Happy 4th of July, everyone! Today is a special day for celebrating the freedoms we have as a country, but, lately, I’ve also been pondering my freedom in Christ.
For years, I’ve felt weighed down by hurtful, damaging words that were said to me by a loved one, by her actions that tore me down rather than building me up. I allowed myself to find my identity in those words and actions, rather than finding my identity in Christ. Rather than living the abundant life I could have in Christ (see John 10:10), I lived in bondage. Rather than looking to what God says about me, I looked to what this person said about me.
I want that to change!
I want freedom in Christ!
As I was thinking and praying about this over the weekend, I remembered a list in the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. His list focuses on who we are in Christ, and it is great truth to speak over yourself and others.
In fact, it’s so great that I decided to finally create my first vlog for you and speak that truth over you, my kind readers. I’m also including the list in a PDF below that you can open and print so you’ll have it handy to remind yourself of who you are in Christ.
The other day, I did something I didn’t like, and I chose to apologize to my son for it.
Over the past few weeks, my adorable, sweet, smiley baby has become a ferocious hair puller. OK, slight exaggeration, but he does take joy in grabbing a handful of my long, straight, brown locks and pulling hard, like he’s hoping for a similar result as when he pulls the chain to turn on the light in the den.
I say, “No.” I say, “Stop.” I say, “Soft hands.” I say, “Hair is for admiring, not for pulling,” in a sweet sing-songy voice. I say, “Ow! That hurts Mama. You don’t want to hurt Mama, do you?”
The other day, he had pulled my hair countless times, and the last time really hurt. In a moment of pain, anger, and exasperation, I popped his hand.
Instantly, I felt remorse. This wasn’t a planned method of discipline, thought out and discussed with my husband for the longterm benefit of our child. This was a lack of self-control, and I owed my son an apology.
So, I apologized to my six-month-old. The hand pop didn’t hurt him (he smiled at me when I did it), and he didn’t understand the apology, but it was still important. We want to create a culture of confession and forgiveness in our home, and this was a step in laying that foundation.
Why is a culture of confession and forgiveness in our home important?
As believers, we are a forgiven people, and people who have been forgiven much respond to that forgiveness by forgiving others. Paul told the Ephesians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV). Christ is the perfect model of forgiveness, and we can follow his example to model forgiveness to our children.
We are our children’s first impressions and experiences with God’s character. When we were waiting for our son’s birth, a dear friend and mother of three adult children spoke words to me that I think of nearly every day: “You are that baby’s first impression of the Father’s love.” That statement is one of the reasons we’ve parented the way we have in these early months. We have been quick to console and show compassion, generous with the snuggles, and effusive with loving words and songs, because we’ve been establishing trust, faith, confidence, and love with our son. We are giving him a glimpse of the Father. (A glimpse that, yes, includes more and more discipline as it’s age appropriate.) We are now giving our son a glimpse of God’s forgiving nature, hopefully softening his heart and preparing him to receive the Gospel (we pray regularly for that!).
If I want my children to have a relationship with the Lord where they confess their sins to him and accept his forgiveness, I need to model that for them and give them opportunities to practice it with me. The more opportunities we give them, the more natural this process will feel to them. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).
If my children learn that their parents who still struggle with sin and temptation are capable of forgiving them, they will, hopefully, begin to understand that God keeps His word and will forgive them. And when we’re not very good at forgiving, we can point them to a loving, forgiving God who so far surpasses Mama and Daddy! “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love …” (Nehemiah 9:17, ESV).
The more I confess/apologize for my sin, whether to my children, to others, or to God, the more sensitive I become to the sin in my life, not in a condemning way but a sanctifying way. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV). When I embrace the fact that I’m not under condemnation, there is freedom! I am more likely to recognize my sin, confess it, accept God’s forgiveness, and walk in step with the Holy Spirit toward freedom from a particular sin. Instead of living with a sense of fear and the weight of judgement, I can call sin “sin” and engage in the process of sanctification. I want to model that for my children and engage in the process with them. I want to help them with their struggles, not condemn them for them. That starts with me modeling confession and forgiveness. (This is definitely going to be a lifetime of learning. I am not there yet!)
Later that day, I apologized to my husband for popping Asher’s hand in anger, and I asked for his forgiveness. I love that he is always quick to forgive. He’s a great model for me! I also confessed my sin to the Lord and asked for his forgiveness. I’m thankful He is a loving, forgiving God who keeps his promises.
So, what does a culture of confession and forgiveness look like in your home and your relationships? Share your stories and what works for your family!
As I burrowed into Squishy Pillow Thursday night, I grew teary-eyed thinking of the day. Asher wasn’t any more my son than he was when we woke up, but there was a new layer of peace and joy after we made it official in court.
It was a lot like when I married Joseph. The morning of our wedding, I was crazy in love with him. My eyes danced when I looked at him, and my stomach was still filled with butterflies. After our wedding? I felt the same way! Only, we had entered into a covenant relationship with one another. Somehow, that made our love deeper, filled with confidence and peace. And so much joy!
Just like I entered into a covenant relationship with Joseph on our wedding day, we entered into a covenant relationship with our son on Thursday. Before a judge and over a dozen of our friends and family, we promised to love, care, and provide for our boy just as though I had given birth to him. We promised to kiss boo-boos, give giant bear hugs, accept weeds as flowers, stay up all night, chase away closet monsters, plan birthday parties, play Hide-and-Seek, sing silly songs, help with science fair projects, rent a tuxedo for the school prom, and cheer him on as he accepts his diploma, all as though he had our DNA. We promised to be his parents, his mama and daddy. Forever. An unconditional covenant.
And it was beautiful!
Sure, it was a little stuffy and formal, and the hearing only lasted a few minutes, but those were some of the most beautiful minutes of my life.
And I could hear God whispering, “I made those promises to you.”
God sent His Boy, His cried-when-He-was-hungry, crawled-before-He-walked, skinned-His-knees, loved-His-mama, Son of God Boy, to take my place so I could be adopted by my Father. So I could be a joint heir with Christ. So I could be a daughter loved unconditionally by her Daddy.
And when we receive Asher’s new birth certificate, the one with our names on it, the one that will declare on a piece of paper that he is our son, just as though I had literally given birth to him in a hospital in Charleston, I’ll hear His voice whisper again, “You’re My child, and you bear My name.”
No one has helped me see the Gospel with as much clarity as my own son. No one has taught me more about the love of my Father than my son. No one has made me want to be more like Christ than my son.
Adoption has changed my life twice – once by my Savior and once by my son. I’m eternally grateful for both.
You’ve been on my mind a lot. Some days, I forget you’re gone. I’ll be driving down the road, think of something, and reach for my phone to call you. Then I remember.
I’ve remembered a lot this week.
It’s now been two years since you died, and it still breaks my heart. It was just too soon. I wasn’t ready for you not to be in my life.
I’m a mama now, and you were supposed to be here for that. You were supposed to be the one I called every day to report how tired I was or how many times Asher smiled. (The report would have been, “I’m very tired, and I lost count of how many times he smiled, so I don’t care that I’m tired.”) You were supposed to give me advice on how to take care of Asher. Most of it would have probably gone against half of what the pediatrician said, but you would have told me that it worked for your babies and your grandbabies, so it will work for my baby. You were supposed to be here on my hardest days as a mama to tell me you’re proud of me and everything would be OK.
Sometimes, I feel sad for Asher because he doesn’t get to grow up with you in his life. You made my life so much better, and I want that for him as well. Then, I hear your voice from long ago.
I was an awkward teenager. In a world filled with beautiful people (my own mother was literally a model), I felt ugly. Then, I got contacts. Green ones. People complimented me regularly on my bright green eyes, and they made me feel just a little bit pretty.
You didn’t like them. You didn’t think I needed them. For years, you asked me to go back to clear contacts. Finally, you told me why: “You have my eyes.”
When we learned about genetics in high school, I mourned (dramatically) the fact that I didn’t have brown eyes like my parents (after I was confused about genetics and for about 10 minutes thought I was adopted or switched at birth). You replied, “I’ve always liked that you have my eyes.”
Any time I would say, “I wish I looked like so and so,” you would say, “But you have my eyes, and I like that.”
I like that, too.
I hope when Asher looks into my eyes, he’ll be able to see you.
When I peel an apple for him and hand it to him with a smile, I hope he’ll see you.
When we bake a cake together and I hand him chocolate covered spoons, I hope he’ll see you.
When he’s angry and ready to stomp off and I blow raspberries at him to make him laugh, I hope he’ll see you.
When he’s sad and comes to me for comfort, I hope he’ll see you.
When he earns a good grade at school and looks to me for affirmation, I hope he’ll see you.
When he seeks me out to share in his joy, I hope he’ll see you.
When he looks at me with his big, goofy grin and I can’t help but smile back at him, I hope he’ll see you.
And when he sees you in me, I hope he also sees Christ, because that’s who you taught me to see when I looked at you.
Thank you for pointing me to Him. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me your eyes.
When I met you, I was a little rough around the edges. Once a fairly cheerful and optimistic person, I was jaded, skeptical, and calloused. I had left a situation a few months prior that frightens me when I look back on it.
Out of near desperation for friendship and strengthening my relationship with the Lord, I entered a room filled with singles (or at least not-married-yets) who gathered a couple of times a month to discuss the sermon and encourage one another. I was nervous and self-conscious. Extremely self-conscious. Extremely nervous. I don’t remember meeting you, but I don’t really remember meeting anyone. I remember surviving and thinking I would be OK returning in a couple of weeks.
Seven years have passed, and I almost don’t remember how we transitioned from that first meeting to falling in love. I think it was like a snowball. We started slowly and ramped up pretty quickly. You were smart and goofy and fun and didn’t seem to mind my rough exterior. In fact, you chipped away slowly at that exterior and brought me back to life.
You showed me Christ. You helped me have fun again. You became my best friend and the man with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. You did it one laugh at a time.
You modeled servanthood to me, always putting others before yourself. You were patient with me. You waited a whole four months to propose to me! (A month in, I would have happily run off into the sunset with you.)
You’ve loved me well these last seven years, better than I’ve loved you. You’ve helped me learn the power of forgiveness, and you don’t hold grudges against me (thank you for that!!). You work HARD to provide for our family, and I admire and respect you so much.
Watching you become a daddy, I feel like I’m meeting you and falling in love with you all over again. You are selfless, always saying Asher’s needs are more important than your own (Philippians 2:4). You wash all the bottles, and you don’t grumble when I can’t seem to wake up in the middle of the night to feed Asher. You can’t wait to come home to see us every day.
You are a man of integrity, a man I can admire, a man I love to point to and say, “He’s my husband!” You bring joy and laughter into my life. You’re the best at telling dad jokes.
I’m so thankful I met you seven years ago today. I’m grateful God wrote us into his story, and I can’t wait to continue watching it unfold. I love you!
The other day, we took Asher in for his two month well check. We stripped him down to his diaper and cheered when we found out he weighs almost 15 pounds. He’s an adorably chunky baby!
His pediatrician came in, and we collectively gushed over his sweetness and the milestones he’s reaching. She assured us we’re doing a great job, and she even said it’s both perfectly NORMAL and even EXPECTED that Asher isn’t sleeping through the night. Mentally, I scratched that off my list of things I fear I’m doing wrong as a parent. (All mamas have that list, right?)
Then, something unexpected happened. I hugged Asher close to me and started crying in the exam room, and I revealed my biggest fear to our pediatrician: “Asher is doing great now, but I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m watching him, looking for signs that something’s wrong. Waiting for him to break.”
Our pediatrician sat on the exam table, looked into my eyes, and spoke truth to my soul. While we must be practical and responsible, looking into the future and watching for certain things, we cannot live in fear. We must rest in the comfort that God is in control, and we must live in and enjoy the present. I nodded that she was right, and I inhaled the sweet smell of my baby as I felt the quiet rhythm of his breathing.
A verse drifted into my mind, one that a sweet friend shared with me recently: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a, ESV).
If I’m loving my son well today, I won’t fear for his future. I will rest in the comfort that God is sovereign and has a better future for Asher than I could ever imagine.
How do I love my son well? I look to the One who loves the best.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV).
Jesus is the only one who has ever loved me perfectly, and he didn’t fear laying down his life in order to perfect that love.
If I look to the example of Christ and lay down my life daily for my son, I won’t have to fear. I’ll lay my life down for him when he’s healthy, and I’ll lay my life down for him if we face challenges down the road.
Where are you today? Are you fearful in a certain situation or even in a relationship? Look to the One who made you, the One who laid down his life for you. Rest in his perfect love as it casts out fear.
This weekend, I attended the Created for Care conference, a weekend for adoptive and foster mamas. Going in, I anticipated being encouraged and leaving with practical knowledge on bringing up our sweet boy. I left with something a little different, something I wasn’t expecting.
The first breakout session was on Friday afternoon. I attended a Creative Quiet Time class, a little unsure of what to expect. I sat down at a table with shiny gold and silver paper, a couple of tablets, and sample stars. Hmmm. I suppose I could get behind connecting with God while making a shiny star. I chit chatted with the ladies at the table regarding the genius idea to use cute Kraft style wrapping paper as a table cloth, and we waited for the session to begin.
The session leader, Virginia, asked us all to come to the front for a few minutes before we began our time with the Lord. I tried not to sigh as I gave into her request, remembering days gone by when I LOVED sitting in the front of the room as I soaked up information. Now, I would much prefer to hide in the back of the room.
Virginia shared that the theme of the weekend was Shine, and she asked us to think of people who shine. What made them so shiny? No, it wasn’t oily skin or sequin-covered dresses. Joy, contentment, positive attitudes, and time with the Lord were all shouted out, even the fact that most shiny people are thinkers and dreamers who are moving forward in life.
After we reflected on things that make people shine, Virginia shared with us reasons that people lose their shine. Discontentment, unconfessed sin, disobedience, not spending time in the Word or prayer, etc.
That one caught my attention. She said most of us, as we grow older, stop dreaming. That’s me. I’ve had dreams of writing, teaching, and speaking for years, but I stopped doing much about those dreams.
Virginia guided us through a time of prayer. She asked that we would each hear from the Lord. I felt a bit skeptical, but I asked God to help me be open to hearing from him.
And I did.
I sensed God reminding me that I am his, and because I am his, I can dream. I sensed him encouraging me to be confident in who I am in Christ, to trust that he will enable me to pursue the dreams he has placed within me.
After we prayed together, I decided to spend my time with the Lord doodling in my journal rather than going to one of the stations. As I doodled, I reflected on the dreams he’s given me, and I asked him to show me the hindrances within me to achieving those dreams.
Many of those hindrances were because I was focusing on my “don’ts” rather than my “dos”, a trap Virginia said leads to discontentment and not pursuing our dreams.
I don’t have a mentor pouring into my life and teaching me how to achieve my dreams.
I don’t have lots of connections.
I don’t have a large reading audience for my blog.
I don’t have teaching or speaking opportunities.
I don’t have enough material.
On and on.
It’s time to focus on the dos!
I do have a Savior who empowers and equips me to do all that he has called me to do.
I do have a loving and supportive husband who wants me to pursue the dreams God has given me.
I do have a great community of faith who can pray for and encourage me along the way.
I do have a blog, and it doesn’t matter how many people do or don’t read it at this point.
I do have the entire Bible and 34 years on this planet, which sounds like plenty of material to me!
So, this year, I’m going to take steps to making progress toward those dreams. I don’t know what that’s going to look like at this point, but I’m going to start by writing with more intentionality on my blog (this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Sometimes, that will be about adoption related topics, like many of my posts in 2015. Other times, I’ll be writing about passages in Scripture, with possible teaching recordings to accompany those posts. Even if I don’t have opportunities to speak in front of other women, I can create opportunities to teach. Will you pray with me as I pursue these dreams?
What about you? What dreams have you had? Have you pursued those dreams? If not, what’s stopping you? I’m praying God will give you the courage to pursue the dreams he’s given you. After all, you’re his, and because you’re his, you can dream with him.