Saturday, June 27, 2015

Love Wins

We are a country divided. I assure you this will not be a political rant, nor will it be a protest. Hear me out if you would.

Shock and outrage should never lead to hate and intolerance. Love and acceptance should be grounded in that of Christ Jesus and biblical truth. This isn't about condemnation or the fall of society. The downfall of man came thousands of years ago when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and chose their own way and sin entered the world. 

We can quote John 3:16, "For God so loved the world..." But do we understand the reason He came? To pay for our sins. To make a way for us from our sinful, fallen state to reach eternity with a perfect and Holy God. He did not come to condemn the world but to save it, which we find in the very next verse in John 3:17. 

Make no mistake. This earth will pass away, and all that's in it, and the only thing that will matter is what you decided to do with Jesus. Who do you say He is? This isn't about Christianity or what you may call yourself. It has nothing to do with labels or titles or man's rulings. It has everything to do with whether or not you have a personal relationship with Him as your Lord and Savior.

Understand. He created you. He loves you. He desires to call you His child. It is the sinful nature in which we were all born that separates us from His Holiness. It is why we struggle. It is why there is pain, disappointment, hurt, sickness. It's why we can't often make sense of some of the things that happen. It's also why He sent His Son. It's why He made a way, because there must be a way, for us to bridge the divide of our fallen flesh and His perfect righteousness. 

This is where love wins. This is absolutely about love winning. Love has won. It is winning. It will win once and for all. Because Christ defeated sin and death when He paid for each and everyone of us and made a way for us to gain eternal access to heaven and our Heavenly Father. 

Heaven and Hell are as real as the love and hate we demonstrate. Whether it's race, gender identity, marriage laws, or any other issue that might be prevalent in our present day. We are living and acting as if we're surprised. We should not be caught off guard. Quite frankly we should only be more prepared than ever to make sure our eternity is secure. And rest assured that is really the only issue. 

We cannot expect the world to act as if they know the bible we believe if we simply bang it over their heads. We must fulfill our purpose. Our calling. The original plan - we know this as the Great Commission: to go into all the world and tell the good news. The good news that God is love. The good news that His Son paid the price for our sin. The good news that we can have a personal, redeeming and life changing relationship with Him that will guarantee our salvation and secure our eternal presence with Almighty God. The good news that most certainly we claim: love wins. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's a GIRL!

We waited for this day for so long. There we were staring at the screen watching our little one moving all around, mouth opening and closing, hands going up and down. The technician switched over to 3D and there before our eyes was the image of our lovey's little face. I looked over at my husband with tears in my eyes and I could see the astonishment in his expression. This was our baby. The technician warned us when to look away. We weren't going to find out the gender until that night when we would gather with family and friends. 

I delivered the sealed envelope to the baker right after our appointment. And yes, it was still sealed. You have to understand how difficult this was for me. Everyone in my family knows I am the one who simply cannot wait for surprises. Like the one Christmas when I sliced open my gifts while mom and dad were gone...only to have my little sister tattle tale on me. I would always go on scavenger hunts to find hidden gifts or reveal secrets so knowing that envelope held one of the biggest secrets of my life was near torture!!! Even worse was when the cake was delivered and I knew just layers below that icing was the secret I was DYING to know!!

Understand something. I've done EVERYTHING I can to try and guess the gender. My early ultra sound between 6 and 7 weeks produced an unknown result for the Ramzi method. My ultra sounds at 9 and 10 weeks were too early to tell the Nub theory that is usually seen at 12 weeks. I researched (we'll use this term loosely) every Old Wives Tale to try and make an "educated" guess...but this only proved to be a divided line of some boy and other girl signs. The funny thing would be to hear all the guesses, "Oh, you're carrying low - it MUST be a boy!" then another "Yep, it's definitely a girl, I can tell."

This entire time I have been convinced I was carrying a boy. We had our girl name picked out even before this baby was conceived but we just couldn't be as confident and 100% "sold" on the boy names we kept suggesting. This was another reason I was convinced it was a boy. Most of the hints and predictors seemed to point to a boy. The heartbeat has been consistently in the 140's and I felt certain we needed to be prepared to see teal icing in the center of that cake. I tried to prepare everyone, especially my husband and son who have been "Team Girl" from the beginning. The pressure was on with the "majority vote" being for a girl and I didn't want anyone to be disappointed when and if it was a boy.

Our guests kept asking if we were cutting the cake first and somehow we managed to get through sharing a meal together...but not long after that it was time! We got the cake set up and called our out of state family on Facetime so they could watch the reveal. With family and friends gathered around, we prepared to cut the cake. 

I was prepared. Prepared to see teal icing. Prepared for a second boy. Prepared for more dirt and worms and Legos. What I was not prepared for was the overwhelming surprise and my undeniable excitement when we pulled out that slice of cake only to reveal PURPLE icing! "IT'S A GIRL!!!" 

I was SHOCKED!!! Michael later said he couldn't even process what was happening and thought somehow I might have cut myself instead of the cake because of the screaming. We were all screaming in excitement and disbelief. It was the last thing I expected to see. Purple icing. I kept staring at the layers in disbelief then remembered the baker had given us back the gender envelope. I quickly removed the tape and opened it up. Sure enough! This was not a joke! There she was in living proof. OUR GIRL!

I can share this now that we know...but a few weeks ago something came to mind. Something I hadn't thought about in over 7 years. I had always wanted a girl. I have enjoyed the close friendship of my own mother-daughter relationship. I am, as no surprise to anyone, a girly-girl so the thought of all the frills has always been, of course, a desire of mine. During the adoption process that wasn't an option for several reasons, none of which I will truly discuss, but suffice to say it was a desire I buried and put out of my mind. In fact, I was just so elated to become a mother it didn't matter if it was a boy or a girl. Until just a few weeks ago, that desire started to resurface. After 7 years, it caught me off guard. Especially since I was so convinced this baby would be another boy. I kept telling the Lord, "I don't want to be disappointed - and I won't be! Because I love being the mom of a boy and I will love it again!" At the same time, I couldn't figure out if it was the "majority vote" or truly the desire of my heart that seemed to be swaying my affections to "Team Girl." 

Even as I prepared to quiet my mind and heart after such a full evening of joy and celebration, it was all I could do to ask, "How God? How could You see fit to so abundantly bless me? I don't deserve any of this - at all - and yet every single desire and detail You have worked out for my good and my joy." It is humbling to come face-to-face with this reality and yet it causes me to do nothing other than praise and give Him thanks. 

Yes, we are having a girl and we couldn't be more thrilled. But I must stand back and give God ALL the glory for each and every miracle that He alone has worked in our lives. The mere fact Michael and I have the blessing of sharing life together, let alone bringing a baby into this world, to have the desire of our hearts fulfilled on so many levels, is a constant reminder of how much He loves us. How He works everything according to His plan. How what others meant for evil, He will use for good and ultimately His glory. This baby girl is yet another answer to prayer AND a reminder to give Him all the praise and glory He is due. 

We praise You, Lord, for You are fearfully and wonderfully fashioning and forming our Baby Girl. We can't wait to meet her!

Thank you for celebrating with us!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Secret Place

In 2008 the year of Elijah's birth, 95% of the birthmothers residing in the Liberty Godparent Home were expecting boys. Friends of mine had been placed with what was known to be the expectant sole girl just months before Eli was born. The chances of me becoming the mom of a boy were high. And somehow it never seemed to phase me, despite previous thoughts of wanting a girly girl. It seemed almost fitting that I would become the mother of a son. I hope it's now safe to say I have embraced this title with more dirt, worms, frogs, cars, Legos and outdoor play than I could have ever prepared myself for...and I've loved every single second!

June 23rd has been scheduled for almost 5 weeks so it is with building anticipation that we finally reach this long-awaited day. It's known as the midway anatomy scan and for many, including us, it will also be the big gender reveal! Oh yes, this day is highly anticipated when no longer will it be unknown what gender our baby is. When we get to start buying bows and ribbons and all things purple (because if you know me, you know it must be purple over pink), or if we will keep with the theme of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. 

I would be lying if I told you a little girl to dress up and spoil, to be my mini me, wouldn't be a dream come true. Yet I simply cannot deny the bond I have with my boy and how much I love being the mom of a son. I only know that would double with another boy. 

What do I think? I keep saying boy. I have tried every old wives tale, studying my previous (way-too-early) ultra sounds and everything has seemingly been divided. Still my thought remains boy. Is it a feeling? Not necessarily. Especially since Michael and Eli have held steadfast with team purple this entire time. 

Even as I laid down to sleep, Baby Wright was ever so softly tapping on me from the inside. I placed my hand on my stomach. 

Hello Lovey. I love you so much. Tomorrow night when I lay down to sleep I will be able to call you son or daughter. For now, this one last night I rest knowing only God Himself knows. He has known you from the very beginning of time, even before you came to be. He's had His hand on you, fashioning and forming you in the secret place where only He could see. He's been lovingly shaping you, planning your days, as I simply dream of you and the day we will finally meet face to face. He and He alone has already laid eyes on you as He's knit you together in my womb. Only He knows, and the truth is, no matter what is revealed it won't matter...because you will still be mine and your daddy's, sibling to Eli and our precious gift from God. I love you, but I hope that isn't a secret. I tell you all the time. I am so excited for what will be revealed but I'm even more excited with what I already know: I am your mommy. You may already know my voice. And we are preparing for you whether that means purple or blue, girl or boy. You are ours, hand-crafted by God and places in my womb to forever be a part of our Family. 

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16

Thursday, June 11, 2015

He Loves Us

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory 
And I realize just how beautiful You are 
And how great Your affection is for me 

Oh, how He loves us so

was simply brought to tears as we sang this song in choir last night. I have heard it before but all of a sudden the words were sinking in. There I sat as the music played, my voice lifted in unison with the rest of the choir, and I could feel what felt like a little fish flopping around inside me. My little sweet potato, at least that's how big the baby is this week, and he/she had been moving around all day. It was one of the first days I was fully aware of constant movement and now as the words of this song resonated with how great His affection is for me, I couldn't help but be overcome with emotion. Just thinking about the ways He loves us and the very obvious ways He reveals His love and Himself to ust overwhelms me. 

I came home with the song still playing in my head and wasn't even aware I was still singing it out loud when all of a sudden Eli asked me, "Who is jealous?" It caught me off guard and then I realized he was listening to my song. I tried to find a way to explain what I had been singing. 

"God is jealous for us - He doesn't want anything in our lives to take our attention or love away from Him." 

He seemed satisfied with that answer but I could see on his face he was still processing the idea.

"Mama, what about my Legos? Would God be jealous of those?" He had an entire Lego city in his hands. It seemed only fitting he would wonder about this. 

"Yes. He would be jealous if those Legos were more important to you than He is." 

Now he was understanding. The precious colored blocks he takes everywhere, he incessantly plays with all day long, the creations he won't even part with at bed time, even these inanimate objects could be "the thing" that diverts attention from our Heavenly Father. 

I could tell he was conflicted. He loves those Legos so much. So I offered further explanation. 

"You know how much mommy loves you? I love you almost more than anything...but I love God even more. But you know something? He loves me, and you, even more than we could ever love anything in this whole world." 

"Does God want to have my Legos?" The pained look on his face revealed it was certainly something he hoped wouldn't be true. 

"No, bud, God doesn't want you to give up your Legos. But He does want to make sure you always put Him first." 

I couldn't help but think about what "Legos" exist in my own life. What am I so enamored with, what can't I live without, what is it that captures my attention and affection, even taking the rightful place of Almighty God? Certainly when I stop and realize how great His love is for me, does it not cause everything and everyone else to pale in comparison? Even as I feel this little one moving inside me I know full well I am but a steward of the children God chooses to bless me with. When I stop and realize just how much control I don't have over all the little things I attempt to cling to and hold onto, it causes me to understand the magnitude of His sovereignty and how He is at work in my life. When I'm in the middle of affliction or trial, it is easy to be consumed with the storms blowing around me. But if I would truly stop and see Him for who He is and how He is at work in my life then I would get to glimpse His power and glory. 

Oh how He loves us so. So very much. So much more than we can comprehend. So far beyond what words can express. So infinite. So perfect. When I truly let this sink in, there's nothing I should hold onto so tightly that it causes me to lose my grip on Him and His love. 

He Loves Us

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Day To Remember

This post has excerpts from my original post on this day last year.

It's May 31st. This day is so special to me because it's the day I became a mother. This day is celebrated as what our family affectionately calls "Gotcha Day." It's the day a tiny baby boy, just 3 weeks old and still in preemie clothes, was placed in my arms by the girl who gave him life. 

She was just 15, yet somehow she seemed braver than me. I was trying to be aware of everything. Up until the moment I walked into that lawyer's office in Ohio, I had only seen a glimpse of him in a small, blurry photo. I will never forget the memory as long as I live. I was so nervous, so worried I wouldn't know what to do, so scared about the reality that was sinking in.I hoped she wouldn't see my fear and say I was unfit. I looked at her first. She sat calmly as she held him. She seemed void of emotion, yet I knew the impact of it all would forever etch this moment in her mind for different reasons. I looked down at him. I was trying not to burst into tears but I was so overwhelmed with emotions. So many emotions. So aware of this moment that would serve as an altar to forever remind me of God's faithfulness and answer to prayer.

Now here I stand 7 years later celebrating one of my most favorite days of the entire year. His birthday is so very special but I cannot neglect the monumental day May 31st is for me, knowing this is the day I come back to, this is the altar built 7 years ago, when God's faithfulness came to me in flesh and blood as He saw fit to answer my prayers and make me a mother. 

This was my delivery room. This was where my son would be placed in my arms after years of laboring. This was the culmination of a nearly three year journey that represented my stretch marks, labor and delivery. They weren't physical. They were emotional. Marks that represented growth, lines to serve as reminders of month after month of heartache. Scars to remind me of the tears I cried to The Lord, the prayers of a fervent heart. "However motherhood comes, Lord, please make me a mother." There were even deeper prayers, prayers I wasn't sure I was willing to have Him answer. "God, take away this desire if it's not Your will." He didn't take it away. He answered a different way. His way. I'm so thankful He did.

I stand here today 17 weeks pregnant now carrying a child that will be inside me for 9 months before being placed in my arms. There will be a delivery room, laboring, even more marks to remind me yet again of the faithfulness of God and how He has sovereignly put our family together. Once again He's answered in a way only He could. I stand in awe of Him with humbleness and gratitude. I give thanks for the children God has gifted us with. 

I always swore I'd get the epidural, but make no mistake I felt every single labor pain in this process of becoming a mother. Every contraction, every twisted contortion of my heart as God was shaping and molding me, stripping away the chaff, breaking down barriers I didn't even know I had, growing me and stretching me in ways I wasn't prepared for and not really asking for either. I'd always heard young mothers say with glowing smiles, "As soon as you hold your baby in your arms, it's all worth it." I wondered if this would be true for me too. It was. Every single tear. Every single prayer. Every journal entry. Every morning, noon and night I lay in the floor of my prayer room, praying to God to make it a baby's nursery, my baby's nursery.  

Seven years later I can still say it has all been worth it. Every parenting challenge. Every bump along the way. Everything I had planned that came crashing down. Every moment of hurt and heartache, grief and pain. The journey I've walked to see this child of mine adopted into our family, one who so often gets told "you look just like your mommy." It brings a smile to my face. I love to tell people he's adopted and see their shocked reactions. The journey Michael and I have both walked to be placed in each other's lives. The journey we've faced this past year to even get to this point in our pregnancy. Every single thing. All sovereignly designed by God, planned and orchestrated for our good and now ultimately still pointing back to His faithfulness at work. 

Gotcha Day is the day we celebrate the way God chose to put a tiny little premature baby into this family. He was the answer to more than just my prayer. He was the answer to everyone who would ask, "Have you heard anything yet." Not yet, I'd say, expecting without a due date. 

Now I have a countdown, a due date, a regular reminder that a baby is coming. Nine months seems like forever in comparison to the eight days I had to prepare for Elijah's placement. Now we all wait in anticipation of the way God is growing our family. Boy or girl? We don't yet know. We listen to the heartbeat all the time - still Elijah's most favorite thing to do each night before bed. We are so mindful of the miracles we've seen, that continue to unfold, in this seemingly unperfect yet for us perfectly knit together family. 

I would wait until May 31st, this day, our Gotcha Day. My heart transplant day. The day I would watch God orchestrate together a miracle. My miracle. The day He unfolded part of a plan He knew about all along. He knew when I was being knit together in my own mother's womb. He knew as this tiny baby boy was being created in His own image, even when I couldn't feel him kick, even when I wasn't aware of anything other than my empty arms. I watched God let me labor, but it was not in vain. I felt God holding me, even when I was longing to hold my own child

I see all these years later how God continues to work on my heart. How He shapes and forms us through His masterful plan. How His ways are so much higher than our own. How He works all things for our good, even when it hurts, even when we don't understand. 

This is my very own Memorial Day. A day that represents God's faithfulness, even when conventional wisdom seemed dim. A day that serves as a reminder of His answer to prayers, even when the answers come differently than expected. Today is Gotcha Day, the day God showed me He had me all along and He had a perfect plan. Happy Gotcha Day, Eli! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

This Isn't About Sin

This isn't about sin. It's not about forgiveness. It's not about grace. It's not even about innocence or guilt. It's not about what I've heard or what's been reported. It's not about the version of truth you choose to believe, because, let's be honest, how much can you really trust the multiple versions in the media? It's not about who you know that's been affected by something similar. I know them too. I just don't know anything other than varying degrees of reports that seem to make assumptions and cast judgments on something that we simply can't know the full details. Quite frankly it's about the simple fact that who am I to judge? 

certainly am thankful my sins and my family aren't being cast into the media and portrayed for all to see and judge. Heaven help me if that were the case. I deserve punishment. I deserve judgment. I deserve the repercussions of my sins. I've received overwhelming mercy and undeserved favor and gracious redemption. I've begged God and family and others for forgiveness. I've pleaded for privacy and been gripped with fear over the thought of my sins being revealed. The very plastering of my life across social media, news feeds and media outlets would be nothing short of horrifying. Don't get me wrong - I would deserve it all. And I'm also well aware of the judgment, mostly from those who guessed or assumed without knowing all the facts. My sin is different than his, yours, but my sin is not beyond redemption and neither is anyone else's. 

I hear you with the legal obligation to be held responsible. I understand the level in which our legal system treats crime and the punishment that follows. God's forgiveness does not negate man's laws. I hear you talk about the forgotten innocent victims. I cannot know anymore about these victims, their perspectives, their counseling and recovery than I can know about what truly happened. The only thing I can do is pray. Pray for the victims involved who are now having to relive a painful part of their past, for the haunting memories only they can know details of. Pray for the family reeling from backlash and the falling out of a very private and personal family matter. Pray for the accused and the slandering barrage of judgment and the ensuing repercussions that are yet to be fully known. Pray for God's mercy and grace to be seen and understood, especially to those who cannot comprehend who He is. Pray. That somehow we would stop the critical judgment and mud slinging and quit making this a divisive issue of Christianity at its worst. God help us. 

I don't want you to think that because of my own faith in God that I believe there should be no consequences. Or that just because God forgives it should all be forgotten. People are affected by sin. Too often innocent lives are involved without their knowledge or consent. Sin hurts. None of it is pretty. But what I do cling to because of my faith is the knowledge that God's forgiveness is for all. His sacrifice of His Son covers ALL sins. Every single one. His forgiveness does not excuse us from the fallout that may still come, or the consequences we may face but He is ultimately a redeeming God. What does that mean? It means He is the God of a second, a third, a fiftieth chance, and oh how grateful I am for this! 

I'm not trying to divide sides, quite the opposite. You've heard me say it before: this blog is my own. These opinions are purely mine and I'm not asking you to agree. I am praying you will somehow see that being a Christian does not make sin excusable, but it is never unforgiveable. In this broken fallen world, good people make bad choices and fall victim to sometimes the unthinkable. Wholesome lives fall apart and while the fallout may require us to answer to man's laws and consequences here on earth, thank God we have a Heavenly Father who can pick up the pieces of our broken lives and shattered reputations. Whatever your opinion, you're entitled. All I ask is that you see God for who He is, not man for who we can sometimes disappointingly be. An all-knowing God who sorts out the unknown and confusion. A Sovereign God who sees and knows all, even when we act outside of His perfect will. A Healer to the broken lives and the hurting. An Almighty God who loves us in spite of ourselves and our sin. A Redeemer who rescues us in our time of deepest need. This is about God. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Always Good

"You look pregnant!" my husband exclaimed. I laughed and thanked him. It's a compliment these days. I feel I've successfully escaped the awkward "has she gained weight/is she pregnant?" guessing stage. Every week is a momentous milestone we stop and give thanks for. I count each day as a blessing.

Today is May 20. It's a beautiful, warm sunny day. On this day I'm mindful of the original due date I was given back in the fall when we first learned we were expecting. It's not a day full of sadness, although I'm very well aware that it could be. Circumstances have obviously changed and what I'm more aware of is how my own plan isn't necessarily God's plan. And that's okay. I can't be quite certain as to why and I certainly don't have all the answers. I can't even grasp His calendar or the infinite time table He has and how (or when) He chooses to work. I simply trust in His sovereignty and His promise to work ALL things for my good. Don't just skip over that.

All things for our good. It's one of those biblical truths we have become so familiar with we nearly gloss over it. Yet it should be running through our marrow. It should be the anthem we cry out in times of seeking and longing. It should be the truth we cling to in our time of desperation, holding firmly that He is at work.

I fully believe it becomes easier for me to trust this promise when I sense the changes of this new life inside me. Were I not pregnant right now would I still be able to proclaim His goodness? Yes, I have to say yes. Because God is good. All the time. The circumstance may not be ideal, it may not be what I expected, or maybe even what I hoped and prayed for, but no matter what the situation or even the outcome, the goodness of Almighty God never changes. He does not waiver. He does not falter. He does not fail. My flesh and my heart my fail, but He is my strength, my portion.

We hold fast that life begins at conception. As the Master and Creator of the Universe, He's now fashioning and forming this precious one inside me. I've heard the heartbeat (quite regularly thanks to the fetal doppler monitor we have at home - it's one of Eli's most favorite things). I've not felt this child move inside me, yet, but I've read the updates telling me this little one is actively squirming and moving about. There is also a soul in heaven. A life cut short, before it really began. One called home to eternity before ever realizing an earthly home. The one I didn't hold but who forever holds a piece of my heart. I had no idea I could love someone I never met and yet I feel another part of my heart grow more each day even as my waistline continues to expand. I'm mindful of God's plan - one I could have never known or guessed for myself. Yet, one that has drawn me close to Him in surrender and trust.

The lesson for me is remembering God's goodness. His sovereign and perfect plan no matter how I feel, no matter what disappointment I've faced, no matter what I may not understand. He is good. Always. He works all things for my good according to His plan, not mine. Always.