Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On His Throne

Not long ago, a tiny heart started beating 
in the darkness of his mother's body.  
He had been named long before.
Because that Mama....she knew.

This baby was a miracle - he was impossible.  On top of that, he was a scandal.  This was not the "right time" for his mother to be pregnant and she knew what sort of criticism awaited her.  She tucked strategically placed scarves around her growing belly to disguise the love growing inside of her and braced herself for what was to come.

A few months later in the midst of a long journey, she found herself on the floor of a stall, crying out to God for mercy.  This baby was to be born at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place, and none of it made any sense.  

But it was perfect.  

And with Heaven opened up wide to a filthy stable, 

our King was born. 

Angels were released into our darkness, 
and they hovered over the place where he lay.  

More still, rushing the hillsides to announce 
the Savior's birth to the working class in the fields. 

"Come and see this baby boy 
who is making all sad things untrue!"  

And they came to worship.

Light shone down on the lowly part of town, 
and the One who crafted the world with his powerful hands now shivered in the night; 
those powerful hands now cloaked in infant flesh.

"The God who made us all
With these two tiny hands
Is bringing us His Kingdom 
Quiet as a Lamb"

His first breath taken for his people...  

Right up until His last breath - the one he mustered up at the very end so that he could shout our freedom out into the air...

Paid for!  Tetelestai!

And that tiny heart, the one that we celebrate this time of year?    

Eventually that tiny heart would be pierced and speared under a dark sky and his life poured out like water.  

His mother, the one who held his tiny body on this Christmas night?   

Her heart would also be pierced.  She would hold his shredded, ruined body after he gave his life up willingly.

Not long ago, a tiny heart started beating.  
God became flesh and dwelt among us.  

There was no way for us to come to Him, covered in our rags, so He came down to us and wrapped Himself in our sin - trading His life for ours, paying our debt on the cross.  

And those angels who heralded his birth?  

Years later, God held back armies of them while they raged in fury, watching in anguish from above as that same baby boy bled and died willingly for us, 
refusing to call them down for rescue 
- their King of Heaven pinned to a tree - 
while God the Father turned away.  

And it pleased God the Father to bruise Him 
- to crush Jesus under our weight.


For those who will believeth.

On that first silent night, the divine conspiracy was put into motion that would set us free.  He would die, rise again, and defeat death, and ask for us to Believe in Him alone for our salvation - not our own goodness, not our works, not our religion - just Jesus.

"Goodwill to Men, Peace on Earth..."
This is Christ - this is NOT us or what we do.

We are NOT peace and goodwill. 
We ARE war, murder, lust, hatred - we are thieves.
We are lost, and yet the weary world rejoices.

This season, we are all the "wise men" bowing low at His feet with our goodwill and our "gifts" for Him.  We want to stay here, in this place of worship at the manger, but we can't because HE DIDN'T.  

We all must decide what to do with this Baby.  As we pack away the decorations, how often do we tuck Him back into His manger, or pin Him back up on that cross - or worse yet - we stuff Him into that grave and we leave Him there.  In our own inability to accept Him as He is, we put Him ANYWHERE but where He IS... 

On His Throne as the Risen Savior, 
holding back the day when He will judge our righteousness 
by our own merit or by His.  

You see, He is not a baby anymore.  

And no matter what you do with Him or who you say He is, He will keep being God.  He is eternal.  Everlasting.  Unchanging.  And He is not dead.  

Jesus is alive.  And we have been Redeemed.  And His Peace on Earth is coming.  Are you ready?  If you aren't ready, GET ready.  
"You must be born again." 

Just two verses past the infamous John 3:16, we hear the rest of the story:

"And this is the judgement:  the Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness..." Acts 17:30

Because this Christmas carol, the one we all sing 
that asks us to prepare Him room....

"Joy to the world, the Lord has come.  
Let Earth receive her King!"

That hymn was NOT written about Christmas...
it was written to herald the second coming of Christ.  

Because that baby?  
He's coming back.

And "he is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, 
and his name is the Word of God." -Rev 19:13

Let every heart prepare Him room, 
Let Heaven and Nature Sing.

Merry Christmas

Friday, September 26, 2014

Labor Day

Joshua was born on September 1st, 2014.  
Labor Day.

I spent two days in labor (and in denial) and landed at the hospital just in time.  Just a few hours before he was born, I was timing contractions on an app while walking around Bass Pro Shops with Paul and the kids, wondering if this would be the day.

It was.

While the kids were playing outside with Paul, my cute little contractions rolled over into massive, falling-on-the-floor-waves while I was on the phone with Belinda (I was trying to convince her I was probably in false labor) and suddenly my house was filled with neighbors and friends and babysitters, all helping Paul and I get out the door.

Delivery was fast, and I found myself staring into the face that was the result of a thousand miracles and even more prayers.  

The next day, friends who had been waiting to meet Joshua began pouring into the hospital.

This picture of Becky meeting my son, the same one she and I mourned together in the Chicago hospital, brings me to tears every time.

And finally, it was time for him to meet his siblings. 

He belongs to all of them, equally, and they know it. 

 After coming home, I have seen each child care for Joshua in their own way.  Lilly and Daisy are "Little Mamas" and are such a help to me.  

Coming from a place where children are often the caregivers of other children, Haven is very protective over Joshua.

Aaron makes sure I know when Joshua is crying, and he insists I pick him up right away!  If I do not get there quick enough, I often find a toy car or block sitting on Joshua's chest.  He wants Brother to know we are here for him.  

Birthing a child after 4 adoptions has changed my perspective.  I am more appreciative of the privilege of caring for my newborn.

I find myself comparing my children's institutional life - and what they lost and missed in these early weeks and months - to Joshua's life.  

For example, now that Joshua is 1 month and weighs 9 pounds, 
I have not forgotten that this was what Mimi weighed at 1 YEARS old.  

As we hit that 1-month mark, I think of the pain and loss that 3 of my babies were ALREADY experiencing at this point in their lives, and how one son's life can differ so much from another's.

But that was Before.

And this is After.

I praise God for giving us all a picture of how it SHOULD be - of babies wrapped up warm in the love of their family home.  I know seeing this played out in our family serves as healing for my adopted children.

Every child deserves this.

And someday, when Christ returns, the fact that there are more children than there are parents in this world will be remedied.

 He is coming to set things straight and claim His children as sons, and adoption and foster care will no longer be necessary

(Come quickly!)

Until He returns, all of these children are stewarded to our earthly care.  They are worth fighting for, they are worth our time, our attention, our sacrifice, and our patience.  They are the only earthly treasure in our homes that we have any chance of bringing into eternity.  

They are arrows to be shot out into the world to reflect His Glory and tell His Story.  They are the future rulers in the Millennial Kingdom.  And they are a picture of His love for us.

And as we fumble our way through this life as the parents of seven of these treasures, we cling more than ever to the saving Grace of Jesus, freeing us from the standards and expectations of this world - and from the Law - which we can never appease.

We could never deserve this.  

And we thank Him everyday for a seat among Princes
and for this abundant heritage.

"He raises the poor from the dust, 
and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 
He sits them with princes, 
with the princes of His people. 
He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Baby Joshua

I have kept pretty quiet about the details of the medical emergency that took me off the airplane to China in a wheelchair and landed me in the Chicago emergency room, leaving Paul scrambling for a travel visa to take my place

What I experienced is called a large subchorionic hematoma (a blood clot), and it ruptured behind my baby's placenta. 

I was actually 12 weeks pregnant when we got on that flight to claim Haven and Aaron.  As the plane began to taxi towards takeoff and eventually on to Beijing, it became clear that something was very, very wrong.

Labor pains hit hard and fast, and I began to bleed.  Heavily.  

I was evacuated from the plane.  Lilly, Becky, and I prayed through tears and shock as I was wheeled away from the tarmac while the flight took off without us.  I found myself in the ER, where a triage nurse tried to bring me back into reality while checking us in:

"You are having a miscarriage, and this will be over soon."

Then I heard her call in my diagnosis over an intercom - quietly citing the medical term "incomplete abortion" - and I wept.  Doubled over in pain, I felt all of my plans literally slipping from my body.  

But His plans are better... 

And that nurse was wrong.   

His name is Joshua.

He is already a conqueror, and he will succeed Moses and Aaron, 
just as his namesake did in Deuteronomy.

His middle name will be Lazarus, because on that day in February, I laid in the hospital bed and mentally buried another son that I would never hold, in total peace, and handed him to Jesus.

And in His grace, He handed him back to us.  

Our son lives.

Joshua is due September 6th, 2014.  

Because of this date, we have always known he would be a boy; so we named him immediately - before the gender ultrasound.

You see, September 6th is the exact one year anniversary of the day that the original son we meant to adopt died, and the very same day that we committed to bring home Aaron in his place.

It is a day of Redemption...

And we have seen a lot of those in this family.  

Our children have been pulled out of the desert, out of alleyways, out of the hands of wild animals, out of starvation, out of neglect
and out of suffering....

and have been providentially Hand-placed into our home 
by a tender, loving Father. 

Paul and I were no exception to this.  

We were lost, we were rebels to His Law; and we were facing certain, permanent death as a penalty.  But He chose to intercede on our behalf; paying our ransom with His life and placing us into His Family.
Because of Jesus, death has literally lost its sting
and we watch His Redemption Story repeat itself 
in our children's lives. 

We have known we were pregnant since Christmas morning.
Since that day, we have seen healing in all of our children 
in ways we never would have expected.

After Miriam asked me with tears in her eyes 
if this baby will travel on an airplane to live with another family after he is born, 

because it is all she knows... 

I placed her hands on my tummy and explained the basics of God's design for family, and she leaned into me with relief.

Our Mandarin tutor helped us explain my tummy to Haven.

Now when we meet someone new, Haven takes my hand and announces that I am "Haven's Mama", and then pats my belly and says, 
"Joshua, Haven's baby."

And my Lilly - the one who bravely prayed over her Mama in a hospital bed asking God to save the baby's life -  despite having already been told that the baby was gone - she reminds me at every opportunity that God heard her prayers...

We have been chosen over and over again; 
blessed with life and love and a family that has been 

divinely knit together.  

We have gone from 2 children to 7 in just TWO years.  
We are exhausted, ecstatic, and filled with hope.  We can laugh about tomorrow, because we know He holds the future in His Hands.

But what will we do with all of these children?

"As for me and my household, 
we will serve the Lord."  


Amy graciously blessed our family by donating her time and these pictures 
as a part of the Red Thread Sessions project. 

Amy is humble, remarkably talented, has a huge heart for Jesus and the orphan, and her blog is filled with all sorts of beauty.  Go on over and check it out, or find her on Facebook:

*For families who have suffered the loss of a miscarriage, or the death of an infant or child - or are raising a child with mental or developmental issues, please consider this sermon: