Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Setting Captives Free

Last night, Chad and I were talking with Kathi . . . a woman who has recently been born again and I have the joy of discipling (and I get the privilege of baptizing her in January!).  Chad was talking to her about spiritual growth . . . that you grow the most when you are giving away what you are learning.  The goal isn't to just consume as much as possible, but to be teaching to others all that you are receiving.  To be a disciplemaker.  He explained that even though she might not feel ready, the Great Commission is for her, now.  Then he said these words . . .

You are to be setting captives free.

Chad went on talking, but I wasn't listening.  Those words struck me and my mind raced down that path. 

What if I was going about my business one day, let's say going to the park, and all of a sudden I see two women being held captive.  I mean like shackles on their hands and feet, can't get out, kind of captivity.  Slaves.  One women is screaming for help, begging to be freed from this bondage.  The other woman isn't fighting.  She's been brainwashed into thinking that things are fine, that she chose these chains, that this life is good.

No matter what they say and whether they see it or not, I know that this slavery is horrible, painful, unjust, and evil. 

My heart would be in my throat.  My mind would race.

How can I free them?  What can I do to save them?

And if all of a sudden I saw the way, the way to set them free, would I not take it?  Would my compassion and sense of justice and the small amount of courage in me not move me to action? 

If you are like me, the thought of being a part of freeing someone from slavery is scary, but exciting.  To witness a life being changed, being pulled out of oppression, chains being broken . . . how amazing would that be?  To travel the world and free those in bondage, allowing them the chance for freedom and new life.  To see the oppressor punished, unable to put chains on another person ever again.  To see physical wounds from imprisonment, labor, or torture heal, as well as the emotional and spiritual wounds.

I don't know too many people who would say no to that privilege.

But, then again, I actually say no almost every day.  

Romans 6 clearly states that before we are born again, we are slaves to sin.  This is the state of people I interact with every day.  Slaves.  Some may realize the pit they are in and might be screaming for help.  Others may be deceived into thinking they are free, they are their own Master, they serve no one.  It is a lie straight from the one who holds the chains.

And I do have the Way, the Way to set them free.  I obviously can't save them myself, but I know exactly Who can.

How could I not share it?  Doesn't my compassion and sense of justice and the small amount of courage in me not move me to action? 

What in the world could stop me?  Am I that hateful?  Do I really have that little of love towards people?  Do I realize the gift I've been given?  Am I like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18?  Is my fear so great to stop me?  Fear of what? 

Do I realize that this very thing is the mission the Church was given by Jesus in Matthew 28?   

Have I forgotten that this is the very thing that is to characterize my life.  

I finally tuned back in to Chad and Kathi's conversation, but my mind and heart have still been wrestling with this.

How could I get so excited at the thought of rescuing someone from physical captivity, but be so apathetic and fearful at times about sharing the Rescuer with someone in spiritual bondage to sin?

I'm not proud of this.  I so wish I could say that I am always looking and ready to share the Hope that I have, the fact that I've been rescued.  But I'm not.  And that is not living worthy of the calling I've received.

I want to just let myself go, to fall unhindered into the mission I've been given.  But there are obviously things holding me back.  I want to figure out what they are and cut them loose.

I want to set captives free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Grayson!

My baby is no longer a baby.

sniff, sniff.

No more bottles.  No more baby food.  I'm sure he'll be walking soon and then the last of the "babyness" will be gone. 

What a year we have had with Grayson . . . my little monkey, bruiser, buddy, little man or currently (and most accurately) the destroyer!

I could write so much about the joy that Grayson has brought to our lives.  The way God has used him to teach us and refine us.  The vast differences I've discovered between boys and girls because of my son that is definitely all boy.

But I won't.  Because my boy has had a high fever all day and I have a feeling it is going to be a really long night.  He is in the phase of pretty much only wanting Daddy when he's home (knife to the heart for this mommy, but I keep reminding myself it is a good thing for him to love his Daddy so).  But somehow Mommy is the one he needs at night, so I'll be up at 3 am with medicine dropper in hand!

So I'm just going to post a bunch of cute pictures of my sweet (gulp) 1 year old son!  Some from this year and then some from his birthday party.

My little man (5 lbs 12 ozs) came nine days early . . . 5 days before my scheduled c-section.  I was sick and literally coughed myself into labor!  Such a precious (early) gift from God!

Grayson started having tremors the day after he was born.  He spent 24 hours in the NICU as they ran a bunch of tests for seizures or neurological issues.  Just like with Ava, we had to place him in God's hands and just trust our Heavenly Father and Healer.  The tests came back fine and the tremors went away within a few weeks!

Going home from the hospital . . . ready to figure out how to be a family of four!

 My boy bulked up in no time . . . here he is at 3 months.

 Grayson's baby dedication (really, parent dedication) at Edgewater in May (5 months).

My little Linus!  Grayson sucks his finger AND is a blankie kid.  He doesn't discriminate, though.  Any fabric will do.  What a combo . . . I love it!

Who Dat?!  Grayson loves to throw his football and of course loves rooting for the SAINTS!  How cute is he just chillin before the game with our friend JB?!

 I love this picture . . . minus the hives all over his forehead from being licked by a dog.  (Who knew you could be allergic to dog saliva?  You can.  He is.)  Our friend, Erica, made him this Africa shirt so he could spread the word about Easton!

Cutest giraffe I've ever seen.  Ever.

Definitely a Daddy's boy!  I don't mind (okay sometimes I do . . . can't Mommy get a little attention!) because he's got one great Daddy and it would bless my heart for Grayson to become a man that follows in his Daddy's footsteps. 

Caught this pic the one second that Grayson decided to leave his hat on!  Won't ever happen again, but so cute!

Grayson and Mommy at his 1st Birthday Party! 

 Thanks to pinterest, mom and I made the cutest monkey cupcakes and they were so easy!

Ready for his cupcake!  Such a second child though . . . unlike Ava, this was not his first taste of chocolate.  :) 

I love technology (sometimes)!  Chad's mom is really sick so they weren't able to physically come to the party, but that didn't stop them from enjoying the festivities!  Chad skyped with his parents so they could sing Happy Birthday and watch him enjoy his cupcake!

You can't come to a party at my house without playing a game!  The adults got to guess what age Grayson is in each picture.  The winner got 12 out of 24 right!  Hard game, but great way to have lots of cute pictures of my boy!

  A little fun with balloons . . . Grayson was obsessed!

We are beyond blessed with our precious girl and now ONE YEAR OLD son!  "Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . ."

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Long Road

Today is my little man's first birthday.  But this post is not about him.  Oh, don't worry . . . he'll get his own after all the festivities are over!

But God spoke so tenderly and powerfully to me this weekend and I want to share.

On Saturday morning, my house was a flurry of activity.  Two kiddos running around (Grayson is still crawling, but he does it so fast in order to keep up with Ava that he might as well be running!), mom baking cupcakes for the birthday party, and who knows what my dad and Chad were doing, but there was just a lot going on.  And in the midst of it all, my heart was heavy.

I decided to go up to Chad's office.  I needed to make copies, but I also just wanted to be alone with my Savior for a little while.  As I drove over, I felt full.  Like the tears could overflow at any moment.  You know . . . like when all the emotions inside are ready to burst forth if someone so much as smiles at you. 

Why this heaviness?  It's a combo of things really.

My baby, BABY, is not so much a baby anymore and we were getting ready to celebrate that fact.  A little hard to swallow!

Chad's mom is really sick right now.  Our hearts have been so heavy for her, anxious for answers, and a little worried until they come.  She has an appointment with a liver specialist this Wednesday so pray with me for healing before then that will astound the doctors and bring praise to our Healer!

And then of course there is this adoption journey.  I'm now starting on all the dossier documents, which is slightly overwhelming.  But more than that, I was overwhelmed and discouraged as I gazed down the road ahead.  Our agency just changed the timeline listed on their website for an Ethiopian adoption to give a more accurate picture of this journey.  This is good.  Realistic expectations.  But so hard when you are just at the beginning and an already long road now gets even longer.

So I'm in Chad's office, the tears are on the brim, and I need God to speak.  I ask Him to speak.

And then three things happen to let me know that my God, the God of the universe, is near.  He is near, He hears me, and He loves me.

I pulled up Pandora radio to have some music as I studied and prayed.  The first song that began to play was "For The Good" by Shane and Shane.  God spoke right to my heart with these words, "Lord I really need to hear you speak.  So remind me in the waiting.  You are working all things out for the good of those who are called by You, for the good of those who are in love with You."

And then the floodgates flung wide open!  Tears flowed as I was reminded that He has marked the race set out for me (Heb. 12:1).   My way is unknown to me, but not to Him.  He desires GOOD for me (Ps. 85:11) and He is in fact working all things out for that good (Rom. 8:28).

This Word from God led to honest confession on my face before my King.  I confessed my fears, my doubts, my frustration.  I confessed that I feel tired and weary and the journey has just begun.  How can I make it down this long road?  How can we endure the waiting?  It is going to be so hard.  Too hard. 

Confession is so good for the soul.  God knows my heart, my inner thoughts and fears, but there is something about verbalizing them that frees you from them.  He can handle honest talk.  He can handle ALL my emotions.  So I laid it all out there and again asked God to speak.

I opened my Bible to Matthew.  I've recently decided that I want to immerse myself in the Gospels, in Jesus.  So I'm reading and studying one chapter each day before I move on to other studying.  It has been so good to walk with Jesus through His earthly life.  I look forward to doing this forever, really.  I want to know Him!  If you don't know what to study right now, I invite you to do it with me.  With one chapter a day, you can go through all four Gospels in three months.  Four times a year!

Anyway,  I turned to my chapter for the day . . . Matthew 27.  Matthew's account of the crucifixion of Christ.

As I began to read, the tears came again.  But this time they weren't tears of fear or heaviness, but gratitude.  The still, small Voice spoke straight to my heart.

Cole, here is the road I walked to adopt you.

A painful road of betrayal, false accusations, injustice, mocking, beating, ridicule.  A literal walk down the long road to the cross, to a criminal's death.  Crucifixion.  Physical death.  Taking on the sins of the world, my sin.  Bearing God's wrath as penalty for that sin.  Dying the death that I deserve.  Separation from the Father.

The cost of my adoption was great . . . a price I could never pay.  The journey was long and hard.  More than anything I could ever bear.  But Jesus walked it nonetheless.  Not that it was easy breezy.  He mourned and asked if there was another way.  But He was committed to the will of the Father.

Nothing like putting things in perspective!  Immersing myself in Jesus is proving to be just what this heart needs as we start this adoption journey.  The cost is great, the road is long, the wait will be hard.  But I am committed to the will of my Father.  I know that He goes with me.  And I know we will make it . . . by His grace. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas . . . Is Jesus Enough!


We've wrestled, especially since we have had kids, about how to celebrate Christmas.  What traditions to include?  What to leave out?  How to make our actions and traditions line up with our message that it is all about Jesus.

Isn't that really what a life lived for Christ is all about?  Making sure my life reflects my confession.  Because if it doesn't . . . my confession means nothing and isn't really the truth in my heart. 

Christmas is just one aspect where this tension is obvious and great.  And frankly, where a lot of followers of Christ throw in towel, intentionally or not.

I'm obviously not the only one thinking about this dilemma.  A blogger I follow, Jen Hatmaker, wrote an amazing post about this just the other day.  Definitely read it if you haven't.  Straight to the heart of the issue and so funny!

We've made decisions in effort to place Christ at the center of the celebration, where He belongs (dropping Santa, Advent calendar, reducing number of prizes, birthday cake for Jesus . . . to name a few).  But I still feel like there are things in our Christmas traditions that need to change.  I want to be willing to lay it all, ALL, on the altar.  To see age old traditions, or even harder . . . family traditions, burnt up and the ashes taken outside the camp, never to return.

This is where it gets real, y'all!  Santa wasn't hard at all for us to toss out because he makes parents have to spend more money and just plain isn't needed to have a great Christmas.

Take it a step further though and it hurts.  I love me a Christmas tree and twinkle lights.  The glow just makes me feel cozy the whole month of December.  But I'm really wrestling with how on earth they point to a baby in a manger who was born to take away the sins of the world. 

Why do we get each other prizes?  I'm not necessarily saying that this is wrong, but why is it a part of how we celebrate?  How does it point to our Savior?  I know Jesus got gifts from the wise men, but probably not at his actual birth and this connection is stretched a little too far when we end up knee-high in wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

But it isn't just about what we don't do.  We have to be intentional about the things we do to celebrate Jesus.  After laying it all on altar, we need take up what God approves.  What He declares as a fitting way to celebrate His Son.

Because have I, have we, forgotten that Christmas is in fact all about Jesus?  That He alone is the reason we celebrate.  Contrary to the what the media says, what the government says, or sadly what our actions say . . . Santa, presents, and a focus on self and stuff and more, more, more is NOT the reason for the season. 

In sending His Son, God was showing Himself faithful to the promise He gave way back in Genesis 3 as He cursed the serpent and assured Satan that one day an Offspring of Eve would crush his head.  Praise be to God that He is faithful!

All humanity was helpless and hopeless.  Separated from God with no way . . . NO WAY . . . to do anything about it on their own.  But God did what we could not do.  He, the God of the Universe, came to dwell among sinful people.  Emmanuel.  God with us. 

He went on to live the sinless life that we couldn't dream of living.  He fulfilled the law perfectly.  He died the death that we deserve to die as punishment for our sin.  Then He defeated sin and was victorious over death through the resurrection.  Our only hope for being born again and living a life of faith is in Jesus and Him alone.

The Gospel is beautiful and powerful and we don't deserve it one bit.

And a little baby boy born to a young girl in a Bethlehem stable is what ushered in the Gospel as a reality.  That is why we celebrate.  

In Jen's blog, she uses a quote from a friend about how weird it is that Christians talk all year about the awesome truth of the Gospel, but then on Christmas feel the need to add lots of other stuff to jazz up the holiday.  Essentially proclaiming that Jesus isn't enough.  That the Gospel isn't grand enough to "carry" the celebration.

That's a lie straight from the pit of hell and I want no part in making it seem like the truth.  Or worse, believing it as the truth.  Teaching it as truth to my kids.  Sick and shameful and not worthy of the calling we have received. 

Many probably think that this is way overboard.  And that's okay.  I'm learning to embrace the idea of being "foolish" for Christ!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you celebrate Jesus in your family.  If you wrestle with this too and what God is speaking to you about it. 

Merry Christmas!

** I wrote this post a few hours ago and have continued to meditate on it.  I also just read this post on Ann Voskamp's blog.  Read it.  So powerful!

I just read Jesus' words from Matthew 25 this morning . . . "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  If we are giving gifts, who deserves them more than the Birthday Boy?  And He clearly tells us that a gift to Him is one that is given to others, to the least of these.

Is this too much?  I think of changing everything and it scares me and I think of the ramifications and they scare me.  But then I think of the joy in giving.  The joy in truly giving Jesus what He desires.  And then I get excited at the possibilities.  Excited about my heart and the hearts of my children being wrapped up, consumed with the Gospel.  Even at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


 Invite someone who is relatively a stranger into my home.  Check.

Answer questions about myself, our marriage, parenting, etc. for a several hours.  Check.

Hope and pray that I'm saying everything right even though there is only one way to say the truth.  Check.

Say goodbye to said stranger who in one day has become a great friend and support.  Check.

Rejoice that our homestudy is D.O.N.E. done and we are one step closer to our sweet Easton.  Checkity Check Check!

As you can tell, we had our homestudy yesterday and it went so amazingly great!  Our social worker, A(just using her initial), is absolutely fabulous, which we already knew before yesterday, so we really weren't worried about the homestudy . . . just excited to do it and keep moving forward in the process!  We allowed two days to get it done because it involves a lot of talking for us and a lot of listening/writing/processing for A.

But today wasn't needed . . . we rocked it out yesterday and still had time to hang out with A and get to know her better.  Wonder how she likes it when the tables are turned?!

Chad loves to get to know people, but I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I'm afraid they feel like they are getting interrogated!  He doesn't just ask surfacey things like where you grew up and went to school, but throws out questions like,  "What have you been learning in your time with God?" and "How are you growing within your church?" and "How is your relationship going with your boyfriend?"  Seriously?!  But if people don't run out the door, we sure get to know their heart and what is really going on in life so I'm thankful for my bold, pastor at heart, truly loves people husband!

Anyway . . . it really was a fun day.  A asked about how we met and fell in love.  We really have a great story that unfortunately I don't think about often enough.  It was good for my heart to recount how God brought us together in a way that only He could get the credit!  We also had to describe the ups and downs of our life together . . . our challenging first year of marriage at Doulos, moving to New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, losing Ashton (our first baby), Chad becoming pastor at Edgewater, our miracle baby Ava being born with a perfect heart while we were evacuated from Gustav (that few weeks had enough drama for a lifetime!), little man Grayson coming along, and God's call to adopt.  Whew . . . we have had a full 8.5 years of marriage!

It was truly a blessing to look back and verbalize all God has done in us and through us over the years.  How His grace has sustained us in the hard times and how His love has drawn our hearts to seek Him in deeper ways.  We're so blessed!

So what's next?  You guessed it . . . more paperwork!  We've done our part for the homestudy so now we just wait for A to get it completed sometime in the next few months.  In the meantime, I can start focusing on the documents we need for our dossier (the file on us that goes to Ethiopia).  I'm again trying not to be overwhelmed, but just focus on getting one little part done at a time.

You can be praying that our FBI clearances will come back really soon.  As well as praying that we have no hiccups in this next phase of paperwork.

It feels really weird to be hurrying knowing that at the end of the hurrying will be months years of waiting.  I'm going to need to go to a whole new level of patience and trust with Jesus during that time, but I'm more than certain He will take me there and He will be enough! 

Christmas Raffle Results

And the winner is . . .

Amy Hobson!

Congrats Amy!  I hope you will enjoy all your Christmas goodies!

Amy has been a dear friend since our first year of marriage spent working at Doulos.  Amy and her husband, Stephen, have been so encouraging and supportive of our adoption.  They are in the midst of their second adoption and unfortunately it has been a roller coaster that they didn't expect.  I pray that these few prizes encourage their hearts as they trust in the Father to the fatherless!  Love y'all!

(FYI, I use the random sequence generator at to pick the winner.)

Thanks to everyone who entered this raffle and all our raffles this year!  We have raised $410 through the four raffles so far . . . AMAZING!   I'm so thankful for all the generous family and friends who donated their creations or skills to make these raffles something worth entering.  

I probably won't do a raffle in January 1) because I know December is an expensive month for everyone and 2) because I'm all out of prizes to raffle!  So if you feel like getting crafty over the holidays and can create something for us to raffle . . . go for it!  

Merry Christmas!