He Frees Us.

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“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”- Hebrews 13:14

I woke up sort of feeling like I have been hit by a train. One of the girls slept well last night, and the coughing was minimal for the other. All the adrenaline from the past few days and nights is wearing off, and I am finally going to begin to feel the physical effects of what just happened.

We are “home”.

I state this in quotes because after walking through the week that we have, I am even more relieved to say that this world is not our final destination.

It’s just not.

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“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”- Galatians 5:1

Many of you have wondered or asked what sickness the girls had. When they sent off the virus panel, a part of me hoped for something more glamorous- something that, logically, would have put us in the hospital.

A cold. They have a cold.

This is the second hospitalization we have had with the rhinovirus, a fancy word that many children walk around with for months and months with no effect.

I was really hoping that the gtube was going to prevent future dehydration and severe illness from these kinds of things, and while it has certainly helped, it is clear that we still need to be diligent in protecting our girls’ delicate little bodies.

Hugh wrote his prayer warriors an email this morning, and he said this sentence,

“May we not be slaves to circumstance or objects of logic- but free to serve Christ.”

Objects of logic.

Logically, this week has been a nightmare.

I could spend all the time in the world dwelling on and thinking about the details of it all- how odd it seems that the girls have never been in the hospital at the same time, yet the one week of the year we feel called to have Hugh leave the country, they are admitted within twelve hours of one another.

The level of spiritual warfare in the details of our circumstances this week has been palpable.

We have an enemy of our souls who would have loved for us to respond in fear.

But God.

Having faith in the midst of “no matter what” does not require you to be a strong person. Having faith in the midst of anything- putting aside all logic and all situational details- simply but profoundly requires you to be so rooted in Christ that come what may, you are reminded that in Christ, you are quite literally, “raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6).

We don’t have to camp out in the brokenness of this earth when we know our souls have a permanent position at the right hand of God, solely based on Christ and His record and His righteousness and His act of love on the cross.

It is well with my soul only because of Jesus.

As the sweet old hymn states,

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”

Friends, grace teaches us to fear God with a holy, non-condemned, worshipful fear so that we do not have to fear anything else.

Though the mountains might move, we won’t be shaken.

In Christ, the details of this world can always be trumped with the sheer knowledge that we are promised we stand as permanent pillars in the house of God (Revelations 3:12).

It may seem like we are stuck shoulder deep in the mire and muck of whatever is in front of us, but rest assured, things are not as they seem.

A greater reality exists in the unseen, and like Paul, we can confidently say,

“…But none of these things moved me.” (Acts 20:24)

He promises us that as our days, so shall our strength be (Deuteronomy 33:25).

We cannot fathom the strength we are going to need tomorrow; nor were we ever supposed to be able to do so.

That’s the point.

That’s where faith steps in.

Like the lepers that were cleansed from their disease in Luke, we must know that we will not receive healing or faith or resolve or peace without stepping forward in trust and obedience.

“As they went, they were cleansed.”- Luke 17:14

I can confidently type these words because I very literally just experienced one of the most challenging weeks of my life thus far, and as I went, I was cleansed from my fears and upheld by His sovereign hand.

Beloved- afflictions are simply threshing instruments God uses to loosen us from the world (Isaiah 28:29). There is nothing enjoyable about them at the time, but as a believer, there is a deep-seated peace that is given in the midst that surpasses all understanding or “objects of logic”.

If you are stuck in logic you can never be rooted in Jesus.

At 3 in the morning on Monday night, as I walked from the hospital room where I had been up all night with a child who miserable- coughing and vomiting up blood every few minutes- to the Emergency Room to meet my mom and friends who had my other sweet baby girl, covered in the blood she had vomited up, lethargic and certainly needing medical attention- I simply carried my Bible.

I opened it up as I went to meet them, and 2 Chronicles 32 stared me in the face,

“Do not be afraid of dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

I may not be up against a king but there is an enemy and his horde of demons is real and if this sounds crazy to you, than you have never walked through a trial with God as your General. The war has already been won. He sees the victory. Yet, for us to be able to grasp this, we must participate in some of the battles. Yet, don’t miss this: only by His strength. We say yes to Him and He does to the rest- not with an arm of flesh but with the power of the Almighty God of the universe. And, because it’s quite literally not us fighting, we don’t have to feel strong to be confident in the reality that He most certainly does.

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We have almost come out of the other side of this particular trial, yet I am sure there will be another one around the corner. I do not know what it will look like, how much of a breather we will have in between, but this I do know- I am relieved that He is the One who fights for me. I am assured that He will give me the ability to walk through whatever may come as I fix my eyes on Him and as I take hold of the freedom that has been offered in Christ.

Unmoved.

Unshaken.

Only by His grace.

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”- Psalm 119:71

May our love for the Lord, the One who gave His life up for us so that we could be freed from the brokenness of sin and death and suffering forever; may this love propel us to see these hard things we go through as stepping stones to more of Him and a greater grasp of eternal perspective. We must allow God to have His way with us in order to experience the benefit of this peace no matter what is placed in front of us.

All glory today to Him and Him alone.

“The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures. Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”- John Newton, Amazing Grace

God in the Mundane.

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I get out syringes, two bottles, tubing extension and the morning medications.

Like clockwork, I prepare all the things that keep the girls as comfortable as possible throughout the day.

I could do it blindfolded.

I vent each of their bellies, feeling content if I am able to get a good bit of gas out; feeling concerned if the color of their stomach contents seems to contain any sign of illness.

After feeding the girls and keeping them upright for some time, we get dressed and ready for whatever the day holds.

Sometimes, we have several therapy appointments.

Usually, a doctor’s appointment is thrown in every week.

An exciting day includes a walk with a friend or errands out and about.

“How old are they?”

“It’s about time for a nap, momma. They are almost asleep!”

“Are they identical?”

“They are so good just to sit there.”

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Each night, after Hugh gets home and we feed the girls dinner, the sleep battle begins. A good night means sleep comes within the first thirty minutes; a bad night makes for an hour or so of restless tossing and turning and stair running and pacifier giving, with the occasional random vomiting thrown in. Once they finally settle down to sleep, I will stare diligently at the monitor for an hour or so until one of the girls begins to have a seizure. Hugh or myself will quickly make our way to their room, sit beside her bed and let her know we are there until her brain begins to fire normally again. She will smile and fall asleep once again. Hugh and I will spend a few minutes reading, watching t.v., or playing cards; then we will lay down and hope that we are able to sleep for a few consecutive hours.

Tomorrow will begin the same way as today, unless sickness or seizure or a new something rears its head.

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“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…to Him be the glory.”- Ephesians 3:20

We all have those defining moments in our lives. The things that bring trial and suffering or big joys and celebrations. Yet, most of our lives are spent in these middle times, in the mundane. Each one of us has a day-to-day that looks a little different; yet I would say that while we crave a sense of routine, we also despise it a bit. We feel we are meant for more in the moments that feel so plain. We desire for our hearts and lives to be set afire with passion and adventure; yet the reality of responsibility and “normal” living meets us each morning.

“For to this end (godliness) we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God.”- 1 Timothy 4:10

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”- 1 Timothy 6:6

God is teaching me the beauty of the little moments. We have heard it said by many that we will find ourselves looking back on our lives and realize the small things were the big things. Most particularly when our minds are busy with all the tasks of the day, with the to-do lists, I think the key to contentment is seeing God in those very moments. The truth is, most of us live most of our days in the middle. What I mean is, in between the life-changing, life-breaking events, most of our days are full of the little things. Our minds can race and churn with the busyness of whatever is in front of us until a big thing happens to stop us in our tracks; yet what joy is found when we make the thing in front of us, the person in front of us, the most important thing. God does not desire for you to wait for a crisis to come to realize the importance of a moment; He yearns for you to see the moment’s importance, now. Our God is a God invested in each and every detail. Look at creation. It doesn’t take long in an aquarium or zoo (or, gasp, simply exploring the great outdoors) to realize that He was intricately involved in each and every part of each and every creature. So many different types of birds and flowers and trees; each serving its own purpose that only our Creator knows in full. So many different people knit together in millions of ways. It’s always amazing to me that out of thousands of years, no two human (even identical twins I will point out!) have ever looked exactly the same. If you have breath in your lungs, the very moment in front of you matters and has eternal significance. When we begin to live in light of this truth, the mundane doesn’t feel so mundane anymore. As a Christ-follower, I confess that it is easier for me to see God in the big things. Yet, is He not equally present in one drop of rain or one flake of snow as He is in the storms and blizzards? So it is with us. Friends, this weekend, may we fixate on whatever He has before us. May we not look the the week ahead or even the hour ahead. True joy is found in seeing I Am right here, right now.

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“From the ends of the earth will I cry unto Thee; when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”- Psalm 61:2

Oh, might we see that the Rock is in this very moment. He hems in behind and before so that we can embrace whatever He has for us, today, in this small yet meaningful bit of eternity. When we know the God of the universe is living and active and present, we are able to find adventure in each and every bit of the time He has given us on this spinning planet. All is grace. All glory and honor and power and joy to Him now and forevermore.

He is here, beloved. Oh, might we pray for eyes to see.

“Why Are you Asking for My Money” and Other Adoption Elephants.

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In the Early Church, there was no such thing as fundraising.

They didn’t have GoFundMe sites.

There were no “t-shirts” to sell.

There was no need.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…it was distributed to each as any had need.”- Acts 4:32, 35

Now, we live in a “Powerball Ticket” kind of world; a world that says, “Me, me, me.” Most people desire to give something- it makes them feel good and it seems like the right thing to do. But giving until it stretches our own lifestyle? That’s a different story.

I remember the first time that I raised money to go on a mission trip. I had a little over a thousand dollars to collect, and if my parents were honest, they were uncomfortable with it. We didn’t lack the money to go on this trip, so why was I asking other people to give “their” money?

The words of the ministry leader have stuck with me years later. This leader told me that I wasn’t raising the money because our family could not afford it; I was actually allowing others to participate in furthering the Gospel in a way that would not be possible if they were not able to give.

Years later, we sit with a large number in front of us: $30,000. We do not have even close to that amount within “our” bank account.

While we always knew we wanted to adopt, Hugh and I thought the timing might be at point where medical loans were paid off and residency work was finished.

We should have known better.

God’s timing and our timing haven’t exactly always lined up.

But His clock reigns and His ways are best.

This we know.

I think the elephant in the room when people are raising money is always that little question that pops up in your head:

“Do they really need it?”

When it comes to adoption, in years past, I have heard several people say,

“If they can’t afford a child then why are they adopting in the first place?”

This statement is two-layered. From a practical standpoint, in our situation, I would tell you that once Baby Cheek is home, we can afford to provide he/she with his/her needs. The truth of the matter is, we do not decide the costs involved in bringing home Baby Cheek. For the most part, neither do the adoption agencies. There is no need to complain or argue or talk about the injustice in the system, for it is what it is.

“In the U.S., 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.” (Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute statistic)

This statistic is alarming.

It is heart-wrenching.

But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.

I am going to step on some toes in saying this, but it needs to be said:

If you are someone who doesn’t agree with raising support to bring a parentless child into a family- are you pro-life?

If you are, then how can we rationalize that we desire to “care for orphans and widows” but not give in order for someone else to do so?

I am saying these things gently-truly-and in love- but I believe that the Church needs to wake up to the truth of God’s Word and the urgency of being obedient to His commands.

I posted a Francis Chan video yesterday that speaks volumes to how we are called to live our lives, and if you haven’t watched, I pray you do. He gives a beautiful illustration that depicts how short our time on earth is in comparison to our eternity.

Friends, don’t waste your life.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”- James 1:27

This word visit- it’s definition is not to merely stop by. It is to care for and shelter and help.

When we talk about giving so that someone can do the very thing above, we are not talking about shelling out “your money” in order to let someone go on an extravagant cruise to the Bahamas.

I would argue that even if we were, it is more blessed to give than receive.

This is not a direct sales pitch.

Children are not homemade candles or nutritional products or a skincare line.

They are people who are precious in the sight of the Lord.

Friends, this is not just about our adoption. This is about gaining the understanding that all resources are God’s and that His desires for us are much bigger than to live a comfortable life, tithe as it doesn’t stretch us, and move on to take care of our own little bubbles.

There are many examples in God’s Word of people seeking the help of others in order to fulfill a command of the kingdom:

1 Chronicles 28-29 gives us a beautiful example of God’s people coming together to rebuild His Temple.

Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 1-2, boldly approaches the King in order to ask for resources to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

In Philippians, we are shown a stunning view of how giving graciously not only blesses the one receiving, but blesses the giver as well.

If Jesus is Lord over our life, He must be Lord over every area of our life.

In this process, we are learning what a gift fundraising is- it has confirmed our calling, it has stretched us to be bold about why we are doing what we are doing, and it has given others the opportunity to come alongside us in fulfilling God’s command to love the fatherless. I can also tell you that some of Hugh and I’s most satisfying experiences in this life have been when God asked us to give more than we were comfortable with and we stepped out in faith. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

I do pray that some of you will be called to step forward and give extravagantly in order to help us with #bringinghomebabycheek – but for those of you who do not- I pray that you would find someone or something that stirs your passions and ignites a flame that says, “I choose what God is doing in your life over temporary pleasures and petty desires that will fade. I choose to make eternity count more than this moment.”

I can promise you this: it will be worth it.

He is worth it.

The One who gave all deserves all the glory, all the praise, all the honor.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen!”- Romans 11:36

It’s all His anyway.

If You think we are Crazy you Should Get to Know Our Father.

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“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”- 1 Corinthians 15:14

“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”- 1 Timothy 6:12

Last night, one of the girls had a seizure for almost the hundredth time. I sat by her bed and held her hand until she looked up and smiled at me; then I went downstairs to get organized for the busy day we have today- full of a specialist’s appointment, a special education meeting, and occupational therapy. At the fist appointment, we will begin to talk about wheelchairs- the best seating for both the girls and for us as me as their main caregiver during the day. A few months back, the question came up, both from professionals and myself, of how I would be able to push the girls whenever I was by myself with them. I adamantly affirmed that I do not want to always have to have someone with me in order to get my girls out and about as they get older- I want to simply be momma with her girls at times- so today, we will discuss how in the world we could make this happen. In between meetings, I will need to feed the girls between appointments; and also discuss one of our medicines that was dropped out of the blue from our insurance. Eye surgery has been on the table for quite some time, so we will be emailing back and forth with that specialist to think about both the latest risk of surgery (seizures; likelihood it will not be a permanent fix) and benefits (potential for helping their vision at least for a season).

Last week, we gained a new piece of equipment that I have been wanting for quite some time- a hospital grade suction machine. (Funny the things that get you excited in the special needs world!) The girls have had chronic coughs off and on throughout these past few months, and with their muscle tone being so low, it is such grace that we have not had any major problems this winter. With that being said, for preventative care purposes, our physician wanted us to get this machine in order to help keep Bailey Grace and Ally’s lungs safe. They, understandably so, despise this machine and have horrible memories of it from past hospital visits; so I am hoping to delay this for as long as possible.

It seems our threshold is already pretty high, right?

So- why in the world are we adopting?

Why do we think we are ready now?

Why do we think He has called us?

If you think we are crazy, you should meet our Father.

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Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe…for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God…so it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’- pieces of 2 Corinthians 1:20-31, emphasis mine

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His strength cannot compare.

All Him.

Friends, we are not ready to adopt. We actually never will be. I’m not quite sure anyone is ever “ready” for anything that is worth doing. But God.

He has been ready since before time. He has called us for this specific season, and He is the One that is both carrying and equipping.

The Bible- God’s divine Word, the thing the Lord wanted all His children to know, speaks of many people who had two things in common: God-given faith and a whole lot of human weakness. Many of them, if not most of them, were stepping out to do the very thing that the world around them thought was absurd. Yet- how would their faith ever grow-how will our faith ever grow- if we spend our lives trying to stay comfortable?

You know, I think the church spends a lot of time trying to look attractive to the world; figuring out ways to be relevant and show Jesus, all at the same time.

What I really think a watching, cynical world needs to see is a people who recognize how extraordinary of a God we serve. A people who are stepping out into risky, big, God-led adventures- not for the sake of the shock factor; but for the sake of showing the glory of a God who is so other than man. The world will begin to listen when God’s children begin loving in a way that not only says but shows that, “There is no way this could work without God”.

And friends, if God doesn’t show up in this adoption- both the process and moving forward- we have no Plan B.

He is our only Answer.

He is the One we are trusting.

This is His plan from before the beginning of time.

Abraham was willing to offer his only son in what seemed like a futile, cruel, suggestion from a supposed loving God.

Noah began to build an ark, warning a world about a rain that they had never before seen and spending all his moments doing something everyone else thought was ridiculous.

Abraham went to a foreign land, stepping out before God even told him where he was going.

Sarah, way past child-bearing years and barren for as long as she could remember, received the power to conceive and birthed a child.

Moses left Egypt, risking his life for the sake of obedience.

God’s people crossed the Red Sea on dry land.

The walls of Jericho fell down after God asked people to march around them for seven days.

Daniel shut the mouths of lions.

David- known as a weak, small man- defeated the giant known as Goliath with one single stone.

Many were tortured and martyred all for the name of Jesus.

These are the people who God wanted to use.

These are the kinds of things His children have been called to.

So, what about you?

Our God is looking for people who seek to make His glory known by stepping out in faith, stepping forward in obedience, and doing the very thing that we can confidently say,

“If God doesn’t show up, we are in trouble”.

And friends- He will show up.

Let’s make one thing clear: this is not for the sake of pleasing man or displaying something for man’s sake. No. This is for Him. This is a response to the God who loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. His record is now mine, and that very truth causes me to want to do whatever it takes to know Him more and make Him known. As Erma Bombeck said it best, “When I stand before God at the end o my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.

We have seen God show up in our little family’s life in so many ways, and we want to move forward in what He has called us to with confidence that He would continue to do so.

A promise that I make to you is that you are going to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. For the ladies reading: I am not going to make this a “mascara and concealer” kind of reflection. I want to share our weakness- the true weakness- so that He can shine all the more. The reality of all of our lives is that the more authentic we choose to be, the more free we are and the more we are able to encourage others to do the same.

We do not know what is around the corner.

We know that this is not going to be easy.

Yet, as I have said before:

When we focus on what- our problems look bigger. When we fixate on why- we become more frustrated. Yet, when we remember the Who- we find peace, joy, and assurance.

Our Who is greater than all the questions or fears that come along with this journey.

The reward is great- more of Him and less of us (and a precious child of God to shepherd!)

My prayer for you today is that if you have not already, you begin to live a blank check mentality (this is something our former pastor and friend, David Platt, preached on often). That you would leave the date open, the amount open, everything open but the Who- all to God.

I want you to share in this journey with us because I want it to encourage you to step out in faith in your own story, trusting that God will always show up.

The task is big, yet our God is bigger.

All glory to Him and Him alone.

“He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:24

***I want to make note of the ways you can help financially with our adoption yet again. The Top Bar Above (Where the About Us link is) has a way to buy t-shirts or simply Donate at our gofundme site. If you choose to buy a t-shirt, note your size on the page in which you fill out your personal information. Thank you so much for your continued support and for choosing to play a role in bringing home baby Cheek!***

Our family’s #byanymeanspossible.

Our family’s #byanymeanspossible.

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I sat on the couch, Bible in front of me, coffee in hand.

He had been pressing in for almost a year now, and I had met Him with a response that said clearly, ‘Not now, Lord. Maybe not ever. You have got to be kidding me.’

How could I believe that He saw, that His ways were wise, when the very thing He was beginning to lead our family to do felt impossible.

Felt.

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”- Psalm 34:4-5

Okay, God. If you want to talk about this, let’s go for it.

I began to list each and every one of my fears, the tears getting more and more frequent as I went on. I realized all too quickly that every fear I brought to Him was met with a similar response:

That’s mine to carry. That’s my responsibility. I will provide.

The weight began to feel less heavy as I started to slowly let go of my own logic and begin to hold on to the promises of His Word.

I thought back on that very first day in the hospital with Ally and Bailey Grace. The day that they breathed their first precious breaths and our parenting journey with them began.

I didn’t know how to change a diaper that day; I knew I was unequipped to handle whatever was to come, so I simply began to pray-fervently- for His hand and His help.

And that was enough.

Now, a million diapers down and many more to go, He has walked us through more challenges than I could have ever anticipated; things that would have taken my breath away and caused me to run had I not known the joy and the intimacy with our Maker that would be to come.

I wouldn’t change a moment; for all moments have been His and one thing has been clear: He has kept us.

So, as I sat there on the couch that day, I began to gain a fierce confidence- not in Hugh or myself, not in our own abilities- yet a profound trust that the God who had walked us through the past few years would not call us into something and leave us there.

No.

He is coming with us.

As I cling to Him and as tears roll down my eyes, I share with you our family’s #byanymeanspossible :

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Only God Himself could take my fears and turn it into utter JOY, LOVE, and PEACE in this new piece of our story. To Him be ALL the glory!

SO much more to share on Monday.

By Any Means Possible.

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“And He (Jesus) replied to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”- Matthew 22:37-38

Before Hugh and I got married, we went through pre-marital counseling and spent many hours trying to unfold the mystery that would be the covenant bond we now live in. We read books, all about learning to love the other as best as possible. The truth is, all these things are guidelines. Only experience and God’s grace really teaches you to love another person in a way that they truly know and feel it.

In our family’s journey with our girls these past few years, I have heard from many people sharing pieces of their story and asking many questions.

How do you have faith when _____ happens?

How do you seek God in moments of pain?

How do you not let your emotions rule your response when it seems like all is falling apart?

In all these questions, I hear a vulnerable whisper that is really asking this:

How do I love God in the place He has me?

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 Bailey Grace is still having seizures almost every night. It happens at the exact same time, and every time I see her begin to seize on our video monitor, I jump up and stand by her bedside. She is not aware of what is going on during this time. She doesn’t not appear to be in any kind of pain. Yet, as a momma, love spurs me on to simply be with her in the midst of the misfiring of her precious little brain.

This morning, the first words Hugh and I said to one another were words of tension. A small disagreement on how we should handle a particular situation caused us both to speak shortly with one another. As he was about to leave the house, I smiled and gave him a quick kiss. In these moments, dropping the conversation at hand and showing him affection was in fact loving him.

The point I want to make is this: love is personal and love is specific and love is active. If this is true in our human relationships, why we would expect it to be any less true with God?

What builds intimacy with God is the same thing that builds intimacy with one another: brief moments throughout our day in which we choose to do the thing that puts Him first. Those choices that you make that maybe only He sees but that the two of you know to be real. Some of the most painful moments with my girls have also been some of the most intimate moments with my God. I remember a particular night in which Ally was hospitalized and we had been up all night with one of her coughing spells. The coughing and vomiting had gotten so bad that the nurse, needing to tend to other patients, left me with several hospital gowns and bed sheets and told me to push the call button if I felt like I could not handle it. Poor Ally was exhausted, it had gone on for hours, yet I was beyond sure I was not alone. God’s presence was so palpable in that room, so much so that I smiled and said aloud, ‘Lord, thank you for being here and making Your presence more real than this circumstance.’ I often think about that moment with the Lord whenever the day to day details begin to feel overwhelming I start to play the, ‘What if’ game. He will be there; experience assures me so.

Friend, loving God today is going to look differently for you than it will for me. It will uniquely personal to who you are and what season He has you in, but the commonality we will share is that it will be specific, it will be personal, and it will require action. Do not mistake feelings for love. Sometimes, our emotions follow suit and what a beautiful thing that is. In both the situations I listed above, however, my emotions were on a completely different page than my love. Often times, love is most displayed, in fact, when our emotions just don’t quite line up with the very thing we know is best to do in the moment.

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“That I may know Him… by any means possible.”- Philippians 3:10-11

Love does whatever it takes, and your whatever it takes is going to look differently than mine; yet I can promise you He will show you what that looks like as you earnestly seek Him.

If we want to love God- truly love Him- we have got to start being honest with ourselves about actions we are taking or things we are pursuing that do not express this love. I’m not just talking about the obvious sins- I mean the secret things of the heart that are taking up way bigger corners of our being than we would ever imagine. Our threshold to love God is lowered when we allow the things of this world to dictate our choices or our focus. When we fixate our eyes on Him, bringing Him the dark places, His light shines through the cracks and crevices and we are able to experience and share His light in ways we never knew possible. Yet, it is going to take you being gut-wrenchingly honest with yourself about those things you are afraid to admit because if you did, you would have to do something about them.

In the coming weeks, I am going to be sharing a lot about our personal “by any means possible”. This time last year, it looked differently than it does today. Life with God is far from boring; and as we seek His face, the adventure continues. My desire for you today is that you begin to reflect on the following things:

Do you want to love God more today than you did yesterday?

What are the things you are going to have to give up in order to gain more of that love? (Be careful with this. Following Christ has nothing to do with our performance, so know most assuredly that this has nothing to do with salvation. There is a difference in salvation and sanctification. Salvation happened once and for all at the cross and is received the moment you believe God and what He says about Jesus. Sanctification is a life-long journey and grants us more of the character of God- His peace, His presence, and the fruit of who He is).

What would it look like to choose the, “by any means possible” you feel God stirring in your heart and what are you going to do to begin taking steps of faith to do so?

As you make these choices, all for His glory, I would love for you to take a picture of something that represents that choice for you and tag me and include the hashtag, #byanymeanspossible . I want this to be a community that relies on God and His grace in all things in order to make courageous decisions through the lavish love we have been given. Hugh and I are trusting the Lord to show up BIG in our personal #byanymeanspossible . (More on that later). It is a beautiful thing to make a decision for God and know that if He doesn’t show up, the thing will not be possible. Friends, He will show up as we take steps of faith to do the very things we could not do without Him. I am praying for you as you begin to pray through what that looks like for you in the coming year. Let’s be brave through and to and for Him and Him alone.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”- Romans 11:36

2016: Heavenly Blinking Instead of Hopeless Thinking.

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Who doesn’t love a fresh start?

We all need it.

There is something ingrained in each of us that craves a blank slate; a do-over if you will.

As I have mentioned before, there have been several seasons of my personal life in which I was desiring to start over on an almost weekly basis. I knew I wanted to serve the Lord; knew I was most satisfied when I was in constant relationship and communication with Him, yet I found myself on a roller coaster that contained valleys of rebellion, twists and turns of legalism, and the occasional months that I would have considered true seeking of the Lord and His plan. I know I’m not alone in this. I know so many people who have walked through times where they desired God and His will and sincerely began living that out; only to slowly but surely begin to get distracted by the world and forget what was initially their authentic goal.

So, why do we keep going back to Him?

What I mean is, if seeking and trusting and believing and living for God is the very thing that we say satisfies us most, why is it so hard to keep doing so?

The truth is, none of us are promised tomorrow. We may think we know what life is going to look like, but that can be changed within seconds. That being said, this whole fresh new year really is a figment of our imagination in some ways; yet I think it can represent a key heart change in which the direction of our lives, the life we truly want to live, begins to take root not just in action but in spirit.

I can’t give you a twelve steps to freedom list.

There isn’t anything motivational enough hanging on a wall or a poster that will give you the drive to keep on keeping on in the faith.

Yet, I do have a few exhortations from His Word that I believe can help you begin to choose, consistently, to choose Him despite a culture that suggests anything but.

His Hands His Feet His Heart blog readers, the first thing I want you to remember as we enter in to 2016 is this:

There is a battle going on at all times, and the very nature of the word “battle” signifies that there are two sides.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand…to stand firm.”- Ephesians 6:12,13

The enemy of your soul would love nothing more than to have you think that your fight is against the people around you or the circumstances you have been placed in. Friends, that is a bold-faced lie. He would also love to convince you that if you shelter yourself enough from the things around you, secure “your” world, do the comfortable thing, micromanage your days, you will be able to stand. No. The truth is, without the armor of God, we are all left hopeless. With His armor, namely the righteousness and record of Jesus Christ and His Spirit within us, the victory has already been won. On this side of heaven, things will always be different than they appear. We have to fight the false mindset of self and present living in order to experience the peace and freedom of living for future glory, now. 2015, while full of many, many supports and celebrations, was also a year that challenged the very foundation of our faith. There have been times where it felt like we were in a video game in which we were the target and there were obstacles and dangers around every corner. I am learning to not let thoughts marinate until I analyze them beside God’s Word, and here is the truth: I am not the target. You are not the target. Jesus made Himself the target so that we could be free to know that in the end, God wins and the victory has already been won. From now until you meet God face-to-face however, you have an Enemy who is going to do all he can to convince you otherwise. Amidst seizures and unknowns and new health challenges and feeling isolated, there have been times this year that I allowed myself to go down the path of hopeless thinking instead of heavenly blinking. What I mean by that is this: I want to have my thoughts and heart and actions so turned toward God that with every blink of my eyes, He is what is on the forefront of my vision. And, I want that for you. In order for that to be true, we must not only realize we are in battle, we must also make our crucial aim to fall more in love with Him every day. The same Enemy above works hard at attempting to get God’s children to think God main desire for us is to radicate sin for our lives. Here is where these deceits get tricky: that was God’s main goal, but He knew we couldn’t do it on our own, so He did it for us. Now, because that was already done on the cross, He simply longs for us to fall more in love with Him. The more we know Him, the more we will trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we will serve Him.  The more we serve Him, the more we will be like Him. The more we are like Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him. When people ask me how we have had so much faith in this journey with our girls, I very quickly let them know that we haven’t. My faith has been weak but God has been strong and because of that, His faithfulness has become mine.

“For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.”- Psalm 26:3

In the beginning of this journey, I spent so much time focused on Ally and Bailey Grace. I was fixated on the God in our family instead of the God over the whole world, and while grace still abounded, I was not experiencing the peace that comes from fixing my eyes solely on Him and His purposes. The miracle of being a Christ-follower is that the more we focus on His character, His commands, communion with Him, the smaller our trials and suffering get. When we look at Jesus in the manger, we find Hope in a God who is so other than us but who uses all things. When we see Jesus on the cross, we find Grace and the Joy that comes from knowing whatever we are facing has been placed on His shoulders. When we read about the resurrected Lord, we find assurance that He is strong enough to do all that He has promised. Suddenly, our own “stuff” fades in light of His holiness. This is the beauty of the Gospel. While trials and tribulations are seen by God, allowed by God, and used by God, they were never meant to be the center of the story. Just like the joys and celebrations, the sufferings were always intended to point us to the One who ultimately overcame them all. Friend, any and every detail of the past year and the year to come has one goal in mind: for you and those around you to see and know more of God. And, to know Him is to love Him.

When Jesus was days and hours and minutes from being unrightfully accused, when He was about to take on the punishment that belonged to the whole world, He wasn’t focused on running from the suffering or avoiding the pain or looking to Plan B.

“Yet not my will, but Yours.”- Luke 22:42

Jesus continued steadfast in the truth that His life was about ushering others into the arms of their Savior, and He knew more than we could ever fathom the glory that awaited. It may seem that Jesus was others’ focused, and while this certainly was true in ways, I believe something more. I believe that Jesus was God-focused, and because of that, His love for others was abundant because He understood the love His Father had for His children.

In 2016, let’s be a people who fall more in love with God and trust Him to do the rest. Let’s look to God’s Word and offer Him up a blank canvas, or, as our former pastor and friend once preached, a blank check, to do with our lives what He will. This is where steadfastness is found. I do not know what this year holds for our family, but four things I am sure of: we have an enemy of our soul who hates us, we have the God of the universe who loves us. The enemy of our souls will do anything to convince us differently about God’s perfect, provisional, unconditional love. All glory to our Savior who gives me the assurance to say that in the end, God wins. No matter what this year holds, may you look to His Word and seek His presence in order to be able to confidently say in all things, but God. Happy New Year, friends.

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