Saturday, February 7, 2015

Please Pray for Charity

As I write this post Crosby is running and jumping in our backyard oblivious to cares of the world. His big brown eyes sparkling in the rays of the warm Florida sun while laughter and giggles resonate throughout the yard. His only care is to see how fast his stubby little legs can run to catch his big brother 'Bubba'. Meanwhile, in near freezing, overcast Ohio, a young woman lay in a medical coma with little hope she will ever wake up. This morning we received a call from Grace informing us that Crosby's birth mother Charity had collapsed at work and was rushed to the hospital. The circumstances of life have not allowed Charity to get the proper attention for a serious heart condition which is threatening her. At this point, the prognosis is bleak and the doctors have little confidence that she will survive. It is unfathomable to type those words. 

I earnestly ask you to pray. First, that Charity's heart would be strengthened. Pray that the doctors and nurses would have wisdom and compassion as they care for her. As long as she has breath, the Lord can intervene and cause her treatment to be effective. He is able to work in this situation. Second, pray for her son. He is five years old and the thought of any child losing their mother is heart breaking. Pray for his confusion in this situation, his care, and that he would grow to be a man who loves Christ. Third, Charity's son is with his father. Pray for him as he navigates such a difficult time with wisdom and love as he will be forced to answer questions no five year old should have to ask.

Finally, pray that the Gospel would be glorified in this situation. There are so many unanswered questions, emotions, and doubts that flood your mind when you receive such news.  Pray that we would remember that God is sovereign, God is good, and God is directing all things for His glory. Even when we cannot see the light of grace behind a frowning providence.

Update: I received the news that  Charity, passed away March 30th. She leaves behind her mother and her five year old son. Pray for Crosby’s birth brother that he would be loved and cared for as he adjusts to life without her. It is my prayer that in the face of such sorrow and the uncertainty of tomorrow that the gospel would be shown as our only hope in life and death. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Unchanging God in Everchanging Times

This morning I woke up the sound of a toddler banging my head, saying, “Da-Da!”. Two years ago I woke up to the sound of a cell phone ringing at 1:30 a.m. with the declaration, “Charity is going into labor!” The past few years have been a frenzied blur. Over the course of the past thirty-six months I have said good-bye to loved ones, prayed through an adoption, began pastoral ministry, endured a heart attack, welcomed new members to the family, and sent others to college.  Through it all I have been stretched, grown, chiseled, and refined. I have laughed and cried, doubted and resolved. I have felt the pain of perplexity, fear of the unknown, struggled with failure, rejection, and change. In the midst of daunting storm clouds and rising waters, barren deserts and unquenchable thirst, there has been but one constant; an unchanging God. He was in the emergency room as I held Denise’s hand and said good-bye to her mother. He comforted our hearts when the adoptions failed and when we were not picked to be parents. He guided our steps as we our birth mother introduced us to our future son. God orchestrated the details of my calling to Ocean Park through search committees, health insurance, and an uncertain future. He was there in the heart hospital when my invincibility was shattered with the words, “You’ve had a heart attack.” He united our family on Micker’s Beach where new love was promised and comforted our hearts when we sent Kayla away to Boyce. The inevitability of change and the immutability (unchanging) of God are the two constants in our world. Yet we often attempt to defy the two. We cling to the circumstances, people, and possessions of our life as if they could guarantee satisfaction and constant security. Sadly, our family members grow ill and die, expectations are unmet, dreams are grounded by the coldness of reality, and possessions devalue, depreciate, and grow outdated. When a season of our life brings plenty, complacency is often lurking in the shadows. We forget our maker, creator, and sustainer until a new season brings want and need. It is then we cry out to Him to provide a need or to lift a burden. We even question whether he is present and if He hears our prayers. The prophet Habakkuk knew this sentiment when he uttered his complaints to the Almighty God, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3It was to this complaint that God brought crystal clarity, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Habakkuk 1:5).  Had the Lord reveled to me where I would be today, thirty six months ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed him. I would not have believed that I would wake up to a two year old banging my head because he wanted to watch Mickey Mouse clubhouse. I wouldn’t believe him that I have the honor to shepherd a congregation in our pursuit of Christ. I would not have believed Him about my heart, my mother-in-law, and my niece. Most of all I would not have believed I could have endured  while learning a new, fresh perspective of God’s sovereignty and goodness. Not all the things the past thirty six months have been good. At times they have been excruciating. Often I felt that I would be crushed under the weight of sorrow, heart-ache, and uncertainty. However, looking back over my journey it was not my own strength that sustained me but the God who not only placed the weight on my back but forbid the burden to crush me. Every step, every tear, and every victory was orchestrated for my good and His glory. Therefore, as I celebrate every milestone in this journey of life I give Him all the glory as the maker, sustainer, and, in time, the taker of my life. To God alone be the glory!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Waiting on The Lord

Two weeks ago, Denise was involved in a special ceremony to honor the young ladies (including Kayla) who have graduated from High School and are moving on to the next chapter of their lives; adulthood. She agonized about what to share but finally it was suggested to her to speak on waiting on The Lord in light of Crosby's adoption and first birthday. This is a message that I especially need to hear and am thankful for the wisdom of my wife and her willingness to share it. This is what she shared...

Thank you for your willingness to be here and receive our encouragement. It is a privilege to share with you one area in my life in which The Lord has worked and moved. I would like to encourage you in waiting on The Lord. You all at one point in your lives,  if you aren't already,  will have to wait on The Lord. It may be for a husband or children or any number of things. The following passage became very familiar to me during a long period of waiting.

Psalm 40:1-5
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.

 I waited on The Lord for another baby for more than 6 years. While the waiting was difficult and included many moments of doubt,  much confession of sin, heartbreaking loss, many tears and disappointments I wouldn't change one thing about that time in my life. I believe The Lord did one of His greatest works in my heart over those years and I  probably still don't fully understand all that he accomplished.  There really isn't a better place to be than to be waiting on The Lord. God is ultimately drawing you to Himself. He will show you that He is God, that He is good and that He is sovereign. I promise you his timing and wisdom are absolutely perfect. You may find yourself questioning these truths, like I did when in the midst of wanting a baby so desperately found myself in the middle of a baby boom in our church and suffered a very disappointing miscarriage during this same time.  Please be encouraged and know that what God keeps from you is just as much a gift as what He chooses to give you.  When God has you wait and He will , wait faithfully and trust that God does not withhold good from us and our ultimate good is Himself.

Psalm 84:11-1211 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Even when you may question God's wisdom, as I did when we were to bring a baby girl home last May and she went into foster care instead, I would encourage you to look to the cross and the story of your own redemption  because as the scriptures say it is foolishness to the world but it is a complete picture of God's perfect wisdom and goodness to those of us who believe.  As wonderful a gift and blessing that Crosby is, He is not the fulfillment of my period of waiting, it is in fact, Christ himself. During that time God, strengthened my faith, revealed to me the value of his timing and providence and Christ became all the more precious. It was the following verses that came to mind when I   first held Crosby and looked into his little face.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen   These verses never rang truer than on that day. When you wait, wait faithfully, look to scripture, cling to hope in Christ and surround yourself with those who will encourage you to do these things.

Me being able to share my experience and heart  with you tonight is just another sweet blessing resulting from my time of waiting on The Lord, thank you. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Significance of the Moment

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

There are times in our lives we must stop and appreciate the significance of a moment. A significance that can be lost in the routine of everyday life. As human beings, our hearts long for what is just beyond our reach or what lays beyond the distant horizon. In looking ahead we fail to appreciate the value of what our hands presently grasp and the beauty our eyes currently behold. One year ago today a little boy was born in Canton, OH. A little boy whose life has instantly infused a miraculous love and unspeakable joy into a family desperately needing it. It is still almost unbelievable that this little boy is my son. Despite how exhausting the adoption process was, I cannot imagine not having the pleasure of enduring it. A process that was filled with disappointment, hope, heartbreak, determination, and joy. It was like yesterday that I was sitting in a corner booth at Chik-fil-a with Shane Waters who told me, "If money is the only reason for not adopting than it is not a reason." I will never forget my mother-in-law Bonnie Godbold's excitement at the news and her encouragement that any child of any color would be blessed to be apart of our family because, "in a Christian home that doesn't matter." The sweet words of encouragement that our social worker, Amber Marshall, when another adoption disappointment broke our hearts is still a balm to our soul. I am humbled that Matt Russell would think of our family when he found out that a baby needed to be adopted.  I still recollect holding my breath with every incoming text from Michele McKee giving me updates from our birth mother.  I am humbled by friends like Scott & Sarah Brown and Shane & Ashlie Waters who sat in our dining room strategizing how we could ever raise $17,000 in less than 45 days. I am still humbled by the outpouring of love we received  from our family and friends as we overwhelmed the Roosevelt Chik-fil-a on a hot August night to raise adoption funds. We were not worthy of the generosity of people who donated their creativity, time, love, and money to bring Crosby home. I would be remiss if I did not mention our indebtedness to the Ingram family who shared their sweet home with us while we were refugees in Ohio. No words can express what gratitude we have for Denise's Dad who embraced and supported our dream of adoption. We know that it is bittersweet for him especially because of how much Mom would have loved Crosby. Though she is not here in body we know that her spirit dwells in our love for Crosby and the stories we tell him of his Nana's life and love. It was also through this process that I gained a new appreciation for my own adoption and what my parents endured in order to give me a home.

They are so many people to thank...the Frasers, Moores, Roberts, Julie Paisley, and so many more. However, the person I must give the most thanks is to my sweet wife Denise. It was not always her dream to adopt. The uncertainties of the adoption journey brought her many sleepless nights and feelings of inadequacies of what the future held. Thank you for following me and most ultimately trusting the Lord. I never doubted that you were strong enough and I know that you are just the mother Crosby needs.
There are two times in my life that I have seen you glow with such a radiance; the day we promised our lives to each other and the first time you held Crosby. Thank you for joining me in this journey. We have just begun to see what the Lord has in store for Crosby and our family as a whole. There will be times when the days are long, the diapers stinky, and the fussing unbearable. It is in these times we will yearn to fast forward to the next stage of development. However, it is these times that we must stop and remember what has brought us here. To appreciate the significance of the moment. Countless people who have given of themselves so that we could enjoy celebrations like today. Birthdays where we can hold our chubby baby boy in our arms or plaster his picture throughout various social media are to be cherished and celebrated. 

I always had the conviction that we would adopt. Admittedly, there were times when I had serious doubts. However, I could never have scripted how God would lead us to a birth mother in Ohio, raise $30,000 in funds in 9 days, find a free home to live in for two weeks, and bring us home to Florida safely. I pray that I stop and recognize the significant of the moment with every birthday party, first day of school, and milestone while giving glory to our Heavenly Father who worked it all for his glory. 

Finally, the chief significance of this moment is found within Ephesians 3:14-21. It is with the saints that we comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ's love through the adoption of Crosby. He is a living memorial to the love that God has for His children. My heart also resonates with verse 20, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." I could never fathom how God worked to bring about his glory and I am continually awed by how he did.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Placing a Child for Adoption

What a profound picture of a birth mother's love seeing the work of God in her adoption, "God was using me to find his family not me choose his family. My baby's family shared him with me, not me sharing him with them." (7:30)

Denise and I love this video because it shows how blessed we were to have a birth mother like Charity. One quote I love from this video is her emphasis that the monthly disappointments and the long wait for choosing a birth mother was because God was waiting to bless the birth mother with the child. She needed their baby to be born to her to help save her from the challenges that she had been facing. Adoption is a wonderful gift for both the birth mother and adoption parents. However, it is often a blessing that is accompanied with tears.