Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.

adoption, Jesus, Gospel, Isaac, worn


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Walking the hard road to adoption

We did not set out with adoption in our hearts, instead, God sought us. I know that each of us is chosen to parent the children that we birth into life, but to actually see the process of the choosing through adoption? It is, in a word, humbling.

It was through the prayer of our daughter and our joining in prayer with family that brought a tiny little human to our doorstep. This little one never knew the love of a mother. Not in the womb, not at birth, not when she left the hospital. At just three days old she was given to an alternate caregiver because her body tested positive for cocaine. She was passed from home to home, person to person, each one caring for her in the only ways they knew how.

At eight weeks old, she crossed the threshold into our home, and once she did, we knew there was no going back. She was ours. That day began a year of fighting for the life of a child that was chosen for us. It meant battling the enemy with every ounce of our being. It meant looking straight into the face of Satan, knowing that God had gone before, and putting all fear behind us.

Because a battle for a soul was about to be waged.

A battle that had already been won at the cross, but was to be waged here on earth. For God had chosen to reach down and pluck this tiny human from the depths and give her new life. To change the path she no doubt would have gone down. The same path travelled by generations before her; a path into drugs, prostitution and most likely prison. This battle was going to take us straight into the darkness of this fallen world.

With His choosing we were given a responsibility to love and protect this child. We were given a love that was nothing short of the love you have for a child born of your own blood. We felt it grow inside us, this flowing of His love straight through us. We told her every day how much God loved her, how much we loved her and the special gift she was to us. There were days I would look at her and wonder why God chose us. We were humbled and honored and so head-over-heals for this tiny human.

We began the process of becoming licensed foster parents and were soon named alternative caregivers; all the while, having once a week visitation with the birth mother. For a month and a half we would meet with her for an hour. There was rarely a visit that she didn’t bring with her an entourage of people. She would quickly pick up this tiny human and pass her around to her friends as if she were some trophy she had won. It was awful to watch as this little wisp of a baby, that we knew God had given to us was passed about, bragged on, while this woman said, “That’s my baby.”

Her baby. For nine months she carried her in her womb and for nine months she abused her. She abused her with alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine and many other illegal substances. Substances that would leave lifelong scars on this precious little soul.

It was a hard thing to watch.

It is a feeling that runs deep with anxiety and fear. Just knowing this woman had the right to claim this child simply because she birthed her. Do not misunderstand. I am not discounting birth mothers; giving up a child for adoption is an amazing thing. A sacrifice, to not end the life of an unwanted pregnancy, and carry that baby for nine months. To place that baby in the arms of another, maybe someone who was never able to birth their own. It is a beautiful thing. But this woman did not put forth an ounce of effort in the attempt to make her life and home acceptable. Acceptable to the point that the state would let her take her child back and give her a home. Our state is one of making every effort to reunite children with birth families, so she was given opportunity upon opportunity. She knew her plan. She knew the steps she needed to take. But she chose not to do them.

Imagine how we felt when God asked us to help the birth mother. To offer her a way out of her current life and away from the drugs and the violence and the poverty. A new life that if accepted could result in us having to give back the child. But also a life filled with Jesus and rehab and vocational study. A gift. She simply had to say yes. Yes. Yes, when every ounce of me was bleeding for no.

But this is gospel. The hope of glory. The command to love one another as ourselves. That what we do for ones such as these we do unto Jesus. And who am I to say who does and doesn’t hear? Who does and doesn’t get the second chance? I felt my insides dying. My head was swimming with thoughts of this tiny human slipping from our fingertips as I reached for the phone.

My husband and I drove together, picked up the birth mother and rode in silence. We were a just a mere twenty minutes away from her second chance. The freedom she could receive from her past and a new future. I thought of Abraham as he led Isaac up the mountain. The anxiety he must have felt as knew he was taking his son to the sacrifice. The grief that must have set in as he built the altar. How he must have choked back tears when Isaac asked where the lamb was for the burnt offering?

It had just been earlier that I had spoken to her of Jesus and how He loves us. How He died for us, how He changes lives and redeems the broken. I sat with her as she spoke with the director of the facility, he too telling her of Jesus and His love and this opportunity she had to turn from her old life. There it was; the offer laid out on the table. The silence was deafening. I watched as she shifted in her chair, fidgeting her fingers and waited for her words.

She said no.

Jesus was standing right there with arms spread wide and she said no. No to Jesus and no to her daughter. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was relieved, but at the same time I was struck by her rejection of her own child. My heart broke for this tiny human whose own mother had made a selfish choice and walked away from her.

I pray for her from time to time. I pray that the seed planted that day will someday bloom and she will come to know all the joy and all the best things found in Jesus.

We did not see her again after that day. Though there were many calls, we had no more requests for visitation. It would take a year for our adoption to be final. It was not always easy. In fact, this was one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever walked through. Looking back, I am reminded of many situations that were far beyond safe and far beyond my control. It is sometimes surreal. Sometimes frightening. But through it all there was always God.


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How We Can Keep Believing

It’s early. It is still dark as I curl up in a chair with blanket and tea. I cup the warmth with my hands as I watch the darkness forced out by the light. The wind blows and joins the light —together they brighten the sky. The sun should be sitting on the horizon, instead, there is only fog. I peer out across the lawn and it looks like the sky is falling —everything white and aglow, you can’t see where the earth ends and sky begins.

 

It’s all white like a Christmas morn on an earth that just birthed the King, who is promised to wash us white as snow —to scrub the stains right away, to make all things new…

 

Kris Camealy is releasing her second book Come Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, 25 Days of Reading for Advent on October 18. I had the privilege of participating on her launch team and reading an advanced copy. Kris graciously invited me to share my thoughts of the book on her blog today. I hope you join me there for the rest of the story. 

broken, fear, communion, God, cross, Jesus


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Broken and afraid – where do we turn? :: part two

I sat in the back row with my husband and daughter.  The church was a humble little building, a pitched tent so to speak. Inside there were no fancy pews, or lights, or podiums —just little blue chairs lined up in rows, facing a stage that held a drum set, a piano, and a microphone.

It was all very informal and unassuming and it was nothing like the church where I grew up.

There is something nice about entering a church where no one knows your name, no one expects anything and you are you are met with quiet smiles.

Behind the stage were two screens that counted down the minutes to the start of the service.

Just as the timer reached zero, the lights dimmed and the music began.

I could tell from the start this would not be the traditional stand-up, sit down, sing, listen, greet your neighbor kind of worship that was ingrained in my DNA. This was a full on 15-20 minutes of singing and praying. It felt wrong. I felt wrong. The uneasiness was welling inside of me.

Then she came the long arm of anxiety slithering around my neck —her steely fingers one by one circling my neck and I am fighting for my breath. Pulling me under as waves of nausea pound against me as I try to regain balance and focus. And in one swift turn, I left.

This feeling is nothing new. I am prone to panic attacks. Anxiety disorder has been following me for years, it began long before they found the celiac disease and my body was starving to death, literally, and I was living in survival mode.

But here is the thing, each week we returned to that church and each week I couldn’t find the oxygen or the floor, and I left.

In everything I knew of church and Jesus, I came to the conclusion there was something wrong with this church and we should not be there.

And therein lies the rub.

When all we are taught is fear of the lord, as in be afraid, be very afraid —gathering the smallest ounce of courage to run to God is just not an option, because we do not recognize Him, because we do not know His heart or His character, this ultimately leads to not knowing how to experience Him.

Once I experienced God outside of all the rules, I had to know what is the truth? How do the law and grace fit together? Why is fear taught so freely without the knowledge of grace?

This is my meager attempt to understand my past, present and future. How each piece has a purpose and each broken piece from the past is redeemed over and over and how those pieces from my past give me strength for today, and for the days to come.

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Fear is used a lot in scripture and the meanings can vary based on context, but when it comes to the fear of the Lord in the Hebrew and Greek these words give light to a positive experience.

The Hebrew verb yare:  to fear, to respect, to reverence, the Hebrew noun yirah: refers to the fear of God as a positive quality, and the Greek noun phobos: reverential fear of God. These acknowledge God’s good intentions.

Gills Exposition of the entire Bible says it like this, “and that his fear may be before your faces; not a slavish fear of death, of wrath, and damnation, before dehorted from; but a reverence of the divine Majesty, an awe of his greatness and glory, a serious regard to his commands, delivered in so grand a manner, and a carefulness to offend him by disobeying them”

 

So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
Acts 9:31 (HCSB)

I am learning the fear of God is an attitude. It’s respect. It’s reverence. It’s wonder.

The anxiety I felt in the midst of dim lights and music, was not anxiety at all it was the Holy Spirit. It was God making Himself known to me, reaching for me.

I did not recognize Him. Not yet.

 

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This post is fourth in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.

broken, fear, communion, God, cross, Jesus


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broken and afraid–where do we turn? :: part one

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Mark 2:17 (NLT)

 

I was 18 years old. When my world tilted sideways. When the sickness with no diagnosis struck me and prevented me from doing anything and everything. When the church where I grew up, attended all the services, and special activities, the church where I walked streets with and knocked on doors with its people sharing the gospel, the church where everyone knew my name, knew I was good —that church turned its back and shut the door because a doctor could not find a cause to my sickness.

The church that so adamantly spread the gospel, sharing how God so loved the world He sent His son, made me an outcast —speaking of me and my broken body in rumors and lies.

What is the church if not the very representation of God? Is the church not supposed to be for the broken? Isn’t this what Jesus did here on earth? Did He not sit with all the broken people?

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Where do we turn when we need God?

When you reach that place where there is nothing left and you really need Him, but the fear that you are not good enough, and you will be too much and not enough, because this is what you have learned and it is all you know?

How do we know how God will respond, or if He will respond if we reach out to Him? If all we know about God and His character is to fear Him, how can we really know what He is like?  When everything I know in my heart is I have somehow let Him down, does He want my broken,—can He handle my broken?

And what if He were sitting right beside me, would I recognize Him? Would you recognize Him?

When all you know is that the fear of the Lord is simply this — fear, where do you turn when everything that you believe in falls apart? Where do you turn when you search your heart for scriptures but all that produces is that God loved the world and all the road that leads you to the cross?

Where do you turn when you know Jesus in your heart, and you have tried to live the “perfect life” and now you are broken, and your brokenness might very well be your undoing because you took the bread and drank the wine. And your heart is simply unclean?

Where do we turn?

Join me tomorrow as we delve deep and answer the question where do you turn?

 

 

This post is the second in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.

chasing grace, further up and further in, grace, legalism, faith, church


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chasing grace :: when you feel like Jesus forgot you

I was 18 the first time I broke the bread and drank the wine. It was the first time I was allowed to participate in communion. Somewhere in between the lines, the bible must say that you must be 18 before you have enough maturity to do this in remembrance of Him. I wonder who gave the authority to someone who barely knows your name the power to determine when I was ready.

Whoever those powers may be, maybe they were right? Maybe I wasn’t ready.

I did everything the pastor told us in the days leading up to communion. I prayed for a clean heart. I prayed forgiveness for the sins I knew I had committed and even the sins I didn’t. Then on a Sunday night, I slipped from the pew and walked the line. When I approached the pastor I opened my mouth and choked down the body of christ washing it down with the blood.

One week later I became sick.

No doctor could find an answer and I thought surely I would die. The pastor told us if we took communion and our hearts were not clean God would strike us down. Take our very lives. I believed this to be true. I must not have prayed hard enough, tried hard enough, been good enough.

I felt like Jesus forgot me. Me and all of my goodness.

//

The following is a from a guest post I did for the release of Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines. It provides the backstory to my chasing grace.

I flung the doors fast and wide, the sunlight blinding eyes that were already stinging red with tears. Skin flush hot and heart racing. My hands fumbled uselessly in search of keys. The words still screaming through my head. Pregnant. Drugs. Alcohol.

Just moments before I sat on the front pew during choir practice too weak to stand and sing. A friend curled in close and whispered quiet. Had the doctors found anything? I chuckled at the thought. For months I lied in bed with nausea, unable to eat or drink, migraines that came like waves pounding the shore, I weighed all but 88 pounds. For months I saw doctor after doctor gone through test after test, but no. The doctors had not found anything.

The words my friend whispered might as well have been a death sentence, perhaps a foretelling of the future. I felt them straight in my gut like a knife severing and my insides spilling. My eyes searched hers in disbelief. I waited for the punch. Waited for the I am just kidding. They never came.

And I ran.

I ran because truth be told I was the good girl. I worked hard at not breaking the rules. I was a straight A honor roll student, excelled in piano, attended church every time the doors opened. I knew all the scriptures and hymns by heart. I knocked on doors asking strangers if they knew Jesus, I had Roman’s Road memorized and would spell it out to anyone who allowed me the opportunity.

I had this down solid. This Jesus thing. And this church? I pretty much grew up there. These people were my people, my safe haven from the world where I just did not fit. They knew everything about me. But in her whispers to me the faces appeared. Faces of all who asked me if I was feeling better, or had the doctors found anything. Faces that spoke words to me, “Bless your heart I will pray for you.” I pictured in my mind them turning to each other, heads shaking with lips pursed and whispering those disparaging words.

Of course, they did. I had seen it happen over and over to the backsliders, you know the ones, believers fallen into sin. The prayer circles were like gossip mills. And it wasn’t long before the backslider was confessing to the congregation from the pulpit. Pouring out their dark secrets, telling how the evil one had reached straight into their chest and held grip of their heart.

They wanted freedom. So they did all they knew how to do, all that they were led to do, they stood and confessed. All were shamed. And all were asked to leave the church. No matter the weight of the sin. The consequences were always the same.

So I ran. I ran from that church. I ran from everything I believed to be true about Jesus and the Bible. I ran to find comfort and freedom. I ran straight into the darkness of the world. Because if this is what God and Jesus and all their people were like? I wanted no part of any of them.

From that day on I ran. For more than 20 years I ran and I broke all the rules. Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not covet; thou shalt have no other gods before me; thou shalt not be drunk on wine. I knew the rules, and I broke the rules. Because really why should they apply to me? I did everything right. (Yes, I know. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Remember, I knew all the scriptures by heart.) But in my time of need, instead of comforting and loving, the people of that church, God’s people gossiped out every scenario possible as to why I was sick. Except for the truth. I was sick.

All those years I thought I was running from something, but really? I was running toward something.

I was running toward God, but in all my running, God never left. He was there in every moment. Every word. Every boy. Every drink. He was there.

I never saw Him. My eyes blinded by a past that left nothing but brokenness. From abusive husbands and divorce, to autism and chronic illness, to ex-wives and blending families and making new marriages work. I was broken.

But it took more than brokenness to open my eyes. It took reaching the bottom of my health, weighing 93 pounds, suffering chronic migraines, and an anxiety disorder; all stemming from my illness that would soon be defined as Celiac disease. After 42 years of not knowing what was making me sick, what seemed to be taking my very life, the answer was not pregnancies, nor drugs, nor alcohol, the answer was wheat. And it was destroying my body.

When everything seemed to be falling apart and most of my days spent in bed my hope was all but diminished. Sure I had found myself back in church just a few years earlier and had been reading the bible. I felt I had run too far, ran too long for God to care anymore.

But God. I love when I read the word “but” in the bible, it always means something good is coming. And goodness was definitely coming.

One Saturday morning I was in bed staring out the window. My head throbbing and my stomach churning, my body wracked with pain. The sky was a brilliant blue as my daughter squealed as she danced and twirled, while my husband clapped in praise. The birds were singing and the planes were flying and I longed to be out there with them. But there in the room with me was a church service streaming through the interwebs. The worship team was singing words of God’s grace. The pastor spoke of God’s unfailing love. He spoke of His grace, the undeserving favor given to me even though I do not deserve it.

Grace. God’s grace. Never in all my years had I ever learned of God’s grace. Instead, I was taught all the do’s and don’t’s and grace was just a prayer offered up before the potluck meals served on Sunday’s out on the lawn.

God’s grace. It poured like rain that morning as God scooped me into His arm’s and whispered welcome home.

 

“And He will come to us like the rain” (Hosea 6:3).

 

This post is the second in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.

 

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{This post may contain affiliate links for products I have bought or used. If you click through my referral link, at no cost to you, I may make a small commission if you make a purchase. Thank you for your support!}

 


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When the Falling Begins

Today, after weeks of long hot steamy days, I felt it coming. Autumn. The slight crispness in the air. The bluer than blue sky. The light breeze blowing the leaves ever so gently. Autumn is coming.  As quick as flipping a switch, we are falling from days of summer straight in to autumn. I find myself falling. The sun warm against cheek, laughter and giggles, water glistening rainbows as it falls giving life to the flowers. These images settle into the depths of me, and I am longing for home.

Yet, I am reminded of these words written years ago…

 

The vibrant green slowly yellowing with shades of red. Remarkable beauty, shifting, changing, dying. The glorious display drying up, turning brown, eventually falling. The crisp air telling of the season to come.

The sky glows orange as it fades into night. I am looking back, thinking of summer, the spring that came before. Why do I find myself here? The same place, every year, every autumn? Reflective. Melancholy. Longing for days of old.

Witnessing the slow fade of life into winter.
Is it a reminder of who I am? What I am? A sinner. Imperfect. Like leaves from trees, we all fall. Or is it a reminder of seasons? Seasons of life? The cold, dark bleak seasons when God feels so far away.

The autumn wind blows against me, the warmth of summer still lingering. The mingling of seasons dance with my emotions. I find my heart yearning to move on, not wanting to look back. He is speaking to me about moving beyond. Beyond borders, my borders. To fully trust Him, abide, and press on. Leaving fear of the unknown and the dread of the dark lonely days behind. Embracing a new life without fear. Stretching. Growing. Moving beyond into rebirth.

As the leaves fade, so does my old self. Her voice seems distant, barely a whisper, yet I want to her to stay. My old ways falling as the leaf. As winter draws near I find new perspective. His perspective. This season is not a reminder of who or what I am, a sinner. It is not a reminder of the cold, dark bleak seasons of life. It is a season of drawing close to Him. A season of rest, abiding, shedding of the old. A season of wait.

As the tree awaits with hope silent for the Spring that approaches with grace that renews; I will wait and hope in Him who promises to complete His good work in me.

 

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:6

jesus, dead people, church yard, cemetery, bench, dreams


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Here lies my grief :: Songbirds, dead people, and Jesus

It’s Sunday morning.
The blue sky muddles with the drifting clouds.
The sun warm against my cheek.
A songbird sings of the morning’s glory.

I sit on a black bench.
I sit under trees whose branches yield shade like an umbrella.

I sit with the dead people.

The church-yard is filled with headstones.
The headstones, some barely legible, are etched with stories and history and lives taken long before their time.

I read the words “Here lies…” over and over as my eyes scan the stones.
I feel the hand of grief and I believe the lie for a moment.
But here is the truth, the headstones speak of the empty vessels that once harbored souls.
No one lies here in the ground. They sit with Jesus.

Is there anything more scandalously glorious?
To sit with Jesus?

I can’t help but wonder about their lives here on earth.
Did they look upon life as a gift?
Did they know the love, peace, glory of God?

And did they dream?

I think about my life, my dreams, how often it has changed my dreams.

Have I lived into the dream of Jesus?

A songbird sings of the morning’s glory.

And I pray Jesus let my dream be for you.