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Today is adopion day.  The day I received the best gift of my life.

Three years four months and sixteen days ago a charming, brown-eyed, pint sized, almost three year old, fire-cracker of a girl came to live with us.  Although she came at a time when we weren’t looking for her, somehow we were always expecting her.

Two years ago today our family went to court to finalize her adoption.  Now she is six and we can’t remember what our family was like without her.  She is kind, smart and opinionated, resilient, stubborn and very self-aware.  On her birthday this year, we took both girls out to dinner.  She was sitting next to me and at one point I looked over at Robb and said, what did we ever do without this?  (about 3 1/2 seconds later she did something naughty)

About a month ago she asked me, what does adopted mean? (apparently her class had read a book about a family adopting a kitten). 

I thought, here we go, sent up a quick prayer for words and said, adoption is when someone gives a home and a family to someone who needs it.

Am I adopted?

Yes.  You didn’t grow in my tummy like Isaac and Ezri, but God grew you in my heart and the first time I saw you I knew you belonged in our family.

O, that’s right.  I used to live with [her birth mother] and then I lived with Karli and then I came to live with you.

That’s right, I said, and grabbed her up in a big hug, but don’t think you are ever getting away from us.  You’re stuck with us forever.

How does one properly celebrate Adoption Day? 

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. — Ephesians 5:15 -16 (NASB)

How eager we are, when we hear God’s voice in a fresh way, to take up the reins and whip up the horse and gallop ahead on the path we think God has laid out for us.  But, in truth, God seldom lets me see more than a step or two ahead, (if that).  So I constantly have to school myself in patience (with varying degrees of success).

Are you looking at your present trials, victories, sorrows and joys as preparation for what God has for you in the future.  If so, then I would like to suggest that you are missing out on what God has for you today.  Don’t run ahead of God, always analyzing and trying to wring sense and meaning out of what today’s experiences have brought.  Revel in God’s grace today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  (Preaching to myself here by the way).

God is intensely interested in what we are going through today.  And the fact that each experience prepares me for the next and the next is really God’s business (and He’s so very good at it).  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Mrs. Gerlene Pashion passed away last Friday suddenly.

Mrs. Pashion is the mother of my lifelong friend, Lori.  I can almost not remember a time when I didn’t know her.  She’s been a fixture in my life since I was about five.  And it’s funny that I didn’t realize how important she’s been to me until now, now that she is gone.

I spent just about every Sunday afternoon of my growing up years at the Pashion house, having lunch with them after church and, in the early years, playing with clay at the kitchen table, which gave way eventually to spending time in Lori’s room, probably talking about boys.

Looking back on those afternoons with the perspective of an adult, I realize that was possibly not the most convenient way for Mrs. Pashion to spend her Sunday afternoons.

But Mrs. Pashion knew how to love people.  She was never begrudging of those afternoons.  And I was a senstive child and believe me, I would have known.  All I felt at the Pashion house was gracious warmth and the love of Christ overflowing.

I remember an afternoon when Lori and I were in high school and members of the bible quiz team.  We were preparing for a competition and Mrs. Pashion spent an entire afternoon listening to each of us go through our stacks of quote cards until we were word perfect on every single one.  Again, from an adult perspective, I realize that there were probably many other things that Mrs. Pashion could have been doing with her time, important things.  But she knew that loving people means spending time with them, even when it’s not convenient.  I had the privilege of being treated like a third daughter.  But, knowing Mrs. Pashion, I believe all Lori and Rosie’s friends probably felt the same way, loved, accepted, a member of the family.

This kind of unconditional love, that loves without thought of one’s own comfort  or convenience has helped me understand the love of my Father in heaven.  I am honored to have spent so much time with a woman who was beautiful to the core and taught me so much about the working out of my salvation in love and patience and grace.  And I pray that God will use me to be a “Mrs. Pashion” to the friends of my own daughters.

I was gone today, quizmastering actually, for the Central District quiz invitational.  And as an aside, anyone who has quizzed over the book of Acts and actually stuck it out to the end has my greatest admiration. 

Because of a dearth of babysitters, due to said quiz meet intersecting with a wedding involving a family (as well as many support players) in our church intersecting with Robb’s last day of school (yippee!!), I had to have one baby sitter in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Sometime on the am babysitter’s watch, the 6 year old got a nasty splinter in her foot.  Neither babysitter, working alone or together could get it out.  When I got home, she was lying on the couch and insisting that it didn’t hurt anymore and I didn’t have to take it out.  And I said, Oh honey, I have to take it out.  It’s dirty and nasty and if I leave it in it will cause all kinds of problems.  Your foot could get infected.

She asked me, what does infected mean?

I said, that’s when something dirty, that doesn’t belong, gets inside you and it starts to poison everything around it.  And it hurts worse and worse and pretty soon you won’t be able to run and jump and play.

It’s not that she didn’t believe me, but she was willing to risk the possibility of future pain to avoid the certainty of present pain. 

Well, it took two of us holding her down while she was screaming and writhing and while her big sister was crying and begging me to stop, but I got the splinter out.  It was deep, but it wasn’t really that hard to remove.

And I’ve been thinking two things:

The splinter wasn’t that hard to get out, and yet the mom was the only one who could do it.  I was the only one who could bring myself to inflict pain in order to circumvent pain.  (Keep in mind that these are adult babysitters – not 14 year olds).  And you know what?  If I was watching someone else’s kid and that happened, I would probably wait for mom too.  But there’s something about doing the best for your child, even though it’s painful.  And isn’t that what God is doing when He allows us to go through painful trials and circumstances?  Sometimes is He cutting out that dirty nasty crud that we’ve allowed, that we’re so used to that we don’t notice, that’s buried so deep that you can’t see it on the surface, so that it won’t poison the rest, so that we will not lose our ability to run and jump and play?

The other thought I had was how much like little children we are when we kick and struggle instead of submitting to the One who loves us best.  We know He loves us, we understand that trials have to come to refine our faith, but we whine and beg and plead and yell.  Just as I am glad that I didn’t give in to my daughter’s begging, I am glad our loving Daddy doesn’t give in to ours.  I am glad He goes forward and pulls out that splinter, cuts out that prideful attitude, pushes me ruthlessly to work through my fears, so that I can be being made perfect, because wholeness is worth the pain.  Christ-likeness will take major surgery.  But that’s what we are asking for when we ask God to use us, to make us into the people He wants us to be.

God directed me to two verses this week, which, taken together, give me courage:

Ephesians 1:19 (with some context)
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know . . . His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead . . .

Colossians 1:11
 . . . being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience . . .

His incomparably great power (like that strength He exerted when he raised Jesus, remember?) is available to us. why?  So that we can move mountains?  Alter the course of human events?  Perform miracles?  Maybe that too, but more importantly for us living in a world where inexplicible wickedness happens every day, so that we may have great endurance and patience.  So that we can persevere, take that next step, press on in the face of suffering, hardship, trial.  So that we can put one foot in front of the other.

Thank you, thank you, God, for understanding that the battle is in the little things, for giving us power each day for each step, and for knowing how desperately we need it

This sets me on fire.  Press on, dear friends, press on.

I was thinking of my daughters today, and how they’ll ask the same question over and over, trying to get a different response – as many times as I will permit.  Sometimes, when they are especially persistent, I have to say, I’ve answered that question.  I’m not going to change my mind.  And I’m not going to talk about it anymore.

So many times, like a child, I only hear what I want to hear.  I ask again and again, hoping against hope for a different answer this time.  But really, I know the answer.  I know the next step, that giant to be conquered (even if he’s only gigantic in my mind).  And as long as I’m unwilling, as long as I am giving in to fear instead of surrendering to God, is it any wonder that He is silent?  What more is there to say?  He’s told me the answer.  He has shown me the path to the promised land.  It is up to me to choose to set my feet upon it or not, to set my face like flint and follow my Lord.  But it’s no good asking, Where are you, God?  Because I already know He’s up ahead . . . . . on that path . . . . . the one I don’t want to tread.

I’m spending a lot of time in Colossians 3 lately.  I told Robb that I’m going to read it every day until I get it right, which, if I’m at all average, should take me approximately 35 more years.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . . it is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The other day, I was folding Robb’s tee shirts and thinking about God.  Understand that Robb’s tee shirts always go into the laundry inside-out.  He never turns them.  And when I fold them, with an attitude that is about 75% laziness and 25% passive-agressive, I leave them inside-out.  He can turn them – I have enough work to do.  So, I started to fold his inside-out tee shirt and God whispered in my heart . . . it’s the Lord Christ you are serving.  And I asked myself what if this were the Lord’s tee shirt?  My immediate answer was that I’d turn it right side out for my Wonderful Savior/Big Brother/Lover of my soul/Best Friend.  And it dawned on me, I am folding this tee shirt for my Lord.

And I thought that maybe What Would Jesus Do? is the wrong question.  I’ve mostly found the WWJD? thing makes me feel defeated (which I recognize could just be my own issue).  But maybe the question we should be asking ourselves in our service to others is what would I do for Jesus?, the implications of which are so exhausting that I will leave it to you, dear friend, to ponder on your own.

But, p.s. all Robb’s tee shirts are right side out and I’m pretty sure I need to get up and see him off to work in the morning and maybe even fix him some breakfast.

p.p.s. I wrote this in my journal several days ago and since then this question is haunting my existence. 

 28Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

God showed me yesterday that I was trying to claim verse 30 without embracing 28 and 29.  So I was meditating on this passage and here is what the Holy Spirit revealed to me.

Take my yoke . . . there is an element of choosing.

So, I chose when I was 7 years old and said yes to Jesus, yes I want you in my life.

And, I’ve chosen again and again, as I did in 2005 when I prayed, Lord, do whatever it takes in my life to make me into the disciple you want me to be. And I meant it . . . and I still mean it . . . most days.

Now, I need to choose again . . . not to fight . . . not to run ahead . . . not to lag behind . . . and certainly not to stop, but to do my best to match my steps to Jesus to look up, to look over at the lover of my soul, to surrender my wish to know where this road is going and why it’s so rocky, to let my Lord carry me when I am weary.

I need this day to choose again this path and not to look left or right at the inviting orchards and parkland.  Maybe the road ahead looks bleak and desolate and the sun is glaring in my eyes, obscuring my view, but this is where my friend Jesus is going and more than anything, I want to go with Him . . . I choose to go with Him.

But sometimes, I try to run ahead, just to get a look at what’s over the next hill and the yoke chokes me and I cough and gasp for air.  And sometimes I’m looking around where maybe others are relaxing in the shade of an apple tree and I long to stop and I look long and hard and get out of step with my Saviour and the yoke chafes my shoulder and makes me stumble.

And when those times come, it feels too hard and too heavy and in a fit of temper and impatience I stop and I put my hands up and I heave with all my might and off it comes and then I rush ahead only to slam into it there in front of me for, of course, Jesus has kept walking.  I fall down at His feet with my face in the dirt.  I cry out, I can’t do this anymore.  It’s too hard.  It’s too heavy.

And He kneels beside me and takes my hand and tells me, you can keep walking.  I’ll help you.  He pulls me up as if I weigh nothing. 

I cling tightly to His hand and whisper, I can do this, if you’ll help me.  I don’t want to, but I will, if you’ll walk beside me and not let go.  Then, awkwardly, because I’m still clinging to his hand, I grab my side of the yolk and I bend my knees a bit, put my shoulder under it and give a mighty shove, remembering how hard it was to be rid of the thing.  Whoosh . . . up it flies.  I look at Jesus in surprise.  He smiles down at me.  It’s My strength that makes it light . . . not your efforts, not your understanding.

And so I walk on, clinging tightly, a little desperately, to His hand.  I look down at His feet as I stretch, trying to match my step to His.  I look up at His face to catch His smile.  I look down at my feet . . . stretch . . . a little closer this time . . .

Do you ever have a week or two or three in which it seems like all the conversations you’re having are about the same thing?  Lately many of the conversations I am having and the blogs I am reading are about conversation, listening and community. 

My mother recently took a train trip across the country to spend a couple months in California with  my sister.  When I asked her how her trip was, she related to me that the first leg, from Michigan to Colorado was miserable because she was sitting with a woman who talked non-stop about herself for hours.  She was vulgar and crude and she gave all the details of her sordid life, not holding anything back.  She told her captive audience in excruciating detail, about the beatings she had endured from her husband, his marital infidelity, her health issues, etc.

This interested me because, in some ways, I have become a little like the above woman.  After a very painful, stressful and bewildering year, my first defence was to draw into myself and pretend that everything was ok.  Well, that lasted just so long and then all that stuff had to come out.  So the last six weeks I have spent talking about myself, blogging about myself, thinking and analyzing myself to death.

Whether we become like this woman, so desperate for someone to listen that we vomit our life story indiscriminately all over anyone nearby, or whether we go to the opposite extreme and keep everything bottled up inside . . . the world is crying out for someone to listen.

I have my heavenly Daddy who is always there to listen, whose shoulder is always available to cry on and to whose love letter I can go whenever I need courage, strength or hope.  I also have friends – close, committed, mature Christian friends – who care deeply about me and who will listen (and have listened) to me endlessly analyze myself and can set my feet back on the path when I begin to stray.

Where does the world go for community?  Who does the world have to listen but us, His hands and feet and ears?  

What if we started to listen to those around us as if their lives depended on it . . . which they may? 

What if we started listening to those around us as if it were part of our job description . . . which it is? 

What if we invited the Holy Spirit into those conversations and asked Him to give us wisdom as we listen and before we speak . . . which He will? 

What if we loved the people God places in front of us enough to let go of our own agenda and our own perceived need to be heard and listened, really listened . . . without giving advice, without passing judgement, as if we were the ears of God . . . which we are?

How could we change the world?

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.  The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears …

Thanks for listening . . .

I  recently had lunch with to a very good friend of mine whose mother suffers from mental illness.  I was relating to her what our pastor/friend had said about my son, who has severe disabilities, that like all of us he exists to be loved by God.  She then went on to wonder if, given that, her mother would be made well in heaven.  Because if she were completely healed then it would be like she was a different person, like she wouldn’t be her mom anymore, the person God had made to love.

I said, “I think, that when we get to heaven, your mom will be who she was always meant to be.”

And I believe the same for everyone who, like my son and my friend’s mom, suffers here with disabilities, infirmities, mental impairment, genetic disorders.  These are the result of living in a lost and fallen world and when we get to heaven, those people will be who they were always meant to be.  As will we, who are crippled by sin and doubt and confusion, be who we were always meant to be.

My very dear friends, will you please grieve with me as I say goodbye to the boy who was meant to be.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to play little league.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to run and hurl himself into my arms after my absence.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to ace the spelling test, fail his math quiz, win the science fair.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to say, “I love you, Mama.”

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to shout, “I hate you, Mom.”

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to give me sleepless nights when he kept the car out past curfew.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to wrestle on the floor with his daddy.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to perfect his debate skills on me.

I am saying goodbye to the boy who was meant to be constantly complaining about his little sisters, for whom he would secretly do just about anything.

I am saying goodbye to the man-boy who was meant to engage me in long, late-night philosophical discussions.

I am saying goodbye to the young man who was meant to meet a girl, fall in love, and wait for her breathlessly at the front of the church.

I am saying goodbye to the man who was meant to play Mozart, build houses, or become a missionary.

Goodbye and goodbye and goodbye.

It seems like I’m always saying goodbye to this boy.

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But now, dear friends, let us rejoice together because we have the certain hope that one day, soon and soon, we will meet in heaven. 

And there I will get to say hello to the boy who was always meant to be.

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