Colossians 3:17

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grief and Rejoicing

For many years, I have rattled off "Jesus wept" as the shortest verse in the bible (John 11:35), mostly as an irrelevant bible factoid to wow people with my biblical knowledge.  Me: "Hey, did you know that 'Jesus wept' is the shortest verse in the bible?"  Them: "Wow."  Something like that.

I have often thought of that verse with comfort.  I found it especially comforting since I entered a season of grief two years ago when my dad passed away, a season that I believe will continually change and get easier to bear though it never really ends (I think we can never stop missing one we love so dearly).  It comforts me that even Jesus, who understood God's plan better than anyone, still wept at the death of a friend.  It tells me that my grief is right and good, even in light of God's receptive promise of eternity.

A short while ago, in reading the book of 1 Thessalonians, I came across another "shortest verse in the bible: "Rejoice always" (5:16).  This one at first glance caught my attention because I had believed that "Jesus wept" stood alone as the shortest verse in the bible.  Clearly I was wrong.  But what kept my attention beyond that first realization was the contrast between both two-word verses: Jesus wept, Rejoice always.  They seem to contradict one another.

Like so many things in the bible, these two verses could give fodder to those who seek to discredit the bible based on seeming contradiction.  Or for someone like me, ready to believe all the bible teaches, they can at least confuse.  How can we rejoice always when clearly grief is so real and so painful that even the Son of God grieved?  This is a concept I have been struggling through the past two years and I believe I am beginning to understand.  Grief and Rejoicing.

The first piece of it is that grief is right and good.  It is not a lack of faith in God's promise.  It is a response of love for the one we have lost.  It is even a command: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).  Again, weeping and rejoicing smashed together in God's word.

The struggle for me at this point in my life has more been on the rejoicing end of the spectrum.  There are so many things that are easy to rejoice in: the beauty in nature, the laughter of children, the love of a good man, conversation with like-minded friends, delicious food.  But what about those days that are swamped with hard things, with wave after wave of brokenness and bad news?  There are those days too and what do I do with the other shortest verse in the bible: "Rejoice always"?

I believe God gave me a glimpse of this right after my dad's death when I read Joshua chapter 1.  God gives a command to Joshua to be strong and courageous as he enters the battles of the Promised Land.  I have heard verse nine quoted many times: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  People find comfort in God's promise to be with His people.  But what struck me the most was what God told Joshua in verse three: "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses." "I have given to you."  Joshua hasn't even entered the land yet, but God claims to have already given it to Him, and He asks Joshua to proceed as if the gift has already been received.

This is how God works.  He speaks a promise and asks us to rejoice as if we've already received it because, Believers, we have.  Though grief and brokenness surrounds us, our God has promised victory and healing and joy that will cover it all.  He commands us in faith to rejoice always, even in suffering because by faith His word is as good as true although we have not yet received it.  We can rejoice in our grief because we have faith in His promise.

This Sunday, the message challenged us in the midst of a broken world to "live into the promise," and that is exactly what "Rejoice always" means in light of "Jesus wept."  When I am overwhelmed with troubles and grief, I can lift my eyes above it to the promise of everything restored, everything made right, and rejoice in the God who loves us so much that He can turn our weeping into rejoicing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Waiting Place

2015 has been a waiting place for me.  I don't know about you, but I don't like waiting places.  After Matthew moved back to his birth mom in January, we decided to wait until Adel started his second semester of his Master's courses before we tried to find a new possible foster match for us.  Then, right about the time we would have been open to foster kids again, we followed God's undeniable call on us to move and downsize.

That move has been a huge blessing and we love our new home and our new neighborhood.  Contrary to what I thought before we moved, I feel that our new home is actually better equipped for our future kids than our old home was.  After feverishly getting settled from our move, we waited until Abby felt settled and happy in her new school.  Now we are waiting until our family (grandparents, my mom, and my sister's family) goes on the cruise we have booked for Thanksgiving week (yay!).

I had not realized how much I was just going through the motions of my walk with God until a few weeks ago, and until more of the pieces dropped together this morning. A few weeks ago, I noticed my relationships with others were out of whack.  Greater still, I noticed a great longing in me that I can only describe as the awareness of a disconnect with God.  Not that He had left me, but that I had strayed, ever so subtly from intimacy with Him.  I began to slow, to not just rush through the morning reading of His word, but to seek, longingly for His message to my heart.

I have walked on both sides of that narrow path so often, between the mindless legalism of spiritual routine and the passionate communing with a personal God, that now it is much easier for me to see and feel the difference, at least once I'm back in line with Him. As I began to truly, prayerfully seek Him, He drew near to me again and has been slowly opening my eyes to the way He sees my circumstances and my heart.

His message to me started with a Sunday message about work and just going through the motions rather than working for the Lord.  Yep, doing that.  The Sunday following that one, I felt like I did when I was newly hired to run the children's ministry: humble and aware that it was much bigger than I could ever manage, ready to simply let His love flow through me to the parents, volunteers, and kids who crossed my path.

Then He gave me a clue in my morning devotional time.  I am in the not-so-interesting part of the book of Joshua, where the land is being divided up between the tribes (yawn).  As unlikely as a personal message could be found there, God spoke.  Joshua 17:14-18.  The children of Joseph are whining to Joshua about their puny inheritance since they were "a great people" (Their words. In other translations it is "numerous" people, but "great" is so much more fun to make fun of).  Joshua tells them If they are a "great people," and if the mountains they inherit are not enough for them, they can have any land they can win from the Canaanites in the valley.  With his use of if, I feel a little eye-rolling in his reply.

The children of Joseph then tell Joshua that the Canaanites of the valley have chariots of IRON.  Maybe it's because I have kids, but this sounds so whiny to me!  I hear them in a whiny voice: "But Joshua, they have chariots of IRON!"  In their defense, as foot soldiers, I can see that chariots of iron would be pretty scary.  Joseph's response to them is that they can have more land for their numerous tribe: "but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” (Joshua 17:18).  In his response, which simply repeats his first command to them (as any good parent of whiny kids would do), Joseph tells them to get down into the valley and face the chariots of iron.

As I read this, I noticed the exchange as unique among all the land-distributing that was going on.  This was exceptional because Joseph was requiring the children of Joseph to fight for their own land against a formidable foe.  As much as they sound a bit like whiney-behiney's I felt that they had a decent claim to whine.  Why was everyone else handed land already conquered and this tribe had to fight on foot against iron chariots to claim their promise?  That's where I left it, just a mental note in my morning reading, until my devotional reading today brought it all home.

This morning I was reading My Utmost for His Highest, a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers.  Today was one where God used Chambers' words to reach out and squeeze my soul.

What first caught my attention with this devotional was that it describes the difference between the soaring mountaintop experiences with Christ, and the daily drudge through the valley of humiliation.
The second thing that caught my eye was that it was about a passage God had used to speak to be a year ago (see Christ's Mission, which is kind of hilarious...or humiliating...because it's pretty much the same message as I received today).  But what really grabbed my soul was when it asked, "what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now?" I thought about it for a moment and then, wham, I realized my humiliation was my waiting place.

When you make a big mountaintop announcement like, "we're going to adopt" and then you don't...for a year...and the foster workers are wondering if you're really in it, and friends you know who started after you are getting placed with children before you, and there's so much uncertainty and doubt about the calling and the future of this crazy plan, I'd say that's humiliation.  I don't mean, and I don't think Chambers means, humiliation as in embarrassment.  Rather I mean it in the sense of knock-you-to-your-knees humbling.  The waiting place is humbling.

But the waiting place is what it's all about.  As Chambers says, "The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God."   Yes!  And how that helps my heart while in the waiting place and the drudgery days.  This is the living out of the calling, the waiting and the working and the struggling toward the mountaintop vision.

That's when God brought me back to the passage in Joshua 17.  The children of Joseph are me!  Given the vision and carried only so far as the border of their inheritance, they have to work to gain the promise while others are given their promise before them.  Like them, I have been grumbling about the work of trudging through the valley, of packing and unpacking during a move, of Master's classes and ministry challenges and foster training classes, of waiting for the right time to claim the vision God had given me.  And, ugh, how much have I thought myself "great" that I should expect God to deliver the right children to our family at the time of my choosing?

As if to knock it all home, while I was even writing these words, God struck me through the words of a song that's playing on the radio (Abide by Jenny and Tyler): "The labor of God is to trust in the Son."  I have been wanting so much to get to the labor that God has set before me of adopting children that I have forgotten and forsaken the true labor of God, simply trusting in the Son.

What a beautiful and empowering reminder to trust in the Son in the valley of waiting.  Do I trust Him with the vision, with the timing, with my family, my hopes and dreams?  Do I trust that He has me right where He wants me at this moment?  Will I follow Him through the valley?  When you put it like that, the answer is of course yes, and thus only by trusting in Him, my strength returns to do so.   I am in awe of God's great love for me that He would encourage me when my heart can be so very far from His.  He is so good.  He is worthy of trust in the waiting place.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Birthday

My birthday started a week early with my present: new bikes for everyone!

So proud of Abby that she's really riding now!

Bike selfie

 Our first ride was to Canes for dinner. 

Then we rode to Buccee's for dessert. 
We got home after dark so maybe it was a little much for a first ride, but I loved it and we've gone several times since then.

I share a birthday with my friend and coworker who is also named Megan.  We enjoy getting celebrated at work together. 

On my actual birthday, Adel made his famous chocolate soufflĂ©. Super yum. 

Then, I conquered the Kemah bridge and my 37th birthday with these two lovely ladies on a 10k that took us 4 times over the bridge. 

 Lastly, we celebrated with family.  What a week!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Family Gathering

For Labor Day, my family made the trek our way to enjoy food and family time together. 

My sweet grandparents, DD and Papa.

Abby and Mia helping Nana make deviled eggs.

A game of risk. 

While they were here, we got a call from "Mickey and Minnie" letting the kids know they are going to go on a Disney cruise in November.  It was pretty hilarious because the Sharps had Mickey on speaker phone and 5 seconds later Mickey would be saying the same thing on our speaker phone.  So pretty much no one could understand a word he said, except for CRUISE! But that was enough.

They were pretty excited!

Disney shirts.

Top it all off with Ice cream, and it was a pretty sweet day. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ears Pierced!

She's been asking for it for a few months.  Then she nearly backed out when we got there.  I was so proud of her that she did it even though she was scared!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lego Birthday

Isaac's buddy Jackson couldn't make it to the party, so we had him come to dinner with us on Isaac's actual birthday. Isaac's choice: Olive Garden for butter noodles.  

The kids jumped on the trampoline while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Then the lego contest began.  I did a terrible job of taking pictures of their creations.  We did 5 contests: Best Lego Man, Fastest Car, Tallest Tower, Dumbest Invention That's Actually Useful, and Strongest Bridge.  This time around the kids are actually old enough to build some awesome feats of engineering. 

Happy 10th birthday Isaac!