Saturday, February 27, 2010

I really don't want my children to be happy...say what??

Our Ethiopian adoption journey has been LOOONG. Our wait is coming to an end and the REAL journey of loving our son in person will begin in just a week and half. We are leaving for Ethiopia next weekend to meet our sweet little Tariku face to face!!  I really can't begin to describe what I'm feeling.  I am completely humbled that God has brought this little boy into our lives to love.  As we get ready to meet him I've had lots of thoughts but I ran across a blog post from a woman named Missy that sums up so well what I desire for my son.  Enjoy this post she wrote to her children...

Dear Shepherd, Sissy, Maggie and Ikey,

Recently we were told by people whom we love and respect why they oppose our plans to adopt. One of the reasons given was that we would not be able to pay for your college education.

It's true.

You all have college funds - college funds which recently took a terrible hit - but "they" say that by the time you're 18, college will cost anywhere between $200,000 to half a million dollars each. You might as well know now, we won't be covering that. I'm telling you now, babies.

The people said that the day would come when you would look at us with resentment because you had to apply for school loans while many of your friends got a free ride from their parents.

Maybe you will. Maybe you'll resent us. I really hope not. But maybe I should tell y'all now why your dad and I have decided to do what we are doing.

I know you're going to think I am going off topic (I do that a lot) but several years I saw a story on a TV show about how the latest trend was for parents to give their daughters boob jobs for high school graduation (I don't know what they gave their sons.) When interviewing one of the moms, she said, "I just want my daughter to be happy." And as I tossed a throw pillow at the television, this really huge thought occurred to me: I don't want my children to be happy.

My goal as your mom is not your happiness, sugars. In fact, I spend at least half my day making you unhappy. If I had a nickle for every tear that falls in this home on a daily basis, we wouldn't need to worry about college tuition at all.

Happiness is fleeting, sweet babies. That means it doesn't last. It's a quick feeling that comes from a funny movie or a heart shaped lollipop or a really good birthday present. It's great. I love to be happy. But happiness is a reaction that is based on our surroundings. And our surroundings are so very rarely under our control. Even when - especially when - we think they are. So no, I absolutely don't want you to spend your life chasing something that has so little to do with your own abilities. You'll just be constantly frustrated.

There are two things I desire for you, precious loves. There are two things that I spend most of my time as a mother trying cultivate in you. Happiness ain't one of them. (This means, sorry, no boob jobs for you.)

The first is, I want you to be content. Being content is so much different from being happy. Being content is not based on your surroundings. Being content comes from within. Contentment is a spirit of gratitude. It's the choice you make to either be thankful for the things you do have, or to whine about the things you don't have.

As you know, because I've told you lots of times, Paul talked about being content. Paul said that he had "learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." And Paul was in some rotten situations, kiddos, really rotten.

How could Paul be content whether he was in prison or if his life was literally a shipwreck? Because Paul was constantly seeking to be in the will of God instead of his own, was constantly sacrificing his own comfort for the sake of the gospel, and was constantly being confirmed, strengthened, and blessed by God because of his obedience. He was given a supernatural power - that means something kind of like magic, God magic - to do things that most other humans could not do. And guess what? The bible tells us (in Ephesians 1) that God will give you the exact same power! If you want it!

Which leads me to my second desire for y'all.

I don't want you to be happy. I want you to be holy. That means, I want you to seek that God-power to make you content. I want you to want the Kingdom of God more than your own kingdom. And that's hard, babies, that is so hard. And that usually means passing up a lot of what the world considers happiness. But it means that you will achieve blessings directly from God that most of the world never dreams of because they are too occupied with the achieving the perfect birthday present!

This means you may be poor, 'in want' as Paul said, and that's okay. It will never, ever be okay with the world for you to be poor. So you'll be up against the world. But not your dad and me, loves, because it was never our goal for you to be wealthy - at least not in the way that the world considers wealthy.

Darlings, we love you so much. You will never even grasp how much we love you until you have children of your own, and then you'll get it, and then you'll apologize for the ways you treated us ;) But our goal is not to please you. Our goal is to please our Heavenly Father. And nowhere in the bible does the Lord command that we save our money to send our kids to college.

But the Lord does command us to care for the orphan around fifty times. He does tell us to care for the poor around 300 times. He does tell us that when we care for the neediest, we are caring for Jesus Himself. And in chapter six of the book of Matthew, He tells us to seek His kingdom first, and let Him worry about the rest, like college tuition. Because it's all His anyway.

They said that one day y'all would resent us for using 'your' college money to go and get your sister out of an orphanage in Ethiopia and bring her home to you.

But I know my babies. Even at your tender ages, I know your hearts, and I have already seen you weep for the least of these. I know the prayers I offer up to God that He and not the world would shape the desires of your hearts. I am trusting Him to answer those prayers.

So, sugarbears - I just don't believe those people.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Empty Pockets, Full Life

If you don't have 12 minutes, do yourself a favor and come back later to watch the video below. You'll want to hear the story of Pastor Walter in Swaziland. I am utterly humbled. This man empties his pockets and gives the only money he has away without hesitation. But more than that, he pours out his life into the people in his community. He is such a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ should be operating on a daily basis. Pastor Walter has taken James 1:27 seriously - he is living it. He's a man with a vision that God is bringing to life. He has laid it all down for the sake of the kingdom. Check out his smile. Feel his joy. See the people he impacts. Hear their stories. Get on your knees and pray for this man and the people he ministers to. And after you're done praying get up and get involved. It's not about our's about our hearts. May we be compelled by the love our Father has for the least of these. May we rise up and be the people Jesus has called us to be...willing to give our lives way so we can find them.

Meet Pastor Walter...

The Pastor Walter Story from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Do you ever get that itch?  The one that tells you there's more?  I've been moving from sort of having a little itch that needs scratched to being itchy all over - like the kind that comes from rolling around in a blueberry patch and getting chigger bites all over.  No amount of pink calomine lotion is easing this craziness!

So what's the itch all about?  It's about the fact that Jesus is RADICAL...everything about Him.  And I am NOT.  The more I get to REALLY know the God I serve the more I realize that my life doesn't look very much like Him.  My life looks pretty safe.  Pretty comfortable.  Pretty self focused.  Pretty much like everyone else's around me. I go to church on Sunday.  I read my Bible (sometimes).  I lead a small group.  I go to work.  I love my kids and my husband.  It's sort of like...Lather. Rinse. Repeat. All of this stuff is good - don't get me wrong!  Part of what God asks of me is to be the wife, mother and friend that He has created me to be.  And that's not something I take lightly.

But, something's missing. The Gospel at its core requires that I walk a different, more narrow road than the rest of the world.  AND that I be willing to obey God regardless of what the rest of the world may say.  That's hard, people!!  The truth is that I care about what the rest of the world thinks and says about me.  I don't want to, but I do.  What is the result of that?  My life doesn't look radical like my Savior's.  When I put the things this world cares about before the things God does then I am holding myself back from living the full and abundant life that Jesus came to bring me.  I become my own worst enemy.

So, back to the itch.  I'm wanting to live differently.  I'm sensing Him whispering that there's more if I would choose to live radically.  But what in the world does that really look like?  I believe that first of all for me it means putting to death the American dream and chasing after God's dream.  I personally do not think that I can pursue both.  Richards Stearns (President of World Vision) says in his book "The Hole in Our Gospel" that the American Dream is defined as "A life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.".  Doesn't sound too bad, huh?  No wonder we're all pursuing it like crazy.  I don't think I know a single person who doesn't want personal happiness and material comfort.

What I'm realizing as a result of my time in Uganda  and what God has been working in my heart is that my personal happiness comes when I give my life away to other people.  And while I might gain momentary pleasure from my material possessions - they are not the things that comfort my heart and bring life to my spirit.  They can, in fact, be the very things that suck the life out of me when I focus on the pursuit of "stuff" instead of the pursuit of God.

I think too that I'm realizing more deeply that the God I want to pursue isn't just the God who loves me and is full of grace and mercy.  He's the God of the following words:

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:39

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Luke 16:13

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." - Matthew 16:24

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." - Matthew 25: 31-46

Sound radical?  Um, yeah.  Is it even possible to live this way?  YES.  I made a new friend this week who is living radically right here in the U.S.  Here's an excerpt from an email she sent me last night:

Most people think I'm a little, "off". I am a complete dork for Christ. I bring strange women home from Africa on a whim, I stop if I get that weird feeling in my gut when I see someone on the street. I minister in bars, I put my family's groceries back on the shelf if I see someone that can't pay at the check out and pay for theirs instead. I pick up hitchhikers because I used to be one, I'll buy a prostitute's time to simply talk because I used to be one.

She embodies why I'm itchy.  She's doing what Jesus would be doing if He walked this earth today.  She's radically embracing Jesus and the things He calls all of us to.  AND SO CAN I.  I can tell you that her life is not easy, but it is full.  Only Jesus could call us to give our entire lives away in pursuit of Him and the things He cares about and in return give us life to the fullest.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out anymore. 


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not Disappointed

It was only five months ago that I was in Uganda teaching Sunday School to a few hundred orphans (you can read more about that in my September posts).  I can't believe it has been five months - it feels like yesterday.  I had so many emotions that day.  Inadequacy. Brokenness over what those sweet kids have to face daily.  Angst over my inability to meet all their needs.  Amazement at the smiles on their faces and the joy in their heart.  And most of all...LOVE.  I felt so filled by the love God has for each of those children.  They weren't my children, but they were HIS and the small glimpse He gave me into His heart for them is hard to explain.  I was compelled to share with them how valuable each of them was to God - that they were created by Him for a purpose.  I read the following scripture to them from Jeremiah 29:11-14:

I know what I'm doing.  I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me I'll listen.  When you come looking for Me you'll find Me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed. 
And as much as those words were meant for every one of those orphans I was face to face with that day, they were also meant for me and for you and for this little boy in Hadero, Ethiopia...

This little boy is officially MY SON.  I am in tears as I type those words.  MY SON!!  This day is finally here! It is with immense joy that I introduce to you Isaiah Tariku.  He is four years old and came into care at the orphanage in Ethiopia right around the time I was in Uganda.  While we were on the path to adopt an infant over the past two years, God had other plans.  He used our experiences with some of the orphans we met in Uganda to change our hearts and prompt us to extend our age range from an infant to a boy up to 5 years of age.  Three days after we made the age change official with our agency we were given Tariku's referral.  :) His case passed successfully through Ethiopian court last week and he is officially ours.  I still can't believe it. We are hoping to travel to Ethiopia in April to get him and it cannot come soon enough! 

His Ethiopian name is Tariku which means "His story"...what a story he has already and what a story God is going to continue to weave with his life!  It didn't take long for us to land on Isaiah as his first name.  God has spoken deeply to us this past year through studying, memorizing and fasting over Isaiah 58, so Isaiah was an obvious choice.  His first and middle name literally mean "God's Salvation, his story".  Is that beautiful or what??  How we look forward to seeing Tariku's life be a reflection of the meaning of his name! 

I love Jeremiah 29:11.  I love the promise in it for my son.  God has had plans for Tariku from the very beginning...plans to take care of him and not abandon him...plans to give him a hope and a future.  Only God could have orchestrated placing Tariku in our family.  Only God could have tuned us in to His heart for orphans.  Only God could have provided the insane amount of money it costs to adopt.  Only God could have put us in Africa in September to motivate us to change our age range.  Only God could have helped his case pass through a court system on the first try when it's practically unheard of.  Only God.

The end of that passage about sums it up for me:  "Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

This past year I have gotten serious about finding Jesus...especially among the least of these.  Daily I am learning to want Him more than anything else.  Each day has it's own challenges and my weaknesses rear their ugly heads but despite that, God says that when I seek Him I'll find Him. 

Oh...and the part about Him making sure we're not disappointed when we seek Him?  SO TRUE.  Just take a look at Tariku's precious face.  God has NOT disappointed.  He has amazed me.