick with one hand and still holding my coffee cup with half a cup of coffee in the other hand.
I ran inside to rouse my kids and let them know we needed to move the chicks to a safe place. But when they went up the steps to the attic, there were only four baby chicks underneath Hosanna. Three were missing. We looked around the property, but couldn’t find a trace of them. I resolved that they must have been eaten. Diesel and Mira were amazing livestock guardians, but given the chance, I knew they would devour a baby chick in one gulp. I told my children the reality of life and death and that we’d better make sure that no one else died. But my children were praying.
We made up a cozy place in our bath tub for the five baby chicks, with a heat lamp. The kids sat in the tub with them naming the chicks. But the yellow chick I’d found I named Journey. Every so often, I’d send one of them up to the roof to check on Hosanna and that last baby chick that was still hatching. Thaddaeus returned shouting something and Jeremiah raced outside. I ran out, wondering what he’d said. I think he said he heard something! When I arrived at the base of the stairs, I found Jeremiah trying to pry the metal side of the outside wall of the barn with a crow bar.
“I hear one!” he cried. “In the wall!”
And sure enough, I heard the peeping cry of a baby chick inside the wall of the storage room. One must have fallen through a hole in the attic and was trapped between the inside wall of the storage room and the outside wall. How in the world could we get to it? We would have to somehow remove the wall to reach it. I looked around at the great pile of lumber stacked up against it. We would have to move it, so I ran back to the house to get some gloves, praying for success as I went.
When I returned, I found my son pulling back a section of the metal wall. I approached to help and he handed me a black chick, and then a yellow one, and then a black one! All alive and crying! The three that were missing!
Being on a farm has developed a certain tenderness in all of our hearts for the animals in our care. I know these are just birds. Just little insignificant puffs of fluff. But we love them and we invest in them and we truly mourn when they’re lost or they die and we genuinely rejoice when we find them and they live.
There was much rejoicing in our home that day when all four chicks were found. But can you imagine the greater joy when people, created in the image of God, who have been lost to the bondage of sin and the evil one are found?
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:39-40
There is hope today for the most hopeless of situations. There is salvation available to the one who has fallen. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has come to seek and to save that which is lost. And those He seeks shall be found at last!
This morning I received a text from a close friend of mine asking for prayer for her husband, who is a police officer, regarding a disturbance in a local high school. I was already on my knees in prayer, and so I continued, praying now for my friend and the rest of the officers and the whole student body. I was moved to tears as, of course, my mind went to the high school in Florida and the many students and families affected by the massacre. As I prayed, I sensed a deeper call to arms.
As the nation mourns yet another tragic, senseless shooting on our soil, the whiplash has been intense. Politics rise to the surface and platforms benefit from the tragedy as opinions are hotly debated. Facebook lights up with one article after another about the need for gun reform on one end and the need to arm ourselves and our teachers on the other. We analyze mental illness until we convince ourselves that that is our problem. And we need to have these conversations, as they are important. They matter. But there is something missing, something basic to all of this that has not been mentioned.
Man is sinful.
This world is fallen.
Satan is a real enemy that seeks to steal and kill and destroy.
This is the bleak reality of our world today and we feel it strongly. Things are not as they should be. It seems the world is more dangerous than ever before, but we have just to study history to see that the evil has been there all the time, in every culture, every generation.
Until we see that our problem is truly a heart problem, no reform or policy will affect change. Until we wake up and understand that the enemy prowls around seeking to devour the very lives of our children, we will continue leading blind lives, dabbling with ineffective ways of fighting a crucial war.
The solution to our problem is the greatest news that has ever come to bear upon this earth. God sent His Son Jesus to this evil world to take the punishment for our sin on the cross. Jesus, meaning “God saves”, rose from the dead and is alive today and will save all those who come to him in faith. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved!” Ephesians 2:4-5
Shortly after I received the text from my friend, she sent another, assuring me that all was well at the high school. I breathed out thanksgiving and at the same time prayed that we might continue to fight. We must bring the truth of Jesus to this desperate world. And we must fight with weapons that are not of this world if we want to affect any change at all.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18
I had the unique opportunity of contributing to a blog series entitled “Contenders of the Faith”, organized by a dear friend of mine, Kelly Sobieski. I invite you over to Carried by Love to explore the exciting topic of waiting for the return of our King Jesus!
Thursday afternoon our family gathered around the weak and failing body of our Great Pyrenees, Maximus. All of us weeping, we hugged his neck one last time, whispered our love for him, telling him what a wonderful dog he was, and we said goodbye.
Loving on Max their last day with him.
I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for the sudden loss of a dog. Max wasn’t old. He was just three weeks shy of his second birthday. He was in the prime of his life. No longer an immature and undisciplined puppy, he had grown to become a magnificent guard dog. He and his sister, Mira, took great care of our farm animals. They were up all night patrolling the land and keeping predators like skunks and raccoons away from our sleeping chickens. They kept an eye on our pigs and cattle and would chase away stray dogs or coyotes. And perhaps best of all, they were my children’s faithful guardians. After being up all night, they would collapse under the porch to sleep, as is the livestock guard dog’s rhythm. But the moment our screen door squeaked open and any one of my children wandered off down to their fort or to the creek, first Max and then Mira would crawl out from under the porch and be right by their side. Trusted. True. Faithful. They were the epitome of the definition of man’s best friend.
I won’t go into all the details because I really don’t want to relive them, but Max went downhill fast. We noticed that he was sick on Wednesday morning, took him in to the vet, where he stayed overnight, then we took him to the emergency clinic at A&M Thursday morning and were told that his kidneys were failing. In a moment that you are never prepared for, we had to make an impossible decision. We decided that the most gracious thing to do was to put Max down.
We came back home and found Mira, faithfully holding down the fort, wagging her tail as we arrived. But inevitably confused as to where in the world her brother went. Death is an unnatural thing. It’s not how it was supposed to be. The separation and the absence confounds us. Truly, we are looking forward to a better country. One without sickness and death.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
All of creation is longing for the return of Christ, whereby he will put to death the final enemy, death itself. How I long for that day.
My daughter was up last night journaling about Max. Here are a few of her words:
Maximus, you have won a special place in my heart. Even though you’re gone, I will not stop loving you. I hope you will be in heaven when I die. I hope we will meet again. I will take care of your sister. I love you my sweet, big/little bear!