Walking Through The Adoption Process With Joy

Are you discouraged because the adoption process isn’t what you thought it would be? Are you exhausted hearing “no” from expectant mothers/parents? Have you let the disappointments in the adoption process consume your mind? Are you bitter from comparing your adoption journey with another family’s recent match? Did you recently walk through a failed adoption?

Difficulties are certain in this life. In fact, if you are a child of God, hardships are a guarantee. Similarly, the adoption process isn’t immune to challenges. I will never forget the day I got a call from one of my close friends telling me that an expectant mama had chosen them to be the parents of their baby! We had been walking through the adoption process together, and this is the call I had been anticipating from them for a while. However, a few months later their situation seemed to be taking an unexpected turn – the kind that so many adoptive parents fear. The mother had decided to parent. Initially, they were angry, hurt, sad and confused. After the failed adoption, they wondered if God even desired for them to be parents. They felt hopeless and many tears were shed. But as they mourned the loss, they remembered God’s promises to them.

Even though the situation had taken them by surprise, it wasn’t a surprise to our heavenly Father. Even though their circumstances seemed to be changing in a scary direction, God’s promises were no less true. And because their ultimate joy was rooted in Christ and not a specific outcome, they were able to keep moving forward. They were able to keep pressing on with joy because they trusted in God’s sovereign hand. They trusted that His promises were true for them despite the twists and turns of the adoption process.

The day-to-day stress of life can be exhausting. But when you add the unknowns and emotions involved with the adoption process, it can become even more difficult to manage. Having joy in the adoption process can be challenging, but it’s a critical part of the journey that is sometimes overlooked.

Defining joy is important. Today, when we think of joy, we often think of surface-level happy, rainbows and butterflies-type of attitude or perspective. But the joy I’m referring to is a Christ-centered, all- sustaining, all-consuming joy. It’s the kind of joy that will hold you up through the deepest trenches and darkest nights. This is indestructible joy.

Psalm 16:11 tells us that, in Christ’s presence, there is a fullness of joy and in His hand there are pleasures forever more. Scripture makes it very clear that, for Christians, our ultimate joy isn’t found in this world but rather in Christ. However, as someone who has struggled with infertility and walked through several bouts of cancer, this is something I’ve really struggled with through the years. How am I to have joy while I’m walking through the really really messy and difficult stuff? I know the Bible says my joy is found in Christ, but how to do I get there? How do I walk this life with joy when I’ve waited years and years for a child with what seems like no answer from God? Perhaps some of you have asked similar questions. How do I have joy when I’ve been told “no” for the 15th time from an expectant mother? I know the Bible says a lot about rejoicing through my sufferings, but how? How do I do that?

Romans 5:3-5 provides a good explanation. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” There is a distinct connection between joy and hope here. Do you see it? Hope is the anchor to our joy-the expectation, the longing, the knowing. “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles (1 Corinthians 4:17).

As Christians we can rejoice through our hardships because we hold tightly to the hope and promises we have in Christ. As believers, we can rejoice in our difficulties because our hearts have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. His promises are true for us regardless of what we encounter in this life. Lately, I’ve been learning that it’s quite difficult not to rejoice as I reflect on the promises of God to me poured out all over scripture. These promises may not align with our timetable or be granted in the way we expect them to, but God ALWAYS has our best interest in mind.

  1. Thinking about His unconditional love for me that sent His son to a cross for my sins so that I could come to know Him. John 3:16
  2. God is committed to making me more like Christ. Philippians 1:6
  3. My inheritance is in Christ. Ephesians 1:11-14
  4. God has promised to never leave me. Hebrews 13:5
  5. God has promised to be close to me when I’m hurting. Psalm 34:18
  6. God will withhold no good thing from me. Psalm 84:11
  7. God will renew my strength. Isaiah 40:31
  8. God will meet my needs. Philippians 4:19
  9. He will give me the desires of my heart as I delight in Him. Psalm 37:4
  10. God’s peace will guard my heart and mind. Philippians 4:6-7

Although my husband and I didn’t walk through a failed adoption and we had a fairly quickly match, our journey was not without its delays, hardships and unexpected twists and turns. Having joy in the adoption process (and in life) doesn’t mean that you only see the world through an inauthentic, rose-colored lens. Instead we can have joy as we are walking through the hard stuff because our hope is found ultimately in the promises of Christ.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Hope: Your Anchor In The Adoption Process

Hearing “no” from an expectant mother or expectant parents is one of the most difficult aspects of adoption for hopeful adoptive parents.  I would venture to say it’s one of the most difficult things I have to share with my families: “She/They chose to move forward with another couple.”  Even though I’m grateful the expectant mother connected with a different family, it’s never easy to share the news with my families who were not chosen.

When my husband and I were walking through the adoption process a situation was presented to us that we immediately connected with. I remember receiving the information while I was at work, and I couldn’t wait to get home to write a letter to this amazing couple that was considering an adoption plan for their child. We were excited and hopeful to present our profile. About a week later, we were informed that the expectant parents chose to move forward with another family. It was not easy news to process.  Even though we were happy that the expectant parents connected with another couple, and even though we trusted God and knew He had a plan, it was still difficult to hear those words: “They chose to move forward with another family.”

In many ways, I believe the heartache we dealt with in infertility prepared us in some ways for the adoption process. Initially, when we began trying to grow our family, I felt as if every negative pregnancy test was God telling us, “No.” Every month became torture. It was very painful for me because I was placing all of my hope into the prospect of having a child. It consumed me. I’m grateful that I was reminded through my infertility to stop placing my hope in external circumstances (having a child or a positive pregnancy test). But instead, I learned to place my Hope in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although we were matched very quickly after signing on with Christian Adoption Consultants, we weren’t immune to the heartache of waiting, loss, and those all-consuming questions like, “Have you forgotten about me, God? Do you hear my prayers?” But, it was through those tear-filled pillows and sleepless nights that I learned how to hope and where to place my hope. It was through the storms where I came to know the depths of God’s grace, love and kindness and learned there is no end to it. It was through infertility and miscarriage that I learned that even the most devastating circumstance does not have the power to steal my hope because it is rooted in Jesus Christ. That kind of hope is unshakeable and unwavering. That kind of hope isn’t titled when the storms come. It stands firm. It’s my anchor.

If our journey had transpired any differently then Roman and Ruby wouldn’t be our son and daughter. Every negative pregnancy test, every no, was leading to our yes. I can’t imagine our life without them in it. Being their mother is by far my greatest joy and blessing. I’m so grateful that God reminded me through the adoption process that His plan is far greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves. And I have two little reminders of that promise running around our house and filling our hearts to the brim each and every day!

We serve a good Father who loves us more than our minds can fathom. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins, for your sins, for her sins and for his sins so that we might come to know Him. I pray that wherever you are in your adoption journey you will never forget His great love for you; a kind of love that always has your best interest in mind even when you can’t comprehend or understand what He is up to.

The wait is never wasted. I can’t promise you an easy journey or that there won’t be bumps and turns along the way. Nevertheless I can with full confidence remind you that God hasn’t forgotten you. He has heard your prayers. He sees you. He is with you. He promises never to leave you.  Place your hope in Christ, friends. For nothing, not even the rushing waves, will be able to tip your sail over. 

“Never was a faithful prayer lost. Some prayers have a longer voyage than others,  but then they return with their richer lading at last, so that the  praying soul is a gainer by waiting for an answer.” -William Gurnall

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Another Holiday Pregnancy Announcement That Isn’t Mine

As a child, I anxiously looked forward to Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought my sister and me. When I was six years old, I remember thinking I heard Santa’s reindeer on our roof. I excitedly ran into my sister’s room and jumped onto her bed and said, “Did you hear that?!” Playing along, my older sister said, “Yes!” The remainder of that conversation has drawn blank on me. But, I can still see two little girls giggling and smiling just thinking about what the next morning would bring.

For many, the Christmas season exudes a sense of celebration, joy, excitement, awe, and wonder, and it should. After all, over 2,000 years ago our Savior was born. If that isn’t something to celebrate with family and friends, then I don’t know what is. But, for some, this holiday season is a reminder of great loss and pain. Perhaps the mother who used to greet you on Christmas morning with a pancake breakfast is no longer on this earth. Perhaps sitting in the living room on Christmas Eve reading the Christmas story feels different this year with the passing of your father. Maybe you were looking forward to sharing your pregnancy announcement with family and friends, but instead you are grieving the loss of your unborn child.

One of the most difficult holidays for me was Christmas 2014. Our baby’s due date was near the end of November, and I remember the anxiety that was building in my heart as the days moved toward Christmas. We were living in Louisiana at the time, and it was 70 degrees all during the month of December—bright and sunny. But I remember my heart felt very cold. I didn’t want to put up a Christmas tree, but Obbie insisted. And so, I obliged begrudgingly. I felt like there was absolutely nothing to celebrate. The baby who was supposed to be less than 30 days old and snuggling in my arms wasn’t there.

The influx of holiday pregnancy announcements filled my newsfeed. It was complete torture, but there I would find myself in the late hours of the night scrolling mindlessly through Facebook with a sad heart. Another holiday pregnancy announcement that isn’t mine, I would think to myself. Then the Christmas family photos would come—the ones with young couples and their children smiling.

Later that night, I saw a picture of six-year-old Kelly from Christmas smiling ear to ear. In that moment, I felt so distant from that little girl who was filled with so much awe and wonder. Those feelings were foreign to me. Obbie and I spent Christmas of 2014 with friends, and even though I was surrounded by a ton of people with their excited faces and giggling voices, I felt sad, empty, and alone. 

Although I am medically deemed infertile and though my womb is barren, my heart is full. And it isn’t just because our hearts (and hands!) are filled to the brim with the sweetest and silliest 18-month-old twins running around the house. After our miscarriage and before we started the adoption process, I was reminded that joy would never come through a positive pregnancy test, a child, or anything that this earth has to offer. The ultimate joy I was looking for, hoping for, and so desperately longing for was something that had already been given to me. It wasn’t a gift to be opened under the tree; it was found in the arms of my Savior. God was faithful to heal our hearts, even though our circumstances didn’t change. And as we continually ran to Him and (sometimes) fell into His arms, He filled us with the fullness of His joy. Not a temporal kind of joy, but an eternal one, the kind that enables you to sing, “It Is Well with My Soul” through life’s deepest wounds.

The holidays can bring about a sadness that on an ordinary day may exist, but during the holidays, it can seem more apparent. You are not alone. Perhaps you feel hopeless in your sadness. Perhaps your heart couldn’t feel farther from that warm, sunny, and 70-degree day. If you need to take a break from the holiday festivities, then do so, and don’t feel guilty that you have to step away from all of the excitement. But as you step away and as you grieve, my prayer for you is that you would not grieve without hope. May Christ give you the strength to grieve with hope knowing that God is the healer, protector, and redeemer of your heart. Grieve with hope knowing that God’s love for you is insurmountable and goes deeper than the pain and hurt encompassing you. Grieve with hope knowing that one day, the load you carry will feel lighter as you continue bringing your burdens to the cross. Grieve with hope knowing that the winter won’t last forever and the sun will come out again.

Through The Storm {Trusting God With Our Kids}

Do you ever lay in bed worried about the future of your children? Do thoughts plague your mind about them getting sick? Is your child suffering from an illness or mental health disorder and you wonder how you will make it through the day? Are you worried that your child isn’t hitting all of the developmental milestones like the other kids? As parents, there are a hundred fears we could let our thoughts be consumed by. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Eight weeks after we adopted Roman and Ruby, our home, city and the surrounding area were unexpectedly hit with the Great Flood of 2016. The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking dinner for Obbie and I. While feeding Roman, I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. I frantically pointed this out to Obbie, who quickly ran out the front door to talk with all of the neighbors that had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie from a distance. He had a very concerned look on his face. I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we have to pack everything up. The water is rising and we have to evacuate immediately.”

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I dragged a large empty trunk into the twin’s nursery. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, dreaming and hoping in this room. I had flashbacks to all of the countless hours I spent on the floor praying for our baby that the Lord would bring into our home. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers mindlessly into the trunk, I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27). I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I was reminded that it was God who brought these precious children into our life. They were in His hands and there was no safer place to be. 

We threw as much as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck.  As we slowly waded through the flood, I looked down at my children and began to cry. The water was continually rising, our neighborhood was completely surrounded and there were only a few dry streets left. Those moments didn’t feel as if they belonged to me. It was like we were the characters in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where they rushed to the top of the building to prevent from being consumed by the water. I felt completely helpless. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies.” It was a prayer of surrender, as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the flood. We were in God’s hands.

We were prepared to sleep in our mini van on the side of the road with our friends who evacuated their home too. It was dark, hot and humid. Many people in the area had been rescued by boat and that knowledge was looming over us as we waited. Not long after we arrived, a young woman ran out of her house with a concerned look on her face. “Are y’all the ones with the newborn twins? My husband is working a late shift so the house is empty and our street is still dry. Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room waiting for the streets to clear. These kind people welcomed us and fed us. God took care of us through the kindness of strangers. As soon as the waters subsided, the twins and I headed 12 hours north to stay with family, while Obbie began gutting our home with the assistance of friends.

We anticipated a lot as parents of newborn twins: sleepless nights, excessive crying, dirty diapers, a messy house, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for this disaster. Once the twins and I made it to my parent’s house, I fell on the couch in complete exhaustion. This was not how I imagined the first few months of parenthood. If I’d had known the flood was coming for us I would have said, “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough.” And I was right. I wasn’t strong enough. There is no way I could have walked down that road without God breathing grace into my lungs.

When we first brought the twins home I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to them. I would stare at them throughout the night and rarely slept. Sometimes when they’d cough or make what I interpreted to be a weird sound, Google and I would spend some time together. However, through the storm I was reminded that God is not only the Creator of all things, but He is the Keeper of all things. Our heavenly Father has entrusted us with the most precious gifts, and as parents we have the privilege of loving and shepherding our children. On the other side of the flood, I came to understand that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is to remember to whom my children belong. Surrendering my children everyday to God is the best way I can love them. Surrender releases you from fear and worry. It doesn’t eliminate every fearful or worrisome thought, but surrender reminds you where to take them- at the feet of your Savior.

Parents, when you remember that your heavenly Father is the ultimate Keeper of your child’s soul, an overwhelming peace consumes you, a kind of peace that will get you through life’s biggest storms. When worry comes for you as a parent (because it will), I pray God will illuminate your mind with His truth and bring your heart to a place of surrender. My prayer is that you can see what I did as I was holding my children,  with floodwater so high I could feel it splash on my cheeks. God is not only with them through the storm, He is keeping them safe, and upholding them in the very palm His hands.

I’m Not the Empty Woman

My infertility once defined me. Every negative pregnancy test became a reminder of what my body couldn’t do. Baby shower invites would come in the mail and my heart would be overwhelmed with bitterness, jealousy, and a reminder of the brokenness I felt in my soul. A stroll through the maternity aisle at Target felt like walking onto a stage before a mocking crowd, as if a giant spotlight was shining on my empty tummy, reminding me that I was somehow less of woman because of my barrenness.

My entire life I was told the likelihood of having biological children would be very slim due to the cancer treatments I received as a baby. Even so, after we were married I was still optimistic and hopeful that somehow God would heal my body and make it do what He created it do. After all, my God is a God of miracles. I’d seen this to be true in my own life, as He healed my body of cancer more than once.

After a few years of struggling with infertility, to our surprise, a positive pregnancy test appeared. Obbie and I celebrated for days, and a small warmth filled our home. However, the baby announcement was never made. Tragedy struck as quickly as the news came in, and we were only able to keep our little one on this earth for a moment. A few weeks after learning I was pregnant, I miscarried. The weight of that loss dragged me to the bed for hours everyday. I was completely overwhelmed with sadness. My tears bathed the pillow every night, and my eyes were swollen most days from crying. Every ounce of my body was grieving. I felt hopeless. And all of those feelings of brokenness came flooding back over me as heavily and quickly as my tears hit the pillow.

The death of our unborn child felt much to me like being stuck in winter. Although some days were easier than others, certain events and dates would trigger memories and tears would follow. Anger and sadness came in ebbs and flows. But, I continued talking about the loss with God, my husband and close friends. Coming to terms with the death of our baby and the finality of my infertility hasn’t been an easy journey. But, it’s one our heavenly Father has been lovingly walking me through every step of the way. Grace gives me strength to trust Him through the pain, knowing that He is a good Father, who loves me even when I can’t quite make my way through the storm. Although most days I failed to see Him-the Son was always there. And eventually He melted the ice away and replaced my barrenness with hope- not hope in a positive pregnancy test or a child, but hope in Jesus Christ.

A doctor would tell you that I’m infertile, that statistically my chances of getting pregnant are impossible. But, I see it quite differently. God healed me. He just healed me in a different way than expected. God healed my heart to be at peace with my circumstances. Though my heart is content that doesn’t equate to immunity from sadness over our loss or my infertility, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts or define me like it once did.

As healing continued taking place in our hearts, we were continually seeking God about how He wanted to grow our family. We always knew that adoption would be a part of our story some day. However, we didn’t realize that “day” was just around the corner. We signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants and shortly after our paths connected with a brave birth mom who chose us to be the parents of her children. Their birth mom lovingly carried the twins for 9 months in her womb, while God was growing unconditional love for them in our hearts. If any part of our story had unfolded differently or been altered just slightly, Roman and Ruby wouldn’t be our son and daughter. And I can’t imagine our life without them.

For women struggling with infertility or loss you are not defined by a statistic. Perhaps a doctor told you the chances of getting pregnant are slim to none. I understand the magnitude of that loss and the feelings that come with it. But, I also know that our joy can’t be completed from a positive pregnancy test, a child or anything found on this earth. Your body isn’t broken, but Christ’s body was broken for you. An empty womb is not the end of your story, but a Risen King from an empty grave is the beginning.  Christ came to this earth so we could have “life in abundance” (John 10:10). This fullness is explicitly and solely found in Christ alone.

Last night both the twins awoke at the same time, and I lifted each one out of their crib. I rocked them to sleep in the brown leather recliner beside their cribs. One in each arm. As their sweet chunky cheeks rested on my shoulders, they fell asleep with one hand each on my chest. I grinned as I looked down at my son and daughter. Tears of gratefulness filled my eyes as I thought about just how much I love being their mama. As I sat there rocking our little sweeties to sleep, I thought back on our journey to becoming our family of four. I can assure you that there was nothing barren about the women rocking her sweet little ones to sleep last night. Her heart is full. She found her hope in Christ.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

 

Children of My Own

“Are you going to have any of your own children?” he asked. Confused, I looked down in the double stroller at my beautiful children and then directly back at the older gentleman. I could tell by the innocent look in his eyes that he didn’t know what he was asking or implying. I could only muster up five words: “Yes, these are my children.” As I walked away, my stomach churned, and I regretted not taking a few minutes to explain why his choice of words was hurtful. But I had a long list of groceries that day, with 6-week-old twins up every two hours, and exhaustion prevented my lips from expressing what my heart wanted to say.

I’m not so naive as to be surprised by questions like these. However, that doesn’t take away the sting. Perhaps, as a transracial family, it’s just something we’ll have to get used to. But I hope not. I know that my children’s beautiful brown skin looks different than ours, and I love every inch of it. But I also know these differences evoke questions and comments. I don’t want anger or bitterness to linger in my heart after these inquiries. In response to their ignorance, I desire to extend truth and grace. After all, Christ calls us to do so. I don’t believe these people intend to be rude or malicious. However, regardless of the intent, these questions are unsettling because they reveal something deeper. Whether they realize it or not, by their choice of words they’re indicating that they don’t think Ruby and Roman are our “own” children. Even as I type that sentence it feels troubling.

Ruby and Roman are our children. They’re not any “less” our children because they didn’t grow in my tummy for 9 months. They’re not any “less” our children because they don’t have our DNA. From the moment their amazing birth mama told us she wanted us to be their parents, God birthed love for them in our hearts. Roman and Ruby are our son and daughter, and we couldn’t be more proud to be their mom and dad.

I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on my son and daughter. It was on Father’s Day, and they were less than a day old. When the nurse brought in our little man I felt like I had to pull my heart off the floor. He melted me, right then and there with just one glance. As I was holding Roman the nurse wheeled in our little lady. She was so tiny, but even so, she had the cutest chunky cheeks. We held them and just stared in amazement at our two beautiful children. As Roman’s little hand gripped my pinky, I tried to slow down time and soak in those fleeting moments. A few minutes later, I asked Obbie if I could hold Ruby, but he wouldn’t let her go. “Just a little bit longer,” he insisted. There is nothing quite like watching the unconditional love that a father has for his child.

Watching Obbie’s fierce and unconditional love for our children continually reminds me of the love of our Heavenly Father. And it should. Earthly adoption is a beautiful depiction of the Gospel and the heart of God. In Christ, we have been spiritually adopted and welcomed into the family of God. John Piper puts it well, “When Christ died for us, the price was paid, and when we trust him, we are legally and permanently in the family. “ When the twins adoption was finalized, the judge ended the ceremony by stating, “the children shall hereafter be the legal children and legal heirs of the adoptive parents and entitled to all right and privileges…they are your son and daughter as if they were born to you.”

DNA doesn’t make a family-love does. I know just what song to sing to help them get to sleep at night, and I understand that their “I’m hungry” cry is distinct from their “I want my paci” cry. I know they would eat mac n’ cheese everyday for lunch and dinner if I let them. I know just the right song to get them grooving to the beat. I know Ruby loves to read books by herself and Roman prefers sitting in my lap and being read to, as long as I let him turn the pages. I know how to make them giggle just with one silly look. We know them better than anyone on this earth because they are our children.

When we stand before the judgment seat of God, it won’t be our DNA that gets us in to heaven, but the blood of another. The question isn’t one of heredity, but of authority. Does He know us? Are we His child? And if we have been adopted in Christ into His family, we are then legal heirs to inherit all the promises laid out for us in Scripture. Language speaks volumes, even when we’re unaware of our words. The simple question “Are you going to have any of your own children” directed towards an adoptive family betrays a lack of belief and hope in the validity, reality, and finality of our own relationship with Christ and our understanding of the Gospel.

 

Mud Pies, Little Treasures & A Holiday At Sea

I put the twins in one of their cribs the other day with half a dozen of their favorite toys so I could clean their room quickly.  A few minutes later Ruby let out a loud screech and stood up with her arms in the air begging to be pulled out of the crib. Assuming Roman had stolen one of her toys again, I chuckled and walked over to see what all the fuss was about. Roman hadn’t stolen one of her toys, but he had ripped off his diaper and claimed the little “surprise” on the inside as his favorite toy. Ruby wanted absolutely nothing to do with Roman’s new little “treasure.”

After I cleaned up Roman and the crib, I started chuckling to myself. I put their favorite toys in the crib and Roman wasn’t satisfied. He was more content with the little “treasure” inside of his diaper than the light-up musical toys surrounding him. But my little man also taught me a lesson that day.

God has offered us Himself, the fullness of joy, and yet we find ourselves chasing after other pleasures that do not and cannot satisfy. Perhaps they can provide momentary satisfaction, but complete fulfillment will never come from this world. How do I know this?

The Bible has endless scriptures promising satisfaction in Christ:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

C.S. Lewis puts it so well: “Indeed if we consider the unblemishing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Christ has offered us Himself, and has clearly spelled out all of the promises for us in Scripture, and yet we continue to choose the very things that will leave us hollow, empty, and dry. C.S. Lewis says we do this because our desires our not too strong, but rather too weak. What a sobering thought. I’ve seen this to be true in my own life. It can be compared to chasing the wind; placing all of our hope in this one thing and expecting it to fill all of the cracks and crevices in our heart. And yet we’re left with a sense of emptiness, realizing that this one thing wasn’t created to do the thing we were so desperately trying to make it do. Like trying to stuff a star-shaped object into the circle-shape sorter; no matter how many times Roman and Ruby try, it’s not going through. It wasn’t designed to.

Our hearts were uniquely crafted to be completely satisfied in Christ alone. And yet we so easily turn God’s good gifts into idols because we expect them to fulfill a role in our lives for which they were never created. Jobs, family, friends, spouse, children- all good gifts – but if we rely on these gifts to fill our hearts completely we’ll be disappointed. We must always go to the source of the goodness, Christ himself, in order to find the ultimate satisfaction are hearts so desperately desire

“If I could find the perfect spouse I would be happy.”
“If I could have the perfect marriage I would be happy.”
“If I could get pregnant I would be happy.”
“If I could get that promotion at work I would be happy.”
“If I could look like him/her I would be happy.”

I’m convinced that these statements may be true for some, at least temporarily true. Perhaps if you found the perfect spouse and you got the job promotion at work you were pinning for you would be content for a little while. But then time would pass and that empty-pit- feeling in your stomach would consume you again. And maybe this time you would stop chasing after the wind: fame, attention, sex, drugs, food, ______________ (fill in the blank), to infuse that space inside your heart, and instead turn to Christ. Are you tired of playing with mud pies? Are you ready to experience all the fullness and joy, “a holiday at sea,” that is yours for you in Christ?

I have tasted the things of this world and none compare to the fullness that comes with knowing, truly knowing Christ Jesus. You can climb the corporate ladder, have a really nice house, car, friends, clothes, etc and completely miss it. You could sail through this life and completely bypass the “holiday at sea” that God has in store for you. Or like Ruby, you can reach up with both arms completely confident in the One who is capable of pulling you out of the mud pie and into the fullness of His joy.

Something Beautiful Here

My favorite part of the day begins when I’m woken up by my two sweeties “twin talking” to each other from across their cribs. I watch from the monitor and wonder what they could be chatting about. After a few minutes, I hear my favorite words come out of their mouths, words that for so long I thought I would never hear: “Ma Ma.” My heart melts into a puddle. I walk into their room, turn on the light, and their beautiful brown eyes grab my heart and pull it in tightly. They squeal with excitement and continue babbling and giggling. Roman, my sensitive little man, reaches for me: “Ma ma.” As I pick him up, he rests his head on my shoulder and then looks at me with the most handsome dimple-filled smile I’ve ever seen. Ruby, my independent little lady, reaches for me, and as I squeeze her up she wraps her little arm around my neck. I give her a kiss on the cheek, and she flashes those beautiful pearly whites at me like she does 100 times a day. I stare in amazement at our two beautiful children.

I try to freeze the picture in my mind so I don’t forget. I don’t want to move from this moment. If only I could have seen the beautiful masterpiece that God was orchestrating for our family. If only I could have seen the beautiful plan God had in store, it would have made it easier to trust Him. But then again, that wouldn’t be faith now would it?

Though I’m grateful for this work-in-progress masterpiece now, there were times when I was confused about what God’s brush strokes were creating. It was as if my life was a piece of unfinished artwork hanging in a big fancy white art gallery. I imagined myself standing before the art that God was constructing and asking Him, “What are you doing God? This doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t look good to me! I think it would look better with a little blue here, and a little yellow there and take that out…that’s just not right.”

Can you imagine if Monet had listened to the critics who called his paintings “formless, unfinished and ugly?” I imagine his artwork would look quite a bit different, and his title as one of the most famous painters in history would’ve been forfeited. But there I have stood many times giving the Master Artist, the Creator of the entire Universe, my critiques. I imagine Him listening to my “suggestions” with a grin on His face, as He pulls me in closely and says, “My daughter, you can’t see it just yet, but I’m creating a MASTERPIECE, something more beautiful than you could ever imagine.”

Following His brush strokes has been a daily act of surrender, trusting that He knows what is best for my life, and truly believing that He “withholds no good thing” from His children (Psalm 84:11). It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown, but that’s what He calls us to do. And guess what? God supplies us with His grace to do just that – trust. We can be certain and confident that we serve a good Father who loves us more than we can wrap our earthly minds around. So, let your heart rest on that truth for a minute. Our Heavenly Father loves YOU so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die a gruesome and painful death on the cross for my sins, for your sins, for her sins and for his sins so that we might come to know Him.

Perhaps in this very moment you feel forgotten, as if God was in the very middle of creating your masterpiece and just left it there as is. He hasn’t. He is right there, brush struck in hand. He works at His own pace and in His own time. Maybe you can relate to the girl at the art gallery confused with the very piece of work that is supposed to be her life. “What are you doing God? What are you up to? I don’t understand. This is so painful. This hurts too much.” I’ve been there too.

Although my heart is so full, it hasn’t always been easy. Through the cancer, infertility and loss, God has been faithful. It is through those painfully slow brush strokes that I felt the depths of His grace, love and kindness and learned there is no end to it. Even when your eyes can’t see what God is up to and you find it hard to follow His brush strokes-He is at work. He is creating a masterpiece- something MORE BEAUTIFUL than you could ever imagine.