His Word in the New Year

Well, I think I am not alone in feeling like that was a long year. And then in some ways, such a short year. And, let’s face it, probably for most of us a pretty bizarre year. But there is no question that it was also not without good. In the midst of chaos and division and even global pandemic, we serve a good God who is always giving good, if we can chose to see it.

Now it is a new year and I want to do something new, with you.

During our first lockdown in Uganda (in March), I was feeling unusually spiritually dry. I restlessly flipped through my Bible, hoping it might just fall open to something that jumped off the page at me. I picked multiple devotionals up off our bookshelves, only to tire of them after a few short days. I need you to speak to me I would whisper to God.

At my husband’s encouragement, our family started a new Bible reading plan. No commentaires, no bells and whistles, just the Word. We started with Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts, reading a chapter of each every day. Some of the reading we did together around the table and some we did in our own quiet time. It only took me about a week to realize that this was what my heart had been craving. It didn’t come with extra commentaries, opinions or explanations. What my heart and been longing for was God’s Word, in much larger pieces than I had read in a long time. And, while I know it might sound cliché, the more I read, the more I wanted. At the end of what had felt like a particularly dry season, thumbing through a Bible I felt I had read a hundred times, asking God to please make it new and exciting to me again, I was suddenly hungry for these large chunks of time in His Word like I hadn’t been in a very long time. Because He hears the prayers of our weary hearts. Because He longs to be near His people, to remind us of His love for us.

As I read, I couldn’t get over the very obvious truth that the character and magnificence and love of God remained the same through Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts. And then later through Exodus, Nehemiah, Mark and Romans, and so on. While these passages weren’t intentionally selected to “go together,” so often a theme or aspect of God’s character jumped out of each passage as if they had been hand-picked in some kind of topical index. There it was, the Word of God, and my loving Father the same, yesterday, today, and forever. God’s character seemed to jump off the page at me as if to say, “See! He loves you! He has always loved you! He will always love you!” or “Look! He is merciful, He has always been merciful, He will always be merciful.”

In the midst of a long and weary year, while I was looking for spiritual encouragement from reading about other people’s encounters with God and other people’s opinions or interpretations of His Word, my old, worn, falling apart Bible that I “already knew all the stories in” was waiting for me to come back to the basics, waiting to reveal new facets of God’s character to me. Morning  after morning I poured over the Word, filling pages of my garage sale College Ruled spiral notebook with all the evidences of God’s mercy and grace and gentleness and love that were the same to Abraham and to the Isrealites rebuilding the wall and to the Samaritan woman at the well and to Saul the Pharisee who became an apostle. And as if it was all new to me, I stood in awe.

And friends, He is just too good not to share.

So I am going to start over again, back at Genesis, and I would love you to join me.

I wish I could send you all a beautiful journal, but my encouragement would be to get one to keep next to you as your read, and jot down things that stand out to you.

Each Monday, I will post what we are reading for the week with a few encouragements that jump out to me and sometimes a few questions to challenge us. My prayer is that you would be filled with joy in His Word like never before, and stand with me in awe of His unchanging, unending love.


We Wait in Hope

“He died?”

Tears fill our four-year-old’s eyes, and I am tempted to jump straight into the next story in the children’s Bible, the one where the women find the tomb empty, the one where kind and merciful Jesus looks into the face of His friend, Mary, who recognizes Him by the way He calls her name.

For a moment, I can’t bear the thought of letting my precious, wide-eyed little boy sit in the sadness of the tomb until Sunday. He doesn’t remember that the story has a happy ending. He doesn’t fully understand. His eyes search mine, looking for an explanation. It occurs to me that the disciples didn’t seem to fully understand either. They couldn’t jump ahead to Sunday, because it hadn’t happened yet. What an excruciating 72 hours it must have been, their eyes searching the dark sky for some kind of answer, the earth quaking, their friend and their teacher sealed up in a tomb.

Did they wonder what had gone wrong? How could Jesus have died? Did they think of how He had healed the sick, how He had fed the thousands, how He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and wonder why He hadn’t fought back when they arrested Him, why He didn’t come down off the cross? He certainly could have. And He certainly didn’t have to wait until Sunday to rise again.

But He waited. Maybe He was teaching them to trust Him.

 I want to appease my preschooler’s tears, to assure him that it all turns out ok in the end. But deep in my heart, I know that there is beauty in the waiting. Something happens in the dark tomb days, the days of tears and agony and uncertainty. He is near. And the dark days of waiting make the resurrection all the more glorious.

I don’t skip ahead. We close the children’s Bible on the page with a dark purple sky and the earth cracked in two. Jesus, who will wipe away every tear, has tears rolling down His face. Now I do too. Through all of life, I have seen it and I have known it: the days between Friday and Sunday are where He grows my faith, where I learn to trust Him. 

 I reflect on the year that our family has had since last Easter, the year between Seder supper with our house packed full and Easter service with baptisms in our yard, and this year where we break bread and pass the cup with just our family and will worship together on the couch on Easter morning. To say that this year has been a year of waiting feels like a vast understatement. In fact, as I recall the months, it seems like waiting on something or another, surrendering yet again to trusting God in the unknown, is what has consumed most of the last year.

Soon after Easter, we waited on medical diagnoses that would shake our world, we waited on financial provision like we have never had to before, we waited to be together as our family spent months with an ocean in between us. We waited on paperwork, on appointments, on ministry growth. And through all our waiting, all our dark, tomb season, I cried out what I imagine the disciples might have been feeling: How could this happen? Why did this happen? Did I miss something? What went wrong? I coached myself in truths that I know but that didn’t feel true – God brings good things out of the hard things. God brings new life out of the black soil of the earth, refines gold through fire, speaks life to dry bones, and brings resurrection from the shadow of the tomb.

And as always, that thought slipped in, but what if He doesn’t. What if you don’t God?

And now we wait, along with the rest of the world, looking, wondering, “When will life ever return to “normal”?” and maybe, when there is time enough to think of it between all the homeschooling and meal prepping and constant hand washing, “How catastrophic will this all be?”

There is no doubt we are between a Friday and a Sunday here. Us, and the whole world.

Good Friday holds the answer to that always sneaky question, though, because today, today, God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. And if God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).

So what if instead of longing to skip ahead to the next story, the next season, we learn to trust God in the in between.

All things. All that we need. Today, He graciously gives us His Son, and He graciously gives us all that we need – The strength to endure. The patience to be gentle. The joy to continue to worship even in suffering, chaos or anxiety. And the promise of Sunday – eternal life. When we trust Him, even the ugly seasons can be beautiful.

Today, we wait. Now, maybe more than ever, we realize that we don’t know what the future holds, but unlike the disciples, we do know the ending of the story. Jesus will have the final word.

I think of Mary. I think of the way her heart must have leapt when she recognized Jesus in the garden outside the tomb as He said her name.

 “I have seen the Lord!” she proclaimed, her hope restored. Surely, suffering didn’t end for Mary on that day. Surely, life held trials and persecutions, probably more than I can imagine. But I bet she never forgot His gaze on her that resurrection morning, made possible only by His death and burial days prior.

Sometimes, our trials still us so that He can be near. Sometimes, our tears quiet us so that we can hear His voice. Sometimes, the long, dark night makes the morning all the more glorious. Always, we have this Easter promise that He who did not spare His own Son will give us what we need to endure so that we will be with Him in glory. Glory, where Jesus, whose tear stained face hung on the cross will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

Today we wait. But we wait in hope. For the empty tomb on Sunday morning, for our coming King, for the end of a world-wide pandemic, perhaps for resolution of our own personal suffering, and for and Eternal Kingdom that can never be shaken, no matter the darkness here and now.

I pray today that you feel His gaze upon you, a love so enduring that it doesn’t fade no matter what comes. I pray that He will grow you in these in between days, and that you will recognize Him by the way He calls your name. I pray that as we wait, Jesus will indeed give you all that you need, and I believe that He will.

Happy Resurrection, friends.

A Decade

It has been ten years since my feet first stepped onto this red dirt to call this place home. A decade. Something about that word makes it sound like a very long time. Sometimes, it feels like a very long time, but sometimes it feels like only a blink.

Ten years ago I moved across the ocean with something that I thought was hope but in reality was more like a naïve optimism, a young but confident faith in who I thought Jesus to be then, and a wild spirit for adventure. I would like to say that if I could go back and do it all over again, I would do some things differently, I would make less mistakes, I would live more graciously, but in saying that I might discredit the grace of God who worked so tremendously in my naivety that only He could get any credit. And so today I sit and remember and giggle at a bold and inexperienced 18-year-old who thought she might change the world.

I didn’t know it then, the truth that sinks deep into my bones now: It’s not our productiveness “for” God that counts, it is our worship, our time at His feet. It isn’t our public life, the accolades and the “well-done”s and the applause of the world that matters, it is our silent, continuous reach for Him in the places where no one is watching. It isn’t our “world changing” that makes any difference, it is the way we let Him change and shape our hearts to more reflect His.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Mary of Bethany. By the world’s standards, she didn’t do much of anything extraordinary. She sat at Jesus’s feet while her sister ran around serving; she poured her life savings in perfume over Him while others looked on and called it a waste. But I think Mary knew this secret, the one the world doesn’t teach us, the one I didn’t know at eighteen, when my productive and radical life was going to make a difference – the only thing that matters is Him. Not what we do for Him, but that we know Him.


Ten years in Uganda, pretty much my entire adult life. I drive much better on the left side of the road than I do the right and I can’t parallel park in anything other than a 14-passenger van. I take my shoes off before entering a home regardless of whether the host cares, and I find the floor a more comfortable seat than furniture. This place has brought me my husband and my babies, my dearest friends, my best days and my worst days. This place has held my greatest trials and my biggest celebrations. This place has become home. But something so much more extraordinary has happened – I have found my home in Him. This decade has brought me, like Mary, to sit at His feet.

In ten years of living and loving, of huge loss and great blessing, deep sorrow and immense joy, I have known Jesus more intimately than I originally thought possible. He met me here. He met me in the unexpected places of my story and He met me when the trials were too great and the night was too long. He invited me to sit at His feet, to know the better thing, relationship with Him. When my story was not what I expected He picked up each piece and held it tenderly and wrote His name on the pieces and on my heart. Jesus took my naïve optimism and forged a deep hope that grew in long hours and months and years of clinging only to Him. Jesus took my wild-eyed desire for adventure and showed me that the greatest adventure would be in allowing Him to peel back the layers of my heart, in searching the lines on His face, in truly knowing Him and being known by Him. He showed me that He wasn’t Jesus who desired my productivity, He was Jesus who desired me. All of me, poured out before Him.

I don’t know what season of life you are in today, if you are like me, watching your babies grow in front of your eyes, marveling at all God has done that is so beyond what you could have dreamed up or imagined, or if you are like me ten years ago with absolutely no idea what God is going to do, baffled as He strips away all the “good” plans you have a replaces them with His. But I know this – He wants you. He wants your worship. He sees you reaching for Him when no one else is looking, when no one sees or recognizes your tireless serving, when there are no applause. You are beautiful to Him, here. His eyes are on you and He is pleased with who He made in you.

Let’s find ourselves at His feet today. We may pour out tears or we may pour out praise or maybe a bit of both, and Jesus who cups our faces in His hands wants every bit. His arms stretched out to you are safe, His gaze toward you is loving and His deep desire is that you would know Him and be known by Him.


For more:

Luke 10:38-42, John 12:1-8

Because God’s gifts are timely as always, my precious friend Sara just wrote the most beautiful book that intertwines her relationship with God and the story of Mary of Bethany in the Gospel of John. I’ve read it twice already because it is that sweet, and because Sara writes as one who has truly known Jesus up close and personal. I would highly recommend Unseen.


The night before our baby boy’s first birthday, Benji and I sat at the local Italian restaurant and reminisced over every detail of his little life. We recounted the day of his birth, the exact place in our room where he was born, the way his hands seemed too big for his tiny body, the way his precious face was so smooshed. We marveled at the beauty of that day, the closeness and the peace we felt as we brought him into the world.

With joy and laughter we talked of his sweet personality, all the funny new mannerisms he is learning and the way he just adores his sisters. We talked of what we would do the following morning to celebrate him – cupcakes with his sisters who are his favorite people and a boda ride with our dear Uncle Fred. We laughed about this becoming Noah’s birthday tradition, picturing him as a teenager and Uncle Fred as an old man riding around the block on his motorcycle.

And as joy over his little life filled up my heart, something else slipped in quietly, too. The deep grief that has taken me by surprise so many times this year as I cuddled his tiny sleeping frame, watched all his firsts and comforted all his cries. For with all the beauty and joy I get to experience with my son comes the stark realization of all I didn’t get with my daughters.

I know them just like I do him, as if I birthed them from my own body. I can see in my mind the different shades of brown of their deep eyes and the unique shape of each of their fingernails and I can hear their distinctly different laughter ring through my head and my heart even now as they are snug in their beds. Our love came more slowly, more gradual, and with more effort than my love for this boy, it’s true, but today, my love for each of them is this same deep, aching momma-love that threatens to break your heart and make it burst for joy all at once.


 So that’s where I have been the last few years, friends. Birthing the beautiful gift of a baby and marveling at the love that God faithfully gives me for each of my babies. Sitting with Him in my questions and my grief over the things I didn’t get with my others, things that I so deeply long for as, of course, any mother would, and simultaneously praising him for the beautiful gift of this boy who has brought so much peace, comfort and unity to our family.

And while I grew a baby in my womb, God began to grow something else in my heart. About half way through pregnancy, He began to whisper, “It’s time.”  And as I birthed new life, He birthed a new story in and through me, one that had been growing deep inside for much longer than nine months. For the first time in nearly a year, I sat and began to type the words of my heart. The words turned into pages and the pages turned into a story and as I wrote it for you, I was writing it for me, too, and the Lord was graciously reminding me of all the beauty and all the Truth He has shown me through both the joys and the sorrows of our last many years of life.

His grace has been sufficient for us. His love has been enough for us. Through all the trials and all the celebrations, through all the sorrows and all the joys, our Faithful Father has pursued us and held us and known us, and we have known Him. My prayer is that you would know Him too, more deeply and intimately than ever before, and that His whispers to me typed here on these pages would invite you deeper into His arms and His heart.




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A New Thing

This year has been different.
For months before marriage God spoke to my heart of new things, prepared my soul to cling to His promise, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” This seemed obvious. Of course, marriage was new, learning to share leadership in our home was new, having someone to share everything with was new – and so wonderful! – nearly everything felt new. What I did not perceive all the months of these whispers was that God was also speaking of something much deeper, much more subtle, much less obvious. Apart from anyone’s eyes, deep in my insides, God was going a new thing in me. In the depths of my heart, in a hidden place that the outside world could not see or understand, My loving Father was tenderly peeling back the layers, revealing to me my very truest, deep-seated beliefs about Him and carefully chiseling them away to replace them with truth.
For the first time in years, opposition in our lives was not coming from outside, but from within these walls. No one was deathly ill on our doorstep. Ministry seemed to run fairly smoothly. The presence of friends was true and constant. And in this season of calm, within our home, deep wounds were on display – mine and theirs. Old woundedness, occurring long before God knit us together as a family, began to surface and just kept surfacing in this season of new. The newest thing of this season was the work God was doing invisibly, in our hearts.
And in the midst of it all, of trying to hold all the wounds and pour out love, of trying to understand things incomprehensible to me and see our children through God’s eyes, he pulled up my very own heart-flaws, most blatantly this questioning, a wondering if really, this time, He would be faithful. I, who have tied my whole life up in proclaiming His faithfulness to others, believing in healing for others, declaring His goodness to others, wondered if really He would still be faithful to me.
I have personally known His faithfulness time and time again. God has kept His promises, throughout all of my life and throughout all of history. I have tasted of His goodness; I have lived in it. And somehow in a season of things so different and so new, and so seemingly unending, I wondered if this time He would come through?
I remembered His promise, spoken for months. But this new thing, it was not only beautiful, it was difficult. What new thing was He really speaking of? Couldn’t I see it? And so I sat in my wondering and my waiting and my pleading, and God spoke to me the same words again and again, “I am not done yet.” And I fought to believe it. But this was my way through the sea, my stream in the wasteland, my lifeline. When in my heart I felt that I might be truly done, He was still at work in the hearts of my people, and He was not done yet.
He was not done with me.
This year was different. Outwardly, almost nothing progressed. Almost nothing was measurably accomplished that an onlooker would notice or recognize. But inwardly, He was doing a new thing – in us. God was not finished with me, He was not done with the wounds in the hearts of our children, He was working, patiently and quietly, and sometimes even invisibly to chisel away at the hardened parts of each of us.
In the quiet, in the waiting, in the asking and believing and sometimes even faltering, He was our stream in the desert. His strength became our strength when being strong seemed a thing of the past. His love endured when I wondered if mine would give out. His faithfulness endured through the waiting, through the changes, through the challenge.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up! Can you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my chosen people, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
In the last weeks, we have seen immeasurable growth, joy and heart change in our children that does not compare to anything we have experienced before as a family. The Spirit’s work is evident and I feel the Lord’s hand heavy on our home. Of course in reality, it has been all along.
His words ring true in my ears and in my heart, these words He has spoken over me long in preparation. I look at our people, our home, that He has so faithfully and so constantly poured into and He opens my eyes, I perceive it. He has done a new thing in us and He is not finished.
And He gives us to drink that we may proclaim His praise. Halleluiah! His love endures. He is at work in us!
I don’t know your desert place, the place that seems like a wasteland where God is clearly finished working or has moved on. I don’t know your places of questioning, “Will you really come through this time?” But I know that His promise to me could very well be His promise to you. “Behold, I am doing a new thing,” and surely, beloved, even when we cannot see or perceive it He is not done. He is making a way in your wilderness and a stream in the wasteland because you are His chosen, who He formed for Himself to the glory and praise of His name!
Chin up, love. In the waiting, in the quiet, He could chisel away at those old wounds and you might just see that the new thing He is forming is you.

To the Mom Who Doesn’t Feel Like a Mother, Yet (and the other moms too!)

It seems to be the lament of many adoptive mothers I meet, “I didn’t really feel it.” Somewhere along the line, adoption has become associated with the myth of “love at first sight.” I surely cannot say that no one feels this, but I can say that not everyone does, and not everyone has to. Because the truth is, love is a thing that grows.
I am sure there is truth in the stories that many tell of that moment they saw their child for the first time and knew instantly that God had ordained him to be theirs and fell in love. But I think so much more often, the action of love precedes the actual feeling.
 I knew many of my children months or years before I became their mother. When I first met them, I had no idea that this would be a bond we would share. Even when they first moved in and we filled out the foster care papers, I was tentative. I didn’t really feel like a mother, I felt like a stopgap in the system, a temporary solution. Even as we took steps to make their adoptions more permanent, after God had made it clear that we would be a forever family, I fumbled, often feeling more like a babysitter, or on good days, a fun aunt.
Parents who are still feeling this way, be encouraged: you didn’t miss the miracle. The love at first sight moment isn’t really what it is all about, and might not happen for all of us. Some days, love isn’t a feeling, it is a choice.
You may be the momma who opens her arms wide to the baby you’ve seen in photos who now clings tightly to the orphanage worker and cries in fear. You might be the mother sitting in your hotel room oceans away from your home watching her little chest move up and down while she sleeps, and feeling just devastated by how much of her you do not know. You might be the mother starting at the teenager who, years later, still refuses to be loved, who pushes you away just to see when, if, you will ever leave. And I just wanted to tell you, it is ok. You didn’t miss it. You didn’t miss His call and you didn’t miss the miracle. Love is a thing that grows.
From the moment I met my children I loved them in the way that a heart feels they must love another human being, especially one in need of care. I felt that God made it clear to me that I was to raise them and this intensified my love into a fierce, protective, sacrificial love, but it didn’t change the fact that it takes some time to make strangers into family. That part is a daily choice. From the day I signed those papers I knew they were mine; I was choosing to be their parent. But just like the choice I had made to adopt a child, I would also have to choose to love them. I would choose to love them each morning and each evening and sometimes many times in between. This often felt like failure. If God was giving me children, why didn’t parenting come a little more naturally? Wasn’t deep, connected, instantaneous love a miraculous gift? In my experience, it was more of a choice than a feeling. It was a process that took growth and the daily choice to love and pour into the small person in front of me, even on days when I felt like more of a babysitter than a mom.
I wish I could tell my young, striving mother heart a thing or two. If I could, I would bring her weary frame a cup of coffee and reach out across the years to hold her hand a whisper to her all of the things that I did not know.
I didn’t know that, one day, love for them would consume me.
In those early days of laying sleepy heads on pillows and training tiny hearts to know Jesus, I had no comprehension of the wild, devastating, uncontainable love I would feel for them. I didn’t know that they would some how be these little extensions of me, that when they hurt I would hurt more deeply than I ever had before and that when they showed delight over a success or an excitement for God’s Word my heart would swell within me and I would be unable to contain tears of joy. I didn’t know that sometimes I would look at them and just love them so much that my heart would physically ache within my chest.
I didn’t know that I would blink and they would be grown up, and I would feel like their little lives were slipping through my fingers and I would want to just soak them up, pause the time and savor the moments; that I had this unspoken expectation in my mind that they would grow up and stay little all at the same time. That no matter what I would never feel that I had done well enough, loved hard enough, or taught them enough, but that wouldn’t keep me from pouring out every ounce of myself anyway.
I didn’t know that I would see the sparkle of my eyes in theirs and hear the lilt of my voice when they spoke, or that I would smell the same scent of my skin when I kissed their foreheads or that over the years their laughs and their mannerisms would become more and more like mine. I didn’t foresee that I would sneak into their rooms late at night just to watch their chests rise and fall and study the way their little fingers curled around the edge of their blankets and that no matter how “big” they got I would still have the curves of even their fingertips etched in my mind.
I didn’t know the rejoicing I would feel as I watched them serve others, when I saw them devouring scripture, praying, or longing for more of God. And I sure didn’t know the inadequacy I would feel as I realized more and more that I was shaping them, helping God make them into the people that He intended them to be.
And at the end of the day I had no idea just how powerful and humbling it would be to acknowledge that it would only be God who could change them, redeem them, and save them, not me. Only He could work in their hearts and know their futures. Only He would had been with them all the days of their lives and would remain with them each day and receive all the glory.
If I could reach back in time and whisper to her, I would tell her that I didn’t know Jesus the way I do now, before I became a mother, and that alone makes it all worth it.
It is not lost on me, the miracle of all that has taken place here to allow me to feel all of these things. I look at these young ladies and so much of it seems like a blur. I can’t exactly pin-point all of the ah-ha moments, but somewhere along the lines, it happened. The daily choice became a habit and the habit became a lifestyle and we became a family.
Somewhere in all the laundry and homework help and consistent discipline and constant, tireless love, it happened that I looked at my child and saw in her such a piece of me and He confirmed with real life what He had spoken to my heart many years before – she is mine.
The youngest stands with her toes pointed out and her hands on her hips and I might as well be looking at a mirror. The oldest smiles gently and speaks truth and reminds me exactly of my mother as if it could somehow be genetic. And when that one smiles all her bottom teeth show, too, and she is confident in Jesus and wants big things from life just like a teenager I once new. And this one loves justice and learning how to cook new things while another shows patience in caring for younger children something I loved just as much at her age.
And for us, this is the miracle: not that we experienced love at first sight but that God has given me a love for these once-strangers that is just as strong as if they had grown in my own womb. That somewhere along the line after weeks or months or years of choosing this kind of love, I suddenly found myself in the place that I am now where I have no choice, where I could not stop loving that if I tried because they are part of me. The miracle is that God has given me His eyes for them and in my moments of saying “she is mine” He has given me a glimpse of His heart for me.
So to all the moms out there who are cradling their little ones, or even their big ones, and wondering when you will stop feeling like a surrogate; to the mothers who are clumsily jostling their newborn for the first time and to those who are staring out over the expansive distance that has grown between themselves and that hard-to-parent teenager; your Heavenly Father sees you. And He is glorified by your trying, your pursuing, your loving. Love is a choice, and as we choose it, it grows. We keep choosing love and He keeps choosing us, and this, my friend, is the miracle.
My hope is that you will cherish God’s welcome invitation to know Him increasingly in answering the high calling that is motherhood. No matter how He has enabled you to be a mom, in marriage, in singleness, through foster care, through childbirth, as a mother of one, as a mother of many, keep being faithful to Him as you parent your children. He’s shaping them through you and He is shaping you through them.
And to all the mothers who have given their foster children to forever families but still have that child-shaped hole in their heart, to the mothers now called “birth mom” who have given their child into a better life out of love, to the mothers whose babies now rest in the arms of Jesus; thank you. You are brave, you are beautiful, and this day is for you, too.
Happy Mother’s Day to us!

To Feel His Gaze on Us

He looked into their eyes, both of them.
He shouldn’t have even been talking with the woman at the well because of her race. The woman with the issue of blood shouldn’t have even been near Him because of her uncleanliness. I shouldn’t even be allowed to approach Holy God because of my sin.
But Jesus. He looked into their eyes. He stopped what He was doing, stopped in the hustle and bustle of the day. And His gentle voice held their hearts as He spoke, “Daughter.”
We are just like them.
I am the Samaritan woman hiding from my sin in the heat of the day. My secrets take different forms than 5 former husbands, but I hide them just the same, down deep so that people won’t see. I wonder why He is even speaking to me, so ordinary. Doesn’t He know my faults? He does. And His desire is to heal, to comfort, to uplift. His desire is that I would know the lines under his eyes and the beads of sweat on his forehead and the lilt of his voice just as intimately as she did. My sin leaves me thirsty and I long for living water. I yearn for it and He gives it freely.
I am the woman with the issue of blood – persistent sickness in need of a Healer. Except I am a woman with the issue of sin instead, in need of a Savior to wash me clean. I am chasing after Him, reaching toward Him, longing just to touch the hem of His robe. And He is not far off. He turns toward me the way He turned toward her, kneels down, cups my chin in His hand.
“Daughter,” He says.
Can you hear Him?
And His words to us are the same as they were to those two. “You faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
He has made us well! Hallelujah! He has made us well and He has given us peace.
We are healed from our depravity, our iniquity, our wickedness. We are given peace from our struggling, our striving, our hurt. He loves us like that.
The sick woman chases after Jesus, after twelve years of no answers. It doesn’t matter what the world says, if they say she is dirty and hopeless. She chases after Him because she believes that He has what she needs, that He can heal her. And He does. She squeezes through the crowd, reaches for His hem, because she knows He is the Savior. And He is.
The woman at the well, she runs into the town to tell anyone, everyone what He has done for her. This man knows everything she has ever done and yet still He loves her and desires to set her free. They believe because of her testimony, they race to see for themselves, to hear and see and touch, and they too are saved.

We have received this same grace. So might we spend our whole lives like these women – broken, thirsty and in need of Him. Reaching out for Him, no matter the circumstance. Fearlessly hoping in Him regardless of what the world might say about our situation or the extent of our brokenness. Bearing our hearts to Him, no matter the shame of our sin. Running toward Him, no mater the distance. Boldly proclaiming to all the world, “Come and listen! Come and see what He has done for us. He has made us well! He has given us peace!” He loves us like that.

Waiting on Him

It is rainy season again. My friend and I slip and slide down the muddy hill to Masese where we weekly study the word with a group of women who have become so dear to us. Every Tuesday we come, joyful and overflowing, or broken and weary, or anything in between and we don’t have to hide it because these women have become friends. We wear our babies on our hips and we wear each others’ burdens. We break bread together in each others homes and each week we crack open His word desperate for His filling, searching for His wisdom, inquiring together, “What do you have for us, God.”
It is beautiful, when I have eyes to see. It is beautiful, but my heart isn’t prepared for Masese today.
We sit in a circle in the dirt space between falling-apart slum buildings and I scuff the dirt under my sandals and let my mind wander as the women share prayer requests, each of them more devastating than the last. Last week, just two days after I held her baby in this very circle, our friend was poisoned and quickly died. We shake our heads in disbelief and we try to remember the good things she brought to this community without losing hope. But as we continue to share, someone else’s mom is slowly dying of tuberculosis and some else’s daughter was assaulted and far too many people that everyone knows have fallen prey to alcoholism and addiction and we see the way this so quickly destroys the lives around us. And how do we not lose hope, I wonder. I let my mind wander because I am weary. I don’t want to engage in this kind of suffering again today. I live just a few minutes away from here but my life is still so different. My hard looks like teenagers with rolling eyes and fragile hearts that are crushed with a few wrong words or glances. Their hard is rampant disease and rape and murder. I haven’t spent enough time with Jesus and today I just can’t seem to open my heart to that kind of hurt without despair.
I force myself to get down in the dirt and lay my hands on a sick friend and pray. My hand is wet and I realize that she is letting her tears fall, vulnerable, in front of me, in front of our Father. Her hurt is different than mine, but really, it is the same. We are the same. Both just as in need of a Savior as the other. Both willing Him, begging Him to come quickly. I ask Him to open my heart to right here and right now. I ask Him to make Himself known.
We sit in the dirt and let the tears fall. And despite my best efforts to harden myself to the suffering today, Faithful God breaks me, gives me eyes not just to see the pain but to know it intimately. These aren’t just people. These are my friends. These are people I know, people He knows. I know their names, their husbands, their children. He knows each hair on their heads and the deepest cries of our heart.
I allow myself to imagine us in the palm of His hand. I imagine his tenderness as He numbered those hairs, I imagine His hand cupping my face as a Daddy cups the face of His daughter, and I imagine Him looking into these women’s eyes and smiling, delighted in His daughters. I close my eyes and in my mind I hear the voice of my husband as he sits on our bed and strums his guitar, “for mercy for comfort we wait on the Lord,” He sings.
Today I feel like we are just waiting. Today, hope is something we fight for.
A woman I don’t know very well walks by our circle. I have heard stories of her. She sits on the ground against the wall of the little dirt church we meet behind and stares vacantly. Nobody is really sure if she is disabled or if she has just been abused by so many men that she doesn’t talk anymore.
 Another woman who I know well and love dearly stumbles down the hill and nuzzles her head into my shoulder. She lived with us years ago as she recovered from alcoholism and her child recovered from resulting burns, but it is clear how drunk she is as she tries to communicate with me through language barriers and slurred speech. My eyes look into hers, blood-shot red, and I plead with her. She is such a good mother, sober. I ask where her little girl is, trying to remind her that being home alone is how she got so injured last time but she isn’t listening. She kisses my cheeks and stumbles away.
It is just days after they lowered our friend’s body into the ground because she was brutally, intentionally killed. Just a week ago she sat in this circle with us and now her body rots in the ground while we try to figure out who will check on her babies. The women look defeated. I feel defeated.
How do we find the hope of Jesus here? How do we proclaim that He is at work when we just can’t see it?
“Let us see you here, Lord,” I pray it desperately. He answers with Romans 2:8, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.” These women, they persist. Against all the odds, when it would be easier to just give up and go ahead and call this place hopeless, they cling to their hope in Jesus and the persist in doing good, they persist in seeking His glory.
I trudge back up the hill with my mind full of questions. God where are you in this mess? Where are you? As I ponder, my foot slips and lands in a mixture that is surely part alcohol and part human waste. I choose to call it mud and begin to sigh, of course. Two strong arms wrap around me from behind and Santina’s laughter fills my ears. She is laughing at me because she knows how distracted I was and of course, of course I stepped in the hole. She pulls my arm and drags me to her home where she pulls off my shoes and scrubs them in a basin of soapy water. Water isn’t an easy thing to come by around here and I can’t believe she is using it on my sandals. She proceeds to wash my feet. She is washing my feet and I want to protest but I think of Jesus. Bent down, towel around His waist, arguing with Peter who just doesn’t understand. He whispers to me, “See? Do you see Me? I am at work here.”
My stubborn heart may not always want to believe it but I know that it is true. He is at work here.
Margaret walks up the hill in front of me still giggling about my feet and my grumpy-ness. Margaret, who I thought would die. Margaret who at 19 years old held her 4 year old and her dead baby and bled and bled all alone in her house with no one to help her and no one to call family. Margaret who moved in just as frail and sick as Katherine or Betty. Margaret who slept on an extra mattress in my room for weeks because I was so afraid of death that the couch seemed too far away. Margaret who lived. She walks up the hill her arms full of necklaces that now provide for her and her little guy, both happy and healthy back at home in this community, and her heart full of God’s Word which she loves to share with others. “I am at work here,” He whispers, again and again. “Can you believe me? Can you believe my promises?”
Of course I do. I read the words of 1 Peter now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. I cannot deny that I have tasted of His goodness. I cannot deny that I have seen and known Him working all things for the good of those who love Him, even the ugly, hard, unspeakable things.
For mercy, for comfort, we wait on the Lord. And He is at work here.
What is too hard today, friends? What is too messy? It is hard to believe sometimes but we can knowthat God is good in that place. We’ve tasted and known His goodness, even in the impossibly hard places. Romans 2 says, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.”

Persist in doing good, dear one. Persist in resting in and relying on Him. Peace that passes understanding is promised us, and eternal life awaits us!

A New Name

            For years, I have prayed Isaiah 61 over my family, asking the Lord to give beauty for ashes, asking Him to indeed grow these daughters of mine into oaks of righteousness, a planting for the display of His splendor. I have cried tears straight into the words “freedom for captives” as I begged this promise for a certain few of my little ladies specifically. I have rested in the promise of the oil of joy instead of mourning and I have rejoiced with the prophet Isaiah as each one has come to her own understanding that He has clothed her with garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. My eyes stuck right there on Isaiah 61 praying in hope those words of verse 11, that the Lord would cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations.
            Only on Saturday morning, the morning after I married the very most Christ-like man I have ever met, did my eyes wander down past verse 11, down the page to Isaiah, Chapter 62. As if, now that I was beginning this new chapter of life, maybe God would give me a new chapter to pray over my family. My breath caught in my throat as I read these words that I somehow had never read before.
            “The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory. You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or your name Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land will be Beulah (married). For the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
            Right there on the thin, gilded page, was his heart for me, for Benji, for each of my girls, for our family – that we would know His delight in us, the way He rejoices over us.
            The last two years have been a different season. A season of quiet, of dark and sadness, of joys that felt too personal to share with anyone other than my Heavenly Father. I have tried to write many times, but I have been learning the beauty of the secret place, just Him and me. The Lord who knows my heart has been whispering to me of a new season for a long time, and my flesh has worried that this new season might take me out of my secret hiding place with Him, that somehow a physical, tangible relationship with another might take away from my relationship with my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver.
            Little did I know that this new relationship would only enhance the other.
            I became Mrs. Majors on January 2nd of this year. Benji is a discipler of men and a faithful maker of breakfast. Long before we shared a home we shared a hometown with only a few hilltops to keep our adolescent lives from ever intersecting.  As the Lord would have it, we would only meet on the other side of an ocean after He had captured our hearts with a love for the Ugandan people and a desire for The Word to go forth in this place. At first I was hesitant, but while Benji was patient, God was faithfully working on my heart. I watched him teach Bible studies and disciple men and fix my kids’ bikes. We laughed over coffee and all the crazy things that are life here. He taught me more and more about the love of Jesus, in his words, and in his example. He captured my heart. And on the night he washed my feet and asked me to be his forever, the yes jumped off my lips as if it had always been waiting there just for him.
I imagined marriage would be good. Wonderful even. But I did not even begin to understand that it would be this holy. I didn’t know that I would melt under this man’s gaze that is so full of the love of the Father for me. I didn’t imagine the way his delight in me would be my daily reminder of the way my Father delights in me. My husband’s love is just another way God has chosen to pour our His extravagant love on me, another constant reminder that He rejoices over me, and over each one of our daughters.
            I watch them come alive under the loving gaze of their new father, I hear the delight and the certainty in their voices as they call “Dad.” And without me even having to ask, God who knows my heart has given me my new prayer over them: that in knowing the delight of their earthly father, they would begin to grasp the delight of their Heavenly Father all the more. That they would be a crown of splendor in His hand, that they would embrace this new name: “my delight is in her.”

God gives good gifts. His delight is in me, in us, in them. May our delight be evermore in Him.