2018: Presence and Joy, Jessica

As I sit here at the dining room table, with my Bible open before me (along with a journal and a couple of open, website tabs), my husband is plucking away at his guitar. Song after song, he sings and he plays. And as he plays, I read verse after verse.

The Christmas tree is lit; the house is still; a candle burns; and our hearts are tender.

As planned, our day began with a trip to the hospital. With bags packed and the kids secured at my parents, we drove to our second, pre-op testing appointment.

Blood work…check.

Chest X-Ray…check.

EKG…check.

Vitals…check.

Meeting with the surgery team…check.

Meeting with the Anesthesiologist…check.

“You are cleared for surgery! See you tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM!”

Those words were music to our ears.

After having waited another month for this new surgery date (since the first one was canceled due to a contracted cold just days before his surgery date), we were elated. Breathing a sigh of relief, we headed for a celebratory lunch before heading to our hotel for the night.

With a pep in our step and relief in our souls, we rejoiced in hearing this news. When we first met this sweet, 14 day-old, baby boy (March 19th, 2018 to be exact), we knew he would need this open-heart surgery. And oh what a journey we’ve experienced and oh, what a wait it’s been!

And then my phone rang at 1:43 PM.

I could scarcely understand her words.

What is she saying? I don’t understand.

I’m not sure why I kept blinking as she talked. Maybe if I blinked she’d change her words? Maybe it would all be a miscommunication? A silly mistake? An accidental misunderstanding?

Keep blinking, Jessica. Blink. Blink. Blink. 

But she said it again.

“I’m sorry, Jessica. We are going to need to reschedule his surgery again. There is another surgery that needs to happen tomorrow morning.”

Blink. Blink. Blink. 

“We can reschedule it for December 20th.”

Blink. Blink. Blink. What is she even saying? 

I was in absolute shock. And truth be told, I still am.

I won’t share all the details of the rest of the afternoon but suffice to say, it was a flurry and blur of calls, cancellations, and new confirmation dates.

And here we are.

Singing the songs, reading the verses.

Opening my Advent devotional, I began to read. And as I read, I came to the following words found in Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Immediately, the tears surfaced.

Why?

Because last year, on December 28th, 2017, I wrote the following words after reflecting on the past year and preparing for the one ahead:

———————-

So as I head into this next year, I’m asking the Lord for two more words. And so far, I’m hearing this…

2018: Presence and Joy, Jessica. 

And though I have no clue what awaits me in 2018, especially connected to these two words, I am starting by praying the following:

  • Lord, help me to intentionally draw near to your presence, listening and being still.
  • Help me be actively work to be present in the presence of others without distraction and without hurry.
  • Help me deliberately look for and choose joy, especially in the mundane and hard moments of my days.
  • Help me to consciously be a “joy-spreader” to those around me–in both my words and actions.
  • And may you, Lord, “make known to me the path of life [because] in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

———————-

Did you catch that? Do you see that?

The verse I claimed in the last days of 2017 are the very words the Lord has brought me in the very last days of 2018. Sitting at this table with an ache in my heart and a pit in my gut, HIS PRESENCE DESCENDS.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

No words.

Silently, I started to reflect.

He was there in January when we said “goodbye” to our foster daughter of 8 months.

He was there in February when the grief was heavy and my LPCC exam was before me.

He was there in March when we said “hello” to a baby boy with a congenital heart defect.

He was there in April when we went to endless doctor appointments and countless specialists with our foster son.

He was there in May when we were told our foster son might have a form of Spina Bifida.

He was there in June when we struggled with some job stressors.

He was there in July when we were told our foster son might have a Genetic Syndrome and missing chromosomes.

He was there in August when we experienced significant feeding and weight gain issues with our foster son.

He was there in September when our oldest son accepted Christ and prayed for salvation.

He was there in October when we received the GOOD NEWS that our foster son was cleared of ALL genetic syndromes.

He was there in November when the first surgery was canceled and when our daughter repented and also prayed for salvation.

And He is STILL HERE.

Revealing His presence in December, He continues to show up, show off, and encourage in a way that ONLY He can and He could.

Emmanuel. God with us.

And though those are just the “biggies” that come to mind, He was there in a thousand other ways…some seen and some not.

Through the big and little…the scary and happy…the hard and lonely…the weary and good…the highs and lows…

EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THIS YEAR, HIS PRESENCE WAS NEAR.

Friends, it’s been approximately 30,067,200 seconds.

I don’t know what the next 17 days of this year will hold, and I can’t guarantee that surgery will happen for our little guy in 2018, but here is what I do know…

He will not leave.

He will be near.

And in His presence, there is an eternal joy that cannot be stolen, squelched, or crushed.

Angels sing, praises ring to the newborn King
Peace on earth, here with us, joy awakening

At your feet we fall

Chris Tomlin, Adore

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Nestled Courage

Hands down, our son is one of the most creative, imaginative souls I have ever met. He loves to create and re-create…re-create and create. Whether it be with paper, a roll of Scotch tape, bottles from the recycling bin, Legos, rope, branches from outside, toys from the toy box, or any other medium he can get his hands on, he uses it.

He re-creates movies he watches, concerts he views, and baseball games he attends. He sets up libraries, art classes, hospitals, construction companies, and fire stations. He makes cookie stands, Taco Trucks, football fields, gymnasiums, and has even attempted to re-create a theater production in the confines of his bedroom. He has pretended to be a teacher, a scientist, a therapist, the President, a train conductor, a garage door installer, a City Manager,…and any other professional worker you could re-create and imitate.

Every single Friday of 1st grade, he always chose the Imagination Tub as his reward for Fun Friday. With a tub of empty boxes, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and other odds and ends, he would leave the building at 2:25 with some “creation” in tow. He created mailboxes, laptops, bird feeders, chapter books, robots, and a myriad of other contraptions from the refuse found in that little, plastic tub.

For Christmas last year, the child squealed when he received a remote control car ream of paper and a carton filled with rolls of tape.

When he was a toddler, his grandparents sent him a box filled with packing peanuts because they knew of his love for creating, re-using, and re-purposing materials.

And barely a day passes where we don’t find a used piece of tape on the bottom of our socks from one of his many creations.

The kid is always creating.

But never have I seen him create with words. EVER.

So when our boy handed me his composition book filled with lyrics to a song he recently wrote, his book-loving, word-appreciating, blog-writing, counselor-mom (who was also a former English teacher) about melted into a puddle of parental pride.

I don’t know what I was expecting (maybe a version of Itsy Bitsy, Old McDonald, or some other jingle about a topic that interests elementary-aged boys that may or may not involve food, football, or farting), but I certainly wasn’t expecting what I read.

I’ve Got Courage

I’ve got courage that you will help me. 

I’ve got courage that you love me. 

Oh, I’ve got courage in you. 

Oh, I’ve got courage that you will be with me. 

Wait. What?!?

Over and over, I read and re-read the lyrics to his song. And as I read, my heart stilled and peace seemed to flood my soul.

I needed these words; I needed the promises of these words; and I needed the Truth of these words. 

As we prepare ourselves for our foster son’s open-heart surgery…

As we face a variety of unknowns related to future houses and potential jobs…

As we begin a new year…

As we ready ourselves for the court ruling that could end or extend our foster son’s placement in our home…

I needed to hear the words to I’ve Got Courage, and I needed to be reminded of the HOLY WHO behind the “you” in our son’s lyrics.

Courage (noun): the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief

I’ve got courage that you will help me. 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I’ve got courage that you love me. 
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38

Oh, I’ve got courage in you

Oh, I’ve got courage that you will be with me.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Our son’s lyrics were directly from the WORD.

As the writer of the song wisely notes, our courage isn’t found in ourselves, our abilities, or our stuff. NOPE. Our courage is found in His help, and in His love, and in His presence. And because of that, we can face ALL of the hard and ALL of the unknowns with courage that is securely nestled in Him.

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He Came to Mend Hearts

Counting down to Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. FAV-O-RITE!

I love the twinkling lights; I love the Christmas festivities; I love the decorating with memories; and I absolutely love the anticipation that Advent brings to both our home and hearts.

Every year, we drag out the box full of Christmas books (because yes, mama has a book-problem), and we ready our Advent preparations. Pulling from our storage, we dust off the wire Advent tree; we place the wooden Jesse Tree ornaments in a bowl; and we secure our treasured Advent book to the middle of the kitchen table.

And the waiting begins.

As we countdown to the arrival of Christmas and talk about our eagerness for the second coming of Christ, I love the intentional focus and the calm slowness that settles over our home. Christmas music plays in the background, cinnamon candles burn, and we deck the halls and walls with berries and burlap.

Every book we read…every winter festivity we attend…every cookie we bake…every gift we wrap, we point our eyes toward the Christ-child. And as we buy and wrap the gifts we both give and receive, we speak of the STAR who donned that wood-beamed TREE–the HOLY BABY that blessed the world with the grace-filled gift of mercy we call “salvation.”

I. love. this. season.

So when our foster son’s open-heart surgery was canceled for November and rescheduled for December 14th, the tears stung.

As I hung up the phone with the Children’s Hospital, the thought reverberated in my head.

But that’s right in the middle of Advent! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!! 

And as the thought replayed, my heart became sour.

This wasn’t fair, and I was angry.

This wasn’t easy, and I was frustrated.

This wasn’t planned, and I was sad.

Friends, if I’m gonna keep it real, I let out a fist-shake to heaven and angry-whispered in the deepest parts of my soul, “This sacrifice is too much, God! TOO much! Haven’t we given enough? Why this? Why then? WHY?!?!?”

I wanted to be dancing to Christmas music and clinking mugs of hot chocolate…not sitting in a surgery waiting room!

I wanted to be decorating gingerbread houses in Christmas jammies and wrapping last-minute gifts…not huddled over a baby in an ICU bed with a scar down the middle of his chest!!

I wanted to be slowly and intentionally counting down to Christmas in the confines of my cozy home…not living out of a suitcase and eating from a hospital cafeteria!!!

I realize it doesn’t sound pretty or holy, but it’s entirely true.

I was frustrated, hurt, and all-kinds of mad and disappointed. And for the next two days, I stewed over the unplanned, unfair, difficulty of it all. My kids knew about my sadness; my husband knew about my frustration; and the Lord knew ALL about my anger.

And as I allowed myself more than enough space to grieve and simmer, the Lord was ever-so faithful and ever-so patient with my tantrum.

When I heard the words of His tender whisper, I had my head buried in a closet of old things that were receiving the wrath of my anger.

Ya know Jessica…the whole reason I came was because hearts needed mending.

I stopped dead in my angry purge, and the tears came. And they came, and they came, and they came.

It was true. It was entirely true.

And just as true as His whisper was, it was even more true that my heart was idolizing the countdown more than the Christ

Ouch.

Somewhere along the way, I had erected an idol in a corner of my heart that was labeled “Best ways to celebrate Advent” and without consciously being aware, my heart was becoming side-tracked by the stuff of celebrating rather than the Savior of the season.

Holy ouch.

I let His words simmer, and the Spirit spoke His Truth.

I came for your sadness; I came for your anger; and I came for your hurt. I came because of the disappointments; I came because of the difficult; and I came because things aren’t as I planned. I didn’t come because your life was “together” and your celebrations “perfect;” I came because they aren’t and would never be, apart from me. Jessica, I came for ALL kinds of busted plans and broken hearts (yours included), and I came because you needed rescue from YOU. 

It was true, Truth.

And just when I thought He was done, He whispered one more thing.

I don’t need your celebrations, Jessica; I need your worship. And sometimes worship looks like sacrificially serving–letting go of your desires and laying aside your plans. So maybe this year you’ll celebrate Christmas ME by loving a baby who is swaddled in ICU clothes and lying in a hospital bed. 

I was un-done. And truth be told, I still am.

So as we enter this Advent season, I find myself approaching the month of December with a tender heart and humbled knees–ready and willing to celebrate the Savior by offering hands of service and giving feet of sacrifice. Because isn’t that we He did that very, first Christmas for us?

Though He was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slaveand was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died [to self] a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

I have no clue what December holds, but I do know this: He came to mend hearts, and I’m so very glad He did.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

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Grace, Grit, and the Quitting Days

If I’m being perfectly honest, there are days when I want to quit, throw in the towel, hang up my jersey, and head for the locker room.

I get tired out on the field; I get weary of playing; and I get downright overwhelmed by the toughness of the game.

MANY days, I find myself begging for 4 Quarters of rest and a large drink labeled “comfort and ease.” It’s true; I do. And this past week was filled a bunch of those days.

I didn’t want to do Foster Care anymore; I wanted to be done.

I didn’t want all of the visits. I didn’t want all of the appointments. I didn’t want all of the calls and all of the e-mails. I didn’t want the constant advocating. I didn’t want the continuous stress of navigating delicate situations. And I didn’t want all of the time and all of the travel that it all requires.

Multiple times. Multiple days. I felt DONE.

I was over the serving; I was over the loving; and I was WAAAAAYYYYY over the “baby stage (been in that stage since June of 2017 when we got our first foster baby). Truly, I was feeling D-O-N-E.

And on one of those days when I was tempted to throw the ball to the ref and head for the bench, the Lord brought me to Exodus 13 and 14.

Because God (in His impeccable timing) knew from the beginning of time (mind-blowing) that I would be studying the book of Exodus during this season of life, and He knew that I would need to hear the very words from these two, specific chapters that He inspired thousands of years ago. AMAZING.

In short summary, Pharaoh has given the Israelites the “boot” from Egypt, and the people are in the middle of the wilderness. And where does God take this large group of newly, delivered slaves?

It says in 13:17, “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near…But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness.”

He could have taken the short-cut, but He doesn’t.

Why?

Because He says in 13:17, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”

Did you catch that? He KNEW that the people would see these sword-wielding, war-hungry giants (recall flannel graph Goliath) and become scared.

And so instead of taking them on the “quicker walk,” He takes them on the “longer walk.” Why? Because He knows. 

And where does He take them?

He takes them to an absolutely vulnerable place…a place where they were exposed–a place where their backs were against the sea–a place where they had no place to run and no place to hide. Truly, it would have been viewed as a massive, military mistake.

Exodus 14:3 says, “For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ ”

Very literally, God leads them to a place where Pharaoh would think, “What a bunch of idiots!” And because he does think this, Pharaoh takes his big men with their big swords in their big chariots, and he goes after these trapped wanderers.

So God takes these people (the ones He claims to love and treasure), and He leads them the LONG WAY AROUND to a VERY SCARY PLACE.

Sounds loving, huh? Well, the Israelites certainly didn’t think so! Which is exactly why they unleash their furry and fear onto Moses in 14:10-12, making all kinds of accusations and claims against God.

Why have you taken us here to die? What have you done to us? It would have been better if we had stayed slaves! Did you take us out to the wilderness to die because there were no graves left in Egypt? Leave us alone! 

Seriously, read it for yourself. These people were red-hot scared.

And what does the Lord say to the people about why He took them the LONG WAY AROUND to a VERY SCARY PLACE?

He says in 14:13, 17: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent…I will get the glory…and they shall know that I am the LORD when I gave gotten glory.”

He took them the LONG WAY AROUND to a VERY SCARY PLACE because He wanted them to know His power, His provision, and His person! 

Friends, he brought them out so that He could bring them into worshipful-relationship with Him!

And just as Pharaoh and his army of men are approaching, the Lord does exactly what He promised.

Exodus 14:19 says, “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them…and the LORD  threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea…but the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the seas, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”

Did you READ that?!?!

The God who was going before them (leading them out) moves to the back and leads them in! Very truly, He does exactly what He states in Psalm 139:5, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”

It was God that was going before them in the LONG WAY AROUND and to the VERY SCARY PLACE, and then it was God who went behind them! Never leaving their side, never removing His gaze…He fights for His people, delivers His people, and saves His people when their backs are against a wall of water.

And as I read those words on one of the many days where I was questioning the long-hard journey to the very-scary places of foster care, I felt a peace of joy rush over me.

Jessica, I won’t lead you where I won’t go before you, and I won’t lead you where I won’t go behind you. 

And then I went back and read the words of 13:14, “By a strong hand the Lord brought us out…”

It is the Lord’s journey, and it is the Lord’s battle. And it will be the Lord’s strong hand that wins the battle and moves the waters. And when He does (in His timing), I will know that the deliverer was ONLY HIM. 

So what do I need to do as I follow Him the LONG WAY AROUND into the VERY SCARY PLACES?

I need to trust…to be still…to follow…to obey…and to watch.

Because though He doesn’t promise an easy, fear-free journey, He does promise to be our strong arm of salvation.

Friend, I don’t know what road you are walking and what weary you are facing, but may I encourage you to play the GAME with His power, with His provisions, and with His person? Because THAT is something we can rest in…THAT is something we can hang our hats of faith on…and THAT will be the very thing that gives us both the GRIT and the GRACE to keep on, keepin’ on!

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“Jessica, I GROW the Babies.”

Last Friday, I was mad. REAL mad.

Why won’t you just take the stinkin’ bottle?!?! You need to drink it because you need to grow!!!

I was impatient, frustrated, and not very gentle with my tone and actions.

Stomping down the stairs in a flurry of huffs, Caden simply said, “You sound really mad, Mommy. What’s wrong?”

And though it was true that I was indeed “mad,” my pride didn’t like that our oldest son had attached that descriptor to my actions.

“I’m just frustrated,” I huffed.

“Oh. You sounded mad,” he gently retorted.

Refusing to acknowledge my anger, I stormed off to the basement with my anger. Because let’s be honest, loads of laundry deserve ALL our rage.

As I moved the laundry from the washer, I whipped the wet clothes into the dryer. Piece after piece, I slammed into the dryer. And as I slammed, the Spirit started to move.

Jessica, why are you so angry? 

As I let the question simmer in my soul, I knew the answer.

I was angry because I couldn’t control his weight. I was angry because the doctors keep thinking I can. And I was angry because I want to keep trying what the doctors think I can do. 

And so every three hours, I make three ounces and go to battle with a bottle in hand.

For what purpose?

To win a war against the scale! To conquer the chart!! And to please both the pediatrician and the percentiles!!!

And ya know what?

It’s driven me wild!

He needs to grow, they say!

The bigger his heart is, the stronger he will be for surgery, they rehearse!

Feed, feed, feed, they chant.

EVERY. SINGLE. APPOINTMENT. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

And so we take him for the weekly weigh-in’s; and we increase the calories (32 to be exact); and we shove, shove, shove bottle after bottle…hour after hour…day after day. And it’s left me both wild AND weary.

Lord, I’ve been dealing with this ever since I have given birth to our now-seven year-old!!! 

Because ALL four babies (some birthed and some fostered) have been at the bottom of the curves–the smallest of the smalls. And ALL four times, I have been through the rigmarole of weekly weights, growth charts, calorie counting, and bone scans of growth plates (Yes, I am serious).

And though I usually handle it well in the presence of the professional–except for that one time when the Pediatrician asked my sleep-deprived self if I was feeding him, and I responded with, “Oh, is that what that hole is for (pointing at his mouth)?”, I usually leave feeling the office feeling discouraged and defeated about the size of my kid(s).

So when Baby #4  was refusing the bottle last Friday afternoon, after refusing the last one and spitting it all over me and the floor, my eldest was right. I WAS ANGRY. 

And as I whipped that innocent laundry into that sock-stealing machine, I heard His voice whisper into the soul of my heart.

Jessica, I can grow him without ALL of the formula and ALL of the calories. Have you asked ME to grow him? 

Tears streamed down my angry and ashamed face.

He was right. He was SO right.

The God who spoke the sun into existence…

The God who parted the wild waters…

The God who closed the mouths of the menacing lions…

The God who rescued the men from the fiery flames…

The God who healed the lame and the leprous…

And the God who raised the dead to life…

is a God who doesn’t need the formula to grow the baby. 

Just as 1 Corinthians 3:7 states, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Did you catch that?

We can plant, and we can water…but God grows! 

We can steward, and we can serve…but God is sovereign!

Shutting the door to the dryer last Friday, I shut the door on my fearful and crazed efforts. And for the next five days, I simply did my part of “planting and watering” (offering bottles and serving calories), and I let it go. I didn’t force it, and I didn’t freak when he refused. I didn’t huff, and I didn’t puff when he didn’t finish. I just did my part, and I asked the Lord to do His.

And guess what?

I wasn’t angry anymore; I wasn’t so scared; and it felt good.

So when the nurse reported his weight this past Wednesday (only five days later), I about fell to the ground when she reported the number.

12.10 lbs.

Friends, Superman grew 8 ounces in 7 days–the most he has EVER grown in a single week!!!

If my jaw wasn’t on the ground, my heart most certainly was.

And because the Spirit is super good at snarky nudges godly promptings, I simply heard, See. I told you, Jessica. I don’t need the formula to grow the baby. 

Dear readers, I don’t know what you’re facing and what pressure you’re dealing with, but can I give a gentle nudge as you steward the things?

Plant the seeds, water the garden, but ask God for the growth! For truly, He is a Creator who knows the needs of His creations! 

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Fostering Update: …BUT God!

This last week has been hard.

H.A.R.D. (Heavy, Arduous, Rocky, and Draining).

And just when I think it’s been hard enough and heavy enough, we have another appointment with more news that seems harder and heavier than the last appointment with the last set of news.

In the last month, there have been 13 appointments; we have met with 9 specialists; and we are tired.

As I have mentioned in a recent Facebook post, we want to protect the privacy of both Superman and his birth family, so we are not sharing all of the details. Not to mention, some of the details are still unknown to both us and the doctors. However, we do want to keep our tribe of supporters updated on how you can be praying for us. We need you, and we are thankful for you!

With that said, in the month of July the last 14 days…

We have been cleared by the Cardiologist until October when they will conduct a sedated Echocardiogram to assess the status of his heart (DORVA-Double Outlet Right Ventricle with a VSD); the goal is to postpone surgery for as long as possible, so that Superman has more time to grow.

We have been referred to Neurosurgery for a possible helmet for the flat spot in his head (Plagiocephaly). That appointment will be at the end of August.

We have met with a dietitian to explore his caloric needs as the doctors would like to see more rapid and increased growth.

We have been encouraged by an Occupational Therapist to do regular exercises (during diaper changes) to work on the mobility and flexibility of his hips.

We have been informed that genetic testing for particular syndromes (specifically looking at potential deletion of certain chromosomes) “fell through the cracks” in the NICU, and we have now been referred to the Genetic Testing Department to undergo a Chromosomal Miccroarray.

We were referred to an ENT specialist (Ear, Nose, Throat) for a consultation regarding an anterior tongue tie since the Speech Therapist is concerned about potential speech and eating concerns.

We were notified by the ENT specialist (today) that he could not do the “tongue-tie clip” because he identified an abnormally small and recessed jaw in Superman, which gave him pause due to a concern that more mobility in the tongue could cause an obstruction in his airway during sleeping. Hence, he referred us for a Sleep Study, and he also referred us to Cleft Clinic where a team of doctors and plastic surgeons will assess his jaw needs (potential for jaw correction surgery).

Friends, I would be a liar if I pretended I haven’t had moments of panicky fear and overwhelming exhaustion. I have. WE have.

BUT God, in His perfect timing, met me on Wednesday (the day in between Tuesday and Thursday where we received all of the heavy and hard news).

Because He’s just all kinds of gracious-good like that.

And where did He meet me?

He met me in chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Exodus.

Quick Summary: Israel is being oppressed by Pharaoh, and Moses is being called.

As I read through the passage, the Lord reinforces over and over again that He “heard their groaning for help”…He “saw their affliction”…and He “knew of their sufferings.” 2:23-24, 3:7-8

He HEARD. He SAW. He KNEW.

But as I read, I kept seeing another repeated phrase. Truly, it was popping off of the pages and into my retinas.

Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation BUT the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong. 1:6-7

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens…BUT the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. 1:11-12

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives…”if it is a son, you shall kill him…”...BUT the midwives feared God and did not do as they king of Egypt commanded them, BUT let the male children lived. 1:15, 17

When Pharaoh heard…he sought to kill Moses, BUT Moses fled…2:15

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘BUT I will be with you…” 3:11-12

In the midst of all of this suffering… in the middle of all of this devised evil…in the midst of a man fleeing for his life…and in the middle of Moses’ anxious concerns…

BUT GOD was there.

Always at work and always in the corner of His people, forever remembering His covenant (2:24), He was present and working out GOOD for His people.

He wasn’t working out ease or light burdens (For crying out loud, they were slaves at the hands of “ruthless taskmasters!”), BUT HE was STILL at work.

And what happened as the oppression got heavier and as the loads got more?

The people were growing, multiplying, and gaining strength.

BUT HOW?

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN WHEN PEOPLE ARE DYING AND BEING BEATEN??

HOW???

BUT GOD. 

When Pharaoh threatened to wipe out His people, He used the midwives.

When Pharaoh threatened to kill His future prophet, He protected.

When Moses was scared, He gave Him His name (I AM WHO I AM). 

BUT GOD…saw.

BUT GOD…heard.

BUT GOD…knew.

And as I read, I found myself in a puddle of praise.

God may not take away our hard; He may not answer us with all of the “yes’s” we would like; and He may not spare us from a heap-load of exhausting pain.

BUT GOD will continue to GROW us; He will continue to make us FRUITFUL; and He will remain COMMITTED to His covenant.

Of that, we can be sure.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

And whether He delivers us now (while on earth) or later (when in Heaven), He will do exactly what He said He will do in Exodus 3:8.

I have come down to deliver them..to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land…

How can we be sure?

Revelation 21:1-5 promises…

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Friends, I don’t know what Superman’s future holds; I don’t know what our future holds; and I don’t know what your future holds. But this I do know…He sees and He hears; He knows and He grows; and He will deliver good on ALL of His promises.

To God be the glory, great things He is growing!

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Too Attached: 20 Things

Superman,

Some have cautioned us about getting “too attached” to you. And do you know what I want you and your foster siblings to know? Do you know what I think (and sometimes share) every time I hear that concern?

I want you to know…

  1. You are worth every single moment of love we offer you.
  2. We don’t regret giving our hearts to you.
  3. Sometimes love hurts, and that’s okay.
  4. Love isn’t (only) about the giver.
  5. Perfect love casts out fear.
  6. Love doesn’t return void even if a loss occurs.
  7. God is in the business of love that says, “I’ll lay down myself for the sake of you.”
  8. Every soul deserves attachment; that was His original design.
  9. You don’t lose when you love; you lose when you don’t.
  10. Love isn’t love if we only love when it’s easy.
  11. Our love is a mere shadow of His un-relenting, un-scared love.
  12. Love isn’t safe, but neither is fear.
  13. Attachment helps us grow.
  14. True love says, “Your needs matter, too.”
  15. Love doesn’t count the cost; it’s costly.
  16. Sacrificial love is the mark of a genuine believer, and we want our faith to be genuine.
  17. Loss hurts because love is real.
  18. When love isn’t present, suffering is.
  19. We don’t love you because you are ours; we love you because you are His.                 
  20. We are so very glad that God (before we were His) got “too attached” to us.

And that is why, sweet boy, we do not fear being “too attached” to you.

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