love & grit & glory. [grace & truth series]

[just joining us? catch up with the grace & truth: social justice series here & here]

i’ve been sitting here staring out the window eating crackers with roasted garlic hummus [to God be the glory, right?] and trying to come up with a good illustration for the point i’d like to make. nothing is coming to mind, so here’s the point, delivered in a non prettied-up, non compelling way because that’s just what’s happening today.

love works hard.

graceandtruthloveworkshard

it just. works. hard. it pours out and it may not be filled back up and it makes hard decisions and is a life without love really life at all and when love is our life sometimes it’s just painful and anyone who says differently is selling something.

i’m so overwhelmed at times by the pain in the world that all i want to do is fix it. i’m feeling this right now as i just read this and i’m rolling my eyes because my life today is coffee and friends and there’s brick on our house and my baby is napping and i’m picking out paint colors.

and now i’m rolling my eyes again because i’m reminded that love works hard and you should feel guilty because you’re having a great day are not. the. same. thing.

loved already worked hard. love took on flesh and dwelt among us and we’ve seen His glory. the only Son. from the Father. grace & truth.

so when i say love works hard, the Spirit of God works that truth out inside me, and He reminds me that love works hard as a response, a reflection and not a repayment of what has been done for me. and i’m so much more motivated than i could have been otherwise because i get to love now. i get to work hard and i get to function out of the overflow of grace & truth and joy woven deep. it’s as simple and complex and clear and foggy as we love because He first loved us. it’s a love that:

creates
comes
intervenes
provides
sacrifices
bleeds
pours out
dies on behalf of another.

that’s the love that was shown to us. it’s the love we get to respond to.

this is not a call to be a self made martyr. it is a call to marvel and wonder and invest in discovering just how deeply we are loved by Love and how the calling of our heart to love Love and love loving is where the heart of this life is found.

love works hard.

it looks like selfless service and why is she doing that? it looks like discipleship and open hands and fear not and finances not clutched but given and all we have is His so what would He have us do with it? it looks like many members but one body and it looks like a people compelled and convinced, Christ-loved and Christlike. it looks like grit and commitment and all glory, honor, power is Yours, amen.

it looks like a life that won’t make sense to the world and we hear that all the time but why do i have to repeat it to myself over and over again? it looks like people who are convinced that thy Kingdom come is motivation enough for wherever the Spirit leads, and it looks like people who are confident that God gives wisdom and empowers us to move forward into the dark places.

it looks like the family of a dear friend of mine, parents five minutes into empty-nesting and mom and sister traveling abroad and Spirit pricking and souls saying our home should not yet be empty. paperwork and conversation and prayer and waiting and two children on a plane headed toward a forever home, a forever family. two sisters greeting a new brother and sister at the airport, overwhelmed with happiness that their siblings are here and a jet-lagged, exhilarated brother head-spinning and heart trying to catch up says, “it was not easy.” this is the truth.

love works hard. we are people loved by the greatest Love of all, and this is life is but a vapor, a moment in time and we get to love in a way that reflects God and have faith in a way that moves mountains. love works through us and in us and our hearts are softened by it and stronger for it. love calls us into battle and calls us into rest and that this God we serve brings all these seeming contradictions into synthesis is a manifestation of love itself.

love works hard. if you share that belief with me, grab a friend or a journal or a space in the comments section and ponder what that means for you. it means something, i’m sure of it. He is faithful to reveal.

orphan care: someone else’s words [#2]

welcome to a special, close-to-my-heart-i’m-so-proud-of-this-man edition of someone else’s words.

during jared’s last semester in seminary, he was chosen to speak in chapel as one of four senior preachers. the sermon that he was nominated for and then delivered in chapel was entitled the care of the orphan, and i’m excited to share it with you today. if you have a moment, let it play while you organize your inbox or wash your dishes, or even take twenty minutes to pretend you’re a seminary student sitting on campus. jared’s message is clear, compelling and Scriptural, and he gives excellent examples of how to understand and engage orphan care. also, enjoy the opening illustration. i find it hilarious.

orphan care: someone else’s words.

my brain is so consumed with this new journey God is unfolding in our life that i can hardly form a coherent sentence. in order to keep you all safe from the tangled web that is my attempt at reason, i’m going to share a lot of other people’s words. people who are years, miles, souls encountered down the road from where we are and who are living to tell the tale of orphan care in all its heartbreak and beauty. my mind and soul churn and weep and give thanks because of them.

i’m undone.

if your heart has been pricked by the plight of the orphan, beware. these sermons and posts and articles may just push you over the edge into a world of prayer and action and connection that you didn’t know existed. that’s where i’m finding myself right now, and i’m not sure i’ll ever find my way back. in the interest of full disclosure, i hope i don’t, and i hope you join me.

Sermons/Lectures from Together for Adoption*:
Relaxing in Trinitarian Love [Tim Chester]
The Mega Issues: Breaking Down People’s Perception of the Orphan [World Orphans]
The Church and the Foster Child [Robert Gelinas]
The Church as the Answer to Foster Care Challenge [Dave Gibbons]
Adoption and the Pursuit of Transracial Reconciliation [Scott Roley]
* these are just the messages i have listened to – i have a feeling the rest are excellent as well.

Blog Posts
I’m Not Done Yet [Jen Hatmaker]
The Truth about Adoption: Two Years Later [Jen Hatmaker]
Let Our Answer Be Jesus [Light Breaks Forth]
The Truth about Birth Order, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Family Trauma [Light Breaks Forth]
Grieving Together [Ashley Fishbach/Mercy Found Ministries]

Articles
Miracle in Possum Trot [Charisma Magazine]
More Foster Families Needed across Texas [CBS News]

this is a lot. i get that. i get that i’m a research nut/junkie/addict.

pick one message and listen? pick one post or article and read? it’s worth your while, i guarantee it.

our next adventure: foster care

yesterday afternoon, baby asleep and coffee poured and sun through the window, i sorted through hours of conversation and thought and prayer and put these words together for our families. the short of it: jared and i are (slowly) beginning the process of becoming licensed foster care parents. the long of it, as we shared with our families yesterday, is here.

Dear Family,

Some of you know that we have been praying about and researching foster care. We attended an orientation through Arrow (a foster care agency) on Monday and, to make a long story short, we are officially pursuing licensing as a foster care family. 

We realize that this probably raises a lot of questions and we sincerely hope that you will ask them! We are learning so much already and would love to talk to all of you about the information we are gathering and excited to put into action soon. There is a huge need for foster families in general, and College Station is no exception. In fact, only 9 families are licensed through our agency in Brazos County and children are, consequently, often placed in group homes or taken out of the county for placement in a home.

Children are placed in foster care due to neglect or abuse, so the fact that they are then put through the additional trauma of being removed from their communities breaks our hearts. God’s call to care for the orphan has been knocking at our door for quite some time, and we are so glad that He has given us some clarity as to how we can help address the crisis. There are over 30,000 children in foster care in Texas alone, over 12,000 of whom are waiting to be adopted. We believe it is the correct response for our family to begin fostering one child at a time, whether that child becomes a part of our forever family or we are able to help restore him/her to a biological family.

As far as timeline and a bit of detail, we are currently working on our (monstrous) application and hope to do the training classes in a weekend intensive in January or February. After that, we will have home inspections and complete our “home study,” which is a several hour interview that will provide the agency and Child Protective Services a comprehensive understanding of our family. If a child we foster becomes adoptable and we want to move forward with adopting that child, the home study will be passed on to the judge to assist his decision.

Our hope is that we will have our first foster child by next summer, but our timeline is flexible. We are open to fostering any race or gender. We would like for Owen to remain the oldest child in our home, so his birthday will be our cut-off date for the age we are willing to foster. We are still praying about and discussing what level of therapeutic needs or disabilities we feel capable of handling. Will you pray about that with us?

Other specific prayers at this point are that:

– our application/training/interview process will go smoothly;
– God will open our eyes to the realities that we will encounter and give us the strength and humility to walk through them;
– He will continually remind us that He will be our grace in the need of the moment, whether that moment be a drug-addicted baby in our home, a terrified toddler, or a year with a child ending as he or she is taken back to a biological family member;
– Owen’s heart, even now, will be opened to “sharing” us and that we would be especially skilled in affirming his identity in our family and the way that Christ calls us to be like him and care for our fellow man, as well as how God adopted us when we were orphans;
– we will be faithful to Jared’s position at Grace and the students/families we are called to minister to there;
– we will be able to raise awareness, action and support for orphans and those caring for them in our church and local community.

We hope you will join in this process with us! Please, please, please ask us questions and share in our joy just like you all were so faithful to do when we were pregnant with Owen. We are extremely excited but we also realize that we are opening up our lives to hardship that would be much easier to ignore. Whenever we think about that, it’s our peace to remember that God could have said the same thing about us…but He didn’t. Instead, he told us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He’s so good, and He has set that goodness inside us through His Spirit. It is grace to walk with Him, even into an uncertain journey.

Thank you for loving us and supporting our (seemingly crazy) dreams. We are so thankful that we will be welcoming our children into a home that is loved by each of you. We know that will make an immeasurable impact on their lives.

Call us, text us, email us back. We want to do this together.

We’ve attached a Christian foster care guide that a family at Grace helped write. We found it extremely helpful in understanding God’s heart for the orphan, as well as how the foster care system works. If you have the opportunity, we hope you’ll take the time to look through it.

If you want to pass this on to anyone, feel free!

With joy,
Jared & Abby

so, there it is. the next season of our family’s journey, or at least part of it. we are in the boring paperwork phase right now, so we may not have many exciting updates for a while. however, i am very much looking forward to using joy woven deep as a vessel for sharing what we learn throughout the process, shedding light on the orphan crisis as well as the ever-changing specifics of foster care.

for now, we give thanks that He did not leave us as orphans and we look forward to reflecting that truth in our community. what a privilege and joy.
joy woven deep: Our Next Adventure: Foster Care