Jason and I visited a Messianic Jewish synagogue last week in celebration of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. A new experience for us, we fumbled with the Siddur, the prayer book, as we found it to read backwards to forwards, and we tried to keep up with reading the Hebrew. It was a three-hour celebration and we found ourselves unused to the longevity of the service. Yet, I enjoyed it immensely. We are in the “Days of Awe”, a time of preparation and anticipation of the Return of our Messiah, Yeshua. For the first time I listened, in person, to the shofar, the Ram’s Horn, practicing the final performance of the Ages when the shofar of God will sound and Yeshua Himself shall descend and raise up His bride to be with Him forever! I sang in Hebrew the words from Revelation 22, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
The very next morning, right before my run, I received some sad news concerning the miscarriage of a lady from my church. I don’t personally know this family, but the announcement of death had such a sobering effect on the morning. It seemed to go against everything about the Feast of Trumpets, this celebration and anticipation of resurrection. I put my ear buds in and willed my body down the road, as the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” filled my soul. I remembered the words that my pastor’s wife had spoken to a gathering of women the week before. She was sharing her personal story of how the Lord had pulled her out of her despair over the death of several people in the church. The Lord had said to her heart, “Only I can touch life and death.” It’s moments like these that make me bow to the sovereignty and the holiness of God the Father.
I contemplated the Lord’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering and our loss. I recalled the stories of so many of my precious friends and family members who are still in the middle of difficult trials of sickness, pain, betrayal, and trauma. My dear friend, Ruth, who is no stranger to suffering, disclosed to me a poignant saying that a wise woman once told her, “The first hundred years are hard.”
Yes. This is so true. Life is hard. Suffering is reality. Sin is still here on this earth. Things do not always go the way we had hoped or prayed. The first hundred years are hard.
But as I ran, scripture from the night before came to my mind. Scripture that speaks of something more powerful than suffering. More victorious than sin and death.
If it is only for this life that we have put our hope in the Messiah, we are more pitiable than anyone. But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man. For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:19-22 CJB
Paul, the author of these words, had a close relationship with suffering. He understood what it meant to be hungry, poor, imprisoned, sick, burdened, beaten, and, ultimately, martyred for his faith. But he says that if we have hope only for this life here, we are to be pitied! His hope was solidly in the resurrection of Christ and in the eventual resurrection of all believers from the dead.
Listen, I tell you a secret- not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 CJB
The first hundred, or however many years the Sovereign Lord gives us on this planet, may indeed be hard, but after that? After that, for us who love the Messiah Yeshua and have put our faith in Him, we will be forever with Him! And if He returns while we are still alive and remain, we will be caught up to meet our Lord in the air and changed by the resurrection of the dead!
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18 CJB
This is surpassing news, almost too good to be true! But it is our blessed hope amid the suffering of our day and why we keep looking to the clouds.
I’ve decided to do something crazy. Maybe it’s because I’m turning 40 in a couple months and am feeling the urge to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s because doing hard things is a good discipline. Or maybe it’s because, as a homeschool mom, I need some chunks of time to myself! Whatever the reason, I have decided to train for a half marathon.
This might not seem like a crazy endeavor to everyone, but to me, it’s a massive undertaking. For the last few years my workout schedule has gone something like this: work out once a month, then recover the next few weeks. In August I made the decision to start running a mile every day up our dirt road to the mail boxes and back, for no other reason except that I really do enjoy running. Towards the beginning of September I began to wonder if a half marathon was a possibility. I reached out to a couple friends who had run it before and their enthusiasm was enough to convince me that, yes, this was attainable. So I researched running plans with Jason and even he began to train with me.
Few things capture the Christian life quite like running. Here are a few of my observations:
It’s simple. I put one foot in front of the other and I travel somewhere.
It takes tremendous discipline. I have to choose to do it.
It’s hard work. Though it is simple, the act of running is tiring and strenuous to my body and mind.
It’s better done in community. When Jason or my friend, Andrea is keeping me accountable, it is so much easier to continue running, especially when it’s hard.
It’s essential to rest. I cannot run everyday. I must give my body periodic rest in order to recover from the run.
I’m only in week two of a sixteen-week training schedule and I haven’t hit any of the long runs yet, but I have already noticed how hard this is. Last week I was pushing myself up the last hill of a two mile run and all I could do was put one foot in front of the other and think about Jesus. How he endured the cross, scorning its shame, but for the joy set before him. I know I’m only running, but it was such a clear picture of the Christian life. Life can be so hard. And sometimes all we can do is just put one foot in front of the other and “just do the next thing,” like Elisabeth Elliot is known for saying. If that is you, my friend, you are not alone. I join you in this uphill battle. This battle that is worth undertaking.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
A red songbird perched atop the utmost branch of our tree and proclaimed his presence to the morning, his crest standing straight up as he sang. I sat in a wicker chair on our back porch, hearing the song and filling up my soul with the beauty of the day, washed clean from the storms of the night before.
This morning I had felt so distant from God. Like I had forgotten how to commune with Him. I reached out to a small group of women that hold me accountable to spending time with Jesus each morning and asked them to pray for me. I didn’t really know what it was that I needed, just that I needed…Him. His presence. His nearness. I wanted to feel Him and I wanted the God of the universe to speak to me.
My friend, Rebecca, texted me back, assuring me that she was praying for me and she wrote these words,
“My friend, remember that God’s voice is not always heard, sometimes it is seen and sometimes it is felt. He’s always with you and has never left you as He promised in His Word.”
I thought of her words to me as I sat listening to the songbird. It almost sounded as if he sang, “Beware, beware!” Or was it, “Aware, aware!”?
I had so many questions still unanswered. Mainly, the one question. The question that always haunts me. The question of adoption. In a few weeks it will have been one year since we found out that we were not adopting Isaac. Our lives were so very different last year than they are now. We were prepping our home to receive a child. Gearing up emotionally, physically and spiritually for this. And now? A year later we have gone on with our lives. I am the very busy mother of older kids. I am preparing to teach a Classical seventh grade class next year and Jason and I have moved on from adoption. Definitely moved on from the diaper stage.
And yet, I haven’t really moved on.
I’m still there. I’m still holding on. That longing to enter into the miracle. I am holding onto adoption because, as crazy as it seems, I do not want to miss the pain and the blessing of sharing in the gospel of Christ.
It’s just that I don’t see how adoption fits into our life.
This morning, as I sat looking out over the lush pasture, I pulled out a bookmark from my Bible with declarations of my identity in Christ. I read them out loud and several of them jumped out at me, so much so that I knew I needed to slow down and meditate on them. The one that resonated the most was an old, familiar passage from the book of Philippians chapter 1.
God will carry on to completion the good work He began in me. Philippians 1:6
This was big. I grabbed my journal and started scribbling. And I wrote to the Father, “The completion of the good work in my life depends on YOU!”
How very quickly I lose sight, in my mad dash to work out my own salvation, that this very work is not my own. It is God’s work. He has begun it and He will finish it. Yes, of course, I partner with Him, but I don’t carry it on my own! It is from Him, through Him, to Him. It is all His!
And so, if the completion of the good work in my life depends on God, then…
I can stop striving to make sure I don’t miss out on His best for me.
I can rest in His promise.
I can trust in His perfect timing.
I don’t know if we will ever get to adopt. I don’t know what the future holds for our family. But I do know my Shepherd. He is good and He leads. We hear His voice and we follow. And He will bring the work of our lives, that He has started, to completion.
I learned how to prune my rose bush yesterday. I remembered hearing that Valentine’s Day is the prime time to prune roses and I just so happened to think about it when I had a bit of time to actually do something about it. So I got out some gloves and rusty pruning shears. Oh, and youtube. I looked up a simple video on pruning and started putting the four steps to action.
First step: pull off all the leaves.
Second: cut out all the dead parts.
Third: cut away any branch that is rubbing against itself horizontally.
Lastly: cut the vertical branches at an angle so that the rain does not fall directly onto the buds.
Why on earth am I sharing these mundane details of my life, you might ask? Because as I pruned this rose bush, I was startled by the truth that it represented in my life. It’s been a difficult season in my marriage these last few weeks. Not bad. Not hopeless. But difficult. Jason and I have had many painful conversations, some that have stemmed from misunderstanding and miscommunication. Some that have been the result of our own selfishness and stubbornness. And some that have been because of differences in our personalities. Guys, I have an amazing husband and God has blessed me with a man who sticks by me and hears me out and loves me faithfully. But marriage is not easy.
In these uncomfortable conversations, that we made ourselves have, I believe that God was doing a bigger work than I ever suspected at the time. He was ripping out premature expectations and desires to make our hearts ready for His perfect timing. He was cutting out the dead parts in our hearts – the sin – and cutting away the rough and irritating parts that got in the way of our unity and harmony. He was pruning us, is pruning us, with His sharp shears, at the right angle, so that our harvest of love and righteousness will be great and abundant.
Jason bought this particular rose bush for me on our 14th Anniversary at the Antique Rose Emporium that we happened upon accidentally when we were out driving. We had three rose bushes beside our house, but this one is the only rose bush that survived the new construction of Addie’s room that following summer. It happens to be my favorite, though. It’s name is Lafter. At the time, we thought the name appropriate, as laughter has been an enduring part of our relationship.
As I finished pruning this last surviving rose bush yesterday, I was reminded of something that Jason has said to me over and over again, and that I, in turn, remind him. We are on the same team. We are different people, yes, but we are together, in covenant with each other. We are not enemies! But we have a choice. We have the choice to submit ourselves to the Gardener’s pruning shears and let Him do the work in our hearts that will lead to oneness with our spouse and obedience to Christ.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2
How about you? Is your marriage in a season of pruning? Have you been through the pruning and come to see the fruit of that harvest of righteousness? Are you struggling to submit to the shears?
Father, I pray that our hearts would be open and surrendered to you. I pray that we would submit ourselves to your wisdom and your goodness and that you would cut out any sin or entanglement in our lives that would prevent a harvest of righteousness. Unify our marriages, Oh God! For your glory and our gladness. Thank you for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, which makes it possible to redeem our brokenness! There is hope for our marriages in your name, Jesus! Amen.
I was returning from a Women’s Conference, driving the scenic country highway, worship music blaring, feeling so filled up with the joy of the presence of God. Jason called and I answered.
“Rosemary died two hours ago,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for you to come see her before we bury her.”
Talk about an emotional crash. I was halfway home, and told him so, but I knew they would still wait the thirty minutes more. He knows I need the closure with our animals.
Rosemary was our eight month-old heifer calf, born on Pentecost Sunday night. She was the exact image of her mother with her white face and orange body. She was always very scared of us and would never let anyone near her, let alone touch her. We would admire her from a distance. When we dewormed our cows this past summer, Rosemary was still too little to get a wormer, so we opted out for her, thinking she would get some of it through her mother’s milk. The summer was so dry and then the fall and winter was hit with so much rain, that it created a breeding ground for parasites. We knew we needed to get our cows dewormed again this winter, but we got busy and just did not get around to it in time. And by the time we noticed that Rosemary was not well, it was too late.
Jason and I brought her into our stall in the barn and the very fact that she was not running away from us made us realize how sick she really was. Just the walk one hundred yards from the pasture to the barn exhausted her and she collapsed as soon as she got inside. And she never stood again.
We immediately gave her a dewormer and started a process of feeding her raw milk every three hours and giving her B12 injections every day and Vitamin C. The first two nights Jason and I got up around the clock to feed her and the next day he tried to start an IV, thinking she was severely dehydrated. Our neighbor kept checking in on Rosemary and offering advice and we continued to dialogue with the vet, who basically said to keep her warm and continue feeding her.
When I was finishing up at the Conference, Jason fed Rosemary a little bit of milk. She sighed deeply, and then was quiet. After a while, she sighed deeply one last time. And then she was gone.
I arrived home that evening as rain began to spritz in the twilight. I put on my boots and then hurried out to the far side of our top pasture. Jason and the kids were there with the tractor and there was a deep muddy hole in which had been placed the small body of our calf, Rosemary. All at once, in a spontaneous manner that reminded me of my mother, I began to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” Hoping someone would join me, I sang the first verse, and then the second, and then the third. No one joined in and I could tell Jason was getting anxious to bury her before there was no more light to see. As I started the last verse, he jumped in the tractor and then, as I finished, he immediately started it and began to cover her up. All the while, the rain spit down on us.
The very next day, Jason was on shift and made a call with the fire department to a young patient. I don’t know the details, but in the course of the fight for life, the fight was lost. I’m really not sure how my husband does it. He daily enters the battle of life and death and some times he is able to stabilize the patient and bring them back. But many times, he isn’t. But the fight for life must be made. It is too sacred of a thing not to fight for. For animals. But especially for people.
Rescue those being led away to death, and restrain those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” will not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds? Proverbs 24:11-12
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