Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Just Trying to Grasp It All

Long before I became a widow for the first time, I advocated for orphans heavily. I’d have to say before I truly grasped the biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows (God defines it as pure religion), He had already impressed upon my heart the yearning and clear calling to be a voice for the least of the these. Now…granted…my voice tended to sway heavily in the area of the orphan crisis, because it was easier for my mind to grasp, and children, in general, seemed to be easier ones for whom to advocate. And then I became one…

A widow, that is. My previous view of a widow had been blown to smithereens…the eighty-year-something, married a long time, two to three children, white-headed, blessed life…type of widow. Yes…I, too, put my stereotypical vision of a widow in a shallow box. Now, those women inside that box are precious too, and God gives us that same biblical mandate to care for them, but I didn’t go seeking those opportunities like I did the ones for orphans. I’m ashamed to admit that now, but I think it was, in part, ignorance to the needs around me and also intentional avoidance. In my mind, I was at least doing something for “part of the equation”…I advocated orphans for heavily…didn’t that count for something?

That mindset of mine changed abruptly on May 4, 20111 when I became a widow…at 39 years of age. No longer did I meet that pre-conceived notion and vision in my head of what a widow looks like. NOW…James 1:27 became extremely real to me, as I was one part of that mandate. And…suddenly…I got it! I not only got it, but I was quick to ask the Lord to never let me forget what this feels like (in case I wasn’t always a widow). I prayed often for Him to reveal to me how it is He wants us to care for widows, and, thankfully, He surrounded me with a group of people from my church and the church-at-large who DID get it and cared for me deeply. Through their actions, they boldly lived out James 1:27.

And again…after God so graciously blessed me with a beautiful new marriage to another incredible man who also got “it”! The command and calling on our lives to care for the least of these, especially orphans and widows. And…most of you know the rest of that story…we added, through adoption, four more children to our already blended nest of five, creating an incredibly beautiful nest of nine.

And…just when I think God had us in a sweet spot…I not only “survived” my widow experience, but God brought some incredible beauty out of those dull ashes through the gift of remarriage and an expanded family…yours, mine, and ours. He gave the gift of family to four orphans through international adoption and domestic foster to adopt. And…he expanded our hearts to love even deeper outside of our neatly “perfect box” with the red bow on top. I couldn’t wait to see what God would do with this new love story…one that I promised to use to glorify Him first and foremost.

Barely into figuring out our new “roles” in this expanded and beautiful family, February 12, 2017 was ushered into our lives quite abruptly, and I became a widow for the SECOND time at the age of 45. And…this time…it was drastically different. As I was now a widow of recently orphaned children who suddenly felt fear again of being orphaned all over again.

How do I begin to explain this one to our children, and even to myself, if truth be told? All I know is I suddenly found myself back in those deep waters again. The same ones from where Jesus reached for me, rescued me, and restored my life in a beautiful way.

That Jesus of mine…He’s the SAME…yesterday, today, and forever! While I may not have all the answers, I know the God that does. And…it’s in Him, I put my full trust. It’s in Him, I cling to for my next breath. And…it’s in Him, I expect another miracle of a life restored one day…in His timing. Until I see it with my eyes, I continue to believe…. #HeIsStillGood

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. ~James 1:27 (NLT)

If you still feel led to tangibly help our family, click here for some suggestions on ways to do so. Or…just do whatever God lays on your heart to do. We are beyond grateful at how He continues to meet our daily needs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Get Messy!

Get messy!In recent years, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pondered this very thing.

  • What if I had been born in a third world country?
  • What if my life resembled the lives of those we rally the troops to care for, to protect, to feed, and to clothe?
  • What if I had never heard the message of the one true hope of the Gospel?
  • What if I had been bought and sold into sex slavery?
  • What if I was forced to walk 10 miles one-way each day to simply get to a water source for my family?
  • What if I caught a glimpse of life in the Western world only to realize my life was drastically different, and those people didn’t seem to know I even existed?
  • What if I saw both my parents shot and killed before eyes?
  • What if my brother had been dragged off to fight in the war with the rebels (the very ones who just shot my mom and dad) at the age of only nine?
  • What if I was an orphan? What if I had to tuck myself into bed every single night without an embrace and “I love you” words from a mother or father?
  • What if lived under a bridge here in America and had to watch the passersby scoff at me daily? They only think they know my story, and yet they’ve never walked in my shoes.
  • What if I lost everything I owned in Hurricane Katrina, and I’m still waiting to have a home again after all these years? What if…?

Any of those situations could have been my life. But, thankfully, they weren’t.

Friends…this a message for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The church.

This life you’ve been blessed with could be drastically different. Even the poorest among us in America are in the top tier of the richest people in the world. So, why do you think God chose you to have this life? Simply because you work hard and earned every bit of it? I would be bold enough to say emphatically NO. Yes…there are blessings for hard work, but honestly…I would also be bold enough to say you’ve been blessed with much, because God expects you to, in return, bless others much!

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48 (NIV) 

I am not saying God doesn’t want us to have money or comfortable lives, but I know He expects us to push ourselves beyond the comfort, possibly even to a place of temporary discomfort (or not-so-temporary at times) to be His hands and feet to those He places on our paths. To some, that might be “front line” service…short and long-term missionaries, adoptive families, humanitarian aid workers, crisis care workers…that place of service where the discomfort can be felt a little more deeply. The pain might be a little bit stronger, and the ability to see even deeper into the crisis at hand is often readily available.

To others, God might be asking you to stretch beyond your comfort zone by telling you to step outside your idyllic world of order and peace and get “messy”. He might be asking you to suit up as the cavalry…line up directly behind the front-line infantry…ready to provide support when needed. Because, if the infantry drops (from never getting the rest or support they need), you become that front line! Being the cavalry might involve providing financial support for missionaries or short-term mission trips. Or – perhaps He’s gifted you with the ability to organize a fundraiser on behalf of those missionaries or adoptive families. Maybe He’s asked you to be the one to offer to care for the newly adopted child to give mom and dad a time to renew. No…not that kid! Might be tough work and a bit exhausting, but God didn’t ask you to adopt…just to provide a little support in the background. Being His hands and feet can look messy. But, He gave you this life…not that life. Maybe that crisis care worker has simply heard too many painful stories and needs some time away. Maybe you could send them to the beach for a weekend renewal. God hasn’t asked you to stand in their shoes (and you’re thankful for that), but He expects you do something. What does that look like? To the homeless man under the bridge, what about taking him to the Waffle House for a meal? Ouch! That might be uncomfortable. Maybe. Being Christ’s hands and feet can be very uncomfortable.

Friends…the world is getting uglier. Fellow believers…this should not surprise us, as God promised us these very things in His Word. There has never been a more prolific time in the world in which we need to get out of our neat and tidy boxes and get messy! Will it hurt? I can almost guarantee it will in some, way, shape, or form, but you will be blessed for it! God promises blessings for obedience!

Don’t know where to start? How about spend some time asking Him to show you the next area in which He wants you to be His hands and feet? If you sincerely ask, He will definitely show you!

I go back to where I started…what if you had been born in a third world country? This blessed life He’s given you…it can be snuffed way…just…like…that. Dedicate your life to Him, and bring Him glory through it! It will radically change you…and the world!