How Motherhood Begins, Continues, And…

Recently, I went through a study with some friends through the book of Nehemiah. I was reminded during the study of our journey to adopt and bringing Nehemiah into our family. Two years ago today, our lives changed with a simple phone call. We often joke how you never know what a day will hold when you wake up and this day is a reminder of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Josh was preaching though Nehemiah when God changed the beating of our heart from {we will adopt someday} to {God is calling us NOW to adopt}. Our prayer through this time echoed that of Nehemiah: Break our hearts for what breaks Yours. And our hearts broke for the marginalized and orphaned…

After 6 months the initial paperwork was completed and we were accepted into our agency’s Ethiopia program, our desire was for an infant, just like everyone else. As the wait times increased we decided to pursue a concurrent adoption of an domestic infant.

We met a young birthmom, it would have been easy, she had been under the care of her aunt, had never missed an OB appointment, we fit right in with her and the family, and could imagine ourselves at BBQ’s with them all.

But she did not choose us.

A week later, we got a call telling us, “Come to the hospital, bring a car seat and some clothes because we have a baby boy for you!”

This situation was messy and would require so much more from us than we had imagined.

For our son, Nehemiah, God’s hand has been on him from before he was born. Literally, God saved his life. His birthmom was wandering the streets, she had decided to take her own life and the life of her unborn baby. Yet, God in his love planted a love in her heart for that unborn child which saved her own life and his.

The moment of adoption is surreal. So many things go into that moment that moves so quickly.

We found ourselves at the hospital, signing papers to become the parents of a child we had never met.

After we arrived at the hospital, Josh and I sat for hours in the cafeteria just waiting. We couldn’t talk, read or do anything, our hearts were pounding, just wondering what this boy would be like and how our lives would change. They were excruciating hours. Where all you can do is wait some more. You are so close, but you are just waiting some more.

We don’t know how he entered the world, in a fit of screams or a quietly and observant, he would be two days old when we got that call. He was little, born at 5 pounds and who knows how many weeks. Josh always joked that he looked like Benjamin Button because of how wrinkly his skin was and how he hadn’t grown into it.

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The birthmom’s first words to us were, “do you want to hold him?” The emotions in that moment were overwhelming. The answer was yes, but it was also so sad. We learned again in that moment the heartbreak that goes into adoption. Someone places a child for adoption. All situations are different, but adoption always has hurt in it at some level.

We talked with the his birth parents, took some pictures and just adored this little bundle. The birthdad left in a fit of tears, Birthmom went to another room to be discharged. And we were discharged with our newest son. We were in shock, and felt like we were taking someone else’s baby. Yet we were in love and knew that he was entering our family now.

Nehemiah entered our family and community seamlessly. He was little, but overall healthy.

It was the spiritual warfare that we felt during that time that was so hard. I remember waking up at night with him laying in the bassinet next to me seemingly terrified of him… the times of sensing someone else was there.

The tears that flowed after the endless meetings with birthmom the first few months, hearing her story of abuse and neglect, the oppression and demons that she had fought and was currently fighting. The birthdad spent time in jail, he only made it to one or maybe two visits. It was not clean.

The visits tapered off, partly because of our covenant and presumably because it was too hard for her to keep up her end of the agreement.

We have continued to pray, “Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

We are living that, though it is easy to forget and whitewash our Nehemiah’s journey. I wonder now what to do for Birthmom, she lives in squalor, without a proper kitchen. What is our role in her life right now? But I don’t have answers.

I had huge prayers for her to turn her life around to see and cling to Jesus. Those prayers have not been answered as I hoped. In all, you are reminded that you don’t save anyone. This is what people often say to us, “You saved him.” They mean well and we understand, but we didn’t save Nehemiah. We can’t. He’s a precious child that God loves dearly and has great plans for us, but only Jesus can save him.

When Josh and I are asked why we adopted 2 kids, our simple answer is, “God adopted us. This is the best way we know how to show that the world around us.”

Our lives have changed a lot in the last 2 years. We’ve brought Judah home, Nehemiah is now a tank of a kid and into everything as he’s grown. He brings a smile to our face and loves kisses and trailing after his siblings. We pray that as he grows, he will be like Nehemiah in the Bible. That he will grow as a leader, to be a man, that has a heart that breaks for the things of God. That he in some ways, lives up to the name we gave him.

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The Slowness of God’s Timing

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In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness. He is slow; we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity…There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow our souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. He does not go their road. When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours. But when He slackens, slacken at once: and do not slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God. -Frederick Faber

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Weakness is the way.

What does J.I. Packer mean by “weakness”? He defines it as “a state of inadequacy, or insufficiency, in relation to some standard or ideal to which we desire to conform” (p. 49). In the case of Paul in particular, and even of Christians in general, it means a realistic acknowledgment in facing not only our fundamental human limitations (such as those we encounter in the physical, intellectual, and relational realms of life), but more importantly our sinfulness, our transgressions, and the guilt that these entail. Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians (and to us) is that the only proper response is to “look to Christ as your loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord” (p. 50). The Christian must “love Christ, in unending gratitude for his unending love to you” (p. 51) and “lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and unfriendly people may be making you feel at present” (p. 51).

Matt Walsh on The two worst arguments against homeschooling.

Why do I even need to debunk the socialization claim? You’ve seen our society, haven’t you? You’ve interacted with people, right? Homeschooling might be increasingly popular, but the vast majority of the people you meet have been public schooled. And you’re telling me that the vast majority of the people you meet are ‘socially well adjusted’? Really?

100% of mom’s are working moms.

By discouraging women from seeing motherhood as a job, we segment our lives into our own false categories of work and non-work. We inevitably pit one against the other.

Rich Birch on 15 things you need to know about Facebook if you are a pastor.

8 things healthy couples don’t do.

It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Brandon Hilgemann on 5 mistakes pastors make on easter and how to avoid them.

Resurrection Sunday is next week. It will be a big day in churches around the world, so be careful to avoid these five mistakes pastors can easily make.

Kenny Luck on Sexual atheism.

In a recent study conducted by ChristianMingle.com, Christian singles between the ages of 18 to 59 were asked, “Would you have sex before marriage?” The response? Sixty-three percent of the single Christian respondents indicated yes. In my 30 years of youth and adult ministry experience, this is as unfiltered, direct and honest as a question and answer can be. It is equally honest to say that nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practicesexual atheists. In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least, anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct. It is the ultimate oxymoron. A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually. It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NIV). There is disconnect between identity and activity.

Tim Challies on Why “how many people go to your church” is a bad question. Great perspective.

Instead of going to the easy question of, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we ask things like this:

  • How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in your church?
  • What evidences of the Lord’s grace has your church experienced in the last few months?
  • What are you excited about in your church right now?
  • Who are you excited about in your church right now?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you?
  • Who have you been discipling recently? Tell me about some of the future leaders at your church.

Joel Miller on Internet porn and the decline of faith.

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest? Could it be related to porn?

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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6 ways to stay off the emotional roller coaster of ministry.

Ministry is an emotional roller coaster. Much of leadership is for that matter. One day you’re on top of the world,. The next day you want to bury yourself in a deep cave. You probably think only the way to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry is to quit. To leave it for a more normal life. It’s not. In fact, I don’t recommend it.

Thom Rainer on 10 fears of church leaders.

Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

Joshua Shaw on 7 ways to engage men in church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse. We have done everything we can to open the doors for their acceptance and involvement, but when push comes to shove, the idea of staying at home watching ESPN, designing a logo for a new company, finishing a work project, or merely sleeping in, becomes top priority.

Eric Geiger on Your leadership shelf life.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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The 10 best & worst communicators of 2013.

Speaking out against the status quo – and actually creating change – is hard. The challenge and testament of a true communicator is to lead and influence action. The Top Ten Best Communicators of 2013 created change, caused us to think and act differently and powerfully moved us in the process.

Joshua Shaw on 7 actions to engage men in your church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse.

Practice may not be the key to success.

The study concluded that only one-third of variation in success (chess or musical) can be explained by practice — the bulk of variation comes from other factors. Other variables that might explain success (at chess or music) include intelligence, starting age, genetics and personality.

Jonathan Howe on 10 important discoveries concerning multi-site churches.

Other churches use a multisite model as a way of church planting. They identify areas of the city in which a church is needed, start a campus, then launch it as an autonomous church later on.

Chap Bettis on How a church can care for its pastor’s kids.

Too many children of pastors are casualties in the spiritual battle. After seeing the inner workings of the church, many do not want anything to do with the Lord or his people.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Carey Nieuwhof on 5 ways to become a better leader as you get older.

It’s tempting to think you’ve paid your dues, worked long hours and have some accumulated wisdom that everyone should be grateful to benefit from, but this attitude is also your death sentence. Nobody likes to be around a leader who thinks they’ve arrived, and your value to the organization plummets when you adopt this attitude.

J.D. Greear on What do you do when your church is too big and don’t know your pastor.

Here is the heart of my response: Why is the Senior Pastor the one expected to administer all the pastoral care? Doesn’t that presupposethe very “cult of personality” for which multi-site churches are often criticized? “I need to be known by my pastors” is a legitimate request. “I need to be known by that pastor because he is special” is not.

In praise of long pastorates.

Brothers, churches are not stepping-stones. It is wrong to pastor a church looking out the window for a bigger or better opportunity to come a long. The souls over which the Lord has made you an overseer deserve your best. For that matter, the Lord demands your best.

Does God give you more than you can handle?

I think God has promised us another, more helpful way to think through difficulty. But first we have to make an honest confession. God often gives us more than we can handle.

Kevin Bacon explains the 80’s to Millenials. 

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How to Not be Bitter When Your Prayer Isn’t Answered How You Like

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On a regular basis, either in my life or in a conversation with someone the idea of prayers come up, specifically prayers not being answered in the time we set forth or the way that we want.

This is a crossroads everyone gets to. Maybe you pray for something to happen in your spouse, to get a spouse and nothing. It might be a child and you see no movement. A pastor prays for his church to grow and it is shrinks.

These are difficult moments.

They remind we aren’t in control.

They also lead us to a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

There is an interesting verse in the story of Samson in chapter 14:4, it happens so quickly that you can easily read right past it:

His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Samson was sinning and doing the exact opposite of what his parents wanted him to and he was breaking God’s law. This is so heart wrenching to watch when a loved one wrecks their life. You feel helpless.

There is a crucial phrase that we can miss, that Samson, his father and mother were unaware of what God was doing and how God would work in this, in spite of Samson’s sin.

One author said, “What we don’t know may prove to be our deepest comfort.”

Maybe the prayer you are praying is not ready to be answered the way you want. Maybe it will never be answered the way you want. That doesn’t mean God is not listening or God does not care. Often, I find that when prayers are not answered how I want, it causes me to grow in ways I would not have chosen.

At that crossroads, we still have a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

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Women and the Cycle of Defeat

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I’ve spent the last 3 weeks speaking to the women of our church in our series BeautifulTo prep for it, I read a bunch of magazine articles, blog posts and books on the struggles women have and what teenage girls struggle with.

Reading stats on body image and eating disorders, depression, feelings of loneliness that they have and how most women live with a sense of defeat and that they will never live up to a standard they have in their mind, a standard their parents or spouse have for them.

While photoshop make the struggle women have with their bodies unwinnable, it is almost like they look though the lens of photoshop for everything in their lives.

I preached on Proverbs 31 this past weekend and beforehand I got a number of emails from women saying, “I’ve read those verses, they are impossible so I simply give up.”

The reality is that most everything in the Bible is impossible on your own.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

While the standard for women in Scripture is high, it is for everyone. It is meant to stretch us and cause us to rely on God. That is why Proverbs 31:30 says that this woman fears the Lord. The fear of God takes away all fear, all defeat and refocuses on us on what matters and what will get us through what lies ahead.

Proverbs 31 is a story of a woman through the course of her life. Did she do all those things in the season her kids were small or right after she got married? Probably not.

One of the reasons I believe many women are defeated in their lives (besides the impossible standards they or others set for them) is that they often lack a vision of what their life could be like. I’m not sure if this comes from a personality trait, that men tend to be more logical and linear in their thinking but one of the common threads I heard from women after church this week was how easy it is for them to get stuck in the details of everyday life and not lift their heads above the fog to see what God has for them.

One of the challenges of Proverbs 31 is to have a larger vision for your life. To think bigger than what you do. Your life is meant to be more than what it is. Your life is meant to have a legacy. The problem is that most of the time, legacy is talked about strictly to men. We need that reminder. But women do as well. What you do with every minute of your life makes an impact down the road. This is true for everyone.

Yet, we often spend our moments on the wrong things.

Arianna Huntington said, “Eulogies celebrate our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.”

That is important to keep in mind.

I’d add that God celebrates our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.

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Looking Back on 2013 & Anticipating 2014

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On a regular basis, I like to email our leaders at Revolution and remind them of where we were last month, last year or 5 years ago. For me, seeing where I’ve come from, where our church has come from, helps me to rely on God but also celebrate his grace towards us.

With that, here are some celebrations at Revolution in 2013:

  • 20 people were baptized this year, many of them new Christians. This is the most we’ve ever baptized in one year.
  • Our average attendance grew by 21% in 2013, from just under 200 to a little over 250. Each of those numbers represents a story and a person that is impacted by the good news of Jesus.
  • Planet Rev has grown by 25% in the last 3 months under the leadership of Jennifer Ingram, Cat Hibble and Rachel Redman. I love the passion these women bring to this important ministry. Since the start of Revolution, our kids attendance has made up over 30% of Revolution Church.
  • Mike DeAlto leading Rev Up. Mike is young (although he’s the same age Paul and I were when we started working in student ministry) and is on his way to becoming the leader God has called him to be.
  • Jason Wood started providing leadership to our Missional Communities and the impact he has made is already obvious.
  • We had 10 newcomer’s lunches with an average attendance of 14 adults.
  • We have 75% of the finances we need to launch our second Revolution Church (not sure on the location yet). From day 1 of Revolution, our dream has been to plant churches around the city and we are closer than ever to realizing this dream.
  • We preached through Ecclesiastes and the gospel of John. This is the first time we went through an entire gospel and it was stretching for me and our church to look at Jesus so in such depth.
  • We helped to plant Central Church in Midtown. So excited to see how God continues to use Dave Goffeney and his team.
  • Over $5,000 was given to our Christmas offering and over 100 pajamas were given to Magee Middle School to give to kids in foster homes in Tucson. I love the generous heart of our church.
  • We had 20 people take the 90 day giving challenge and take the first step in trusting God with their finances and letting go of control in an important area.

Things to anticipate in 2014:

  • We are doing our first woman series called Beautiful and our first man series called FightThis is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this and I think it will challenge the men and women in our church to be who God created them to be.
  • Rev Up participating in a summer camp. The impact that happens in a student’s life when they go to camp is enormous. Lives, futures and destinies are changed by going away and hearing from God. I’m so excited that Mike DeAlto is doing this.
  • Begin preview services for our second Revolution Church location in the fall/winter and Lord willing launch sometime in 2015.
  • Adding a second service. As we continue to grow, this will become more of a reality and open up space for more guests and give people options of attendance on Sunday morning. I had a mentor tell me: the more options you give people, the more people opt in. 
  • Hiring a full-time children’s pastor. I’m not sure when this will happen, but we are getting closer and closer to this reality and need. Our families need someone dedicated to this ministry on a full-time basis.
  • Adding at least 5 more missional communities. We need more space for the people God is sending to us.

[Thanks to Luke Simmons for the Image & idea for this blog]