Today, Orphan Sunday, I join many others in remembering + praying for so many children who are parentless.

I’m so thankful.

So thankful for all who dedicate time and service to forgotten ones via foster care, missions, acts of love, + so much more.

So thankful for the children who will never again carry the label orphan because of adoption.

So thankful that God is writing an amazing story through the life of our son, who doesn’t have our physical features but so surely has captured our hearts.

So thankful that through loss, there can be redemption. Thankful that there is beauty in the ashes. That a parentless child can join a family — forever.

So thankful that when the world says it’s impossible, God says it can be better than you can fathom.

Today, be encouraged that there is hope in a dark world.

Be encouraged that though the orphan statistics are deep + wide, even the life of one, down the street or across the globe, is worth more than many sparrows.

If you consider yourself devoted to Jesus, be encouraged that God can and will use you to be the hands + feet to the orphan…when you say yes. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, what your income level is or where your theology or political ideology places you, God is waiting for you to enter into the suffering + redemption of lives, which includes orphan care. He is calling you.

Can you hear it?

I pray for you as you open yourselves up to an amazing, supernatural narrative — that God’s great love for the orphan will echo in your lives as well.

  • God is vested, deeply and personally, in the plight of the orphan (i.e. Dt 10:18; Ps 68:5-6). 
  • He calls His people to join Him in this, bringing to each parentless child the love of Jesus Christ in both word and deed (Is 1:17; James 1:27; Mt. 10:42; Mt. 25:40).
  • Most importantly, the Gospel itself is the story of God’s rescue and adoption of us. On Orphan Sunday, the Church is reminded of this beautiful truth and urged to act upon it. 

Maybe circumstances are not leading you to adoption, but if you hear those whispers, those soft indications and inklings that there is something more, please be encouraged and know that I would love to talk with you + join you in your journey.

Because I know from experience, God uses those who the world says, ‘Really? Them? But How?’’.

I know because I’ve tasted it.

May your surrender to his Kingdom result in the sweetest story worth living.

I know it will.

fear, international adoption, + learning from martyrs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. Fear of letting go of comforts. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. Fear of being a hypocrite. Fear of missing out on the story God is writing. Fear of shouting too loudly. Fear of being too quiet. Fear of risking it all. Fear of losing it all. Fear of succumbing to fear.

Fear is a tricky thing.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the struggle than an American couple had/is having to finalize their adoption in Ghana. (If not, you can read about it here.) The things they’ve experienced (and probably are still experiencing) are scary, to say the least.

As soon as I found out that the family was getting detained, I shared a call for others to get on their knees + pray for everyone involved.

Fear reared its ugly head.

I heard these things about international adoption from people I love:

"It’s not even worth it."

"Don’t you know this could have happened to you?!"

"International adoption just isn’t safe!"

I can tell you right now, with tears in my eyes, that it is worth it. It could have happened to me. And yes, this life isn’t safe. But we still step forward.

The Creator, and his created, are worth every sacrifice.And from experience, when awful things happen (and they will, because we live in a broken world), it is not the end. I’m just 24, and I have so much to learn, but something that I’m learning is that despite it all, the abundant blessings + joys that come from obedience and love is just…incredible.

I recently learned about Perpetua and Felicity, young women who were martyred in Rome in the third century. Their stories are incredible, and they exemplify courage.

In the year 203, Vibia Perpetua made the decision to become a Christian, although she knew it could mean her death during Septimus’ persecution.

Her father was frantic with worry and tried to talk her out of her decision. At 22 years old, this well-educated, high-spirited woman had every reason to want to live — including a baby son who was still nursing. We know she was married, but since her husband is never mentioned, many historians assume she was a widow.

Perpetua’s answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, “See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?”

Her father answered, “Of course not.” Perpetua responded, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am — a Christian.”

This answer so upset her father that he attacked her. Perpetua reports that after that incident she was glad to be separated from him for a few days — even though that separation was the result of her arrest and imprisonment.

Perpetua was arrested with Felicity, who was her slave.

The prison was so crowded with people that the heat was suffocating. There was no light anywhere and Perpetua “had never known such darkness.” The guards were violent. Perpetua had no trouble admitting she was very afraid, but in the midst of all this horror her most excruciating pain came from being separated from her baby.

Felicity was even worse off for Felicity suffered the stifling heat, overcrowding, and rough handling while being eight months pregnant.

Two deacons who ministered to the prisoners paid the guards so that the martyrs would be put in a better part of the prison. When she received permission for her baby to stay with her "my prison suddenly became a palace for me. Once more her father came to her, begging her to give in, kissing her hands, and throwing himself at her feet. She told him, "We lie not in our own power but in the power of God."

When she and the others were taken to be examined and sentenced, her father followed, pleading with her and the judge. The judge, out of pity, also tried to get Perpetua to change her mind, but when she stood fast, she was sentenced with the others to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.

Felicity was also in torment. It was against the law for pregnant women to be executed. To kill a child in the womb was shedding innocent and sacred blood. Felicity was afraid that she would not give birth before the day set for their martyrdom. Her friends also didn’t want to leave such “good a comrade” behind.

Two days before the execution, Felicity went into labor. Felicity said, “Now I’m the one who is suffering, but in the arena Another will be in me suffering for me because I will be suffering for him.”

She gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage.

The Christians and their teacher went to the arena with joy and calm. Perpetua in usual high spirits met the eyes of everyone along the way. Ancient writings say she walked with "shining steps as the true wife of Christ, the darling of God."

The women were stripped to face a rabid cow. Perpetua and Felicity were thrown back into the arena so roughly that they were bruised and hurt. Perpetua, though confused and distracted, still was thinking of others and went to help Felicity up. The two of them stood side by side as their throats were cut.

Perpetua’s last words were to her brother: “Stand fast in the faith and love one another.” 

[Story shortened from an abridged telling here. I suggest reading her journal entries yourself.]

Wow.

Actually, I think that deserves another wow.

And maybe one more for good measure.

Wow.

Puts things in perspective.

In the midst of such atrocities, in the middle of violence and agony, there is peace. We are refined by fire, and the picture of what losing your life to gain it is becoming so much more clear.

Not succumbing to fear doesn’t mean not having any, it means trusting something — someone — far greater. Not having trust in the what, where, or why, but having trust in the who. And seeing sacrificial love as an honor. A privilege.

Risking everything the world holds high isn’t logical. It doesn’t make sense. The world [and so many in the Church] asks, why? Why spend all of your money, time, emotions, status on something someone not guaranteed? Why travel somewhere unsafe? Why adopt children when you can have a baby? Why bother with racial differences? Why? Why? Why?

I love what Jesus says to his disciples in John 14 when they’re asking him so many of whys:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. [John 14:1-27, NIV, emphasis mine]

Doesn’t Jesus address so many of our fears? God is with us. God doesn’t give as the world gives. Some people won’t understand. Don’t let our hearts be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Obey. Follow him. He is here, he is mysterious, and he is good.

Like so many other life-altering experiences (marriage, divorce, disease, accidents, birth, death) international adoption addresses fear head-on.

When Jonny and I reflect on our experience with international/transracial adoption, so many intense emotions, memories, and fears are drudged up from that deep place inside of ourselves that rarely sees the light of day in polite conversation.

And through all of the tears, the fights, the past, present and future fears, I look at my son, toddling out of his bedroom, still in a nap-induced haze, with big eyes and a smile as he runs toward me with open arms.

Yes, he is worth it.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. [james 1:1-18, the message, emphasis mine]

a glad surrender.

A friend sent me today’s post from A Glad Surrender, a lent blog + devotional by Cornerstone Church in Ames. What a simple + poignant reminder that adoption can reflect the gospel. (Yes, those are the hands of my awesome husband and son.)

"Pure and undefiled religions before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27

Perhaps the most amazing part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that we are not merely forgiven, but we are adopted into the family of God. If we imagine a child in an orphanage who has given up all hope of being adopted by a family and then suddenly finds out that she has been adopted not just by a family, but by a loving father who has a wonderful family and also happens to be the king, we get a partial glimpse of the reality that has happened for each one of us.
A wonderful picture of how we can respond to God’s love is being played out at Cornerstone right now as many families are adopting children both domestically and from abroad. There are many more still in need of homes. Each child is an opportunity for a family to try to reflect the love God has shown us in adopting us.
Starter Prayer: Father, thank you for adopting us into your wonderful family. We pray that you would continue to raise up Christian families to adopt children in need of a home. We pray that you would help us, as a church family to support them and all the parents who are trying to raise their children to love and obey you.

There is a Joseph-size hole in my heart. An emptiness that will only be filled when my baby is home. But while I am broken, I am also full.

My heart is filled with a joy that comes from a compassionate husband, selfless friends and generous family. But most importantly, my heart brims with an overwhelming, overflowing joy from the love of a Heavenly Father who orchestrates things far greater than I can imagine. A Heavenly Father who knows what it’s like to ache with love for a child. A Heavenly Father who created love. Who is love.

So on this Valentine’s Day, my heart is simultaneously experiencing an infinite sadness and joy.

Sadness that I won’t be there to wipe my son’s tears when he is scared. To rock him and hold him on my chest until he falls asleep when he’s tired. To cuddle his chubby little body and listen to his babble when he wakes up. To hold a warm bottle and hear the sounds of him gobbling it down when he’s hungry. To sprinkle snowy baby powder over his soft mocha skin. To kiss his chubby cheeks and sing off key to him. To be his mommy.

And at the same time, I have a joy that transcends all understanding. A joy because I have an awesome God who already let me experience all of the above — a gift a lot of adoptive parents don’t receive. A joy because Joseph is an unfathomable gift. A joy because, some day, I will get to be Joseph’s mommy. Forever.

We got new photos of Joseph yesterday.

I am beyond thankful that he is in a safe and loving environment and being cared for by wonderful volunteers and nannies. I am thankful for his birth mom, who loved him so much, she put him in the arms of someone who could find him a family.

I’m thankful that some day, we’ll get to call Joseph son.

We visit him in exactly one month. In a month, and a few thousand miles, I’ll get to hold those chubby hands. I’ll get to snuggle his little body. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

The total cost of his adoption is $23,000. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. But when I look at his photos, the worry dissipates. I’m left only with an indescribable ache that maybe can only be defined as a parent’s love. It’s overwhelming and amazing.

Over the holiday season, we received some incredibly generous gifts from grandparents. We are now able to pay for our plane tickets. We planned for the trip by faith, and our amazing God provided through our loved ones.

When I look at the rest of our fees, my mind starts to spin. But deep down, I know people will step up to help. I know God will provide. Not for us. Not because of us.

For Joseph. Because of Joseph. Because he matters.

things to come.

Familiar with the phrase, “hurry up and wait?” There’s a lot of that when you are adopting. I’m living the "hurry up" part right now. Which means blogging time has decreased, but awesome real-life stuff has increased.

Basically, this is a preview post in which I tell you about all of the cool things I’m going to blog about.

Drum roll, please:

  • The Giraffe, and Other Things That Made Me Cry: A story of unexpected gifts in unexpected places.
  • Scaves + Stuff: How knits and purls are bringing our baby home.
  • Pretty Paper: Check out the fun banner I made for my kitchen, back when I was in the “wait” stage.
  • Dog Meets Snow: Enjoy cute pictures of a cute dog. In the snow.
  • The Handyman Husband: The story behind the best-ever birthday present. With pictures!
  • Meet Oliver: If you like monsters and scary things, you will not like this post. If you like babies and cute things, you will like this post.