Saturday, December 24, 2011

What a Savior

I don't always like the songs they play on our local Christian radio station, I mean, I may be a Mom now, but I'm not diggin' the "Mom music."  But every time I think maybe I'll listen to some other station Little Man starts singing along to the current song..."We were made to be courageous...(Casting Crowns)," "O Happy Day, Happy Day, When Jesus washed my sin away...(Fee)," and it makes it all worth it. 

The other night Little Man and I were headed to a Christmas event and Laura Story's "What a Savior" came on the radio.  He started singing along, "Jesus You are stronger/More than any other/Hallelujah what a savior."  I thought, there couldn't be a sweeter sound than my little three-year-old singing off key "hallelujah, what a savior." 

A sense of awe washed over me as I listened to the words, "What a savior."  This year I have to admit I haven't spent a lot of time dwelling on the advent season.  I haven't anticipated the coming of Christ with as much has just gotten in the way.  But just because I was too distracted to reflect deeply, doesn't take away the profound meaning of Advent and Christmas. 

Sometimes I'm too familiar with the story of a baby in a manger to be shocked by the reality of what God did!  A king, born into poverty.  A king, giving up his throne to be a helpless infant.  To think that even if he was born into the richest home, surrounded by gold and jewels and swaddled in the finest cloth it would be nothing like the glory of heaven.  And he chose to humble himself even further.  What a Savior. 

There's a verse in one of my favorite Christmas songs by Downhere, "How Many Kings" that says, "A child in a manger?/Lowly and small, the weakest of all/Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl -/Just a child -/Is this who we've waited for?"

The one we have waited for...Jesus.  Not a king by earthly standards, but God, in humble flesh, who came to live and die for us and who will one day return in His full glory for those who believe in Him!

Certainly a cause to celebrate this Advent/Christmas season.  Take a moment in all the holiday rush to dwell on the miracle of Christ and let your heart say, "What a Savior!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Red or the Blue Pill

Some days I feel like I'm in the Matrix, not that I have any illusions that I'd look good in all black leather garb, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with the shocking and painful reality that the world is steeped in sin (both my own and others') that I wonder how it is even possible go on.  On days like these I wish someone was offering me the blue pill.  I want to gulp it down and return to bed, where I would wake with no knowledge of such painful truths.  It would be the easy way.

But, it is not the better way.  I think truth is the better way, no matter how painful.  Sometimes it is painful because you realize it is your own sin that is jacking up the world around you.  Other times it is the sin of others that is wreaking havoc in our lives and we are powerless to control it.  Either one puts us at a fork in the road.  Do I take the blue pill and ignore my sin?  Do I hope that this drug of complacency can numb me to the pain I feel from others?  Or, do I carefully reach for the red pill and face what God might be trying to reveal to me?  Do I decide to grow in truth whether or not others make that choice?

Clearly, the right answer is the latter choice, but it is by far the most costly.  Death of self is necessary.  Humility and determination are the only weapons we are allowed. 

Yet, sometimes I am tempted to feel that it is hopeless.  But the Lord reminds me that He is a God of restoration.  He can see inside my dark heart and inside the darkness of others' and He knows how to make it right, even if I do not.  And, ultimately, if I give myself to Christ, the joys and the suffering both will lead to being more like Him and being able to accomplish more of His purposes...and that is what the journey is all about.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Would Like to Take a Moment to Apologize to My Mother

Humiliation.  A screaming child, head thrown back, tears streaking down his face.  People from every dining table looking at us.  I saw no faces as I walked (trying not to run in shame), just a blur of disapproval as I escorted (by escorted I mean grabbed and carried) my child through the restaurant, from the very back of the restaurant mind you, outside to a nice secluded place behind our van where I could administer proper parental attention to such a situation. 

Now any who are concerned at this point in the story, fear not.  No corporal punishment was used, but there surely was corporal punishment going on in my mind.  We had a little "Come-to-Jesus" conversation, in which I expressed my extreme disapproval for his family shaming behavior.

Apparently, our heart-to-heart in the parking lot made an impression.  "Mama, you mad?"  He asked.  Um, yes.  How ever did you pick up on that?

After a bathroom pit stop we headed back.  "Well that was humiliating," I said. "Yep" he quips. Awesome. You have no idea, child.

But, we went back to the table and he ate that freakin broccoli. "Mama angry," he told Andrew.  Thanks, Captain Obvious.

I couldn't really look anyone in the eye after that and felt much better when were able to leave the restaurant and put the whole shameful memory in the past.  However, even now I am feeling some residual second-hand embarrassment.

So, I just want to say sorry, Mom!!  It's my payback time. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Need of a Sabbath

Recently God has been speaking to me about renewal.  For a mountain of reasons, which I'm sure many of you could relate to, I have found myself in a desert season.  I've been burned out on ministry and bitter towards people and ultimately wanting to check out for reasons of self preservation.

At a recent retreat with other World Impact missionaries we talked about "Catching the Wave" of what God is doing in ministry: how to do it, what to do when you "wipe out," etc.  I shared with some of the missionaries that I felt like I'd already wiped out, gotten churned up in the wave, ate dirt, and am now laying on the beach, a frazzled mess, and not quite sure what to do next.  The crisis is over, but I'm feeling dazed and confused and unmotivated to jump back in.  Perhaps you can relate. 

I thought if I stepped back and took a little time to recover my energy and equilibrium would return, but instead I've gotten a little more indifferent and definitely more confused.  However, God has started to speak to me through my clouded He often does in His grace.

I've told myself I'm just lazy when I don't apply myself in the Christian disciplines, or said that I just don't care about things anymore...but I think I've been naming things inappropriately, which hasn't allowed me to deal with the root issues.  It hasn't been laziness keeping me from pursuing God, so much as it has been me pulling back because I've been hurt and confused and maybe to some extent I've been blaming God.  And, I certainly care about God's Kingdom and serving in the city, but I've forgotten what I'm passionate about in the midst of trying to do everything and meet every need.

As my desert season has extended beyond the time I thought I could muster up the motivation to carry on, I've realized I just can't do it.  It's not in me, not without it being put there by God.  I always think I have to DO to fix things, but I think God is telling me to stop doing (that's what got me here in the first place) and listen and wait expectantly for the Lord to rain on my dry soul.  Hosea 6:3 puts it like this: "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

A sermon I listened to recently put all the things God had been speaking to me in perspective.  What I lack in my life is Sabbath.  Sure, I take days off but then I usually try to distract myself from my stress and struggles by plopping in front of the TV, or surfing the internet, or eating, or...the list goes on. But that is not the kind of sabbath God commanded us to observe.  In fact, I rarely ever think about it as a command.  It's not just that I spend more hours of my Sundays trying to "switch off" than seek the Lord, but that I don't have a life set to a rhythm of God's renewal.  I don't have a life fueled by sabbath and yet expect to find rest.  I try to do more, which results in listening less.

We live in a culture that drives us at a frantic pace, it tells us we can do it all.  But, deep down we know life isn't supposed to be like that, it just usually takes a wipe out with a mouth full of dirt for us to stop and acknowledge it. 

So, here I am.  My soul is dry.  But I am expectant.  The Lord will come to me as the the spring rains that water the earth.  There will be renewal.  But I must press on to know the Lord, and structure my life with a rhythm of sabbath. 

Perhaps you too, need more sabbath in your life?  From one dry soul seeking God's renewal to another let me suggest hitting the pause button on life, finding a quiet place and engaging with God.  A good place to start might be with a few songs that have spoken to me lately, and Darrin Patrick's sermon "Jesus & Sabbath":

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restore my soul.
Psalm 23:1-2

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rock Opera in Heaven

I'm not normally much of a concert person.  As an INTJ I usually see concerts like this: You want me to pay what to stand next to a bunch of crazy people all up in my personal space and to hear songs I can listen to for much cheaper (and with more personal space) on a CD?  No thanks.  But, occasionally I break my concert rule when there is an artist whose music has been very meaningful to me...Jeremy Camp, Addison Road, David Crowder.  I can't really think of many others I've paid money to see in the last 10 years.

Recently, because of an unfortunate situation for some of our close friends, we inherited their tickets to the David Crowder Band concert.  I love their music and was looking forward to it, but probably not in the way the original purchasers of the tickets were.  We headed to the concert, anticipating a fun evening out.  The evening did include an awkward and uncomfortably close conversation with an odd lady sitting next to me.  How do you really make those conversations end when the person is sitting almost in your lap?  However, this was not the band's fault so I won't hold it against them.

David Crowder was just as good as I remembered.  Something I love about their music (both in concert and otherwise) is that it exudes a level of joyful praise not often found in other music.  When listening to DCB songs I feel like I'm interjected into a praise session that is contagious.  The concert was no different.

Crowder has an unassuming air, wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and his trademark beard, he led the band in a truly amazing display of God-given musical talent.  Coupling this with the lyrics on screen it made for one awesome worship service.

Halfway through the night, after beginning his song "You are my Joy", Crowder paused and told the audience, "I hope you don't mind, but we have officially entered the rock opera portion of the evening."  He explained, for those of us not really in tune with the music scene, that rock opera is full of dramatic theatrics, with big crescendos and long pauses, shredding guitar solos and songs of epic length.  I'm not really a "rocker" but how can you say no to that?

About five minutes later, with a crowd of people singing "You are my joy!" to guitar solos and an impressively crazed drummer I thought, "There will so be rock opera in heaven."  I have no idea what the extent of heaven will be but sometimes I think we bore ourselves (and others) thinking that in heaven we will stand around singing hymns (I like hymns, but for eternity?) and then maybe take a little walk through the know, a serene heaven, if not a little blah.  But, in that moment, singing that song, I felt a perfect crescendo of praise to our Father and I thought, surely this is what heaven will be like.  The glory of God is not a staid pursuit I think.  It will take more than any one genre, musical or otherwise, to fully express our praise to God.  And it is only through God that we are given the inspiration of these avenues of praise.

Does it blow anyone else's mind that God, who is the object of our praise, is also the source of our ability to praise?  No good thing that brings God glory is created apart from the breath of God.  That's a humbling thought for those of us who like to "create." 

I think worship in heaven will be one big, rock/rap/dance/folk/country/poetry/jazz/prose... extravaganza, maybe complete with a light show (God is the Father of Light after all).  Our God is a big God, with many ways of expressing His glory...I look forward to experiencing them all in heaven and am grateful when I get little tastes of them here on earth.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thank God for Quesadillas

I don't cultivate picky eating in my house.  It's one of my pet peeves, when people are picky eaters, particularly when they are the type of picky eater who enforces their pickyness upon the rest of us. 

You know the type.  Everyone's getting pizza?  Oh, no.  Well, we can only get pizza if you get a pizza with a very little sauce and extra cheese, and please ask them not to season the crust.  Otherwise I don't want pizza.

Ugh.  It makes me furious.  Anyway, not only do I find it respectful to the chef and any group you're eating with to quietly eat food outside your comfort zone, but it is also a matter of necessity in my home.  Cooking is not on my list of priorities...eating is...but not cooking.  This sounds counter intuitive, but I have done just fine most of my life eating like a "bachelor" as my Dad dubbed it.  Cold pasta out of the fridge?  Perfect.  A sandwich for dinner again?  Sure.  More Mac 'n' Cheese?  Yum.

During my illustrious career of non-cooking I've also come to the revelation that almost ANYTHING tastes good in a tortilla (and heated in the microwave for 30-60 seconds).  I would love to kiss the person who invented the quesadilla, although I'm sure the feeling wouldn't be mutual since I've bastardized their beautiful creation for my own purposes.  So many options for filling a tortilla...turkey and cheese; chicken, onions, bell peppers, and cheese; squash and cheese; apples and cheese; turkey and cheese and salsa for the Mexican version (haha).  You get the drift. Tortilla + cheese + almost anything else = delicious.

There are times when I feel the social pressure to be the wife, and now mother, that cooks great meals, but I just can't bring myself to invest in the art of cooking...aren't there better things to do with my time?  Why spend hours investing in something everyone scarfs down in 20 min (let's be real, 10 in my house)?

The other night I made stir fry (from a frozen mix of veggies, frozen fried rice from Trader Joes, and frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts...yes that's a lot of frozen).  It didn't taste particularly wonderful.  Mostly because I turned the chicken breasts into rubber ( I don't know, it may have had a little to do with becoming impatient and finishing them off in the microwave).

Anyway, here we were sitting at the table, all three of us chewing and chewing and chewing on those blasted chicken breasts and I sent up a little prayer of gratitude as I saw Andrew and Little Man wearing out their jaws on dinner.  It's a blessing to have non-picky eaters in your house, particularly if you are the kind of person who doesn't care much about cooking.  I'm really grateful that God blessed me with a husband who eats just about anything and never makes me feel bad for sometimes making quesadillas multiple times a week (they were TOTALLY different kids, OK?)! 

So, even though at times I still feel intimidated by women who are great in the kitchen, I've learned to embrace my MacGyver-like skills at just getting by in the kitchen.  It often involves random ingredients present in the refrigerator, tortillas and a microwave but you sure don't see us wasting away do you?  Thank God for quesadillas and non-picky boys.  Life's too short to spend in front of the stove.

Hmm, I wonder what's for dinner tonight? :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Terrible, No-good, Infection-in-Your-Ear, Pee-in-Your-Pants Day

I woke up tired today.  I couldn't sleep last night, and mornings with a two-year-old come much earlier than I'd like.  Well, I'd prefer mornings didn't come at all but then I'd be dead, and that's no good.  The morning was uneventful; however, since his schedule has been all out of whack because we've had family visiting (yay!) and because he's been sick...he cries if the wind changes direction. 

We had an appointment for Little Man at the doctors for a possible ear infection at noon, which worked perfectly with getting him home by about 1 or 1:30pm for a nap...then Mama can take a nap too...lovely. 

Not lovely.  After getting to the doctor's office we're told the doctor had to cancel all the appointments that day and we'd have to wait hours for another doctor to see us, or make a new appointment many days out.  Frustrating.  They suggested urgent care.  Ugh.

Driving away I made some phone calls trying to find a Walgreens Take Care Clinic since the thought of sitting at a local urgent care for 3 hours didn't appeal to me.  So, I headed to south city to the nearest clinic since they said there was currently only 1 person waiting!  Yay! 

Not yay.  We arrived and I started filling out the registration on the computer only to have a peepee crisis and have to run off to find a bathroom.  By the time we got back to check in there was another person ahead of us and then we were informed that their lunch break was from 1-2pm...which started in 20 minutes.  So, we could come back at 2:15pm.  WHAT?

OK, this isn't going to be fun without a nap but we'll find somewhere to have some lunch and walk around.  Panera was only a few minutes away so we headed to get French Onion Soup in a Bread bowl.  Yum.  Things are looking up until..."Mama, I have to peepee.  I have to peepee..." in his pants.  Are you serious? 

I grabbed him and rushed to the bathroom leaving our food on the table, hoping that my bad day wouldn't be made worse by someone taking my food away!!  Some wet wipes and a change of clothes later we're back at the table and our food is still there!  Phew. 

OK back to lunch defiant child starts not listening.  Several instructions and a warning later I lift him up and place him in a time out beside me where he starts wailing and holding his arm going "Oww!!"  What?  Do kids know instinctively to do these sorts of things in public to mortify their parents?   Is that lady looking at me like I just hurt my child?  "'re fine."  I pat his little head trying to look extra loving to reassure the sceptical onlooker, but the wailing continues.  Time to pack up our stuff (peed clothes wrapped in paper towels and all) and rush to the van where he can sob through his time out without scrutinizing glares.  Take that, kid.

Well, it's all of 1:15pm.  Now what?  Guess we'll go to the park across the street.  Running and sliding ensues until, "Mama, I have to peepee, I have to peepee!!!!!"  OH MY GOSH WHAT IS THE DEAL?  He hasn't even had drank much today! I have no more spare clothes and there's no bathroom so we run for the tree line, wrestle into position....nothing.  Seriously?  His accident has made him overly anxious..

Well, at least it's time to head back to the clinic.  We make it back in time to go to the bathroom AGAIN and wait for another 30 minutes.  We get called back to see the doctor.  Yes, the end is in sight!  A prescription for his ear infection and several stickers later we're headed to the car where...he screams bloody murder for 10 minutes because he didn't get to put his sticker in just the right spot before we left.  Sigh.  What a day.

Redemption came, however, when tonight we were all in his playroom watching Little Man drive his llama around in his car.  Then he yells, "No, baby.  It's OK.  I'm talking to Mama and Daddy!"  He's always talking to and ordering around this imaginary baby so Andrew asked him, "Where is this baby?"

"In the carpet!"  He shouts.  Well of course. 

"What does the baby look like?"  I asked.

"Handsome.  Baby, so handsome."

We laughed until I almost cried and Little Man chuckled, pleased with how hilarious he was.

And there you have it.  A terrible day, not so terrible now.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Different Kind of Family

My skin is varying shades of light depending on the season.  In the summer I crave the bronzing effect of the sun to scare away the pasty white pallor that sets in over the winter, but even when I do not heed the warning of the medical field and sit in the sun for hours, you wouldn't think I was anything but Caucasian.  My soon-to-be son, however, does not have my complexion.  His skin is the color of smooth coffee, distinctly different in shade from either Andrew or myself.

Before becoming a transracial family I did not think much of the fact that we would most likely be welcoming a child of color into our home.  Race was not an issue for Andrew and I in adoption.  I underestimated the fact that this is not always the case for others.  Sure, people might be curious when they see us together but this is the 21st Century!  I didn't realize that people's curiosity would often lead to prying questions and condescending assumptions.

It has been just over a month since we met our little guy and only 2 1/2 weeks since he moved in full-time and we have already encountered the world's perspective on race.  Although the courts have yet to make it final, he is already our son in our hearts and we just feel like a normal family until people stare at us in public...then I more or less feel like a normal family with weird people staring at us. 

The fact is that people are very blatant with their curiosity, even in this age of political correctness.  Yesterday, while standing in line at the bank in our community a man asked me if our little guy was my son.  Clearly he was just a little curious and making conversation, but, really?  "What do you think?" I want to say as my big Mom-bag weighed down my shoulder and I'm telling him to stop running around and stand next to me every few seconds.  However, I smiled and kindly answered in the affirmative.

A few weeks ago a lady approached us and asked if we had adopted.  "Where is he from?," she asked.  When we said he was from "here" she almost looked disappointed, expecting us to say Ethiopia or something I suppose.  And, on yet another day, a couple told us "It looks like you do so well with him."  Um, he's our kid, should we not do well with him?  We just smiled and nodded as we walked by.

On one hand the opportunity as a family to live out God's call to be the Body of Christ with no categories or divisions is exciting.  I pray that our family will be a beacon of light and love and that we can be a part of breaking down barriers in the world and in our community and, sadly, in the church as well.  

But, on the other hand, it makes me feel protective of my soon-to-be son, even defensive.  I know there will be a day, sooner than I think, when our son looks at me and asks, "Why isn't our skin the same color?" and one day after that, when he asks again he won't so readily accept the answer, "Because God made us that way."  As he gets older, when someone indelicately asks me in public if he is my son, I dread what look I might see in his eyes.  Will he be ashamed, thinking there is something wrong with him?  Will he be frightened and confused, wondering if the color of his skin could ever make him not my own? 

I want race to matter to my son in all of the positive ways and none of the negative.  I want him to embrace his beautifully dark skin and celebrate his ethnic heritage and identify with people doing awesome things in the world that look just like him.  I also want him to never think he is anything different than an expression of God's awesome creativity and to never feel alienated or of lesser value in the world and the Kingdom of God.

Life's harsh realities won't always allow this to be the case, but I pray that God gives Andrew and I grace as people point out in front of everyone (including our child) that he looks different than us and I pray that God will give our little guy a strength of purpose and security in our love but most importantly in God's love that will never allow him to be shaken.

There are beautiful things ahead for our family and my greatest hope is that we navigate the challenges in such a way that glorifies the Creator of all people, the Artist that uses so many colors to declare His vast beauty.   I pray that as our family grows people won't just see how different our skin is but how alike our hearts for Jesus are.  I want people to notice that our family is different, but not because we check different boxes when asked our race, but because we are a family on mission for the Lord bringing God's healing and love in a broken world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Choose to Adopt

You wouldn't believe the lack of delicacy that occurs when a young, childless couple announces their desire to adopt.  "What, you can't have kids?" or "You don't want to have any of your 'own' kids?" or my fave, "So, are you just swingin' and missin'?" have been frequently asked questions as Andrew and I have pursued adoption. 

First of all, it makes me sad that so many people, even unconsciously, think of adoption as a last choice option.  But secondly, knowing families that have struggled with the very personal and heartbreaking journey of infertility, I want to burst into tears and sobbingly concoct a story about my barren womb just to teach them a lesson in decorum.  So far, I have refrained.

Now I know what you're thinking, "So are you just swingin' and missin'?"  Haha.  I guess it's human nature to be curious about intimate details of other people's lives, and thus I have (very politely I might say) informed people that we have no idea and consider our decision to adopt just the beginning of our family, one that may have both birth and adoptive children in it!

The short answer to the question about our decision to adopt is, "Because God told us to."  The longer answer is even still unfolding in our hearts and minds as we continue on this journey, now welcoming a little one into our home.  Before beginning the adoption process we would have considered ourselves knowledgeable about adoption and might have subconsciously patted ourselves on the back that we had already talked about adopting someday in the future.  Go us.  But, as God has led us into this He has humbled us and taught us and opened our eyes to how much He has a heart for adoption, so much so, that He made each of us part of His sacred family via adoption.  When you think about it that way, adoption is a perfectly normal expression of God's that doesn't come with pats on the back, but with reverent humility. 

I do not think that choosing to adopt because you cannot have biological children is a bad thing.  I know many families who have adopted for this reason who have developed a passion for caring for orphans and have been a godly demonstration of God's love as they grew their family.  I have also seen a few families in which this is not the case, and that is sad.

How God brings a family to the decision to adopt will be unique in each situation, but God has been teaching Andrew and I that the result in everything we do, including adoption, should be more glory to God not us.  There is nothing special about us, just the God we serve.  I want to encourage anyone who may have thought about adoption, or maybe those of you who haven't even considered it, that God could use you to impact this world through adoption.  There are 163 million orphans in the world, 150,000 of them right here in the U.S.  If you consider yourself pro-life, consider being part of the solution by making one of these children your own.

There are many support groups and resources out there for adoptive families.  I have found a few to be particularly helpful.  I recently read a book by Helen Lee called, The Missional Mom, and while it addresses so much more than adoption, it does a great job of talking about adoption as an intentional choice to bring glory to God in our lives through missional living. Helen Lee also has a website and blog that has links to more resources here.  Another great book is Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russel Moore.  Focus on the Family also has wonderful resources to find out more about adoption.  If you are considering foster care, or adoption through the foster care system I would suggest you search for a Christian support group in your city.  We received our training and continue to get support from One Heart Family Ministries here in St. Louis.  It makes all the difference to walk this journey with others looking to serve the Lord with their lives and their families.

My prayer for you (and me) is that, "...whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 

And while there have been and are many challenges yet ahead for us in this journey, Andrew and I have found that following the Lord's direction in our life has given us much to be thankful crazy little two year old in particular.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parenthood: Day 7

We're on day seven of full-time parenthood and it all feels surprisingly normal.  Packing snacks and sippy cups for outings and cleaning up accidents and spending an hour trying to get the kid's pool to properly inflate all seem like just another day.  Everyone has told us, every chance they get, "This will change your life!"  And it has, but then again it also hasn't.  I think it helps that Andrew and I are already old, we stay in most nights and we're around kids a lot.  So, aside from the lost luxury of sleeping in, not too much has changed. 

First week of parenthood: lots of hugs and kisses, dance parties, head injuries as a result of the dance parties, first cold at our house, first time to catch the kid's cold and the whole family feel like crap, hearing his occasional use of Mama and Daddy, reading books, singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" over and over and over, watching Andrew get more excited about Little Man's new toys than Little Man himself, time outs, picking out the kid's ginormous boogers, good time with friends, and lots and lots of laughter.

It's been a good week...praying for so many more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Luckiest

There's a love song by Ben Folds called "The Luckiest," which starts out sweet and then ends with something about an old man and a young girl and I don't think it's supposed to...but it kinda creeps me out. 

The other day I thought to myself, "I'm the Luckiest."  It had nothing to do with that song or old men, but as Andrew and I get to have our little guy around and pray for a smooth adoption process I feel blessed at how God has worked things out so far. 

There have been a few responses to our decision to adopt that make it sound like it is a sacrifice for us to welcome a little one into our lives.  Perhaps, but no more than any other parent must sacrifice to include a child in their family.  There's already been some early mornings and time outs, diarrhea and tantrums--the usual 2 year old thing.  To us, it just feels pretty normal.

We've had the same reaction from some people about our lives as missionaries.  I've actually had someone come up to me at a church service and say to me, "You must be a saint to do this."  I know, those of you who know me are laughing hysterically at this point.  The truth is, we're just regular people living where God asked us to live and we wouldn't have it any other way.  To us, it seems pretty normal too.

Honestly, the idea that it takes super-Christians to do things like adopt or do missions or fight for justice is what keeps millions of orphans parentless, so many eternally lost, and people groups in oppressive poverty. 

We're not special.  We just do our best to say yes, when we feel God asks us to do something. My life has not turned out anything like I would have pictured it years ago, but I wouldn't change it for anything.  I'm not a glass-half full sort of girl, but when I listen to our little guy singing "Be Brave, Be Strong" with the other neighborhood kids in Back Yard Bible Club I think, "I'm the Luckiest."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Busied to Death

Surely life isn't supposed to be like this.  This thought has been bouncing around in my over-crowded mind all summer long.  I find myself longing for the end of the day, week, month, counting down the days until the busy summer is over.  As if that will fix the problem.  Every time I get to the breaking point I think, this is just a season, but then the season starts all over again and I'm living the slow death of busyness once again.

In moments where I am tenaciously clinging to the sanity God gave me I feel convicted that this is surely not how He intended me to live.  Running around frantically, half out of my mind, constantly apologizing for forgetting things and acting crazy cannot be what Jesus had in mind when He commissioned us to go out in the world with his love and peace.  I think I've succumbed to a culture of achievement, a culture of "have it all, do it all, be it all."  What really terrifies me is that I'm already over-extended and kids with all their energy and activities and needs are just now making an entrance into our lives.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  But, I don't want to live my life feeling strung out and stressed out.  We say to ourselves, just trust God, read your Bible more, find time to pray, but maybe on top of that God is asking us to quit a few things and slow down the pace of life.  I painted the words "Be still and know that I am God" on my dining room wall but I rarely live it out.

I'm not sure the systemic changes that are necessary can be made in time to alter the next week of my crazy summer life, but certainly things need to change.  With a child entering our lives it puts more than our sanity and emotional health on the puts his on the line too.  Am I going to pass on to him a feeling of frenetic activity in the name of serving the Lord or an abiding peace in knowing God and living out His calling on our lives?

I'm taking a look at my life and realizing I'm in need of a few things.  I'm in need of learning to say no to things.  I'm in need of finding a niche that I'm really passionate about within the ministry I love so much.  I'm in need of more quiet time in the Word.  I'm in need of time to invest in my marriage, my family, my friends.  I'm in need of more Jesus and less activity. 

I don't want to be busied to death.  I can't keep asking for peace from God when I continue to make choices that shut the door on any opportunity to accept it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Long-Awaited Call

Days in the summer blur outside of their designated space; I have trouble remembering what day it is and which week we're marking off the calendar of programs. Summers are always intense and this one has not disappointed!

Two Thursdays ago we got a life-altering call, that turned the intense level up a notch! We were chosen as a pre-adoptive home for the cutest 2 1/2-year-old boy you've ever seen (OK, I may already be a little partial). Joy. Terror. Excitement. Anticipation. Overwhelmedness (Is that a word? Maybe not but you know the feeling). These are the feelings that have ensued since that call.

We met Little Man (that's what I'll call him since we cannot share photos or personal details about him on the internet until the adoption is finalized) a week and a half ago...really, only a week and a half? It seems longer in the blur of summer. We have already had a blast building a relationship with him and cannot wait to have him move in sometime in the next few weeks!

Just like everything else about our adoption journey it continues to be a test of our trust in the Lord and a testimony of His faithfulness. Through a series of events that can only be described as providential we found ourselves on the receiving end of an excited acceptance call from our licensing worker and Little Man's foster parents. Yet, there is still a journey ahead. This case is a legal risk placement, meaning there are many variables ahead and a daunting wait until adoption finalization can happen. This is not uncommon, particularly with younger children in the foster care system, but it is a test in trusting the Lord as we step out in faith and welcome this little guy into our lives.

God has continued to speak words to me about trusting in Him, even though everything in my controlling heart wants to rebel and subsequently freak out! One night while laying in bed worrying about the process I felt relief from Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight." The road looks long and winding right now and so much of this process makes me feel inadequate, but all I'm responsible for is clinging to God for dear life and trusting that whether or not this goes as we would hope that He will see us through any challenges ahead! But, we are praying for a smooth process and remaining hopeful!

I wish we could share his picture with you because he has, as Andrew says, a "Million Dollar Smile" and I already miss his sweet face when we do not have him with us. So many thoughts are spinning in my head right now, so that is all for now! Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We have felt so loved by everyone's excitement for us!

I'm gonna be a Mom, yikes! :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Hot Mess

One of the guys from our basketball program has a shirt that says "I'm a Hot Mess"...Andrew told me I needed that shirt yesterday.

Does anyone else feel like the carefree days of summer are just a distant memory that may or may not have been real?  I feel like summer used to feel like one endless day of fun.  Even in college I had a few years when I was not in summer school and work was light and I took many trips to the beach...the good ol' days.  Now summer just feels like one endless....

Summer is not a vacation in grown-up land.  In fact, it has become the most stressful and hectic part of the year for me.  Because there is so much ministry that happens in the summer it has become a season I anticipate with both excitement and dread.

In case the disturbingly early and frequent heat advisories hadn't clued you in yet: it's summer and I'm already a hot mess.

Aside from the fact that while your body is sweating your brain is 10x more likely to go crazy on people (totally my personal opinion but I'm sure there must be scientific evidence), I have about three people's full-time jobs to take care of and for someone who needs focus to do things well...I feel like I'm losing my mind most days.  Add a healthy dose of emotional stress while we continue on our adoption journey and you've got a recipe for "Homicidal Adria"--and that is not someone any of us want to meet.

It's hard for me to claim the peace I have in Christ when the days are never ending and filled with frantic to-do lists.  It's hard for me not to feel alone in my humongous work load.  It's hard for me to center myself when I feel pulled in too many directions and the days just never seem to end.  It's hard for me to find patience stored in the deep recesses of my heart when I'm hot and sweaty and frantically trying to stay above water.

It's hard, but it's not impossible.  Or, at least the Bible tells me so.  And that is what I need to cling to.  There is peace despite the circumstances.  "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.  I need more of that in my life.  Some of the things that keep me going:

This photo is so peaceful to me. The color isn't great because it's a photo of a photo that Kelly gave me from his collection. We secretly named it "Hope for an INTJ." I love it and stand in the hall and stare at it on particularly rough days :).

That face has to make you smile.

I don't always like to admit it, but he keeps me calm and forces me to see the positive even if under duress.

OK, doing the "Human Knot" with a bunch of 12-15 year olds in a room with no AC is not the most calming activity, but I do love these kids.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Racial Reconciliation and Fried Banana Pudding

Earlier this week Andrew and I went out to dinner with our friends and neighbors from across the street.  We decided to go to a restaurant we had all been talking about where they serve more food on one plate than should be legal.

We got to the restaurant, sat down and started studying which glutinous sin we wanted to commit.  As we talked over the merits of fried chicken vs. porkchops a man came up behind our booth and interrupted our conversation.  He was one of the cleaning staff.

He leaned in and said, "What you guys are doing here is so great.  You don't see that very often around here.  It's really wonderful."  He said this as he gestured to our neighbors and then to us.

We didn't quite know how to respond.  After he left we looked at each other a little perplexed.  Our neighbors are African American.  We, obviously, are not.  It hadn't crossed our mind that someone would see us sharing a meal together and find that different, even inspiring. 

The man commenting on our friendship was also African American.  There was something a little off about him but he was very sincere.  As we were finishing up dinner, he came back by our table to talk some more.  The theme of his comments continued to touch on how much he thought our interracial friendship was a great example of something people don't usually engage in. 

At one point in the conversation our neighbor got distracted when a photo of the restaurant's Fried Banana Pudding dessert flashed up on the tv screen.  He asked our interested guest if it was any good.  "It's great," the man said.  "In fact I'll buy it for you, if you want it.  I think you guys are doing such a great thing, I'll order one for you."

And, since men don't turn down free food even if they just ate enough food for a small village, the husbands at the table said, "OK."

When we left the restaurant we laughed about the experience.  But even though we didn't think there was anything unusual about our time together, I felt a deep sadness for the employee.  He was so sincere about the issue that he must have experienced some significant hurt throughout the years.  He obviously felt deeply the racial bigotry and tension that still often lays under the surface in our politically correct culture.  It hurt me to think about that.  I don't like to think that race still means so much in our world, but it does.

We did take home some delicious friend banana pudding from the restaurant, but I also took away a heavy heart.  I pray that the man carried home with him a lighter heart.  Even if he didn't know Christ, I hope he might have felt some of Jesus' reconciling power just by seeing a very simple and uninspiring act of friends from different racial and cultural backgrounds sharing a meal together.

I am so thankful that we serve a God who sees us all as His beautiful children and that I have the privilege to look into the face of someone much different than me and see Him.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Chair That Helped

When I'm under a lot of stress or emotional strain the only thing I want to do is sit in front of the TV and anesthetize my brain.  My brain rarely shuts off and sometimes I just want a break, so I find my favorite spot on the couch and tune out. 

However, I have found that this is exactly the opposite of what I need to pull myself out of a funk.  If I engage my brain in a creative activity I seem to find my equilibrium.  When I actually get up off the couch and write, or do a project...alone (my introverted self needs some time alone :)...I find myself able to recharge. 

This week, I spent time on this chair.  I found it at the new Goodwill Outlet for $4....I saw potential in it.

Unfortunately I couldn't clean the fabric well enough to keep the plaid, but with some vintage fabric I found up in the donations at the center awhile ago, some left over spray paint from a previous project, and a cheap staple gun I bought at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupin (love that store!) it turned out pretty nice!

Most importantly it gave me a creative outlet as I processed the week. And for about $8 that's a pretty good trade off!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When God Answers Prayers

The last few weeks have been dominated by prayer, by hopes and imaginings, by trying not to hope, by a cycle of peace and anxiety that has taken us round and round. 

Monday morning we had an interview for the possible adoption of a little boy.  By Monday evening we found out one of the other four families was chosen.  It was an emotionally intense day.  Days later we are still processing it all.

For just over a month we had been waiting and praying about the outcome, having been caught off guard by the opportunity to submit our homestudy for a 10-month-old boy.  From the moment we received the call about this case God used it to stretch us and challenge our expectations, but it also birthed the thoughts of a possible reality--one that brought the desired conclusion to our adoption process and a child into our home.

Even as our hearts were being secretly attached to this child we knew only on paper, we put up guards against possible disappointment and pain.  We tried not to think too much about it.  We asked close family and friends to pray and then attempted to dispassionately wait and pray.  The irony is that you cannot pray for something so intensely and remain dispassionate, even when your prayer is "Thy will be done."

Anxiety would creep in.  We battled it back with the knowledge of God's sovereignty.  Then anxiety would creep back in.  But, for me, the miracle was that the more we prayed for the situation and the more our hearts got attached to the idea of a future with this little boy, the deeper the sense of peace we felt that God would carry us through, whatever the outcome. 

By Monday morning Andrew and I and the whole process had been bathed in continual prayer from family and friends all over the country.  The prayer was for God's will to be done and for our peace through promises like the one found in Isaiah 26:3: "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You."  We are so grateful for our Christian family--they have wrestled for our peace.  Their toil has been our gain.

Receiving the call that we were not the family chosen was hard.  A child we were invested in is to be a permanent part of a stranger's family.  And maybe even more disappointing is the knowledge that we have not found the child intended for us and that we will have to face this situation again, and maybe again.

But, something I realized through this process is that I used to think that praying for God's will to be done meant I shouldn't invest in one side of the issue or the other.  Somehow I thought maybe to really mean that prayer I had to feel ambivalent.  But what really was going on was that I wanted to protect myself from feeling the disappointment that would come if the result wasn't what I had hoped for.  Or maybe I thought God would think I was taking back my prayer when I was grieved by the outcome.

However, when God answers our prayers for His will to be done with the answer our human hearts had not hoped for, He does not disapprove of our disappointment or heartache.  He does not ask for an impartial trust.  What He asks for is a trust that even if..., we will trust Him to carry us through the sorrow, through the confusion, and through the uncertain road before us.  This peace runs deeper than the anxiety or sorrow we are sure to experience.  It is resting in the knowledge of a good God whose timing is perfect and who holds the world and our hearts in His capable hands.  It is knowing that He will answer saints' prayers for His will to be done and that He is near enough to comfort us in the wake of His hand.

God has given Andrew and I peace.  We are still processing our disappointments, but we are certain that God is faithful and that He will continue to provide for us in ways we could not ask for or imagine.  Thank you for those of you who have prayed for our peace...God does answer prayer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Nature of Church

I've come to believe that the true nature of Church, and by Church I mean THE Church, the Body of Christ, is transformational.  We cannot engage the Body of Christ as we were meant to and stay the same.  God has taken people of all cultures and races and experiences and fused us into one body that is purposed towards one vision--the glory and expansion of the Kingdom of God. 

The problem is that most of us don't approach church this way.  We approach it looking to find a community of believers that affirms exactly who we are and gives us exactly what we think we the style of worship just right? are people generally like me?  do they have the best program for my kids?  are they hip and "cutting-edge"?  The list goes on and on with the expectations we bring to church, and the result is that we have made Church (big C) into church (small c).  And church (small c) is, by nature, a business that caters to the endless stream of Christian desires for self-affirmation and we've lost our vision in the smallness of what we've become.

One thing I've learned in the last five years working at World Impact is that the Body of Christ is made up of a lot of people I wouldn't normally attach myself too if left to my own selfish desires.  And, that American individualism and the "right to choose" has given us countless opportunities to run away from having to deal with the fact that the world doesn't revolve around us!  Church (big C) was never intended to let you be who you are, it was meant to let you be who you were intended to be...and that takes some hard work done in the context of community.

Andrew and I were just talking with a friend recently about styles of worship in church and how fixated we are as the American church on the style of a services.  We want a pastor who will soon be writing books and having YouTube clips bouncing around Facebook and we want worship that gives us goosebumps.  We want small groups that "get us" and outreach that looks really "missional" with the least amount of daily investment.  It's gotten to the point that we choose churches that make us feel good instead of churches that make us a more functional part of the Body of Christ.

If you go to a Christ-centered church and can't worship the Lord because of the style of service, that's not a style problem, that's a You problem.  If you think the nature of Church is to be conflict free and easy, then you will spend your whole life running away and never engage in the mission God has for us...and isn't that exactly what Satan is looking for?

Try picking a small group full of people you would never usually hang out with and commit to working through the conflicts that may ensue.  Pray that God teaches you to sense the Holy Spirit in more that really moving music.  Try changing yourself as you commit to a body of believers rather than expecting they change for you. 

I heard a pastor talk recently about our tendency to approach the ways of God by checking them against our own reason and logic.  We tend to choose the aspects of God that fit in with our world view and reject or ignore the others.  But the Scriptures say that God's thoughts and ways are as high above ours as the sky is above the earth.  I think we've done this with church.  We have taken God's purpose for the Church (big C) and made it into church (small c) because it feels better in the moment.  We've limited God by our selfishness and stymied the expansion of His Kingdom in our own lives and our communities.

If the nature of Church is about bringing the transformational power of Christ to our lives and our communities, that means we shouldn't try to squeeze it into our own personal world-view.  We should approach it with reverence, knowing there may be things about the Church that we don't understand or that in our limited understanding we wish were different.  That's OK.  Embrace it.  It's a process but the more I am working on this the deeper my understanding of community has become, the more I am able to see Christ in even the most unlikely places.   

I want to think big.  I want to accept the fact that God knows everything we don't and that we will have to change our thoughts and ways in order to go on mission with Him.  Let's not make church about me or about you, we're much too small a vision.  Let's make church about God and commit to seeing ourselves and the world changed by Him.  Now, that's a mission I can get excited about!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

They Made It, Thank the Lord!!

It was a day we all were not quite sure would come.  Life throws our youth a lot of curve balls and a graduation celebrates more than just the work of the graduate!  It takes a dedicated teen, teachers, parents, and a whole team of supportive people to see this day come to fruition.  Andrew and I were so proud to attend the local graduation where we went to see Laniecha and her cousin Renelle graduate. Laniecha's mother smiled at me and said, "This is my degree right here!!"
We were pleased to see that at least three of the young men who attend our basketball program were also graduating!! 
Between Andrew and I we've known the girls and their families for seven or eight years.  Both are beautiful girls with lots of dreams and two sweet little sons.  We pray that God will continue to keep them and that they will seek to follow the Lord with the rest of their lives.  They made it to graduation, but there is so much more life for them to accomplish and that too will take a community of godly support.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God Stretches

You couldn't call me extraordinarily flexible by any definition of the word.  I don't know if I could even do the splits when I wasn't old and out of shape and, if we're talking personality, I make schedules in order to follow them, not just for my health (as some people who disregard them must imagine).  Andrew has schedule flexibility, but I watched him trying to touch his toes while doing Tae Kwon Do stretches in a workshop with the kids this past summer (um, it didn't happen).

So, I suppose it's only natural that God would look down and say, "Those two aren't particularly limber, let Me see what I can do about that."  And, thus enters the last year of our lives.  God has put us through His own set of stretches as He has exercised us in ministry, marriage, family, and relationships these last 12+ months.

We truly want to follow the Lord and so we voluntarily sign up for God's workout class, sit down to stretch, feel the uncomfortableness in our muscles and hesitate.  "Feel that?  See, we're really workin' it here, God!" 

He walks over and gently presses down on our back to make the stretch a little deeper.  "Whoa!  That's far enough, God!  That's a little more uncomfortable than I had expected!"  We start to get that little panicky feeling like our hamstrings(/hearts) are surely going to snap any second, but to our surprise they don't, and after the initial panic subside it starts to feel more comfortable. 

But it doesn't stop there. If you're really serious about getting in shape, the next time you stretch you will take a deep breath and stretch further than the last time.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking, "Wow, that was a good deep stretch for me, God.  Glad I'm done with that."  But, God doesn't ask us to put a limit on how far we will stretch outside of our comfort zones for Him.  He keeps pressing and it's up to us to commit to His requests or drop out of the class.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently and how the process of being stretched by God at first makes you feel your limitations.  It hurts, it feels impossible, and it makes you aware of how tiny and insignificant you really are.   But then as you give things over to the Lord and watch Him sustain and accomplish His work in your life it is incredibly empowering and liberating.  I know in my own power I can't do anything, but in God's power there is no limit to what He may accomplish through me.

I don't ever want to stay content with how far God has stretched me.  I want to (even when I don't want to)let God lead me further outside my comfort zone each day and give up my plans for my life and submit to His.  Each time God stretches me I pray that I take a deep breath and then ask God to stretch me again.  With each day that I am striving to do this I am, surprisingly, finding more and more peace as I face the uncertainties of life with a God who is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine. 

But, even though God is teaching me to be a more flexible person, don't ask me (or Andrew) to do the splits, it's just not gonna happen here on earth.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Update

Dear Team,

Recently we had a fight in our high school basketball program. Since starting the program, there had only been one other fight. People generally really respect World Impact and care about participating in our programs.

The fight occurred over a heated moment in the game and words and fists were exchanged. Our staff broke up the fight and then we closed the gym down. We closed the gym to let people know that we do not tolerate fighting and to help the students keep each other accountable, since the decision of a few affected everyone there to play that night.

Watching it happen was disappointing but the day after the fight occurred, Martin, one of the guys involved, came up to World Impact wanting to speak with Randy and I (Andrew). He sat down and began to tell us that he knows what good we are doing for the guys and that he was truly sorry. He also said that he would understand if we did not want him around anymore because of his actions.

In our community it is rare to hear someone say they are sorry. In an environment where your reputation is all that you have and respect is worth more than any amount of money, saying I am sorry is not a popular thing. Impressed by Martin’s maturity, we made sure he knew how much we appreciated his heart-felt apology. We then got to share with him about how God forgives each of us time and time again and that we forgive him too. We also shared that the opposite of not wanting him around was true—we love having him participate in our programs!

I am always blown away at how God can take a bad situation and totally turn it into a way to share His grace and love. Martin did something that was wrong, but he also took the first step to make it right. Martin is a leader, I just do not think he sees it yet.

It is our desire to see the Martin’s of this community be leaders in our local Churches. Praise God for giving us millions of second chances and for continually restoring us! Please pray for Martin and others like him to continue their growth in Christ. We are seeing guys in our Bible Study who have a deep hunger for the Word. Sometimes during Bible Study we just sit around and talk over their questions about who God is and how that should affect our lives—and it is not always our staff answering each other’s question! God is at work in this great city and it is such a joy and honor to witness it on a daily basis!

Let’s take this city for God!

Andrew and Adria Medlen

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Living On A Prayer

So, no, this post is not about Bon Jovi, although that may disappoint some of you (ahem, Andrew).  I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately and spending more time engaged in it.  I used to pray about lots of things, but I think I'm just starting to really believe in its power.  Don't get me wrong, I've always believed that God was mighty enough to do anything He wanted, I just was a little bit skeptical about being able to be part of the process. 

One of the things our staff has been doing more regularly than we have before is prayer walking in our neighborhood.  At first this is an awkward assignment.  Who knew you could pray with your eyes open and interrupt serious prayers with, "Hey, don't step in that dog poop."  But, it has been an amazing experience for me.  The more I let go and pray out loud the more I feel the Lord gives me to pray about, the more burdened my heart becomes for my community.  Sometimes I don't even know which person I'm praying for to be released from the bondage of addiction but I get choked up in an earnestness for their freedom.  And, even though you wouldn't think this would be true, you meet a lot of people while walking and praying.

I think it has also made me more aware of the Holy Spirit.  The more we have asked the Holy Spirit to give us favor with our neighbors and lead us to places and people of spiritual openness, the more we are directed to them.  I am believing in my part of the prayer process and it is beginning to take root in my life.  Sometimes driving around town I spot people in their cars or walking on the sidewalk and I find myself praying that the Lord will meet them in some way and change their lives and I believe that He can.  And, I find myself saying things like, "Let's pray that God shows us which community is spiritually open to begin our church planting efforts"  and I believe that He will!

I have also found prayer to be more of a necessity in my life than it used to be.  Andrew and I have felt God's strong call this last year to give over more of our lives and walk further in faith and, let's be real, the only way I can make it through the day is clinging to a very needed conversation with the Ruler and Controller of all things.

I am no Mother Theresa, that's for sure, but I want to encourage you to do things that take you outside of your comfort zone to experience God through prayer--not because I am awesome and have the right to challenge you in this area but because it is an exciting part of being a follower of Christ and I want to share that with you!  You can prayer walk in your neighborhood.  Take an evening stroll and just start praying...the Holy Spirit will direct the rest.  Or take a step of faith today that you know you'll only be able to do if you verbally affirm through constant prayer that God is real and will carry you through.

I heard a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. several years ago that has always stuck with me.  He said, "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing."  As followers of Christ our life-breath should be a dialog with the Creator of the Universe.  What a privilege.  It's uncomfortable at first perhaps, maybe even scary, but the joy and action of the Christian life is to truly be, as Bon Jovi sings it, living on a prayer.

Let's stop living as the walking dead and breathe the life-giving power of prayer into our lives and our communities and see what God will accomplish for His Kingdom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Doing What I Value

Since the beginning of the year I have been on a mission to do what I value and not what I don't.  It sounds simple, but it's not--especially not for someone who is a stubborn, perfectionistic first-born, who wants to be good at everything.  I came frighteningly close to burnout this last year and while I was teatering on the edge of losing it forever I realized it didn't have to be this way.

Life is stressful and hard and uncertain and full of many sorrows, but that was not primarily what was dragging me into the abyss of ministry burnout.  It was my desire to be everything in all situations, to be the best of the best, to shoulder my load and everyone else's, to be the "team player" that picked up everyone's slack and made things successful!  Placing these expectations on myself not only packed some very unwanted stress-pounds onto my gut, but made me feel overwhelmed and resentful.

Thankfully the Lord brought me some clarity before I packed my bags and ran off to Mexico, and since then I have been working on asking for help when I need it and not claiming other's responsibilities as my own.  I have also decided that I should do what I value and let the rest go.  This is not to say that I don't still do plenty that I don't want to do, but I try to be realistic about what I can actually fit on my plate.  I try to pick out the most important parts of projects and focus on those being great and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.  As much as I'd like to believe it's true, I'm not Superwoman after all.

This is true in ministry as well as in my personal life.  For example, as I shared in my last blog, I am not a woman who finds much personal value in things many other women do.  I am not saying that cooking a five course meal (or a meal that at least isn't microwavable and/or previously frozen) isn't valued--I sure do love visiting those ladies' houses--but it's just not me.  My house shouldn't look like it does right now (I like to refer to it as The Pit), but I would rather spend time working on the vision of our church planting tactics than make sure my house is spotless.  I also love to save money and find awesome deals, but I cannot seem to take the time necessary to become a great couponer--I am determined to do better, but then again, time is money and I'm not so sure I wouldn't rather spend my time somewhere else (I'll let you know how that one turns out). 

While there is much freedom in this line of thinking it can be difficult to let go of my own expectations or the expectations I feel people have for a good, Christian woman/wife/(hopefully)soon-to-be-adoptive-mother.  I still feel the pressure to host people with freshly baked bread and the cleanest house, or to not be so opinionated at work and at home, or to start thinking less about my call to minister to the city as we prepare for kids.  But, I just won't do it.  It's just not who I am.  Hey, I planted a garden this year (even though it was mocked mercilessly for it's tiny size by Andrew's Kansan relatives), that ought to count for something if we're talking Proverbs 31 women, right?!

Living what I value is something that requires constant attention to what I value and why.  I need to know that what I'm valuing is godly and logical.  But then I just need to focus on what is important for me and say about the rest: "It is what it is."  It's a work in progress.

So, let's be real, when I host I'm the Hostess with the Mostess:  The most dustballs hidden under my couch, the most frozen entrees in my freezer, the most notebooks stacked around the house with ideas about our ministry programs and future, and the most grandiose plans about how I will weave together my life as missionary, wife, and mother so that I can be a part of changing the world...and in my heart of hearts, I'm OK with that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm an INTJ Woman and a Freak of Nature

I'm an INTJ and I'm a woman and that makes me kind of a freak of nature.

I discovered this in the past few years as I have learned about Myers Briggs, a personality indicator based on Carl Jung's theory that asserts that we all have innate preferences that direct how we see the world and how we operate in it.  When broken down, you get 16 different personality types and I am an INTJ: Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging.  In other words, I am introverted, I focus on the big picture and exciting connections between ideas, I prefer to make decisions based off of objective logic and focus on systems and theories, and I like closure and structure.   INTJs are known to challenge the status quo and also get the reputation of being just a little arrogant and callused when it comes to feelings because we tend to think we're always right and hold our emotions close to our vest.  And, well, we have been described as "masterminds," I'm just sayin.  (For more information about Myers Briggs check out the Myers Briggs Foundation.)

In the process of becoming certified in Myers Briggs I not only discovered that you can explain every oddity  about me (well, almost every one) through the lens of my personality but also that as an INTJ I am part of only about 1-3% of the population and as a female INTJ I am probably represented in less than 1% of the population of the WORLD.  So, just when I was starting to feel more normal I realized I really am a freak of nature!

I wouldn't have necessarily let you know it but before I knew anything about Myers Briggs and my personality type I thought there must be something wrong with me. I've been "different" since I was very young, just ask my parents.  But as I grew older I began to realize that not only was I just different in general, but I was also very different from most other girls.  At the risk of stereotyping all women, I didn't cry at sappy romance scenes in movies, I didn't "awww" over small puppies and babies, I hated baby showers, wedding showers, teas, and any other activity that was filled with lots of high pitched squealing and "frivolous" activities.  I'd rather talk world politics, literature, philosophy, and connect with someone through a a deep intellectual wrestling than discuss the type of food we like or the best places to find sales on purses.

In fact, being different has become part of my identity.  I have always been the tall girl, the Christian girl, the homeschooled girl, the girl who didn't drink, the girl with her nose in a book, etc., and if those weren't enough I was the girl who didn't really think or act like a girl. That's a whole lot of different.  On a good day I believe that God made me just this freakish because He has a special role for me here on earth.  On a bad day I just feel frustrated, misunderstood, and insecure.

Yes, being an INTJ woman can make me a little awkward in social settings, especially those dominated by estrogen, and can make me a little intimidating because I speak my mind with conviction, but what I really wrestle the different ways that I, as an INTJ, see being a woman, a Christ-follower, a wife, a waiting adoptive mother, a missionary.  I see godly women all around me that I admire and cherish, but there aren't many that I identify with or see myself in.  Sometimes I feel like I'm forging a path "less traveled" and it can be lonely and frustrating out here!

However, lest you think this blog is a plea for sympathy let me tell you that even on the bad days I am grateful to be who God made me, and ultimately I just want to create a platform for other women like me to not feel alone or isolated in our pursuit of a godly life as a _____ fill in the blank with your own "different."  I believe there are god-given roles for men and women in the church, but I'd challenge that they are probably less confining than we make them.  I always come back to the thought that God wouldn't have made me like this if He didn't know that there was a way to be me and be used for His kingdom! And I know that's true for you too.

I'm probably always going to be that woman who tells you what I think, will remind you that it wasn't just us women who were commanded to be meek and submissive, will make some men intimidated when I wear heels and my I'm-OK-with-being-in-charge-if-I need-to be face.  I will not feel that my god-given role is confined only to the home, and I will want to barf when I see men knowingly or unknowingly diminish the roles of women in the church to babysitters and "pulpit candy."  But I am working on saying and doing these things in love and humility and reflecting Christ as best as I can in the person He made me to be.  I don't always get it right but I'm trying.  If this describes you as well, then know you're not alone and even though it sometimes feels like an uphill battle the Lord can use you and your gifts and talents and personality.

Be you in Christ, and if you (and I) sometimes feel like a "different" kind of freak, embrace it...God may have something different for you to do today.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Lessons From Holy Week

Today is Good Friday and we remember that Jesus went to the cross for you and for me.  Today we solemnly thank Jesus for laying down His life in obedience to the Father so that we could find mercy and grace.  This week is Holy Week in the church calendar--the culmination of the entire church year as we acknowledge what Christ did for us through death and celebrate the hope we have in His resurrection. 

This week Andrew and I have been led on a journey that I feel is appropriate for this important week.  The Lord has made the themes of obedience and self-sacrificing love just a little more real to us.

We had a college group visiting us all week, joining us for a week of service and exposure.  We spent time doing work projects and led sessions where we challenged them to set aside their expectations for life and follow Jesus wherever He leads them.  In one session we watched and discussed a video sermon from Francis Chan.  In this sermon he challenges people to live biblically, which for most of the world will look radical and risky but for Christ-followers should be completely normal.  Carve out an hour to watch it, you will not be disappointed  You can find it here.

Andrew and I also received a call about an adoption case this week.  One of the emotional challenges of this process is the vast and stormy seas of unknowns.  I feel constantly kept off balance trying to adjust my expectations to new things God challenges us with about the age, the number, the challenges of children we might adopt.  We find ourselves being forced into uncomfortable conclusions only to accept them, grow comfortable with them, and then be challenged all over again.  And, for someone who likes to be in control I have taken each in stride, unusually going with the flow.  But not this time. 

As I wrestled with my expectations I felt restless, overwhelmed, and emotional.  I couldn't find my feet until slowly I started letting the words that were bouncing around in my head to take root.  I heard the message of Francis Chan echoing in my heart, which really is the message of Christ.  It asked me, how far will you go for Christ?  What will you pour out in an offering of obedience?  I think about what we celebrate today, and really we celebrate Christ's humility and obedience, even unto death.  And we know that Christ asks us to follow Him.  That's uncomfortable and scary and sometimes seems impossible until you realize it's the only logical choice you have.  It doesn't make sense to our world view but we serve a God that says you can only find your life if you lose it and that you must die to really live.  And we serve a God who loved us enough to walk that path first as our example. 

Today I feel at peace.  I know that Andrew and I have submitted our hearts in obedience to what God has been speaking to us this week.  I wish I could say I did it without a fight, but when I finally stopped wrestling I felt the peace that surpasses all understanding.  I don't know what God has planned for our future and our family, but I do know that Jesus will continue to ask us to lay down more and more of what is dear to us in order to be more like Him.  I do know that all I can do is be obedient with what God has put in front of me today and let Him take care of the rest.  I do know that not everyone will always understand the steps that God asks us to take. 

But how can we not take them in faith, when Jesus' journey of obedience took Him to the cross for us?  How can I not lose every last expectation and idol stored up in my selfish heart in obedience to the God in whom my life is found?  How can I not be caught up in the beautiful, upward call of Christ that promises hope and victory if we will follow Christ to the cross? 

In Christ death is defeated, sin is conquered, darkness is transformed: what is there left to fear?  That is why we call today Good Friday, because our God is good and He includes us in His victory!

Rejoice and follow Him!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dear Restless Heart

You think you hide it well, but your eyes tell the full story.  The smile you force onto your face does not have the strength to lift the heavy weight of tears held inside--if the tears do not fall, you think, people will still believe that your world is not ripping apart.  You want to believe that God is true, that change is possible, but, after all, your life still lays like fractured pieces of a stained glass window without shape or sense. 

Your eyes lift and fall without ever looking into anyone else's.  You fear looking up and seeing that someone else has found what you could not, or worse, that their eyes tell their own story of a losing battle without hope. 

Wrestling hope and despair leaves you so weary that you can barely lift the beer in your hand, the phone to your ear, our the palm full of pills to your mouth to numb the gnawing fear inside of you.  On a good day you feel nothing, on a better day you fill the void with rage.  The slightest thing makes you angry because if it doesn't you know you will weep until you drown in the emptiness of your soul. 

You think no one sees you.  I see you.  I want to shake you out of numbness and smooth the hardened lines around your weary eyes.  I cannot, but I know Someone who can.  But you have to stop fighting the breaking into pieces because the One I know is an Artist and His best work is done while bringing life out of the dust.  Let the pieces fall.  He will not fail to pick every one up and make something beautiful with it.   

What do you really have to lose?  The anger?  The fear?  The restlessness?  My deepest prayer is that you will know the Prince of Peace and that, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds." (Philippians 4:7)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Go in Peace

Candles being packed away and table dressings being folded gently and placed in the cupboard lent a poignancy missed by some in the room.  Four-plus years ago I would not have believed that there would be a lump in my throat as I read our closing liturgy, the liturgy I hated, then tolerated, then grew to be a part of. 

We are in a season of change at World Impact and although God brings many new opportunities out of change, saying goodbye to the comforts that have held you through a mountainous journey can leave an ache in your chest.  Today our staff church held its last service as Antioch Missionary all its liturgical and controversial glory.  We are being led toward new expeditions and manifestations of our collective worship.  For some this passing is no more than a blink of an eye and a moving toward a new vision.  But for others of us, closing this chapter is felt deeply as we remember the things we have been through, the lives connected through our collective wrestling with life, ministry, and each other.  For a few of us, Antioch was a cord that connected all of the transitions, a cord that began frayed and unclear but was woven tightly as we joined with others on this journey and clung to one another for shelter from the storm. 

Never was it perfect.  Never did it breed a perfect union of God's people.  Never did it connect to everyone at all times.  But that is life.  Its value was not its perfection, but in the way that it made us change ourselves as individuals to approach God as a communtiy.  I will miss it, but I also rejoice in the knowledge that God is unchanging and He is ever in our midst.  I pray that He will lead us into something that is different, yet equally as challenging.  I pray that we embrace opportunities that will rock our pre-conceived ideas about worship and fellowship and that we will never seek what is best for ourselves but that which brings a community into the glory and shelter of God.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts..
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, it is right to give Him thanks and praise. Amen

Go in peace.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Update

April 1, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Suddenly tears threatened to squeeze their potent mixture of joy, sadness, and shame from my well-controlled tear ducts. Even after five years in the city, I still have moments of revelation that break my heart in unexpected ways.

It was Thursday night and, as is my usual habit, I (Adria) sat behind the lobby desk buzzing people in and brandishing pens to enforce sign-in for our Adult Basketball Outreach. Andrew leaned on the desk as we hastily ate our dinner of sandwiches as people started to file in. From the hall I could hear the loud echoes of basketballs bouncing on the gym floor and guys warming up and talking a little pre-game smack, when Jason trotted out to the front desk to check the order of the play list.

Andrew has known Jason for many years, maintaining a relationship with him even through many ups and downs. Jason has struggled in his relationship with the Lord and with some significant family issues and personal decisions while growing up. These things led him into destructive behaviors and to dropping out of high school. Recently, however, Jason has been working on getting his life back in order. Most importantly, he has a renewed hunger for the Lord and has been one of our most consistent attendees of our weekly Bible Study.

As he perused the play list, Jason mentioned to Andrew and I that he had finally gotten his GED certificate. He said it so casually at first I did not register the significance. Andrew said, “Awesome! I want to see it.”

“Yeah,” Jason said, “I’ll show it to you. I’ve got it in my backpack. I’m taking that thing with me everywhere I go.” Then it hit me. I felt joy for this young man, who is making incredible steps in the right direction. I felt sadness that his life reflects so much pain and difficulty that securing a GED represented a major life achievement. And, I felt shame that I have taken so much for granted in my life. I thought, he had to work so hard to get his GED and is so proud of it that he carries it on his person at all times, do I even know where my high school and college diplomas are?

In the face of so much struggle in the city there have been times that I have felt guilty because I was born into the family I was and for the subsequent financial security, physical safety, and educational opportunities that were mine simply because of where God placed me. There are still times that feeling washes over me, but I know I had no more control over where God placed me than Jason did.

What God is teaching me in moments like these is that there is much about my life that I have assumed was my right because I am an American and because I am a “good Christian” who works hard. I am owed nothing. I do not deserve anything more or less than Jason. In fact, Jason has had to work significantly harder to achieve things that I have considered “lesser” than I have had to work to achieve things like a high school and college education. In these moments that God smacks me with humbling revelations I am truly in awe of my friends and neighbors here in the city. They are determined and resilient in ways I will never understand. Praise God for His mercies that meet each of us where we are: broken in our own ways and in desperate need of Him.

Please continue to pray for Jason and for the other young adults in our Bible Study that they would continue to respond to God’s call on their lives and for their strength to continue fighting to live a life pleasing to Him.

For His Kingdom, Andrew and Adria Medlen