Hope of the World

Today we began decorating for Jesus Birthday. And can I just say, I really hate not getting to share pictures of all our current family members. 😩 It almost feels wrong picking over the photos of our cute little munchkins, like I’m leaving them out. But, rules are rules.

Little babies teensy little hand

Big babies chunky foot🙂

This Advent season I am reading through John Piper’s devotional The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. You can download it for free from Desiring God’s website. Today’s devotional is entitled Why Christmas Happened and the scripture used is 1 John 3:5, 8 “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him…..The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.”

Before John Piper even goes on to tell me “Make this personal and love Him for it” I already am. Not only do I love Him for coming and taking away my sin but I love Him so much for destroying the works of the devil. Works like anger, hatred, addictions, abuse, rebellion, and specifically works like broken families and children in foster care. I have felt hopeless for our boys being reunited with healthy parents. I have felt concerned at the thought of them going to another family member. I have felt confused not knowing if, given the opportunity, we should adopt them. I have felt unsure about their stability in life.

And then He came.

“”Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations……And his name will be the hope of all the world.”” Matthew‬ ‭12:18, 21‬ ‭

His name will be the hope these boys need.

His name is the hope their parents need.

His name will be the hope of all the world.

I am so thankful for Christmas. Every year we get to take time to focus on and have our perspectives refreshed on why Jesus came and what that means for us.

For me this year it means I don’t need to feel hopeless for these two baby boys and their family. God has clearly intervened on their lives and allowed us to play a role and no matter what happens I can trust our time is not meaningless. Because Jesus came I have hope that God is at work even if I can’t see or understand from my limited perspective.

Jesus came to take away sin. My sin. Their sin. Your sin. 

I pray this Christmas this truth resonates deeper in our hearts than it did the last. I pray we would understand the magnitude of Jesus coming and that it would strengthen weak faith, give hope to the hopeless, bring light to those living in dark, call home those who have walked away, and bring people from death to life. I pray with the deepest gratitude in our hearts we would celebrate our Rescuer and King, the Hope of the world.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬

Book: On a Wing and a Prayer

Right now the girls and I are reading about the missionary, Nate Saint, as part of their homeschool curriculum this year. We just finished reading a book on Cameron Townsend the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators. If you’re wondering, I order their books through My Fathers World and have been so pleased the last two years with their materials.

Reading about these early missionaries has been so refreshing for my faith. Their courage, strength, faithfulness and perseverance is astounding. Honestly it puts my modern day American mindset to shame. But I am grateful for these stories for both me and my children. We are learning so much about what it means to really give your life to Christ no matter the cost.

In a recent chapter we read about Nate reconstructing airplane wings in his small adobe home in Tuxtla, Mexico. He becomes very ill and is confined to his bed, alone, with no way to contact anyone for aid. The answer to his prayers for help come through a complete stranger. Phil Baer, a missionary, had only heard about some American man building airplane wings in his home and out of curiosity went to see it for himself. He found a very sick Nate and a very dirty home. He immediately takes responsibility for Nate, nursing him back to health and hand washing all his dirty laundry. This astounded me. It’s so simple and yet so amazingly selfless. They are strangers to each other! But they share the same mission, the Great Commission. We are even told Phil had a wife and new baby that he spent weeks away from while he helped Nate. And I suspect his wife wasn’t griping and complaining for him to return home. Sure, she probably longed for him to be back with them but I’m fairly confident she was just as willing to sacrifice for the sake of Christ and spreading the gospel. It’s so incredible! The people we are reading about are so sacrificial. They are willing to give up things that we hold so tightly to. Things like family, homes, jobs, comforts, conveniences, safety! Why? Because they BELIEVE Gods Word. They don’t just quote Philippians 3:8 they live it out, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” And so others can gain Christ as well. They don’t just come into relationship with Christ and keep Him to themselves, they HAVE to share this amazing Good News with the unreached. They have counted the cost and come to the conclusion that knowing Jesus and making Him famous to the ends of the earth is worth whatever.it.takes.

And I find myself asking the question….. Have we come to that same conclusion?

On counting the cost and expendability

I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks now. Today we read another chapter out of “A Wing and a Prayer” and I have to include a little from it. Nate Saint was a pilot for MAF, Missionary Aviation Fellowship. In today’s chapter he is in an airplane accident and survives with a badly broken back. Meanwhile, he misses the birth of his first child because he was in a hospital in Panama and his wife was too far along in pregnancy to travel with him. He’s about to be interviewed on Christian radio.

“During his many days in the hospital, Nate had been thinking about the idea of ‘expendability,’ and that was the subject of his radio talk…….. Nate used the term to mean that Christians need to offer themselves to be used up by God however He wishes to use them.”

He nearly died in a plane crash, missed his first child’s entrance into the world, was in a cast for 5 months and still could not wait to get back in a plane to serve missionaries and the unreached people groups of Ecuador.

Lately, the Lord has been teaching our family a lot about “counting the cost” (See Luke 14:28-33) and our commitment to Him and what He calls us to. Oh how we are in a perpetual state of learning…. And re-learning.😉 As Christians we are representatives of Christ, ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20) So this means everything we do reflects Him. Our choices can reflect him well or poorly. They can show great trust in Christ and strength through the power of His Spirit. They can show devotion to Him and the things he cares about. Or our choices can show a distrust in God and a lack of devotion to him. They can suggest he lacks power or that we don’t really believe what he tells us in his Word. It’s easy to quote, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” But admittedly, that’s easier to apply to running a marathon than let’s say, loving hard to love people or responding joyfully to the daily challenges of life. Over the last month our experience with fostering became,…. more complicated. I won’t be disclosing any details here and now. We still have our two little guys and they are doing great in our home. But, as I’m learning more every day, foster care is complex and messy. Our situation is not abnormal but that doesn’t make it any less difficult or overwhelming at points. And there have been moments where we have wondered (again) are we supposed to be doing this? Is this right for our family? Is this risking our children’s safety and wellbeing? Can we effectively serve a broken “system”? Is this worth it? I’ll be honest, we have been able to come up with plenty of reasons for why we could stop and why it would be “okay” and we would have lots of people support us if we decided to walk away from this. But for every reason to quit, God has given us reason to persevere. For every fear or concern, God has given us confidence that it is worth it.

Our reputation could be at stake.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me.” Matthew‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭

It’s too risky. Aren’t we supposed to protect our family first?

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew‬ ‭10:39‬

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]– he cannot be My disciple.” Luke ‭14:26‬ ‭AMP‬‬

The system is too broken. It’s not helping the families as it should.

“Tell all the nations, “The LORD reigns!” The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. He will judge all peoples fairly.” Psalms‬ ‭96:10‬ ‭

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone…….Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” Lamentations‬ ‭3:31-33, 37‬ ‭

“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Psalm‬ ‭103:6‬

The thing is life is hard. Maintaining commitments is hard. But just because it gets difficult (or sometimes illogical) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it. For those of us who call ourselves Christians we actually are told to expect hardship and opposition and then we are given promise after promise of what our clinging to Christ and perseverance will produce.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:35-39‬

In a country where prosperity abounds and comfort is king, we have a tendency to run from difficulty. We view a lot of life’s challenges as strictly negative and when the going gets tough we can easily justify throwing in the towel with a squad of well meaning cheerleaders affirming our decision, regardless of the commitment we once made and its implications. I don’t know what you are considering giving up on. I know Satan certainly wants us to give up on the things God calls us to. And while sometimes God may have us step away from something, we have to ask ourselves, “What will give God the most glory?”

And again, on being “expendable for God” in the words of Nate Saint, “Isn’t the price small in the light of God’s infinite love?”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Godʼs power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-9‬

The “worth it” moments 

Because I want to remember this stuff.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any one that home schooling can be hard. The logistics of getting school done is exhausting in itself. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again, I’m not Wonder Woman. Some days we have what seems like a hundred interruptions, other days I’m freaking out over math facts, and probably once a month I have to (or Jason does) remind myself why we are choosing to homeschool our children. It’s easy to feel defeated or get sucked into the comparison trap. And at just the right time, God always seems to give me that “worth it” moment. Like today….. Just sittin on a hay bale, no big deal. (By the way, those hay bales are the evidence of our first horse coming soon! Eeeee!!!)

We are learning about countries and cultures. The girls were given passports and currency and have decided to “visit” each new place. They have chosen a spot on our property to geographically represent each country. I love how imaginative they are. Packing suitcases, going to the airport,….. I hear them pretending it all. This week they’ve traveled to Brazil.

Micaila remembered to pack good reading material. A book about Cameron Townsend, the missionary who founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Some days homeschooling is hard. And it is a sacrifice. But I’m so incredibly thankful to God to get to be here alongside my children as they learn, struggle, grow, pretend, play, mess up, forgive, mature, and repeat over and over. And while I enjoy the little “worth it” moments, they also serve as a reminder that God is good in all the moments, even if I may not be seeing it or feeling it at the time.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”‭‭Psalms‬ ‭28:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

2 Months And 21 Days Later

In ten days it will be three months since the boys came into our life. In that time we have watched “the big baby” (as Caleb once referred to him) go from crawling to walking, learn several new words in sign language, understand the delight of being tickled and amuse us with his husky laughter. It hasn’t been all roses of course. There are days when his strong will is down right exhausting. I find myself caught between the unknowns of his history and yet wanting to provide structure, boundaries, positive reinforcement and all those building blocks of healthy discipline. With your own children you are at least a little sure of what’s appropriate and helpful to build them up, but with a child coming from who knows what kind of environment you tend to question everything. “Am I holding him too much? Too little?” “Why is he crying? Is he having attachment issues? Why does he cry with me more than Jason?” Every day seems to be different and unpredictable. But even in all that, we love Big Baby, and we are so happy he is here with us.

Then there is the little guy. I’ll never forget when they put him in my arms, all 5lbs of him. So tiny and frail. It was scary taking in such a fragile little infant. Jason and I silently wondered if he was going to make it. We had never seen first hand a baby struggling to thrive. That tiny little man is now 11lbs. He started smiling a month ago and we all know what joy a babies smile can bring. It still melts my heart every time he gives me that big grin. He babbles with me during diaper changes and I swear he says “hiiiii” mimicking my voice. He still spits of like crazy, but now it’s “happy spit-up”. So I guess that’s cool.😉

As for our three kiddos…. The girls took to the babies immediately. They both are very helpful. Micaila is a superstar big sis. We wouldn’t be able to go anywhere if it weren’t for her being able to tote big baby to and from the car. Ryann has started asking me questions about their future and if they’ll be her brothers. Caleb has quit asking when they are leaving, so that’s progress right? While he is very affectionate toward the little guy, he has struggled to like big baby. But I believe his heart is softening toward him. He referred to him as “buddy” the other day which made me very happy. We all are making strides in learning what real love is, namely; love is selfless and sacrificial.

I’ve been camped out in Philippians 2…. Because I continually need to be reminded of the example Christ gave us. Verses 1-7 says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,…..”

This ministry has its joys but it also has its challenges. Lots of them. Pray that we will continue to entrust these boys into the merciful sovereign hands of God. Their future is unknown and it can sometimes lead us to wonder and potentially worry. You really just have to take it one day at a time. Another area you can pray for is the moments when I feel isolated and lonely. It’s incredibly difficult to go anywhere with five children, especially with two unable to walk independently. We stay home a good bit and I do start to miss people. Big people!🙂 We did get a family YMCA membership which I think will be a great outlet for me and all the kids.

I thank all of you who are praying so diligently for us. We feel it and need it.
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A Caleb Post

Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. It’s been far too long since I have written a memory of the little man you are becoming. I missed your 4th birthday letter, but I figure, what the heck, that was only 2 months ago😉 One of the things I love about writing these memory posts is when I go back and read through and see how much each of you kiddos stay the same. It is so cool how God makes you uniquely YOU from the very beginning.

See. Nothing’s changed. 😜

Caleb, you get sillier every day. You have comedic timing unlike any of our family members. You quote silly things from your favorite movies, like when mommy gives you a long hug, you often will say, “You can let go now.” (Finding Nemo) Or if we find ourselves in an intense situation like a thunderstorm or something, you might quote Ice Age “We’re gonna live! We’re gonna diiiiieeee.” The other part that makes your humor so entertaining is your many facial expressions.

You and Aunt Nikki at the beach. Graham Slam!

The Rock. 

“Seriously mommy?”  (You really say that, along with, “Are you kidding me?”)

Everyone say cheese!

Your humor is just one aspect of your personality that makes you special. You have big emotions like mommy, all or nothing. You can be very sweet, polite, or caring one minute and the next be a big scary mess. You thrive best with consistent daddy discipline and preferably a nap. Without these two you turn into the Incredible Hulk or a Werwolf after 6:00pm. Speaking of daddy, you love him so much. You want to do everything like and with him. Cut the lawn, go to work, play guitar, fix stuff around the house, ride in the truck, or just simply wear no shirt. You squeal and scream when he comes home and squeeze his legs while gritting your teeth with excited boyish aggression. (You always are in some sort of wrestling mode) You crawl into his lap every chance you get and you wish he never had to leave. At one time I was worried you’d be too much a mommas boy but you’ve balanced out and absolutely adore your daddy, too.

Caleb, you are smart! Your memory is like a steel trap. Like movie quotes you also remember songs well and like your sister Ryann you sing all the time. I love catching you singing your heart out in my rear view mirror while driving.

My dear son you have challenged mommy in a whole new way. Parenting a boy is just, well, different. It’s hard! You are strong willed and a fighter. You push mommy to her knees praying to God that he would equip us to raise you up into a strong godly man. I pray all those fighting qualities, all those big emotions of yours would get channeled into a fierce faith that cannot be shaken. I pray you would be like your daddy, a hard working man of integrity. A man who is loyal and loves his family. I pray you would become a man that passionately loves Jesus and all He stands for. I pray your strong will would bend to the Lords will and that you would let him have his way with you. I pray you would “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

I love you so much, Caleb. Happy 4 years, 1 month and 25 days, my handsome boy.🙂