Left Behind

In middle school, I tried out for cheerleading. It should come to no surprise to you that I cheered the wrong words during the final tryout and did not make the squad. As I watched my newly-crowned cheerleader friends shriek and bounce around the school, soaring instantly in popularity, I felt left behind.

In high school, I wanted a boyfriend. As in wanted a boyfriend so much that I wrote bad poetry and tried delivering it to a boy in a manner that appeared accidental. That plan was not successful. As I watched other girls walk down the hall with their boyfriends or meet them in the parking lot after school, I felt left behind.

In college, I felt called to ministry – the kind of ministry that required a husband, because I felt called to be a minister’s wife (the type of minister didn’t matter too much to me). As I watched other girls squeal with delight in the dining hall, flashing their new diamonds around, I felt left behind.

In my mid-twenties, most of the people I knew were either married or almost married. As I purchased shower gifts and bridesmaid dresses, I felt left behind.

Rachelle Adams: Left Behind #adoptionIn my late twenties, I met the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, and he picked me to be his wife! For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel left behind. Things felt just right.

That shifted a couple of years ago. I remember admiring a group of ladies at my church. From afar, I watched them with their husbands and precious children, looking forward to the day Joseph and I would start our family. Interestingly, I assumed they were all at least 10 years older than me. It wasn’t that they looked older than me; it was just that they seemed to be an entire stage of life ahead of me. Certainly they were 10 years older than me, right?

Wrong.

Some of them were only a couple of years older than me, and they had children going into middle school.

Wait. Pretty much the same age as me and they already had kids going into middle school? What did that say about me?

Oh. I must have been behind again.

Oh, the anxiety that flooded my heart. Discontentment fought to steal my joy daily, and it won most days. My longing to be a mother escalated rapidly.

All because I thought my timing was off. All because I thought I was behind where I should be based on one group of ladies I sort of knew.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve been enjoying the Storyline reading plan my church started. I finished reading Genesis today.

Do you know who I found in Genesis? Two women who felt like they were behind the curve when it came to becoming mothers.

The first was Sarah. When she was sixty-five, God called her husband, Abraham, to follow Him to the land He would show him (see Genesis 12). God’s call to Abraham included a promise of offspring. Even in the very moment God called Abraham, Sarah was a bit outside the prime age for birthing babies.

I wonder how many months Sarah hoped she would become a mother, how many months she felt the disappointment once again, how often she heard the sweet coo of a friend’s baby and felt left behind.

Knowing just a sliver of how that must have felt for Sarah (and the depths of my own depravity without Christ), I try not to judge her too harshly for what she did next.

Eleven years after God called Abraham, eleven years after God made a promise that included Abraham’s offspring, eleven years after Sarah set out with Abraham to the land God would show them, Sarah decided to take things into her own hands.

In Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that his very own son would be his heir. In Genesis 16, Sarah decided that God must have meant that Abraham would become a father through someone other than her, and she gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham to have a baby for him.

Not so surprisingly, things did not play out for Sarah as she hoped. I think she thought she was doing the right thing. I think she thought she was helping God. I think she thought she would love the baby (or at least like the baby) Abraham and Hagar would have. I think she thought everything would be OK.

Then everything unfolded, and she felt awful. She resented Hagar and Ishmael, likely Abraham as well.

Thankfully, God redeemed the situation, and He still fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham and Sarah the baby He promised them: Isaac (Genesis 21). Isaac was born 14 years after Ishmael, 25 years after God called Abraham. If I had been 90 and still didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t have just felt behind; I would have given up hope.

Isaac grew up and married Rebekah, and they had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob fell in love with Rachel (and all the Christian girls swooned collectively). Her father was running some strange two for one special, so he married Rachel and her sister Leah. Oh, my. The baby race that happened in Genesis 29-30 is one of the reasons I know the Bible is true. Who would have made that story up and included it in the Bible?

Rachel was married to a man who was willing to work a total of 14 years in exchange for her hand in marriage (7 years before the wedding and 7 years after). *swoon* Naturally, she expected to become a mother right away. After all, Leah did (Genesis 29). God had other plans, though.

Rachel was jealous to the point of despair. “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!'” (Genesis 30:1, ESV).

Following family tradition, Rachel gave her servant to Jacob. Then she watched her servant have babies. She watched her sister’s servant have babies. She even watched her sister have more babies.

Finally, God opened Rachel’s womb, and she had Joseph. Again, God redeemed the situation. He had great plans for Joseph – saving a nation kind of plans.

I share these stories because I connected with them. I connected with the longing Sarah and Rachel felt to become mothers. I even connected with the temptation to take things into my own hands.

Don’t worry. I didn’t follow the Sarah and Rachel Plan for Having Babies in Your Own Timing.

I did, however, feel tempted to rush ahead of God’s plan, to push Joseph toward adoption before he was ready.

My feelings of being left behind started to trump my trust in God’s timing, and that was a dangerous place to dwell.

I think I’m in a dangerous place now, too. Yes, we’ve stepped out in faith and answered God’s call to adopt. Yes, we’re so excited to be on this journey. Yes, we are PUMPED about becoming parents.

But.

I know there is going to be a whole lot of waiting up ahead. There will be days that will bring me to tears. I will grow frustrated with the process (and maybe the people …).

There will be moments when I will want to rush ahead of God. I will want to take matters into my own hands. I will want control.

Please pray for me in the months (years?) ahead of us. I want to trust God’s perfect timing, even if each month that passes makes me feel one more step behind.

In those moments when you can tell that I feel like I’ve fallen behind, remind me that I’m not. Remind me that I can’t be, because God’s already written this story, and He didn’t make any mistakes.

God Has Been with Me

I’m still enjoying our church’s Bible reading plan, Storyline. Today, I read Genesis 31-32. Before reading, I asked God to show me something about Himself in the text.

Jacob had been working for his father-in-law, Laban, for 20 years, and the relationship was on the rocks. He had been working toward taking his family and parting ways with Laban. “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of  your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you'” (Genesis 31:3).

After God spoke to Jacob, he rounded up his family and said, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me…” (Genesis 31:5). He talked to his family for a while, and Rachel and Leah supported him in obeying God. So, they began their journey. Yes, there was a ton of family drama, but Jacob obeyed God and traveled home.

Rachelle Adams || God Has Been with Me: Reflections on Genesis 31 #adoptionWhat struck me in this passage was the similarity between the phrases in verses three and five – “I will be with you” and “God … has been with me”. Jacob believed God would be with him, because God had been with him the entire time he was working for Laban (and prior to that). Jacob knew he could trust God, because God had proven Himself trustworthy. Jacob had full assurance God would keep His promise, because God had proven Himself to be a promise keeper (see Genesis 21:1 for an example in Jacob’s family history).

I connected with this truth so much today. Stepping into the adoption process, we trust God, because He has proven Himself trustworthy – over and over and over again, both in Scripture and in our personal lives! We trust that He will provide for us, because His Word says He will and because He has provided for us many times in the past. We trust that He will be with us through the process, because He has always been with us.

Some of you may be wondering, “What if things don’t work out with the adoption process? What if you’re never matched with a child and you just end up with heartache? Will you trust God then?”

Yes.

Wholeheartedly yes.

Because God will still be God, sovereign over all things, and God will still be good. We trust God no matter what He has planned for us. After all, it’s His story.

If God will be most glorified in us through an adoption journey that ends with squishy-cheeked babies, then I will kiss those cheeks until I can’t kiss anymore, and I will praise God. If He will be most glorified in us through an adoption journey that doesn’t end with squishy-cheeked babies, then I will still praise God, and I will still trust Him.

My circumstances don’t change God’s character. They change mine.

Faking It

Sunday is my earliest rising morning of the week. Joseph has to be at church between 6:30-7:00 AM, and we’ve been carpooling for a few months. That gives me about an hour and a half each Sunday to spend out in the commons area before first service starts. Some weeks, I spend that time preparing to serve two groups of precious kiddos later in the morning. Others, I spend time in the Word and prayer.  Still others, I sit and stare off into space, because I don’t do well waking up at 5:39 (I usually snooze at least once, sometimes without even knowing I did it).

Today, I decided to start by spending some time in the Word. The Storyline reading plan we just started at Fellowship Greenville gives us Sunday off to catch up or meditate on that day’s teaching passage. I turned to Acts 4:32-5:11, one of the scariest passages of Scripture, in my opinion. I read through the passage, and I prayed something along the lines of, “Lord, help me with this passage. What do You want me to get out of it?” Then I read it again.

And again.

“Lord, help. I’m struggling to see.”

I read through the previous passage, where early believers prayed for boldness in the face of persecution – not deliverance, boldness. Humbling. Starting in 4:32, we’re given an interesting description (not prescription, if I’m understanding the passage correctly) of early believers living and loving sacrificially, to the point of selling their land so that no one was in need. In 4:36-37, Dr. Luke even gives us the specific example of Joseph/Barnabas selling his field and giving the proceeds to the church.

Then 5:1-11. Ananias and Sapphira. They sold a piece of property, and they conspired to keep part of the money but pretend they were giving all of it to the church (according to 5:4, they weren’t required to sell the land or even to give all of the proceeds from the sale to the church; this was a heart issue, not a rules issue).

Ananias went in first. Peter called him out on his deception, and God struck him dead. Boom.

Sapphira went in next, unaware of what happened to her husband. Peter called her out and told her the same men who dragged out her dead husband’s body would drag out hers. God struck her dead. Boom.

“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (5:11). I can vouch for that verse. Fear comes upon me when I hear about this story.

But what am I supposed to do with this passage?

I read and prayed, prayed and read.

Believers who prayed for boldness. Believers who gave boldly. Ananias and Sapphira.

For sure, I saw the contrast. I pondered the contrast and asked God what was important about the contrast.

“They were faking it.”

Believers weren’t required to sell all of their land and give away the proceeds. The ones who did were acting out of their love for Jesus. Ananias and Sapphira knew they weren’t required to sell their land. They were free to do with it as they pleased, but they wanted the appearance of a fully surrendered faith like they saw in the believers around them. They wanted the praise of man without surrendering fully to Jesus.

My next prayer: “Lord, where have I been faking it in life?”

I thought about my life now and over the last 20 years. Had I faked having skills so I could land a job? Had I faked certain interests so a boy would like me? Had I faked my personality to make friends? I scrolled through my life like a VHS tape. I couldn’t think of anything.

“Your weight.”

Oh.

That.

I’ve been willing to surrender every area of my life to God, except food.

“Lord, You can have my money. It’s Yours anyway.”

“Lord, You can have my ‘career’. That’s tough for me, but I trust You.”

“Lord, You can even have my reproductive system. I’ll adopt one day.”

“I’m keeping food.”

Tears rolled slowly and smoothly down my cheeks. I needed to repent.

“Lord, You’re right. I’ve been faking a fully surrendered life. I haven’t given this over to You completely. I don’t think I even know how. Help.”

So, that’s where I am today. Breaking. Surrendering. Hoping. Anticipating.

Anticipating God to work in my life and teach me what it looks like to live a sincere, fully surrendered life.

So what about you? Where are you faking it? Your career? Your marriage? Your friendships? Your relationship with God? I’m asking God to show you and to walk with you as life gets real.

Free Printables: Speak, O Lord

Rachelle Adams || Free Printables: Speak, O Lord Lyrics

One of the most powerful songs we sing at church is Speak, O Lord by Keith Getty. The lyrics read as a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to speak to us through His Word.

Sometimes, I enjoy lifting up these words to the Lord as I sit down to read my Bible, and, often, the song is playing in my head. I thought it could be nice to have a printout of the lyrics tucked in my Bible, because I don’t have all of the words memorized. Since I was creating a printable for myself, I thought I would share with you!

I created these as 5x7s so they would fit inside most Bibles. Thank you, Rita, for sharing the digital paper I used as the backgrounds. (Links to the specific papers are at the end of the post.)

I printed mine on card stock, which should hold up well. I may laminate it, since I’m always looking for a reason to use my laminator! Enjoy!

Rachelle Adams || Free Printables: Speak, O Lord Lyrics

 

Rachelle Adams || Free Printable: Speak, O Lord Lyricsdownload Speak O Lord stripes (grey)

Rachelle Adams || Free Printable: Speak, O Lord Lyricsdownload Speak O Lord pink stripes

Rachelle Adams || Free Printable: Speak, O Lord Lyricsdownload Speak O Lord dots

Rachelle Adams || Free Printable: Speak, O Lord Lyricsdownload Speak O Lord diamonds

These printables are free for personal use only. The backgrounds were created by Rita at The CoffeeShop Blog. The grey backgrounds can be found here, and the pink ones can be found here.

Did God Actually Say?

Have you ever been in a really loud room filled with people, so loud that you had to shout for people to hear you? While in that room, shouting your conversation, did the rest of the room get quiet suddenly, so that you were the only one left shouting in an otherwise silent room?

Or, have you ever been jamming to a deejay’s mix, dancing with a bunch of your friends, having the time of your life, when, suddenly, someone walks in the room – someone no one was expecting – and the deejay himself is so caught off guard that he screeches his turn table to a halt? That’s never happened in my real life, but it’s happened in a lot of movies I’ve seen.

When I step into Genesis 3 and look around, that shouting in the silent room, screechy turn table moment happens in verse 1:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?'”

The Hebrew people passed down their history by telling stories. This storytelling is captured beautifully in The Nativity Story. I couldn’t find just the clip I wanted, so start watching around 7:40.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Now, take the idea of what you just watched, and think about the creation narrative in Genesis 1 & 2. There is a definite rhythm, particularly in chapter 1.

“And God said …” (1:3)

“And God said …” (1:6)

“And God said …” (1:9)

“And God said …” (1:11)

“And God said …” (1:14)

“And God said …” (1:20)

“And God said …” (1:24)

“Then God said …” (1:26)

“… the  Lord God commanded …” (2:16, when He told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil)

“Then the Lord God said …” (2:18)

We also see God creating, seeing, blessing, and resting. He was very active in these chapters (isn’t He in all of Scripture and in our  lives today?).

Chapter 2 ends with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were surrounded by the results of all that God had said. The sun shining on their faces during the day and the twinkling canopy of stars above them each night? God spoke them into being. The veggies they picked and mixed into a salad for lunch? God spoke them into being. The pool of water where they found refreshment in the afternoon? God spoke it into being. The squirrels who chased each other around the Tree of Life? God spoke them into being.

God’s spoken word was powerful, and Adam and Eve were immersed in proof of that. Until Genesis 3:1, they lived in sweet community with God.

Rachelle Adams || Did God Actually Say?: A reflection on Genesis 3.Then the serpent asked the question, “Did God actually say …?”

SCREECH!

I find myself wondering if all of creation halted and turned their attention to the conversation taking place.

Immediately, Adam and Eve were filled with doubt. They doubted they could believe God’s word to be true, they doubted God’s goodness, and they doubted God had given them everything they needed.

Likely, you’re familiar with the story. Rather than shutting down the serpent immediately, Eve engages in conversation with him, and she and Adam both partake of the fruit, ushering sin into the world.

Within no time, Adam and Eve felt shame and fear. Their sweet community with God was broken.

We follow the same pattern:

“Did God actually say He would provide?”

“Did God actually say I shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage?”

“Did God actually say gluttony and laziness are sins?”

If you’re like me, you let those thoughts run wild rather than taking them captive, and you give into them, resulting in shame and fear.

God has designed a better way!

If you’re a believer, God has gifted you with the Holy Spirit. When those doubts creep in (and they will!), ask the Holy Spirit for help. He will empower you to continue believing God is trustworthy, God is good, and God has given you everything you need. He will empower you to resist any temptation with which you are faced.

The more you take them captive, the more those “Did God actually say …?” thoughts will start sounding like a shout in a silenced room or a deejay’s record screeching to a halt, and the sweeter your community with God will be.

And, yes, I’m talking to myself.

He Transferred Us: Reflections on Colossians 1:13-14

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14, ESV).

As I’ve been spending time in Colossians, these verses have jumped out at me almost every time I’ve read through chapter one. I’ve thought about the fact that I no longer live in the domain of darkness. I’ve been thankful for redemption, forgiveness of my sins. I’ve rejoiced because Jesus changed me (and is still changing me!).

Today, the word “transferred” stuck with me. I tried to think of a word picture in my mind to bring the idea of “transferred” to life for me. Along the lines of my last post, I thought about transferring money from one account to another, or even from one person to another person. Eh. This time, that picture just didn’t seem like enough for me.

Then I remembered that time I transferred colleges. Ah. That brought this verse to life for me today.

Three days before classes started in the fall of 2000, I sensed God leading me to transfer from Charleston Southern University to North Greenville College. This was going to be HUGE for me. I loved CSU. I had friends at CSU. At the end of my freshman year, I was almost a junior at CSU. I pledged a sorority at CSU. I was signed up to be an R.A. at CSU. Life was good at CSU.

But God was leading. He was drawing me to step out in faith and transfer.

So I did!

(There is so much more to this story, because it is a big piece of my faith story, which is a small piece of God’s big story. All of those details aren’t my point today, though. My point has to do with the transfer itself.)

When I transferred from CSU to NGC, my identity changed. Yes, I was still Rachelle Kirkpatrick, Sophomore, but I was now a student of North Greenville College.

My classes were no longer at CSU. They were at NGC.

My CSU professors were no longer teaching me. The incredible professors at NGC took me on. (They’ve probably recovered by now.)

My dorm room was at NGC. My meals (most of them anyway) were eaten in the NGC cafeteria, where I was employed. I bought my books from the NGC bookstore, where I was also employed.

My new friends were also students at NGC.

My report cards came from NGC.

My ID card had the NGC logo on it.

My car parking tag had the NGC logo on it.

I even put NGC stickers on the back window of my car.

When I graduated, I didn’t shake the CSU president’s hand. I shook Dr. Epting’s hand.

Rachelle Adams || He Transferred Us: Reflections on Colossians 1:13-14

After being hugged by Dr. Epting, I didn’t say, “Awww! Thank you!” to the president of CSU.

Rachelle Adams || He Transferred Us: Reflections on Colossians 1:13-14

After the ceremony, I didn’t shake hands with professors from CSU. I shook hands with professors from NGC.

Rachelle Adams || He Transferred Us: Reflections on Colossians 1:13-14

My diploma doesn’t say “25% Charleston Southern University, 75% North Greenville College” across the top.

You get my point.

When I transferred, I was no longer one of Charleston Southern’s students. I was and will always be a part of North Greenville. They took me in and made me theirs. Forever.

So, back to Colossians. God transferred us from “the domain of darkness” to “the kingdom of His beloved Son”.

Let that sink in for a second.

I am no longer a part of the darkness. It has no dominion over me. I won’t get to Heaven some day and receive a slip of paper that says, “67% darkness, 33% kingdom of Jesus”. That isn’t going to happen.

I belong to Jesus 100%.

100%!

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!!

And that’s the truth right now, not just when I go to Heaven. The verse says “has transferred”, meaning it already happened. Yes, I still sin. Yes, I still act like I’m under the domain of darkness.

But I don’t have to.

I can walk in freedom from sin and shame and darkness and death, because God transferred me!

Oh, that’s the other thing. I may have filled out the paperwork to transfer to North Greenville, but God did this transfer for me! HE transferred me from darkness to His kingdom.

And I’m so thankful He did!

Even Dave Ramsey Couldn’t Pay Off This Debt

Before Joseph and I married, I acquired several thousands of dollars in debt. Each month, I paid the minimum payments required to pay off my car, my student loan, and some credit card debt. Paying more than the minimum payment was rare, so I wasn’t gaining much traction. At the rate I was going, it would have taken me YEARS to repay my debt. YEARS.

I mentioned my debt to Joseph one day. “I could pay that off for you,” he replied.

*blank stare*

“Really. I have money in savings, and I could pay your debt.”

*tears*

*overwhelming feeling of gratitude*

I wasn’t in a position at the time to repay my financial debt, and I had someone who loved me offering to pay it for me.

None of us are in a position to pay our spiritual debt, and the One who created us and loves us perfectly has paid it for us.

Rachelle Adams: Even Dave Ramsey Couldn't Pay Off This Debt || A Reflection on Colossians 2:13-14
Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV)

Paul wrote in Colossians 2:14 that Jesus “[cancelled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” I love that wording, because He didn’t just pay it; He cancelled the record of it. I’ll never find a manilla envelope in a file cabinet in Heaven with a record of my debt. Jesus paid it and erased it. Gone.

With financial debt, we can create a plan and essentially work off the debt. We can increase our income and decrease our spending. We can snowball our debts until we finally get to call Dave Ramsey and yell, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!”

With our spiritual debt, we can’t work it off. We can’t increase our good deeds and decrease our bad ones, hoping to balance the scale. We need someone to pay the debt for us.

That someone is Jesus. He took our debt upon Him – debt far greater than what I acquired by going to college, buying a new car, and overspending each month – and He was nailed on a cross to make the payment. To keep with the bank-ish theme, our debt was transferred from our account to Jesus’s account, and He paid it all, because we never could.

The beauty of that clicked a little for me the day Joseph offered to pay my financial debt. It clicked a little more today as I read and prayed over Colossians 2. I’m praying it will click for you as well.