Friday, February 5, 2016

An Honest Confession

I came into the new year with a resolution or sorts, it is a verse of scripture that God has continually been putting before me.  Matthew 6 says "33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  I confess that I have been slack in my seeking.  It is the mom of a toddler thing where I figure I don't have time to sit before the Lord and spend time in his word. When that precious moment of Caleb's naptime happens I began to prioritize the things that I know that I can't do when he is awake.  My list looks like this:  
  • clean dishes, and empty dishwasher. I can't do this while he is awake because he has a thing for dirty dishes
  • vacuum
  • fold clothes and put them away (yes, I do actually put them away)
  • make dinner
  • and of course check facebook on and off and email and wonder what the weather will be like and perhaps check ski conditions at the mountain where we are going for a family trip.   
Then, when the floor is cleaned, the granite polished, the smell of dinner in the crock pot filling the air I would sit down to God's word. Inevitably, within 10 minutes of Bible reading I would hear the cries for Mommy.  In all of the naptime I spent about 10 minutes in God's word.  Honestly friends, I can do better than that. I have to do better than that.   

This has been my pattern for the past 6 months or so, and I will be honest, I have wondered why I haven't been as fruitful as I once was in ministry.   I have always been a quiet time girl.  There were times in my life when I spent 2 hours in God's word.  I would soak it in and then when the world would wring me I would pour out Jesus. I often had something to write, a message to give, or a prophetic word to pray over someone. In these past months I haven't felt compelled to share any scripture and haven't had thoughts for writing. I thought that perhaps God was just changing my calling, that he wasn't going to use me as a writer or as a teacher of His Word. Now that God has gotten my full attention again, I see that the gifting that he has given me as His child has not changed, it has just gone untended. 

Here is a picture of my garden a few summers ago. It was fruitful, tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies just lived in happy harmony in my well tilled and watered soil.  Last summer and the summer before that I lost the middle row of my tomatoes. The garden looked puny on the inside, so much so that this summer in early August I just pulled all the veggies from the center row.  The first summer of the failing middle I blamed the nursery where I got those plants. I start most of my plants from seed, but that summer I put some store bought plants in the garden. I blamed them for the disease!  Ha!  Those bad folks at bonnie selling diseased produce. This summer all my plants got their start in my front window.  All of them had the same care.  It wasn't until mid June I noticed I was losing the middle row again. It turns out, that row wasn't getting the water it needed.  The outside rows grew so tall they were blocking the water spray.  The middle row was parched, while the outside rows were thriving. 

Friends, no matter what absolutely necessary things are pressing a day, the most important calling is to Seek Jesus first. I hear you when you say you are too busy to read God's word. I know your kids make a mess. I know you may feel lonely at home and you need to check facebook to feel connected to other adults. I get your heart. I am there. I have been there and I want to do better. I want to BE better.  I just don't want to be that girl that has spent all her time watering the outside, the appearance of things but letting the center go weak and weary.  I need to remember to abide in Christ, because apart from Him, I can do nothing.  Let him water my life, saturate my life, down to the very center.

So this is my confession before my Daddy God who loves me:  Father, I have forsaken time with you for the busyness of homekeeping and the distractions of facebook and social media. I have missed opportunities of quiet moments with you throughout the day.  I need you to change my heart to make me a seeker of Jesus. Lord, do in me this transforming work of grace that the priority of my every day would be to seek you first, to find in you the midst of crazy, and to settle with you in quiet moments.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Caleb's Adoption Story Part 2: The Redemption of His birth Mom

I read somewhere about a foster child who said that he knew that his foster parents loved him because they loved his birth mom.  It challenged me to think of what it would be like for me to love Caleb's birth mom. How could I hold a place for her in my heart?  I knew very little about her this time last year. All I really knew was that Caleb was taken into custody because he was exposed to drugs in utero. She wasn't allowed to be alone with him in the hospital. She wasn't the one to carry him home. She carried this baby in her womb for close to 40 weeks and when he came out crying and healthy, he was taken from her.  I can't imagine the heartbreak to have a son taken from your arms. This baby who grew in your womb and kicked and prodded and made you tinkle your pants a little bit when you laughed, this baby made from the stuff you were made of, and now he was no longer your son. He was taken away, because of choices you made, but still, he was removed from you. 

Honestly, it still gets me.  When Caleb was born, his birth mom, Elizabeth,  was in a really bad place. She was on drugs and was chasing after death with all her heart.  She was not in a place where she could see her son because she had to be clean for 3 weeks in order to earn her right for visitation.  She did come to a hearing in September in which she stated she wanted to present evidence that she was getting her life together.  Then when the evidence hearing occurred a month later she was a no show.  Her life led her on the run and to more drugs and more heart ache. 

I had read some statistics of people who get involved in crystal meth. They are not good stats... they are the ones that say if you start this drug the only way to get off of it is to die.  Only 4 % of meth addicts come clean.  Despite the stats, or maybe because of them I started to pray for Elizabeth. I started to ask God to bring her to himself, to redeem her, to give her a new life. I had heard rumors that she was in foster care as a child, that her parents were drug addicts, that her life had been marked by every hard thing that you could imagine.  My heart started breaking for this one whom God loved and I interceded for her. Lord,  would you save Elizabeth, would you bring her to your redemption.  Redemption was the word I kept praying for her. It was my heart that she be redeemed. I wasn't sure God could do it, to be honest, remember the stats?  But God...

In the winter at some point Elizabeth signed over her rights to him. She was in essence giving him up for adoption.  I can only praise God for working in her life to give her the grace to see that loving Caleb meant letting him go.  It meant giving him over to the family that loves him, to the mom who has been snuggling him in the middle of the night when he cries, who has been teaching him to walk, to the dad who wrestles him to the ground and tickles his belly til laughter explodes.  She was letting him go to the family that she had longed for as a child. 

In March we had a meeting called an ISP in which the permanency goals for the child are discussed and changed if needed.  Elizabeth showed up to the ISP, and she was accompanied by the director of the Dream Center!  She was in rehab!  She wasn't just in any rehab, she was in a place where she was being discipled in God's words, she was loved, she was celebrated. She was in a place of life. After so many years with death as her constant companion, she was in a place of life.  I was amazed. I didn't know what to do. I knelt in front of her and just wanted to serve her, to show her that she is loved.  It was totally awkward :)  I asked her if she wanted to see pictures of Caleb. She cried and grinned as she saw this baby who has her dimples and perfect eye brows. 

In the meeting I saw how God had preserved Caleb in his mother's womb.  She talked about how when she conceived him she didn't really want to have  a baby but she didn't believe in abortion and she knew there were women who couldn't have children.  Even in the midst of drugs and hard living she had a word from God. It was God who spoke life over her and said carry this child. It was God who gave her a heart for me, even when she was in darkness, light filtered into her heart.

She has been clean now for 7 months!  She is doing so well and has even been placed in a position of leadership among the other women in the center.  Her face is radiant as she is looking to Jesus.  Jesus has removed her shame and given her a new life in Himself.  He is even restoring her to relationships she once knew as a child that were a blessing to her.  God is making all things new.   I am so honored to have been able to play some role in her redemption, even if it is just prayer for her.  Elizabeth is a beautiful woman who God dearly loves and I rejoice that she has given her heart to Jesus. 

It is a great miracle that Caleb has become our son.  It is just as great a miracle that Elizabeth
has become a child of God.  We are all adopted in some way.  I am filled with joy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Caleb's Adoption Story

 Jeff and I had come to the point that all couples who struggle with infertility come to before their family miraculously expands:  we were totally content with our small family. We were in that sweet spot of making the most of the lives God had given to us.   Zack was old enough to do some of the things that we love doing, we took him skiing and he loved it (a good sign for future ski trips), we were hiking more of our local trails, and getting out and doing some fun adventures.

We remained on the foster care roles but more and more because of God's call to take care of orphans and less and less because we wanted to have more children.  We were licensed foster parents for almost 2 years before we actually got a call for a placement.  We knew that we were in God's hands and that if he wanted us to care for a child He would bring that one our way.

In April of 2014 I was looking at shoulder surgery and was in such intense pain I practically ran to the operating table. It turns out my labrum,  and rotator cuff were torn, the joint needed tightening, and I had to have a bone spur removed.  The severity of my problems may or may not have had something to do with carrying Zack down mountains in said ski trip :)  Before I went to surgery on April 24th DHR called me about a
new born placement.  He was to be born in a few days and taken immediately into custody. I agreed to take him and Jeff and I spent the weekend getting out all of the baby stuff so the house would be ready.  It turned out that the mom of this baby went into hiding and he would never come to our home, but the house was ready and instead of welcoming a baby boy I went to the operating table.  Game on for getting the shoulder fixed on April 24th.

After the surgery I was not able to do many of my daily tasks for about a month. It was pretty much humbling times 5000, but by the middle of May I was able to have my arm out of the sling a little and physical therapy was going well.  June 15th we got a call from DHR about a baby boy who needed a home.  We said Yes immediately. It was such a timing of God moment. I wouldn't have been able to care for him when he was born on May 29th. I was not allowed to carry him at that point.  As God would have it our house was already prepared for a baby because of the call we had gotten in April.  God is gracious.

There are so many amazing God moments in this that I am just going to list them for you. I don't want to write a book here or you may get bored and miss the good parts so here are the highlights, or better yet the God fingerprints:
  • Caleb, Jeff, and Zack's birthdays are all 1 day apart.
  • Caleb was in a good foster care home for his first 3 weeks.  They felt they needed to give him up because there was a woman with whom Caleb's birth mom wanted him to be placed.  They were growing attached to our sweet baby and did not think their children, especially their adopted child, would cope well with removing Caleb from their home.  If this woman wasn't a placement option, Caleb would still be in that first home.
  • Caleb was placed in our home with the full understanding that he would be moved in a couple of months.  We were not at all anxious. We just trusted God to work.   He did.  
  • From the very beginning of having Caleb I prayed that God's will would be done on Earth as it is done in Heaven regarding Caleb. This gave me the courage to place my trust and faith in God and not try to manipulate situations or carry anxiety.  
  • Early on in the placement I prayed and asked God what Caleb's name really was. The name he came with was fine, but I did not sense it was his true name.  God laid the name Caleb on my heart.  I looked up it's meaning and it means "wholehearted".  Jeff believed God was calling us to love Caleb wholeheartedly.. 
The hand of God is apparent in this entire journey of fostering and now adopting Caleb.  It has been a time characterized by peace and trust, not anxiety and fear. If God is calling you to foster children, please do it! He will certainly fill you with peace and joy, and in the most amazing way you will be able to love on some little humans who God adores.
I would like to introduce you to Caleb Joshua Webb, "wholeheartedly the Lord rescues".  Indeed he does.

Monday, November 3, 2014

When the break up breaks your heart

Sweet Friend,  Your heart is breaking from the breaking of a tender relationship in which you had hope and wonder that perhaps you had found the one.   Perhaps you had become connected to the man you had waited for and longed for and wondered about on your knees before a holy God.   You opened your heart up to him and wanted him to meet desires in you and needs that are right and holy.  It is a longing to be known and loved and secure in relationship that God has placed in your heart.  Don't grieve your longing for a husband.  Lay it at the feet of the one who loves you so much that when you were still his enemy he went to a cross for you.

I remember those feelings of my own heart ache and anxiety of when was God going to bring me a husband.  When I was helping to lead a youth group in a local church while I was a college student I used to joke with my students that I was not going to be a youth minister because then I was sure I wouldn't get married until I was 32.   (I married Jeff when I was 32, of course)

I went traipsing around the world, much like you have done, and poured my life out for the lives of teens living in third culture places.  It was amazing and wonderful, and many times, lonely.  Even in the midst of thriving ministry I spent many nights in my bed wrestling with God about my future. I longed for a husband. At one point I thought that I had met him, entered into friendship with him, and proceeded to have him break my heart over and over with an on again, off again pursuit of me.  I finally had to tell this Mr. Wrong who I thought was so right that I couldn't even be his friend on any level.

In the midst of the emotional roller coaster of this man I heard another lover calling me with greater zeal and faithfulness.  I was challenged to read 6 chapters of scripture a day.  I entered into God's word and found that eventhough my heart hurt from rejection, my soul and my spirit were being watered and thriving.  My heart would heal too and before much time passed, and many tears were spilled, God began to more completely take the place in my heart that I was so willing to give away.  My desire for marriage did not leave, it just wasn't controlling me.

Several years later, back in America, I found myself struggling again about when I would be married. I was experiencing stress at the church I was serving and found that the more stress and uncertainty I experienced in ministry the more I just wanted to be married.  I was trying to read God's word one morning and I may as well have been staring at the wall for all I soaked in.  I felt the urge to run.  I put on my running shoes and hit the road on a cold February morning and very clearly heard God assure me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, that this truth is indeed the key to contentment.  I realized my desire for marriage was based in a fear that I was going to fail as a youth minister and I needed a man to rescue me.  Jesus reassured me that in Him I had what I needed and I found a deep contentment.

The next month,  Jeff Webb began to write me poems and the rest is history.

I love you friend.

Father, speak deeply to my friend's heart. Pour your comfort over her and give her your Word to provide a solid place on which to stand.  Father, she needs you.  She needs to know that you hear the cries of her hurting heart and she needs to believe you.  She needs to believe that you are good and everything you do in her life is informed by your goodness and your tenderness and strength toward her.  Heal broken places.  Lead her on paths of truth and righteousness. Give her hope in you today. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A letter to the Broken Hearted

How many of us memorized Jeremiah 29:11 as youth?  I did!   I think I had it written on my softball glove.  I could read it out in the field and make myself think that God had it in mind to make me a great athlete. I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord (YES), plans to prosper you (YES, catch that fly ball, make that home run), plans for a hope and a future (European Championships here we come!).  It wasn't until I went to College and I experienced my own little exile that I began to grasp the context of the events and the people who inspired that promise.  

For me it happened in my Senior year when I spent my last semester living with my Dad because his house was close to the homeless shelter where I would serve my practicum.  I was living far from my college friends in a place I had never lived and in a situation that was tumultuous. I was lonely and weary.  In suffering God showed me the context of my favourite verse.  

Jeremiah 29 is a letter written to broken hearted people who were forced into exile. It is not a pep talk letter to a happy folk who just need a cheerleader on the side lines telling them that God loves them and keep on keeping on. It is a letter written to people who were at once the kings, princes, craftsmen, and prophets of Judah. They were God's chosen people and among that people they were the cream of the crop. They were the ones with the influence, the prestige, the money.  They had everything they could want, once, until they became captives in a strange land to people who served a pagan God.  They wanted to go home.  They couldn't.  Imagine the heartache of being sent into exile, the brutality of being taken from your home, the only place you ever knew, to make the long desert walk to a foreign land. The humility, the desperation, the brokenness.

A modern day exile is found in the leper colony.  These women have leprosy.  I visited their home in India. It was the most hopeful place I experienced in my trip.  They were fully alive because they had hope in Jesus.  Their leprosy did not take away their lives, for many of them their leprosy led them to find real life in Christ. 
Day after day the false prophets of Judah would tell them that the captivity would only be a couple of years. It would all be over soon. God would restore them, and would defeat Babylon.  But day after day they sat there, broken, staring at walls, depressed.

I can relate to staring at walls. I can relate to being so broken and hurting that all I can muster is the strength to stare. The strength to turn on the television to think about any thing else than what has broken my heart. I can feel traces of the pain of utter disappointment in God.  I felt the pain of exile as a college student. I have felt it many times since. 

Jeremiah sends his letter to the exiles and his words to them sound nothing at all like pity.  He tells them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

These are the children of the lepers in the leper colony.  We stood on a rooftop and sang songs of praise.  There was joy because even in hard times, God is good.
God has sent you into exile.  Live there!  Be all there.  Live your life for the glory of God in the midst of your pain and longing.  Don't give up on life.  Be fully alive.  Your circumstances may be hard but your God is good.  Live.  Invest.  Get up and contribute.  Let the God of the Universe show His glory through all your broken places.  Trust that God is present with you in your exile and know that He has come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.
I bought several table clothes and a purse made by the leper colony residence.  

 From the exiles in Babylon to the lepers in the colony I visited in India we see the same calling to live abundantly.  God is enough. Life is in Him.  Live fully.  Be grateful for life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Journey

Last week I was getting Zack ready to go to Sci Quest for the second time in  3 days.  My boy loves science. When he first walked into sci quest he stood in front of the giant marble run for 15 minutes.  He was mesmerized.  He was figuring it all out.  How the blue balls go through the twists and turns, the red balls move through their maze.  "Look Mom, see how that one jumps, how does it go through the twist part?'
So many questions for an almost 5 year old boy who was cut from the same cloth as his engineering daddy.  So the morning I was helping him get dressed to return to his childhood utopia I told him why we do it... Why we buy him Lego's and marble run and take him to sci quest and the Space and Rocket center... Why we let him build squirrel traps with Daddy's left over wood and we spend time nurturing his creativity. 

It is because God has told us in his word to train up our child in the way he should go.  My Pastor David Thew once taught me and Jeff that passage meant to train him according to his bent. So I knelt in front of my son and lovingly affirmed to him Mommy and Daddy's conviction to nurture his strengths.  Smiles and hugs and off we went.

While I was at Sci Quest I got a message that touched a nerve. I learned a friend was given a gift and I wondered why some folks end up with so many blessings and I seem to be missing out in that specific area.  The area being a bigger family.  Why does God add children to some families and not to mine? I have been totally content with our small family so I didn't understand why I was having a problem.  I was talking to God about it in my head and I had this great sense that God was saying to me "Judy, I am raising you up according to your bent".  Wow! God is raising me up in a way that is intentional to who I am, even at 41!  

We are so often tempted to look at the blessings of others and wonder if God has forgotten us.  We wonder why does God give that person the great job and I'm unemployed.  Why more children to the family that already has 4 and I just have 1.  Why do they get to go to Disney again... Blah blah blah... You know what your struggle is and the answer is always the same.  God is raising you up according to your bent.  Don't compare yourself to others.  God knows what He is doing.  He has you in mind. He knows what is best for you.  Just as we nurture Zack according to his passions and calling so God does with us... Only much better.

Friend,  join me today in saying to God "I trust you with my life and heart.  I trust that you are raising me up according to the way that I should go.  That path looks different from my brother, but it is good and it is uniquely mine and I gladly walk it with you.  Give me the grace to walk it with you!"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It is a Matter of Life and Death

I have walked long hot walks on walls built to keep others out, to keep those inside safe and secured. I've been amazed at man's ability to place brick upon brick and mortar just right to keep standing after centuries of rain and wind, after sword and fire, after men with ladders and angry hearts have tried to usurp her defences.  I grew up in a city where a castle overlooked the valley and in ominous beauty stood year after year, with high walls and blown out towers, proof that it once was glorious, proof that it did not always stand the test of time or the test of the cannons. 

I think of Israel and Nehemiah surveying the broken walls of his beloved city, I think of him weeping when he hears the news that her defences are down, the people are not safe.  What does it mean to build a wall around your home? What does it mean to be the person who stands in the gap of a broken down wall and holds a spear in one hand and the trowel in the other?  What does it look like to say to God that you are willing to be the warrior and to rebuild broken walls?  What are the stakes if we leave the walls unfinished?  What if that little Dutch boy had just walked on past the leak in the damn?  Would the water have come rushing into an unsuspecting weary town? 

Friends, you who have borne children and laid them crying on the bed to change their dirty diaper, only to cuddle them clean and happy in warm waiting arms.  You dear friend, who have stood before God and all of heaven with the man of your dreams and proclaimed covenant of marriage and unending love and devotion.  You who wept in prayer making promises to God that you would raise children to know him, to love him...  You are the warrior your children need to stand watch over your family. You are the one called to bend the knee and bow the head and pray to the God of the heavens to build those walls of protection around your home, around your children...

Oh God, lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil.  Oh God, let your will be done in their lives as it is done in heaven.  Lord, protect them from the flaming arrows of the evil because

Ephesians 6:12 says

New International Version (NIV)
1For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Parents, Father, Mother, remember when you lock your doors at night and you makes sure windows are secured and stove is turned off, remember that your fight is in the heavenly realm.  Remember that the real battle is for hearts and souls. The real battle is for your marriage, it is for your children.  We protect them in the physical, protect them in the spiritual.   Build the walls of protection around your children, it is a matter of life and death.

When Moses stood on the plains of Moab with the promised land close and hearts were eager,  he preached...  He gave a sermon like no other of how they were to make it, how they were to stand against all of the struggle and fight they were about to encounter.  How do you take a promised land already inhabited? How to do you claim an inheritance that seems so out of reach.  The answer is the very core of all of life.

 Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Remember God.  All. The. Time.  When you walk, talk about him, when you wake up let Him fill your thoughts.  Let God talk be the commonplace.  If you want your children to come into their spiritual inheritance you need to let the gospel be your everyday conversation.  If you want to build walls around their hearts of spiritual protection let the wall itself be the gospel.  Let the Gospel be the filter of everything they hear and so in the filtering miracle of gospel truth they will be able to spot a lie a mile away, and they won't believe it, they won't fall into that temptation because they know it came from the pit of hell.  Speak the Gospel to your children.  Speak the Gospel to yourself, and to your spouse.  Let your words be seasoned with grace.  Fill your home with truth so that a lie or temptation from the enemy only looks hideous and unattractive.  

Friends, build the walls of worship, of gospel truth.  It is a matter of life and death.  Your children will face temptation, give them the foundation to stand against it.  Survey the walls and ask God to show you places where they may be a crack in the brick and ask for grace to seal it.  An example:  I became a food network junky filling the evening with the sound of Guy Fieri and his eating out exploits.  Was it evil?  Not really, but it became a crack in our wall.  While Guy was filling the sound void we were not listening to God or seeking him as a family.  I turned off the tv almost entirely last August.  Our nights now consist of the beautiful sweet picture of Zack holding his children's Bible in his lap while Jeff reads the stories to him out of his Big Boy Bible.  How much better is that?  We were missing a chance to build a wall of gospel protection around Zack. 

So what about you?  I beg you, ask God where you need to rebuild broken walls.  Ask Him where you can bring your family to spend time around His word.  He will show you.

We just kept walking on those amazing walls.