Adopted

We are in Jacksonville, preparing to meet Teddy for the first time. We will have a few supervised visits, then I think I get to start going to some of his medical appointments and beginning the transition to our home.

When I was pregnant with Abi and Naomi, I didn’t know if they’d be girls or boys. I loved the surprise element. Anyway, with Teddy it is different. We know what he looks like, his given name, we’ve poured through his 100 page medical history. We don’t know exactly what’s in store for us in raising him, but we know that the special needs he has could be difficult on our hearts, schedules, and overall family dynamic. This doesn’t knock out any of the excitement, though–we are counting the minutes.

Some people who are aware of the intricacies of adopting from the foster system have kindly thanked us for our willingness to do so. Every time this happens, we remember that we, too, were adopted. The Lord didn’t take us in because we are a benefit to Him. It wasn’t because we would do something so amazing on earth that He wanted us on His side. He adopted us in spite of who we were before we received the spirit of Christ. No matter how much we have sinned or will sin, we are forgiven because of the sacrifice of the Son, and it doesn’t temper HIs excitement to take us into His family.

Our gratitude for our own adoption spills over to Teddy. We aren’t taking him in because we need more Petschers running around, or because we have a thing for 2-year-olds. We feel so privileged to adopt him into our household to teach him the truth about who he is in Christ. No matter what happened to him in the past, he is a son of the king.

This morning when we lay eyes on little Teddy for the first time, it will be at least as exciting as the first time we met Abigail and Naomi. The grafting process will begin as our hearts expand to love more, and better, than ever before. We won’t be perfect parents, but will point him to his perfect heavenly One.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17

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It’s a BOY!

You can check in on some people and find them doing life in much the same way, and with the same people, in any given decade. I’ve been known to long for such a steadfast lifestyle, even though that’s not one the Lord has called Yaacov and me to. Right now I have no regrets though. It’s been six years since the Lord healed me of my “terminal” breast cancer. Then He led me to hold hands with others who were going through similar diagnoses. After that we helped start a little school before spending a couple years homeschooling. Last year we moved across Tallahassee to prepare for a church plant, Yaacov became an elder, and the girls started private school. It was a huge blessing that I could the last year as a stay at home mom while the kids were in school, because I really needed that rest: It’s finally time for our next adventure!

God willing, we expect our sweet little family to grow in the next few months.

We’ll call him Teddy.

TEDDY!!!

The Lord first put adoption on Yaacov’s heart a year ago, and I was an easy sell from there. It is such an honor that the Lord adopted us into His family, and He’s faithful to provide all we need to care for His other children. Of course, we tried to set rules for the Lord to abide by, including that we wouldn’t take babies or boys, and it took awhile for Him to remind us that we are the ones who do the abiding. So He refocused our hearts and are thrilled by the opportunity to welcome this tiny two-year-old boy into our lives.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Romans 8:14-15

There are a lot of things to be nervous about. Many things could go wrong between now and the actual adoption, so we’d love prayer for that, and for the Abi and Naomi, who are struggling with the reality of beginning to share a room in order to make way for their new little brother. And how are we going to find the energy and patience to raise another baby? We are trying to stay focused on the Lord while frantically gathering all the things we need for this little guy. We couldn’t be more excited to bring him home, and can’t wait to share more details and pictures of him when it’s official.

 

Walking on Water

Well, I’m back. The Lord keeps prompting me to start blogging again, but I’ve been very hesitant. Even though the reasons seem shallow, in reality I think they are founded in fear. And I didn’t go through all the terrifying aspects of terminal cancer (and an almost-as-terrifying recovery from all that) to cower in fear now!

The Lord has been so good to me that I *try* not to complain so much. Who am I to moan and groan about the problems I have now that the Lord chose to heal me? But the reality is that He also chose to use trials to continue to refine me while I’m on earth, and it’s kind of disgusting to overlook that. No matter how hard things get, it’s an honor to behold our God, who chooses to make me more like Him.

I do struggle with a lot of health issues now, and I know countless others are in the same boat. My metabolism was already in limbo before cancer, but adding that to thyroid issues and surgical menopause, I gained approximately 1 zillion pounds, and it seemed like only a miracle could get it off. In fact, I struggle with it so much that I’ve spent tons of time in prayer trying to figure out if the Lord even wanted me to lose some of it. He showed me how having more fat on my body increases my chances of growing more breast cancer. How cancer cells feed on sugar. How my joint pain can decrease with less pressure pounding on them.

So for me, being more physically fit was definitely a goal, with vanity being a lower priority. But most importantly, the whole trial has helped me understand how each pound keeps me farther from Him. Layer by layer, He has revealed many sins in my heart that were maintaining the problem. There’s the pride of wanting to be in control, rather than trusting in Him. The self-righteousness to think I should be able to set my own standards for all this and get what I want. The fear of man that convinces me to follow other people’s plans instead of Him. The love of comfort that sends me to snack in front of the tv instead of working out. These might sound simple to repent of, but they reveal my very dingy heart, and represent my ongoing sin struggles.

But God…He has shown me how He uses my weaknesses for His glory. He is helping me to trust Him, and to persevere. Patience has been a huge one, too. When I focus on Him and on stewarding my body well, He gets me healthier. As soon as my eyes wander to the scale, or I start envying how easy it is for other people, I sink into despair.

Sound familiar? In Matthew 14:28-33, Jesus was walking on the water, and Peter begged Him to call him to walk toward him in the same fashion. “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid”. As soon as Peter saw that wind, he wigged out then started to sink.

When I get scared, I often grasp for control and comfort. In this case, I was afraid of never succeeding, and at some point I would run toward my idolatrous comforts, perpetuating the cycle.

But the Lord is slow to anger, quick to forgive. No matter how many times I sink, and slink, away from what He has called me to do, He is patient. It is my flawed, human mind that assumes He is sick of my issues. Like Peter, the sinking isn’t the end of the story. When Peter cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus immediately rescued him. He does that for the rest of us also.

Jesus asked Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”. That doesn’t mean He was angry, or that Jesus kind of wanted to toss Peter back out of the boat. It’s a legitimate question–why do we doubt? When we get off track but return to Him, He will help. He always has. And one day, we will doubt that a little less.

 

Thinking Pink

I know there are a lot of good points about Breast Cancer Awareness month, but a few friends who have dealt with that diagnosis have mentioned it’s painful. Many mourn with a special passion for those destroyed by cancer, and others struggle daily with the effects of their own diagnoses.

Maybe instead of considering a donation when we see a pink ribbon, we can use it to trigger more pressing needs for those with breast cancer. Maybe they can be a trigger to pray for someone with the diagnosis, or to find a way to encourage them. This is an excerpt from my story that might give you an idea what goes through some of our minds with this diagnosis. So many people are getting examined this month, you might be surprised to find out how common thoughts like this are.

How is this happening? Ten days ago I knew everything. I mean…everything! I actually thought my intuition was a special spiritual gift the Lord had bestowed on me. Back then it didn’t sound as arrogant as it does now. Back then it seemed like a fact. I knew things. I understood people without them having to explain everything. It was like the Holy Spirit gave me special insight into what He was doing. He helped me to know myself inside and out. Certainly, if I not only had a disease, but was actually dying from it, I would know. There’d be an inkling, at least. Because the world was orderly—I knew the One who perfectly controls it.

But then…then came cancer.  Seems like I’m being punched in the face with it, and there’s no clue about how many more blows are coming. Is this the beginning or the end? It’s stage 4. Incurable. Everything has changed. And it seems like it’s God who did the changing.

I’m pretty melancholy looking back on that time, and kind of depressed about how prevalent all cancers are. How much power it seems to have over our lives, families, and society. But, God. He is bigger, He has a plan, He will use it for the good of those who love Him. Let’s share His love with those who need it most today.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,                                                             who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:2-5

Living Water and Good Coffee

I woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach so big, it was hard to get out of bed. Emotionally, I feel like I’m going through the pain of cancer again. Physically, I am nauseated and lethargic.

I dragged my fatigued body down the stairs more than an hour later than I prefer to rise, and only got up at all because I prayed for help doing so. I looked through the various coffee flavors we collect and pushed one away, telling myself, “I don’t deserve that one today”.

Because all my current suffering is self-induced. Sin-induced. I deserve the bland, flavorless coffee today. The “Sinner’s” coffee. That’ll teach me.

This isn’t a post about being depressed. This isn’t a moment to share that I am in the midst of some major sin. This is just me admitting that I have a problem.

This problem is the supervillain in my story, lurking in the shadows to blast truth out of every good thing. She uses the cloak of invisibility to appear in unexpected ways when I least expect it. She has always been a part of my story, but she’s grown better at disguising herself. She is so crafty, I follow her down paths of destruction time and again. I usually don’t recognize her until true damage has been done. Worst of all, this problem is bigger than me. Stronger than me. I cannot beat her on my own.

Her name is Pride.

My attempts to overcome her result in my own backsliding into her comforting embrace. “But, He gives more grace.” He does not show up to provide back-up, the way I wish. Instead, the Holy Spirit swoops in like the true Hero He is. When I trust in Him, submit to Him, He reflects light on pride so I can see her hideous face. He helps me recognize her voice, and to follow His instead. He provides the instruction, power, and cleansing I need for a pure heart (see James 4:6-10 below). Most of all, He draws near to me so my enemy’s lure is less enticing.

I wish I could throw away the “bad girl” coffee, knowing I’ll never need it again. If His help is real and my redemption is complete, it shouldn’t be an issue, right?

Unfortunately, as long as we are in this phase of life on earth, Pride will thrive. The days are full of her, and opportunities to stray abound. But the help, guidance, and forgiveness from Abba Father will continue to be steadfast and free for those of us who trust in Him. Hallelujah for the One who gives living water and good coffee!

 

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:6-10

 

 

 

 

 

Wedding Vows

My big brother is getting married! Bennie is getting married! Eeeeeek, I’m going to have a new sister! I always wanted a sister!

Okay. Deep breath. There’s only a week left before the wedding and I’m completely thrilled in a thousand different ways, but want to take some time to focus on the important ones–that is, the Important One.

His name is Jesus. AKA, The Bridegroom.

 

John says the one who has the bride IS the bridegroom, and His friend, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at His voice (3:29). How often do we hear Jesus’ voice, and instead of rejoicing, we sugarcoat, or make excuses not to obey it? How many times has my earthly groom said or done something I consider “wrong”, only to have me respond with judgment instead of prayer?

Okay, okay, so Amy is marrying Ben, not Jesus. But God created marriage, and used tons of references to help us understand the relationship we can have with Him through it. The apostle Paul cautioned followers to remain unwed if possible. But I’ve learned so much more about the Lord because of living life with this guy He gave me. We are supposed to honor and serve our spouses, to unite with them as one flesh, and to put their interests over our own. If we treated Jesus that way we might not even need to tap into all that grace He left us with.

 

Traditional wedding vows involve a man and a woman, in the presence of God, being united with verbal promises to love, keep, honor, comfort, and obey each other. We solemnly declare that no circumstances, other than death, will separate us from the love of one another.

Then the honeymoon ends.

Maybe we hit some rough patches. Life isn’t what we expected. I remember for the first year we were married, I used to attack Yaacov with insults like, “If I knew this about you before we were married…”. Charming, I know. But he put up with me. Not because he promised he would. Not because he “had” to. And honestly, not because I’m so lovable. But because of Jesus.

Marriage can be easy when both spouses are head over heels in love–with Jesus, the anchor. You really can’t be in love with Him without starting to act like Him, meaning that we imitate the true humility He exuded on earth, which in turn glorifies Him. Over the 12 years of our own marriage, it’s not the circumstances like terminal cancer that have made the vows so difficult to follow. It’s the times that we tried to walk around our true bridegroom that have been the hardest.

Whether we are married or not, wedding vows can remind us of the promises we make to the true Bridegroom. It’s not about making huge sacrifices or winning converts. It’s about rejoicing in the promises He already made us, and in freely receiving the eternal wedding gifts He lavishes us with.

In other words, whether you are getting married this summer, have been wed for several decades, or will live all future days as a single person, it’s time to renew our vows–I pray that all who read this are blessed with the deep understanding of the love of Jesus. May He show Himself to you as the perfect bridegroom, as He knows, leads, comforts, and helps you through each day. In turn, let us decrease as the awesome depth of His love is highlighted in us as we promise to honor, serve, and follow Him all of our days.