Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Guess God Overheard

I once heard a church leader say, "God only hears the prayers of the saved and the request of the unsaved for their salvation from sin." I personally and respectfully disagreed then and still do, but understood how he'd come to his conclusions based upon his selection of and understanding of Scripture. Recently this discussion was raised again in my Sunday morning Bible study class, where we spent several weeks examining the Lord's Prayer as our model for how we talk to God. We came to a general conclusion that God hears the prayers of all people regardless of their "status" with him, but used examples from our own experience and awareness more than Scripture to back up that concept. So, with that mulling around in my brain, I was intrigued to read in Daniel 6 this morning.

After Daniel's been called on the carpet for worshiping God instead of Darius, the pagan king of the Medes and Persians, the king "was very angry with himself for signing the law" [that said he should be worshiped for 30 days]. So angry that he spent a "day looking for a way to get Daniel out of [the] predicament." Unable to find a solution, he finally relents and gives the order for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the lions' den, but as he does, he says to Daniel, "May your God, whom you worship continually, rescue you." Now, I wouldn't call that a prayer, because it was a comment of hope addressed to a man in a situation of great desperation, but it certainly expressed the cry of his heart. The king clearly had a soft spot for Daniel and hated to see this exacting of justice served, and he was deeply grieved. Verse 18 says he didn't eat, refused his usual entertainment (guess he wasn't in the mood for ESPN) and couldn't sleep at all that night. Pretty serious responses from a guy who's basically in charge of the whole known world at the time.

But here's what caught my attention: there's no mention in that chapter of Daniel praying for deliverance from the lions' den. Now, I'm not foolish or silly enough to believe Daniel wasn't praying fervently as he stood in the midst of those lions. After all, a guy who's courageous enough to pray to God with his windows open, when he can be seen and caught, isn't going to have any qualms about praying when he's likely to be supper for some carnivores. But I'm not brave enough to inject into scripture or assume that he definitely was praying to get out of there alive. God's angel came to shut the lions' mouths, Daniel said, because he was innocent in God's sight, not because he'd begged and pleaded for liberation.

The pagan king, however, made his hope and heart-cry quite clear as he was tossing Daniel into the den. So for those who say God only listens to the prayers of the saved, I guess God just happened to overhear. 

Finding a Rhythm in the Priorities

I can't believe it's been nearly a year and a half since my last post. I think a precious little boy is the primary reason. Not to mention selling a house, buying a house, moving out of two houses into one, painting the walls and replacing the flooring of the aforementioned new house, leading and writing Bible need to continue. Everybody has those seasons of life that are filled with significant life changes, coupled with lots of "stuff" to do. One of my greatest pet peeves is listening to people try to one-up each other recounting and enumerating their "busy-ness" lists. I know it's because (at least in our Western U.S. culture) worth and value are now equated with activity and being needed. I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I keep a running "to do" list, and can't begin to describe the sense of elation I receive when I check off a project or delete it as completed. But the problem I find for myself is in focusing on the list, I miss the moments and people relative to those tasks.

God's really been dealing with me about this lately. I want to keep a neat house, be a well-prepared Bible study teacher, etc., but ringing in my ears is the wisdom of men and women who've walked this road longer than me:
     "He won't be small long."
     "Cherish those cuddles and hugs."
     "You'll turn around and he'll be grown."
When I think about how quickly the last 17 months have flown, I believe them. So I'm making deliberate steps and efforts to put down the dishrag in exchange for a toy car. To drop the load of laundry I'm carrying in exchange for a spontaneous hug. To set aside the laptop in exchange for puzzles and blocks. To turn off the iPhone in exchange for cuddling together while we read a book. Some perfectionists might look at the current state of my house (which isn't of hoarder status - don't worry!) and say I've lowered my standards. I think I'm choosing to get my priorities in proper order.

Today, I actually feel like I'm beginning to find a rhythm with my priorities. Darin's at work and Josh is at his two-day-a-week preschool, learning all kinds of things, and while the washing machine is humming, I'm taking a little time to gather my thoughts (some of them were so scattered I thought I'd lost them like socks in the dryer!), spend time with the Lord and generally be...well...human. Not a functional machine or robot, but an actual human being who thinks and feels and contemplates. Wow! (Some of you won't recognize me the next time you see me!) This rhythm isn't a steady beat by any stretch of the imagination, but it's my drum and it certainly resonates deeply within my soul, bringing a bit of sanity and helping me march a little more confidently and purposefully on this narrow road God's called me to walk. It's a good day.

And now, for my next priority: cleaning the toilet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For His Glory

Sometimes, apparently, God shows his power/love/mercy/goodness, and then adds an exclamation point. That's the way I felt this morning, anyway, when I read again the familiar verse, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28). In a gentle, only-God-can-do-it-like-that kind of way, it was like he said, "SEE, JULIE!!! I've kept this promise to you. I AM good; and my works are good....And you are Mine."

On this, the 1 month birthday of our precious Joshua, I am testifying to a God Who has indeed pulled out all the stops. We received a contract last night for the sale of our house in Frankston (that's the exclamation point to his goodness). I've never considered myself a person for whom God answers personal prayers. Really. Certainly not at the moment I ask them. I celebrate and applaud when I've prayed for others and seen God work in their situations, but I'm like the Children of Israel when it comes to faith. I remember what He's done in the past, and praise Him for it, but I don't expect Him to act again. I'm embarrassed to confess these feelings, but in the interest of complete vulnerability and's true. And I rarely, if ever hand people the line, "all in God's time." Even though it is biblical (Ecc. 3), it doesn't help. When I've finally gotten to the point that I ask God to act, I usually need him to act now! But, the events of the last month and half have reiterated the truth of God's sovereignty. He does nothing haphazardly or by accident or without intent. My mom, when she learned about the contract on the house, said, "It's like the Lord was waiting for one piece of the puzzle to be put in place so the rest of these prayers could be answered." That one piece was Joshua. It's no accident his name means, "God is salvation." God has been saving us and saving up all of these answers. Yet, Satan knows just how to play with me. I'm not the eternal optimist my husband is. I'm a die-hard realist who can quickly slip into cynicism and negativity. Knowing that, Satan tells me, "Sure, things are great now, but the bottom will drop out. Watch and see." So the power struggle for Truth rages on in my mind and heart.

It's a struggle familiar to most who walk with Christ. My friend Beth, battling cancer right now, for example. Her sweet husband Dave blogged yesterday about Christ's deliberate choice to wait to go to Lazarus. His delay meant not simply healing, but instead the necessity of actually raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). But Jesus had a reason: "for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified (v. 4) and for the benefit of the people [watching], that they may believe that [God] sent me" (v. 42). [You can read more about Beth's journey here, if you'd like to join her prayer team.] Two chapters earlier, Jesus himself tells us about a man born blind, "so the power of God could be seen in him" (v. 3). 

While our struggle with infertility, this man's blindness and Beth's cancer can't be resolved with "Sunday School answers," there is a comfort and peace in knowing that God has a reason. And that reason? His glory. It's not because he's vain or needs the ego-boost of our praise. It's because in his orchestration of the details of our lives and his work in them, we come to a place of humility, recognizing our need for his hand. His glory is a way of reminding us, even proving to us, his value and worth and necessity in our lives. What's amazing is that he desires to be a part of our crazy, mixed-up, error and sin-filled existences. Because of love. As Darin preached on Sunday: he chose us.

While I would have been fine for God to answer our prayers one at a time over the course of the last 18 months, perhaps he chose to bundle them all together, "so the power of God could be seen." Hear me clearly, it is not because Darin or I have earned any of the blessings he's bestowed. It is because God is good and powerful. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things; To Him be the glory forever. (Romans 11:36).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Journey to Joshua (detailed version)

This has been a journey I’ll never forget. A journey of mercy and grace.

After 11 years of marriage, two failed foster-to-adopt efforts and a third newborn adoption failure, Darin and I had decided God's plan for us included a lifetime of ministry to families and individuals, but not children of our own. Then last year, at the Minister's Wives Retreat, I was annoyed by the persistent reminder that God keeps his promises. I know that. I've seen that. But it wasn't God's promises and ability to fulfill them I doubted. It was his goodness. His generosity. His mercy. All that has changed. I'm sure I'll have moments of relapse, but I can mark this moment down forever as my "Ebenezer" - my memorial of what God has done.

Two or three years ago, my dad's brother Danny forwarded us an email from a law firm about a baby needing adoption. We’d sent in basic bio information, but couldn't get all the other background info to them fast enough. Unbeknownst to us, they kept us on file, so we were surprised to get a call from them on March 9, asking if we'd be interested in an unborn child that would soon be available for adoption. The birthmother specifically wanted a couple who was Baptist. (Obviously, with Darin as a Baptist pastor we qualified!) Those first couple of nights (really the first week, plus), I slept an average of 4 hours a night as we wrestled with this surprise, wondering if it was from God, and prepared our bio packet to send to them (old homestudies, picture book, letter to birthmom, background check info and references). We overnighted it to the firm on Friday the 11th, and by Monday the 14th it was in their hands. They called to confirm its arrival and tell us we were one of 6 families being considered. Tuesday and Wednesday, they corresponded with us by email and even called us a couple of times requesting more information. We told no one but our references, because we honestly didn't figure this would go any farther than any of our other efforts.

By Tuesday afternoon the 15th, we were told we were one of the three remaining families left and that an updated homestudy would be necessary. By God's grace and provision we found a licensed social worker who was available immediately (a rarity)! She emailed us a questionnaire to fill out and a list of requirements needed in order to help her complete the study. So we gathered those things in preparation for her interview on Thursday night.

By Wednesday afternoon the 16th, they’d called our references and emailed us to let us know we’d been chosen! BUT, WE DIDN’T KNOW IT! With my BaptistWay writing assignments on Matthew due on April 7 and church that evening, I hadn’t checked my email. Thursday morning, I received a call from the lawyer asking if we’d gotten her note and telling us we’d been chosen, pending a copy of an updated homestudy. I sat on the couch in a stupor. I couldn’t even dial the phone number of the church correctly to tell Darin. I called a wrong number the first time. The same day, Darin went to the bank to talk about taking out a personal loan. Oddly enough, our IRS refund was also being deposited into our checking account, which we immediately used to pay down part of the loan!! Also on Wednesday, the lawyer emailed me a contract to be signed and returned overnight. We chose not to tell anyone else, because the homestudy was still such a significant piece of the puzzle, and was the lynch-pin to being truly qualified. Thursday evening, we met with the social worker at the house, and she interviewed us, reviewed the house, and promised she would have the study, or at least a fax of it in their office by Monday the 21st, especially since she was leaving to go on vacation in Florida on Monday morning.

On Friday afternoon the 18th, I put the contract in the mail. When, I finished, I called my sister Jennifer to tell her we’d know with certainty by the following Wednesday (trying to give the homestudy enough time to get there and be reviewed), and I jokingly commented that she should pray the social worker wouldn’t get run over by a truck before she got the paperwork finished. I didn’t know how un-funny that would be.

On Sunday afternoon the 20th, the social worker was in an automobile accident. She was OK, but needless to say, it put her behind schedule. We contacted the lawyer to let her know, and then we waited anxiously. Finally, on Wednesday the 23rd, the lawyer sent me a note to ask if she could use some of the money we'd depostied in trust for doctor’s visits for the birthmother. At that point I figured our homestudy was fine and approved, that we were indeed the "chosen ones," so I called my sister to tell her. She said she’d been waiting on pins and needles! When I told her about the social worker’s accident, she said she believed the whole thing was Satan trying to prevent the well-being of this child. I’d already felt the same way, but been afraid to voice it. I went straight to the church (I'd been at the school playing the piano) and Darin and I called my parents. I forgot to ask if they were sitting down; I just blurted it all out. They immediately announced it to all their office staff. I had to tell them to hold on! We talked briefly about what we need in preparation for the baby’s arrival, but mostly we talked in stunned phrases!

I sent an email to the lawyer on Thursday the 24th asking legal questions about terminations, finalizations, etc. The birthmother has the right to change her mind up to 10 days after the birth of the baby, but I failed to ask who has care of the baby for those first 10 days. Darin said he thought she’d implied in a phone conversation that we would, but he wasn’t certain.

While I was at the Super Summer Exec. Staff retreat on March 28th and 29th, Darin got word that our homestudy official hard copy was still not in the right office. Apparently, the social worker had sent it to the wrong office branch of the law firm. We signed the legal request for parental rights and got that back to them so it could be filed with the courts. That helped it feel a little more real. Nevertheless, I felt a strong sense of calling from the Lord to tell my fellow HPU Admin Staff leaders that I might not be at Super Summer and why. Danny Dawdy, Tim Skaggs, Natalie Stary and Penny Rodgers listened with joy as I shared that we’d been selected as adoptive parents. I told them the risk involved, and Tim graciously asked Danny to pray for Darin and me. He did, with tears freely flowing. They of course asked about the baby’s gender, and I told them we don’t know, but I was ok with that. Even though we’d developed a list of names, not knowing the sex made it a little more anonymous, and that was a good thing for me. If it all fell apart before the baby was born, at least I couldn’t say we lost little “name” because I didn’t know who he/she is. Danny assured me they can get along without me if absolutely necessary, because the HPU campus is so small in number enrolled and compactness.

All day on the 30th, I was in Nacogdoches playing for the Jacksonville Middle and High School choirs. The next day I drove to Nac for the final choir to compete and then drove to our house in Frankston (which is still for sale) to look over what baby paraphernalia we still had in the attic. Darin and Steve Edwards had been in a meeting in Athens that morning, so they met me at the house and we loaded it up in the car. Then I spent Friday the 1st and Saturday the 2nd washing the linens, bags and whatever else needed to be laundered or cleaned, while simultaneously working on my Bible studies.

We vacillated in our fears. First, that this was some elaborate scam to cheat us out of money. But to go to such extreme lengths as calling a U.S. Congressman (James Lankford, one of our references), it must be legit, or they’re very foolish crooks! Secondly, and most prominently, we were afraid of her changing her mind. I didn’t know how either of us could possibly handle another heart-break over this issue. I feared this would not destroy, but certainly cripple our faith. Both messages and Sunday School on April 3 seemed to speak to these fears. A couple of points in particular: (1) the Father's great “compassion” in the Prodigal Son story; (2) Jesus' faithfulness to get right to the heart of the woman at the well – her love needs; (3) if this matter is in God's hands, it’s not uncertain. The way God opened all the right doors at just the right time was too supernatural not to be His hand at work to fulfill His divine purpose for us and this child, and (4) Caleb in Joshua 14, realized he hadn’t “earned” the goodness of God’s promises fulfilled, but he believed in the goodness of God. Yet Satan has twisted Scripture to make me misunderstand or read into things. Which led to my third fear: I'd do something selfish or sinful and God would change His mind.

The timing of all this was still so up in the air (when will she deliver, will she deliver on time, how quickly can we get there), and we were still learning all the legal ins and outs. Most of my insecurities about being forgotten made me want to hear from the lawyer every day. I couldn’t sleep much. It helped a little when I had the Super Summer Executive Staff retreat to prepare for, and the UIL choir pieces to practice and perform. But when the act of writing Bible studies was all that was left, it was hard to keep my mind focused.

Because of the birthmother's right to change her mind, we wanted to only be “cautiously excited.” Yet, washing the linens, putting together the bassinet, etc., I began to develop a seed of love for this child that I was scared to nurture and nourish. What if our hearts got broken again in this situation and subject matter? Please God, I prayed, don’t let that happen. Show Your omnipotence, mercy and grace and bring the baby soon and let the 10 days pass like lightning, with him/her in our arms at the end of it. Whether or not we’ll be home in time for Easter, we didn’t know, but most certainly we can present the child to the church by Mother’s Day, May 8th, which is also baby dedication day. I don’t want to have to spend another Mother’s Day like last year’s – with a hole of longing, disappointment, and yes, jealousy. Between these fears, insecurities and Satan’s attacks, this is where I desperately need and cry out for Your “peace that passes all understanding” to “guard [my] heart and [my] mind in Christ Jesus.”

The following are continuing excerpts from my journal:

Monday April 4, 2011
Just got word from the lawyer. The baby will be in our custody those 10 days! Yay! She also said the birthmother is dilated to a 3. She’s sent us a bunch of papers about the medical history of the family and most recent checkups of the birthmother. We’ll have to bring those with us to sign in the lawyer’s presence.

Tuesday April 5, 2011
I was working on the Bible study of Matt 1-2, specifically the part where God preserves Jesus from being killed by Herod, when Darin called to ask if I’d checked my email. The birthmother will be induced on Monday! (God preserved His child-Joshua-then; He will again!) We are going to leave after AM worship for Uncle Danny’s house and be able to take the baby back to their house from the hospital when it’s released. Attached to the email was also a letter from the birth grand-mother and mother. The letter, although not a guarantee, certainly helped, and I feel a little more confident that God will see this through. Surely He wouldn’t take us this far and drop the drawbridge under us. Too many things are pointing to its completion (Phil 4:16), God's protection and provision. Jennifer was talking with her kids this morning about the baby and 6 year old Russell was instructing 4 year old Laura about how she had to be gentle with it. He’d also been complaining about how babies make big messes, but told Jennifer it was OK if our baby did! Gotta get finished with these Bible studies and get to packing!

Wednesday April 6
After I dropped Dodger off for his grooming this morning, I headed to JC Penney in Tyler to get my hair done, stopping on the way at Kohl’s and Target to buy baby stuff! I bought girl and boy clothing since we still have no idea what the baby’s gender is. I also stopped by Old Navy and Walmart to do more baby and everything else shopping. Anyway, then I picked up Dodger and headed home to find Momma’s baby care package on the front porch!

On the way home from church tonight, I spent some time thanking God. James 1:17 was running through my mind. You are the Father, and I can’t believe You would take us this far down the path and not finish giving us this good gift. And it will be a perfect gift. Not perfect as in sinless, but perfect as in a match for our family. Adaptable to a minister’s home, and healthy; I really am beginning to believe all of that. Early in this process, I realized God was ordaining this @ 15 years ago when he had Uncle Danny buy a piece of property in NW Arkansas where he had no ties, no job and no reason to go, other than he liked the way it looked. He was retiring from the Air Force and needed a place to live. God certainly does see everything as present tense.

Thursday April 7 
I’ve been working on my studies trying to get them finished (since they’re due TODAY) and Wendy Emprimo just posted this verse on FB: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This is how I want to parent – Christ in me, parenting. I’m scared I’ll be overly demanding and have the same high expectations for the child that I have for myself. I’m afraid I won’t be very much fun, because I’ve grown so accustomed to “adult” life. I’m afraid of mental illness, chemical unbalances or birth defects. But if I line up all these fears with the goodness I sensed in God last night, they pale and are unfounded. This is a GOOD gift, and since Darin, the child and I have been called together “according to His purpose,” this will be for all our good (Romans 8:28), and he will hold us all together (Colossians 1:17).

As I was finishing final edits on one of my lessons, I came across these verses from Beth James’ blog about her cancer that I'd copied and pasted because they spoke so strongly to me. Here’s the amazing part: they are from February 23, two weeks to the day before we first found out about this child!! I especially love #3. And #4 begs me to be at peace between now and the 10 days following the birth.

1. Psalm 22:19 – “But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”
2. Psalm 50:15 – “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. “ 

3. 1 Samuel 12:16 – “Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do.”
4. Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you, and you can be still.”

But Satan is working all over me. Just now, he used #1 and #2 above to make me think God’s preparing us for something awful. Instead, I will celebrate. I still can’t get over how God's having me write about the birth of Christ at the same time I’m anticipating the birth of a child who will be ours, much like Joseph adopted Jesus. The funny thing is, the last lessons I wrote dealt with hosptality and forgiveness, and simultaneous to those, I was dealing with my anger, fear and disappointment with our foster child we had to return to state care. God used those to help bring healing. I'm asking Him to use these Matthew lessons to affirm His good work, that I might tell the classes I’ll teach them to about this part of the story as I did the last time.

Friday April 8
O, Lord, today has been so hard emotionally for us. Satan has been playing mind games with us, causing me to question your goodness, and even your omnipotence against him. We received a letter today from the lawyer, and somehow, he used it to cast darts of uncertainty about the birthmother’s commitment to follow through with the adoption. This was the line that unnerved us: "I wanted to quote her mom's email exactly about the birthmom's feelings right now. It said that 'she feels bad but still wants to go through with it. She knows it is best for everyone and the letter from the adoptive parents really made her feel a lot better.'"

It probably wasn’t supposed to unnerve us, maybe even intended to reassure us, but it scared us to death. I think we’re terrified we’ll drive all the way there, spend 10 days, and at the last minute, she’ll change her mind. So, I sent a note back to the lawyer, looking for reassurance, and her reply helped some:

Like I've said before, I am pessimistic (for lack of a better word) when it comes to birthmoms. I've been burned once and this is the first one I've agreed to take in four years. I can't tell you 100%, but I feel good about this one. I really think this is what she wants to do. She has never changed her mind in my meetings with her. And, believe me I ask her every time I see her. The fact that she also isn't asking for money for expenses, etc. tells me that there is no other motive for her but doing what's best for this child. I think her biggest concern is that the baby will think it wasn't wanted by her and that isn't why she's made this decision. That's why she and her mom wrote you the letter.

Of course, this would be a hard decision for anyone to make. But given her situation, I think she is very serious about this. And, she has a wonderful support system in her mother. She is behind this decision 100% and has been communicating with the hospital personnel already to try and make this transition as easy on Jackie as possible.

I hope this makes you feel better somewhat, but I am nervous along with you. You just never know what will happen in that emotional moment when the baby is born. I think all we can do is put it in God's hands and know that whatever happens is His will.
Darin and I prayed several times together today. I really think this is a matter of spiritual warfare. I told Darin I can almost see and touch the battle going on above my head and the birthmother's. I even posted on the Texas Baptist Minister’s Wives Facebook a request for prayer in spiritual battle. God, You’ve worked out every step and opened every door so far, and you know Darin needs to preach this week and Easter Sunday, so I think you’ll continue to orchestrate each element. Darin has lined up supply speakers, with the plan to introduce the baby at the end of each morning worship service on Easter Sunday!

Saturday April 9
With the intensity and urgency of getting my lessons written, I didn’t spend much time this week in my devotionals, so I’ve been catching up this morning. Here are some of the passages that have spoken to me, even if not directly applicable:

Mon: Psalm 25:1-3 - To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgrace, or let my [Enemy] rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. (5-8) All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O Lord, your unfailing love and compassions, which you have shown from long ages past....for you are merciful, O Lord. The Lord is good and does what is right. (16-20) Turn to me and have mercy on me...Feel my pain and see my trouble...Do not let me be disgraced, for I trust in you. Psalm 34: 1-6 - I will praise the Lord at all times, I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are discouraged take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the Lord and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and he heard me. He set me free from all my fears. (8) Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!

Tues: Genesis 16:10 - God’s promise to Hagar, “I will give you more descendants than you can count” and her response (13), “I have seen the One who sees me!”

Wed: Psalm 13 - O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart ever day? How long will my [Enemy] have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God? Restore the light to my eyes, or I will died. Don’t let my enemies gloa, saying, “We have defeated [her]!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfull. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he has been so good to me.

Thurs: Romans 12:12-13 - Be glad for all God is planing for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. Hebrews 12:3 - Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. (10) For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. (12-13) So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Fri: 1 Corinthians 9:17 - ...But God has chosen me and give me this sacred trust...

Sat: Isaiah 46:3 - I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (9-10) And do not forget the things I have done throughout histroy. For I am God–I alone! I am God, and there is no one else like me. Only I can tell you what is going to happens even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. (13) For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now!

Sunday April 10
I only slept about 4 hours last night. I woke up sweating and with my heart beating fast at 2:30. I stayed awake until after 5, and finally dozed a litte before the alarm went off at 7. We got up pretty quickly and finished packing and getting ready. We were even early to church! I ran into Patsy Murray in the hallway. She told me she had a dream last night that I was “as big as a house pregnant.” I laughed, but secretly wondered if she is part prophet! We should have told her I was due tomorrow!

On the road, Darin listened to the Masters Tournament on the radio and I dozed a little and read until it ended. Then, we talked about names. We’ve narrowed it down some, but we’re not saying they’re set in stone until we meet and see the baby to make sure they match. Here are the finalists:

Joshua Michael
David Andrew
Abigail Ann
Elizabeth Ann
Kathryn Elizabeth

I still like the names Caleb, Matthew, and Emily, but I think they’re off the table.

Mandy Tanner posted a comment on Facebook from this morning’s sermon at Northside. It said, “Your faith in Him (God) is FAR more important than the miracle you want Him to do in your life.” I commented, “Just what I needed to hear. Thanks. Faith is the ASSURANCE of things hoped for; the CONVICTION of things not seen.” She replied once more, “Do you know I thought of you and Darin the whole time he was preaching on this this morning. Was going to post it on your wall but phone rang...Praying for you both!!” I’m really feeling quite optimistic and positive, even confident, today.
We plan to text the lawyer when we get to town, and see if she has any instructions for us. Still 2 hours left on the road, though. Get us there quickly, please, Lord.

Monday April 11
We arrived @ 9:30-9:45 and visited with Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise until @ 11:00. We slept so hard. We got up @ 8, and showered. I had half of a small thing of yogurt and Darin’s eating a bowl of oatmeal right now, but neither of us are particularly hungry. I had an email from Ross, the BaptistWay editor saying he hadn’t gotten my lessons (I freaked!), so I forwarded them again and he got them this time.

Jennifer sent me an email that she dreamed it was a chubby baby boy! When I replied to her about Patsy Murray’s dream, she freaked!

We received a call from the lawyer at 9:15, saying the birthmother had an epidural at 8:30, and had already signed the papers that allow us to see the baby following its delivery (we didn’t even know that was required). She called again @ 10:15 and said the birthmother is dilated to a 5, and is not backing down, she’s still committed to the adoption.

I’m doing a load of baby laundry right now. Just six white onesies and 2 each of a girl and boy P.J.s. We’re just killing time for now. I’m so nervous, my hands are shaking. I keep getting up and wandering around, just to have something to do to burn off my energy!

I’m trying to read a little bit, and pretty much able to stay focused, but Darin and I just spent a period in prayer. He’s feeling at peace that at the end of this journey we will return to Texas with a little one. I am, too, I think, especially when I remember all those family and friends who are praying for us, maybe even at this very moment. Just a few seconds ago, at 11:20, Darin got a facebook message from Heather Ramsey saying there’s a couple looking at the house in Frankston right now, and the new Superintendent at FISD came over to talk to her about it last week while she was planting flowers outside! God, are you going to up to something enormous in our lives?!?!

The lawyer just called again (11:25), birthmother is dilated to a 9, they’re calling the doctor in now. She’s leaving her office in Springdale right now. She’ll be in the waiting area, and when the birthmother’s mom comes to get her, she’ll be able to call us shortly thereafter. The lawyer feels like the fact the grandmother is still keeping in touch with her is a good sign.

She just called again at 11:34 – the baby’s been born!!! She hasn’t even made it to the hospital from her office, yet! After she has a chance to meet with the birthfamily and nurses, they’ll set up a game plan and let us know. Thankfully, the laundry has finished and is loaded in the car. We’re both eating spoons of peanut butter, waiting on the call to leave.

1:00 – The lawyer just called: IT’S A BOY!!! Darin and I just held one another and cried with joy. She said to pack a bag to stay in the hospital. They’re going to give us a room to feed and bond with him.

2:45 – We still haven’t gotten to hold him; it’s killing me! But, they’re running an echocardiogram on him right now. The doctor heard a heart murmur, and he wants to be sure it’s just because the blood wasn’t circulating perfectly while he was in the womb. If so, that’s normal, and it’s nothing. We did get to go into the nursery and touch and stroke him; it’s not enough, but it’s something! He was 7 lbs., 13 oz. and 19 inches long. He’s got a little bit of hair and is pink as he can be! When we got here, we checked in with the nurse, Carla. She knew about our situation, and was the one who arranged for us to get into the nursery. I was shaking as we approached the desk. By the time we got to touch him, I was softly crying. Darin even had a few tears in his eyes, too. The pediatric nurse, Bonnie said when they finished the tests and his temperature was at 98, they would bathe him and bring him to us. I hope it will be soon!

We’ve met with the lawyer, (she even brought us a present of a frame and tiny little hanging pillow!) and she still feels good about things with the birthmother. She said she had a long conversation with her, and she (and her mother) still feel it’s the right decision. Unfortunately, the judge will be out of town on the 22nd, so we’ll have to wait to go to court until the 25th. That means Darin will have to have Joe fly him home for Easter. I’m trying to convince him to put a picture up of the baby on the screens so the church family can see him, since he and I won’t be able to be there. We’re still not naming him until we hold him, though.

After we left the nursery, they put us in a room (1248), and we went back to look at him through the windows. As we stood there, an employee walked past, winked at us and said, “Its just a baby!” I said, “Yes, but it’s a special baby.” She asked, “Why is he so special?” I responded, “Because we’re adopting him.” She threw her arms around me and said, “I used to work with unwed mothers. What you’re doing is such a blessing!”

We grabbed the last of the stuff from the car, and Darin went in search of sustenance. He found a side salad for me and a pop tart for himself. I still can’t eat much, but at least it’s a little something! Carla came in and said the the birthmother is scheduled to be released today, so there should be very few additional expenses! God, You are working this all out in amazing ways!

They finally brought Joshua David to us! We’ve had him since @ 5:20. We’re already in love! I held him for a few minutes then handed him to Darin for a while. The nurse allowed us to do his first feeding, because she said she believed that to be important. I totally agree, now that we’ve done it. There was something uniquely special about being the first to provide him with sustenance. I called Momma as he fell asleep in my arms. It was beautiful. She asked me to describe him, and I began to realize she hadn’t seen the picture Darin had emailed. She opened the email and saw what we’d named him. I think she was choking back tears as she exclaimed his name! I can’t wait to hear what Daddy’s response was. Darin sent an email with a picture to our immediate families and Uncle Danny. I plan to work on an additional email with more pictures later. Aunt Denise came by after work. She also went to get us hamburgers and fries for supper. We hadn’t realized just how hungry we’d gotten after all day of not eating much of anything. We visited for a while, and after she left, Darin fed Josh. He did very well! It took him a little longer than he thought it should, but Josh was hard to wake up at first, but then he got with it!

I got to sing to Josh for the first time, trying to settle him. I sang “Jesus Loves Me,” then “How Great is Our God” and then “Mighty to Save.” Then Darin read the story of Joshua from our Bible story book that was given to his family by his Aunt Faye when he and his sisters were children. He’s sleeping very peacefully now.

Tuesday April 12
We had a pretty good night. We took turns feeding Josh every 3 hours. Neither of us got a whole lot of sleep – intermittent, really – 30 minutes here, an hour and a half there. In other words, normal! He was apparently cold and lonely at least twice, because when we picked him up and held him close, he calmed right down.

The doctor came in at 8:30 to tell us the murmur was GONE! THANK YOU, LORD! He told us he was about to do Josh’s circumcision, and that we’d be headed out the door by noon! We’re getting showered and having breakfast so we’ll be ready to go. I did stop and read my Bible. The assigned passage for today was Isaiah 61 – a Messianic passage. Here’s what I read:

(1-3) – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come....To all who mourn...he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mouring, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. (7-10a) Instead of shame and dishonor, you will inherit a double portion of prosperity and everlasting joy. “For I, the Lord, love justice....I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

Wednesday April 13
We didn’t get to head out by noon. In fact, we didn’t even get to leave until after 3 PM. Apparently, there was a baby boom going on, and the nurse couldn’t get away to help us...get away. While waiting, I talked to Jennifer for @ 45 minutes. She sounds so ready to meet her nephew! She said when she picked up Russ from school on Monday and she told him he had a new boy cousin, he screamed!! I didn’t know girls were so bad! ;) Then, as they sat at the table, Jennifer told him he’d have to teach Josh all kinds of things. He promised to do so, and said the first thing he would need to teach him is about Jesus! How incredible is that?! Finally, we got to leave and went to the lawyer’s office to sign a revised petition for adoption with Joshua’s name on it. Things seemed so much more real when we saw his name in print on that document: Joshua David Wood.

Then, while Josh and I waited in the car, Darin went in to Sam’s Club to buy formula! That was our final step before getting to the house. We had supper, watched TV, gave Josh some tummy-time and fed him before getting to bed. He got the hiccups last night when he was @35 hours old. Like Darin, he HATES the hiccups. He was getting so mad!

Darin set his alarm again throughout the night and we took turns. At the 2:30 feeding, Josh struggled a little. He was hungry again before 5, so I got up to help him along. He ate, and we were able to sleep until almost 9:30! I still could probably fall asleep now, but I guess I’m still so excited. We sat together in the bed as a family for a few precious minutes this morning, too. I cried as I told Darin, “I’m so happy!” He said he knew I’d be, but I told him I think he knows me better than I know myself, because I really had no idea I’d feel like this. After the morning feeding, Darin went to pick up a few things for Josh. While he was gone, I took Josh outside on the porch to read Dr. Seuss to him in the beautiful weather! We had a great time; or at least I did; he slept through it all! When Darin got back, we had to call Renee Bean with a medical question. She cried when we told her what was happening, that we’d been with him since the hospital, etc! And, we’ve set a tentative appointment when we’re back for his 2-week checkup.

We’ve made it 48 hours into the waiting period. 8 days to go! I feel very confident this morning that God will see this through to completion. As doubting thoughts do arise, I try to speak Satan away in the blood of Christ from myself and the birthmother.

Thursday April 14
After we ate supper last night, Josh got his first (sponge) bath. He HATED it! He screamed bloody murder through the whole thing! I think it will be better when we can actually submerge his body. Because of the umbilical cord and recent circumcision, we still can’t, and it made him cold to be wet here and there. I told him he’d better get used to it, ‘cause I wanted him clean, at least until I have to fight him as a 7 year old boy who hates baths and sees no reason for them! We stayed in bed until 10 this morning as a family, hugging and cuddling. Then we got up and got ready for Josh’s first doctor visit. On the way to the office, he turned 3 days old! And while were there, three days also ticked off the counter! Dr. Harvey did an exam and said he looks great. His jaundice isn’t severe and should be cleared up by next week. We’ll go to see him again next Thurday.

We’ve sat around the house the rest of the afternoon. I read my Bible and these were today's passages:

Ps. 139:13-18 – You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How recious are your thoughts about me, O God! Thye are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!

Rev. 4:11 – You are worthy, O Lord our God to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.

Friday April 15
We had a very rough night last night. Josh and I were up most of the night. I hope Aunt Denise wasn’t, too. I wonder if any of it had anything to do with the barometric pressure last night. We were under Tornado Watches most of the evening, and there were several spotted in other areas in the state. We’ve had a much better day; he’s been awake a lot more. We’ve paid some bills and stayed around the house all day. We thought about running out to return the girl clothes, but a cold front has come through along with a big rain storm. It’s 42 degrees outside now!

Today I had a few fears, in spite of the fact that we received notes from people who mentioned they were praying for us. Darin and I prayed together for our own peace and the birthmother's, too. These were my passages for today:

Is. 26:3-4 – You keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. The devotional said, “Whether we’re facing annoying inconvenience or heartbreaking loss, this rock-solid promise is worth memorizing and repeating. Today...during frustrating delay, can we still trust the loving heart of God?” My other devotional said, “He is the King of kings, yet He is a Father to the fatherless...Out God is a good God. And when our hearts make the connection with how good God is, we can’t help but worship Him. He is so generous that He makes worship a blessing to us. Worship strengthens our faith, it grows gratitude in us, it produces joy, and it helps us get our minds off of ourselves. As you [worship Him], your view of Him will get bigger, your problems will grow smaller in the light of His awesome bigness and you will be able to rest in His good protection. Your heart will be able to rest in reality – your Daddy has got you. He’s so big; He’s so close; and He’s so good....God, You are awesome, and I’m so thankful for who You are. You are...the Ever-Present help.” And then, like a salve for my soul, the Lord ordained for my favorite verse in Scripture to be in the focal passage for today, Col. 1:15-17: Christ existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation...Everything thas been created through him and for him. He existed before everuthing else began, and he holds all creation together.

Saturday April 16
We hit the half-way point this afternoon! I’m still holding my breath, but I did try to inhale one moment today! You used JulAnn Godbey to encourage me this morning. Her Facebook post was this: I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. Eccl. 3:14-15.

This morning, Darin and I took Josh in the car, and while I ran in to return the girl clothes at all the different stores, he stayed with him, feeding him, etc. When we got back, my cousin Nathan and his wife Bekah came to the house, and we had lunch together. They even brought us a $25 Target gift card! Uncle Danny got home while we were playing Racko, and we had dinner together. He and Aunt Denise gave Josh a bounce chair, too! All in all, a great day.

Sunday April 17
A great night!! Even though Josh slept a lot yesterday in the car and at the house, he had a good full night of rest except for his 1 AM feeding! We’re had a family worship time while Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise are at church by watching Cross Church. One thing I appreciated about the message was this statement: “If it’s glaringly obvious God has been doing something, don’t doubt him.”

After lunch we Skyped with Jennifer and the kids. Russ and Laura were so excited to see “the baby”! Laura kept referring to him by his full name, "Joshua David." :)

Monday April 18
Darin confessed last night as we lay in bed a deep sense of panic that the birthmother would change her mind after a weekend to think it over. Naturally, I began to panic, too. He is usually so right about his instincts. By the morning, I was ready to throw up in fear, so I sent the lawyer a note asking for the exact time we can finally breathe again. I wish I’d remained ignorant. She said the law isn’t specific (HOW STUPID – my commentary), so the best bet is to wait until Friday at midnight. I don’t understand how that can be, since she herself was trying to get us into the judge on Thursday, and couldn’t only because the judge was to be out of town. I’ve come up with two theories: 1) She’s accounting for 10 business days or 2) it has to do with when the birthmother’s lawyer filed the paperwork with the courts. Obviously, I was happier not knowing.

Tuesday April 19
We tried to go to bed early last night. I was in bed reading by 8:30, and we tried to put Josh down by 9:00. When we did, he really woke up, so Darin fed him and put then put him down. Then it was up and down for a while. Finally, at 2:00, in exasperation, I laid him down on the boppy on the couch with me (ready to spend the night there), and he fell asleep immediately. It was then I realized he was COLD. (I'm still waiting for the instruction manual he should have come with!)

Today’s reading:

Psalm 33:4-5 – For the word of the Lord holds true, and everything he does is worthy of our trust. He loves whatever is just and good, and his unfailing love fills the earth. (10-11) The Lord shatters the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; hi intentions can never be shaken. (20-22) We depend on the Lord alone to save us. Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his oly name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

Truthfully, Lord, over the last two days I’ve been afraid to pray. Afraid that something I’ll say will make you change your mind and have the birthmother call to get him back after all. Spiritually immobile is how I’ve felt. Like someone yelled, “Freeze.” I’ve largely depended on the prayers of our families and friends. Fearing disappointment, I rationalize that it’s safer not to pray, so I can’t say you didn’t answer. I know it’s Satan. Help my unbelief!! Remind me of your goodness and your amazing work over the last month and 10 days. We have been swept up in a flood of amazement. Please finish this good work you have begun (Phil 1:6; Rom 8:28; Jer 29:11).

This was on Ashley Edwards Facebook this morning: If you find yourself enduring difficult circumstances, remember that God remains in His heaven watching over us. If you become discouraged with the direction of your day or your life, turn your thoughts and prayers to Him. He is a God of possibility not negativity. He will guide you through your difficulties and beyond them.

I was just on my knees begging God to show His mercy. I have no promises to claim from Scripture other than those that describe His goodness and faithfulness to complete what He's begun. Just as I began praying, Darin called to say this email from the lawyer was in our inboxes. A forward from the birth-grandmother :

Darin and Julie,

I just wanted to pass along the email I just got from the birthmother's mom. Please let me know your thoughts on sending pictures, etc. Also, I thought if you were up to it, it may be a nice to compose an email letting her know your feelings about Josh and the whole situation. I think it would just confirm for her that she made the right decision.
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 9:42 AM 

Hope you're doing well. First we just want to thank you for the work and compassion you showed us. You made it alot easier for the birthmother and I appreciate that. She has found it harder to deal with than she expected but still knows that she has done the right thing. And she seems to be doing better. She wanted to know if maybe the parents would send pictures from time to time. She would love to see how he's doing. If you would just ask them about the pictures and see what they think. Were they excited after the birth? Okay with it being a boy? Just thoughts we had pondered.

Thank You
As I put down the phone, I bumped the iPod application and it opened to the song, “How Great Is Our God.” I’m going to spend a moment worshiping, with it, now.

1:45 – Just got off the phone with the lawyer. By God's grace alone, the court date has been moved to Friday at 8 AM with a different judge!!!!! Praise You, Lord! We’ve contacted a few family, but other than that, we’re keeping it quiet as a surprise! We'll be home together for Easter, and Good Friday will be a GOOD FRIDAY! 

Wednesday April 20
Less than 24 hours to go, now! I know Satan will pull out all the stops against the birthmother's peace and our confidence in God's goodness and sovereignty, so I've asked certain friends to continue the battle in prayer. BUT OUR GOD IS GREATER, STRONGER AND HIGHER! TO HIM BE THE GLORY FOREVER!

We are noticing so many things that we have in common with Josh. He curls his hand at his wrist under his chin when he sleeps, like I do. He loves to be warm (aka hot) like Darin when he sleeps.

We went to the lawyer today to sign the financial affadavit paperwork, then visited my Grandpa and Grandma’s grave at the cemetary, taking flowers. I was overcome with emotion as I stood before the memories of two of the godliest people I have ever known, knowing they are smiling with joy as they see God unfold this miracle in our lives.

Thursday April 21
It started out a rough morning. Being tired and scared, anything that happened to disappoint or unnerve me was exacerbated. Truthfully, I already love him so deeply, I fear losing this joy. But things improved for a while when we went for Josh's follow-up visit to the doctor. He got a great report. He's put on another 4 oz, and is healing nicely from the circumcision. (One day, he's going to be livid this is included here!)

We went to Target to try to register, but that didn't work out so well. Oh, we had a great time looking over stuff and zapping it with the scanner, but an hour later when we'd finished, it hadn't put it on Josh's registry. We'd added 55 new baby items to "Amy Beth and Brian's" wedding registry. Someone is going to have a lot of explaining to do, when people try to buy bridal gifts, I'm afraid. We'll have to try again another day to register. When we got home, the rains began to pour down just after we loaded the car with everything we wouldn't need for the next day.

We celebrated with dinner out with Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise, then came home to watch Despicable Me. We'd given the movie to them as a small expression of our appreciation for all their generous hospitality. Darin thought it was appropriate because the story line revolves around adoption; I agreed whole-heartedly!

Friday April 22
We got up this morning, showered and dressed, and loaded while Aunt Denise fed Josh. We then all headed to the Benton County Courthouse. Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise graciously went with us to take pictures and support us. I'm so thankful they were there to share the moment with. It desperately called for family love!

We got to the courthouse too early to even get in the doors (maybe we were a bit excited!), but about 10 minutes later, we were allowed in, and our lawyer walked in through the security gate right behind us. We went up to Judge Scott's office on the second floor and waited for @15 minutes while the lawyer handled all the paperwork. Then, we were ushered into his quarters where he was in his robe. We were seated in front of his desk and he proceeded to ask us various information questions, then he turned it over to the lawyer to ask more questions in formal proceedings regarding our willingness to love and nurture Josh as our own. Then, it was over! We took pictures with the judge, then waited in the lobby while the final paperwork was printed and filed, and we were done. It was so fast, I couldn't believe it was legal!

We then took pictures with our lawyer, Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise, and then hit the road for home! Sometime soon I suppose all this will sink in, but for now, I'll just worship the Lord for the blessing of this beautiful baby boy!

Journey to Joshua (abbreviated version)

As of this morning (a very GOOD Friday!), we are the proud parents of an 11 day old baby boy!! We completed the legal paperwork and in court today adopted Joshua as a member of our family.

On March 9, we learned about an unborn baby available for adoption through a law firm in NW Arkansas that my Uncle Danny and Aunt Denise made us aware of. After completing the background information and updating our homestudy, we learned we were selected as the adoptive parents on March 23. The baby was due April 15! The last month has been filled with prayer and excitement as we anticipated what God was doing.  According to Arkansas law, the birthmother can change her mind any time between the time she has chosen the adoptive family and 10 days after the baby’s birth, even if she immediately signs the termination of parental rights. Additionally, the adoptive family is required to remain in the vicinity of the birth for those 10 days. So, with that kind of uncertainty, we didn't tell too many people and felt it best not to get too many hopes up.

Two weeks ago, we learned the birthmother was to be induced on April 11. So following our morning worship on Sunday, April 10, we headed to Danny and Denise’s home. (They have graciously hosted us since that day, enduring nights of a crying newborn with love and smiles!) On Monday morning, the 11th, Joshua was born at 11:25, weighing 7 lbs, 13 oz. and 19 in. long. We were permitted to go to the hospital that afternoon, and by 5:00, they had us placed in a room where we were able to meet Joshua and spend the night feeding, loving on and bonding with him! On Tuesday afternoon, we headed to the house and have spent the last 10 days waiting for the Lord to complete this good work he began. This morning, the legal aspects were completed and filed, and now the real journey of joy (and work!) begins!

We’re so excited to share this news with you and praise the Lord for His amazing and surprising goodness!