All posts by Vanita Thomas

Vanita Thomas is the privileged, beloved, adopted daughter of the God of the universe who has been chosen to inherit the riches of His glory one day! She is Peter's wife, mother of Sandeep, Sneha Ruth and Sarah Rachna and the mother-in-love of Shirley. She was an Engineer and Information Specialist who chose to step out of her career in order to be dedicated to the harder task of looking after her beloved children when they began their adoption journey 19 years ago. God's call on her life to be an adoptive mom has been the most beautiful calling but has also been an extremely hard marathon. She was also privileged to have a biological daughter who is her baby girl. She blogs about her joys and sorrows on this journey where she knows she stands only by the grace of God! Peter and Vanita hope to celebrate their 25th anniversary this year by God's grace. "To endure the cross is not tragedy; suffering is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Celebrating 50 Years of Grace!

It’s just near midnight at the end of my fiftieth birthday and the house is quiet. The big 50! It was a day of great rejoicing for me – not because of huge birthday celebrations and parties, nor because of outlandishly expensive gifts, and definitely not because we got to get away on a vacation to celebrate this special day! None of that happened, yet, it was out of this world amazing to me!

I am extremely grateful to my loving Heavenly Father who has poured His love on me over the past five decades of my life. These verses summarize why I am overwhelmed!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:3-14

I started the day with an extra special treat – going to the Jon Ric spa to get a facial and massage with all three of my beautiful daughters. This is extremely unusual for me as I almost never go to a spa – I’ve probably gone twice in my entire life and only in Bangalore, not once in the US! It was a surprise gift to me from the “No Way” Refresh Conference fairies and it arrived right around my birthday! It touched my heart because the lovely folks at this newly opened spa had donated their time and effort to encourage foster and adoptive moms like me. My daughters were obviously thrilled and sharing this experience with them was such fun! I left feeling so refreshed! Just grateful!

IMG_0213

Soon after that, I got to go and join other friends in helping a dear family setup their home for their son’s First Holy Communion celebration! This group of friends from our Grow Group have become treasured brothers and sisters over the past 2 1/2 years. Each one bends over backwards to help and care for the others. We saw them pour out their love on us at our son’s wedding and today we all got a chance to do the same for this family. The place was transformed into a beautiful party house. The planning, the chatter, the prayers, the laughter, the fun, and the joy of being with these servants of God brought much gratitude to my heart. We are praying much for their son who steps into this important step of faith tomorrow and we rejoice with them!

IMG_1609

And then, the clincher of my day was a surprise family birthday party executed with so much joy and enthusiasm by my precious children and parents. It was amazing to see the joy and excitement on all their faces as they told my husband me how they had planned and prepped for the event all week, yet managed to keep it a secret! They are all gifted in a different ways and we could see that each one wanted to out do the other in good works for the benefit of all. Birthdays have always been extremely painful for our family as I had mentioned in this post. I am so humbled by the love of both generations we are sandwiched by. They worked in such unity of spirit as they shopped and decorated, cooked and cleaned, bought gifts and got beautiful cards – all this to celebrate my husband’s and my life (his birthday is four days before mine – but he is older and wiser!). They truly made it a memorable day for me and for us all! Each one shared how they were grateful and wanted to give back in love! My heart was so touched by their sacrifices and love! It’s a rare gift in an adoptive family! Their loving acts of service brought overflowing gratitude to God in my heart for without Him, this would not be possible!

IMG_1610

Seeing my parents enjoy their grandchildren brought many smiles to my heart. All four children here in WA, love their grandparents and willingly serve them. Thatha and Pattima will do anything for the grand kids. There were smiles all around as we prayed and played a quiz they had made up on my life! It brought back memories of the joys of yester years with my own beloved grandparents. I know what a gift of grace it is to be able to celebrate with three generations together. Such gratitude in my heart!

I am also so very grateful to every person who sent me wishes, encouraging notes, prayers, and calls from around the world. It is so overwhelming to see the world connected this way. Most of them didn’t have to but they chose to, out of love – a good gift from a loving Father! He has allowed me to live in an age of such global connectivity – mind blowing but amazing!

IMG_1603.JPG

As I sit on my bed tonight, tears of gratitude pour down as my heart overflows with praise at the awesomeness of God! We have had so many years of brokenness, pain, sorrow and suffering – days when I have cried out unable to even articulate the pain and loneliness of the journey, days when I have felt abandoned by everyone, even God. Yet today, God gifted me a day of thanksgiving and joy! Thank you Lord for doing Your work of grace in my life and in the lives of my family and friends around me. May You alone be praised! I give You thanks, I give You glory!

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:1-5

Lord, bless each person who has made a difference in my life over the past 50 years. Please, give them the greatest blessing of all – knowing You and becoming Your very own Son or Daughter just as You have blessed me!

Golden Calf Anyone?

John 3:16 states: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Who is this person who died for us? I am going to do a quick survey of the Bible to see.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). He is the Creator, the Word who became a human being – He laid aside His glory, humbled Himself and stepped down into this disgusting, abhorrent, sin filled earth just to die for us so we can have the hope of heaven.

In Isaiah 6, we are taken into the heavenly throne room of this God sitting in majesty surrounded by Seraphs who cried out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. Isaiah’s only response was: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! His holiness and purity compared to man’s sinfulness is clearly depicted here.

When Moses asked to see God, this is how God responded: Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship (Exodus 34:6-8).…

Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light……. behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified (John 17:2, 5-6).

John , one of the closest disciples of Jesus, describes his encounter with the risen Lord: behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald … the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:2-4, 9-11).

Revelation 5: 9-10, 13-14: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,and they shall reign on the earth.”…….And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever”…….And (they) fell down and worshiped him!

This is the picture the Bible consistently paints of this awesome, amazing God. A God who wants us to worship Him with ALL our hearts, minds, soul and strength.

IMG_1529

Most of us know this in our heads. Yet, how do we perceive this God from our human perspective on a day to day basis?

The Israelites had just experienced such awesome miracles at the hand of God, yet they decided to worship the golden calf, truly believing in their hearts that they were worshiping God! Aaron received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 32:4-6)! When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” They started believing that the golden calf was the one true God and soon their lifestyle became just like all the surrounding pagan nations.

If you and I were to honestly examine our hearts, we know that though we may say or think we worship Jesus, we most probably worship golden calves! God reminds us that our hearts are desperately wicked and that we naturally love darkness rather than the light.

I have identified three ways that could reveal our hearts’ idolatry:

  1. How do we react when something dear to our hearts is suddenly taken away from us by God?
  2. What would we do if we were called to lay down our lives sacrificially. Is Jesus still the object of our worship?
  3. A question we need to repeatedly ask ourselves is: what has replaced Jesus in our lives? – ourselves, our children, our spouse, our family, our lineage, our DNA, our education, our jobs, our looks, our position, our community, our friendships, our health, our money, our vacations, our properties, our worldly goods, etc. How different is our life from that of those who don’t believe in Jesus  around us? Are we pursuing the same dreams they are pursuing  – jobs, children’s education and activities, sports, entertainment, vacations, homes, things, cars, etc.? Are we building our own empires? Are we compromising on our Biblical values – stepping on the slippery slope of the world’s morality and values for personal gain? Do we pride ourselves like the Pharisees on being “good moral Christians” looking down on those who are not? Do we treat everyone with respect and honor higher than ourselves? Do we sacrificially step out to love and care for the hurting, the broken, the poor, the sinful like Jesus did?

For me personally, one of my idols is my children and their success. Just like most parents I know, particularly Indian parents, I too wanted them to be good, to study well, to look nice, to be smart, talented, etc. I would even justify my frustration and anger  by convincing myself that all this was good for their future or even that if they succeeded, they would be able to glorify God. Yet, when God didn’t grant me my heart’s desire because my son and daughter struggled for years due to their childhood trauma, I was angry that God was not stepping in and making them succeed.  I wouldn’t easily admit it, but I became angry not so much for His honor but for mine, for we live in a society where children’s success or failure directly translates to parenting skills and love.  Obviously, that made us look like failures despite the extra hard parenting work we were putting in. Through this brokenness in our lives, God showed me that I valued success far more than I valued honoring Him. He showed me that the praises of men mattered more to me than His well done! I had forgotten that His success ran against the tide of the world’s success as outlined in my blog post “Success, God’s Way.  My anger and frustration served to show me how desperately I needed the resurrected Savior, and how far I was from total surrender!

We have all fallen so short of God’s glory that we would only have had hell to look forward to, but  Jesus came to face the anger and wrath of God against my sin and your sin, to pave the way for us to be saved. Let us pray that God does whatever it takes to show each of us our idols so that we have a chance to repent on this side of eternity before it’s too late. He is a jealous God and He will not be mocked. His punishments are sure. He wants us to love and honor Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We can do that only in the resurrection power of God! Romans 10:9 says: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. We must fall down before Him in repentance asking Him to forgive us. He promises us a new heart and a new life and a new destiny – eternity lived in His Presence. The promise of joy everlasting! Though this life is filled with many trials and struggles, Jesus died and rose again just so we can have an eternal relationship with the all powerful, holy, awesome Creator God of this universe. Through this relationship, He becomes our Heavenly Father who loves us.

IMG_1532.JPG

He wants a relationship with us. In return, we get the privilege of smashing each former idol and learning through His Word to be sanctified and become more like Jesus. We get the privilege of communicating with the God of the universe through prayer – talking and listening to Him as His beloved adopted children! We learn and grow through repentance, through forgiving others, through obedience to His Word, through humbling ourselves and through a life of sacrifice. He wants us to love Him alone with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength – we must live and breathe Jesus! Praise God that the Holy Spirit lives in us when we are born again teaching us, training us, leading and guiding us to become more like Jesus! Easter is truly a celebration – rejoice for we have eternal hope through our Savior!

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever…….Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And (they) fell down and worshiped him (Revelation 5:13-14)!

A beautiful song of worship: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty

Fairytale Dreams

I am a hopeless romantic – I love the Hallmark Channel and romance done right. When and I got engaged in June 1991, almost 25 years ago, I was hoping, no expecting that all those romantic dreams built in my heart and head growing up, were going to be fulfilled – by my husband, no less. Yes, we really loved each other and were excited about our married life together, but life with its unpredictability and brokenness began almost from the very start. And, we failed to recognize that as Christians our marriage was a war zone with Satan doing everything (using situations, extended family, suffering, our own brokenness, etc.) to pull us apart and destroy us. Our life journey has been much harder than we imagined, more so as we stepped out in faith into very hard life tasks God called us to. We still struggle and probably will until the very end – yet, we deeply love each other and still stand firm in this marriage covenant. Anything good in our marriage is just God’s amazing grace!

“Our knight in shining armor should be a carpenter from Bethlehem; and He never disappoints. We think our marriages are meant to suit us and our little earthly desires, but our marriages are really part of a bigger story God is telling through his Son. Our expectations must be shaped by treasuring Christ. Only then will we stop pretending and engage in a wartime mentality toward marriage.” -Liz Wann

This is a lesson I am still struggling to wrap my heart around 24 years into our marriage – I still need to learn to know and love Jesus ahove all else and have all my expectations in Him alone. I still often fail to remember that my husband cannot fulfill all my dreams – that he was not created to fulfill the role that only Jesus can fill.

My children, I pray much that you all will learn these lessons early in life. May Jesus be your all in all so that God willing, each of you can have good marriages in Him.

Reference article by Liz Wann: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-dangerous-fairytale-for-future-wives

Adoption Destroyed Birthdays For Me

Realization hit me recently that I have rarely been able to celebrate birthdays in our family. It was not so when I was growing up – I used to love birthdays and my brother and I usually had a combined party each year with school or neighborhood friends, and we had family celebrations with my grandparents and extended family in Bangalore. But surreptitiously, life had taken me in a different direction. And now, yeas later, I was sitting on my bed on my son’s 25th birthday, filled with a deep sense of sadness and grief instead of overwhelming joy. This got me thinking and looking back on our journey as a family. I wondered why I, who loved doing big celebrations, had so rarely organized birthday parties for my kids? I have had huge dedication, baptism, graduation and wedding parties – yet we’ve had very few birthday celebrations. Our children are now aged 25, 19 and 12 – that would add up to 50 birthday celebrations (discounting the first 6 years of our son’s birthdays that we missed)! Yet, we can count the birthday parties we hosted with our fingers. In fact, we celebrated just two out of the twelve birthdays even for our youngest biological daughter.  Why?

It all started unraveling when I recently heard a friend wish her daughter on her birthday, telling her she was thinking of the time when she was giving birth to her. In that moment, my heart broke within me – it felt like the damn broke and years of my pain was being unleashed. It wasn’t her fault – she was doing what every normal mother would do – reminiscing at the beauty of the time when her precious baby was born. But to me, that day, her words were a stark reminder of the loss my children and I have faced daily – the loss of not being together from the start and the unusual way in which our family was built layered with pain, trauma and suffering. We never experienced the joy of our two older kids’ births or the tenderness of the early years, and instead, were hit full force with the consequences of their trauma and loss when we adopted them.

Over the past 19 years, their birthday months were triggers, causing them to subconsciously fight the loss of their birth families. They were days when their anger peaked and their frustrations were leveled against me. That was understandable, for I had replaced their beloved birth mothers who had cradled them when they were born, but it hurt nevertheless. Both of my adopted children came with deep wounds. My son came home broken and traumatized at age 6, after the mother he had loved deeply and had bonded with, took her life. My daughter came home to us as a 10-month old baby, having had the privilege of being carried and nursed by her birth mother for her first few months at the orphanage. Both these women had made profound impacts on my children’s hearts, and losing them had caused deep grief and brokenness that I cannot even imagine. Consequently, my children were filled with anger, rage and frustration against me – their birth parent’s replacement. 

Looking back, we know without a shadow of doubt that God brought these children to our family. But unfortunately, due to deep-set cultural prejudices and biases, as well as a lack of teaching on the beauty of adoption, many Indians have not fully embraced our children’s’ adoption. For example, to this day despite our pleas, my older daughter’s birthday seems to be invisible to my husband’s family. These differences hurt deeply and these hurts get reopened every year, and it makes me dread birthdays because I have to find ways to balance these added pains in my children’s hearts. 

So what is the solution to this dilemma? I am in pain during every birthday in my family, I am grieving the losses of not being the one who birthed my children and loved them from the start. I am angry that people discriminate against my kids. I have struggled to be in the shadow of “ghosts” who loom large in their lives. But, I am their “Amma” , “Mom”, “Maiee”! That will never change. God opened my eyes to His mission of orphan care when I was still a child and there was no turning back (that is a story for another post)! I have chosen to step into this role and have borne much of my children’s grief and anger at their losses, ever since we adopted them in 1998. The warrior princess in me comes out, as I fight to love and protect my hurting family!

These are vulnerable children who were wounded due to no fault of their own. But, God chose my husband and me to love them, and in the process just as our parents did, we get to redirect the trajectory of their lives towards Him! In other words, the children we had adopted had totally different backgrounds and DNA from us, and we had the privilege of loving them and making them our very own beloved son and daughter. Then we got to give them the privilege of being co-heirs with our biological child, and far more importantly, to introduce all three of them to Jesus through whom they could all become God’s adopted children, co-inheriting all God’s riches for all eternity with Jesus should they choose to do so! Mind blowing truth! Worth celebrating! 

So, yes birthdays are still excruciatingly hard, and yes, my family may never have normalcy and beauty around those days – but the path we have chosen to take with our children is worth it. As Jason Johnson has said, “Adoption isn’t swooping in to save a hurting child with a cape on our backs but it is crawling in the mud alongside their brokenness, with a cross on our backs”! Beauty and brokenness are intertwined in every aspect of our lives. This is the gospel in action! We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Similarly we can say that we adopt because God first adopted us! Adoption was not an afterthought for God, but His Plan A! God chose not to stop at just saving us, but to adopt us as His sons and daughters before the foundation of the world! So, though we lose out on birthday celebrations, and in our human-ness we struggle and feel deep sorrow and grief, we also look ahead to the eternal glory that is awaiting us, when every tear will be wiped away, and there will be joy everlasting and we will be celebrating Jesus all the time forever! 

So practically, how do we celebrate birthdays in our family? We do small family celebrations with my parents, where we cut a cake and a have special meal. They always lovingly give our kids a gift and Pattima (grandma) usually prays over them. On my end, I may not be able to celebrate that day in a big way for them or with them, but I hope that all my countless acts of love throughout the year show them that I love them deeply. That we are blessed despite what life throws at us! My husband created a small family tradition called the “birthday stool” where he makes the birthday child sit on a special stool while the rest of us stand around that person. We lay hands on them and each of us prays a blessing over him or her. This is our way of asking God to bless them in the midst of all our brokenness and mess. A huge blessing to us is when others, friends or family, call and wish them on their birthday, or step out and give them a special gift, or take them for a meal or cut a cake to celebrate their special day.  It means so much to this tired mama’s heart! It is a gift from the hand of God, compensating for my inability to celebrate their birthdays. My gratitude to God overflows.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans in their distress (James 1:27).

And as far as my guilt goes, yes, mommy guilt prevails in my heart and yes, I grieve that my children have missed so much but God is slowly teaching me to focus on what He thinks is important – that we can find joy in the journey in Him and through Him. And, we look forward to unending celebrations in eternity with Him!

For another look at this, see: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/7630205-parenting-kiddos-who-sabotage-big-days

Mom’s Address to Her Adopted Son on His Wedding Day

our_adopted_kids

Babies are eagerly awaited and treasured and parental love grows from the very beginning. But what do you do when God chooses to start your family by giving you a broken, hurting, traumatized 6 year old to love and care for as your own son? Well, Dad and I thought that love and fresh air would do the trick and that we would all live happily ever after just like any “normal” family! And so, we naively decided to step into parenthood bringing you, our son,  into our home in July 1998. We had prayed much and felt led by God when we heard your tragic story but we had absolutely no clue of the roller coaster ride we were in for.

You came into our home knowing very little English – you were from an entirely different background, religion and family than us. You would just sit for hours staring outside your window in our home in NJ. You were angry, frustrated and lied incessantly. When I tried to hug you, you would stiffen and push me away. Our hearts broke as we heard your tragic story of losing your birth-mother, watching her as she had been pushed to die by setting herself on fire, being asked to step into the fire with her, as well as feeling the horror as you could do nothing to help her be okay at the tender age of 5! You were heartbroken and devastated and nobody had understood your pain. You hated me as I was replacing your birth-mother. You would stubbornly refuse to obey anything that I asked you to do. You were failing in school and unable to logically think or function. Our family was held hostage to your anger and failure. We looked like fools to our family and friends and we felt like we must be horrible parents to have a child as broken as you. We put very strict boundaries around you but it didn’t seem to make a difference . You just kept getting worse with each passing year.

kids

I knew that Jesus was our only hope and often reminded you of verses like Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes” – yet, even to me it felt empty and hopeless. You hated God because in your mind, how could a loving God that we talked to you about, allow your mother to die so tragically without her knowing Him? We were hitting many walls and Dad and I often felt weary, angry and hopeless – even ready to give up.

I remember checking on you several times each night. I would kneel by your bedside and sob asking God why? Why would He allow a little child to be hurt like this? Why was He not stepping in and helping us? Why? Why? Why? God was our only hope and He needed to act soon.

I would cling to the cross and sob singing this song by Mark Schultz.

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs Your help.
I’ve done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired,
I’m sure You can understand.
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand,
And she tries
Not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes.

Often late at night I watch him sleep,
I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
But Jesus, whom he needs right now is You.
Let him grow old,
Live life without this fear.
What would I be
Living without him here?
He’s so tired,
And he’s scared
Let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place some how.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

But, God appeared to be silent. No answers, no explanations, no comfort. The only answer I got was a promise from Him on May 12th, 2002 from Isaiah 54O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold……All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear! I needed faith to believe! Eleven long years went by before we saw God fulfilling this promise to me. In August 2009, God in a miraculous act of grace broke through to you my son, and let His light shine through. He even wiped away your anger and healed your broken mind, spirit and soul!

You are now twice adopted – once into our family and adopted a second time into God’s family. You now have eternal hope, peace and joy with Jesus!

Life has not been easy my son – I grieve deeply for I did not have you physically with me the first six tender years of your life and then I did not have you emotionally and spiritually the next eleven years because of your trauma. You have been learning to love and care for us step by step, in just the last few years. You know that Dad and I love you dearly through the bad times and the good times, and we are extremely grateful to God for you. Your sisters love you so much too. You have loved your family well! Dad and I have loved you deeply but we’ve also failed you much. Our hope has only been Jesus – that in our weakness, He shines strong. We hope that you will forgive us of our mistakes and sins against you but that you will take the good and carry on the godly heritage that you have received.

 

IMG_1171

And now God is calling you to fly and build your own home with this lovely young lady whom He chose and brought into your life. We rejoice at the good gift that your loving Heavenly Father has gifted you with in your wife, our precious daughter-in-love. Our constant prayer for you both is that you will fully surrender your lives to Jesus and live honoring and loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Nothing on earth is worth more than Jesus!

Dad and I send you with our family blessingMay the Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and may He be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace!

Love,

~ Mom

Success, God’s Way!

IMG_1513Our world seems to glorify success … something deep in the psyche of the human mind runs a deep desire to associate with power, control, and success. I am sure many of you will identify with me as I often find myself really wanting to be successful by the world’s standards and struggling when I am not. We praise and desire or boast about beauty, intelligence, academic achievements or career success, being talented, family/lineage, heritage, power, wealth, etc. We always talk about climbing UP the ladder of success in life. We feel “blessed” or favored by God when we get or achieve many of these things. Have you seen the #blessed on twitter or Facebook? It is claimed when someone has gained one of these desires and it usually comes slathered with pride! The flip side is that we often tend to feel like God has turned His face away from us when we walk through darker valleys and seasons of pain, suffering or loneliness especially when they occur for prolonged periods of our lives.

I have been trying to understand who Jesus really is through the depth of His life and sacrifice for us in just thirty-three years of His life on earth. I was reading Isaiah 53 and it hit me afresh that Jesus ran counter to everything we would consider successful. Listen to the prophecy about Him:

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
And no beauty that we should desire him
… He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
… We esteemed him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
… The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,
… Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter
… By oppression and judgment he was taken away
… Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
He has put him to grief;

IMG_1515

Not a pretty picture of success there at all. Why? Why did the King of kings and Lord of Lords choose to come to earth this way when our human wisdom tells us that we need to desire and be “successful”? He was born to a poor family, in a manger because there was no room for Him at the inn. His life was in danger as Herod sought to kill him. He lived an obscure life for thirty years as a carpenter. He had no home and depended on the kindness of others as He served God in obedience during His three years of ministry. He was despised to the point of death, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. Why in the world would a God who has the power and glory of heaven and earth, the Creator of the universe, the One whom angels bowed down to as described in Isaiah 6, come to this earth and become sin and suffering?

Just imagine that! I honestly cannot fathom why God chose to do that! God chose to step into the brokenness of our world and of our lives, and humble Himself to the point of death, due to His great love for us (Phil 2:5-11). And this passage says that we are to “have this mind” among ourselves.

Thus it comes as no surprise that God called my husband and me eighteen years ago to step into the life of two very broken, hurt, rejected children. We were called to adopt our traumatized six year old son and baby daughter against the tide of culture, family and popular opinion. It required us, and me in particular as their adoptive mom, to lay down my life and my plans that I had worked so hard for, to enter their brokenness, pain and suffering. This long journey has been very costly to me – I lost myself in the process as I needed to immerse myself in helping them find their footing in life. However, even though my sacrifices were made willingly in love in the beginning, as the years passed the pain often became more than I could bear. God called me to trust in His goodness without seeing any tangible results, and often my weary heart began  questioning Him, even rebelling. And, in the midst of millions of tears, I prayed and begged God to give me parenting success. This passage shows me even now, how far from Jesus I truly am. He had the power to be in control and to ease His pain, yet, He chose to empty Himself to enter our world, with one purpose – to die on that cross for you and me, to enter our brokenness and to take it willingly on Himself so that we can have eternal hope, peace and joy! God lovingly through His Word showed me my foolishness and sinfulness for so desperately desiring success the world’s way instead of God’s way. May God forgive my faithlessness, for although I call myself His follower, I do not want to carry my cross and follow Him instead I want comfort, ease, praise and glory. He joyfully and purposefully chose to go counter to the world and climbed down the ladder from heaven to earth, from everything to nothing, from perfect peace, love and comfort to horrible brokenness and suffering. True success is imitating Jesus!

So, the next time we are tempted to be proud of our worldly successes under the guise of #blessed, let’s remember that we are on the dangerous grounds of idolatry for this is NOT success God’s way. Let us ask Jesus to show us how we can joyfully follow in His footsteps to willingly and sacrificially step down to love and care for those around us who are suffering and sorrowful, going counter to our intuition and to the world around us for that IS success God’s way!

Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

So too may Jesus’ name be exalted through our lives!

IMG_1516.JPG

My Life’s Worship & Idolatry

Every human being is created to worship something or someone. Our identity is built based on the object of our worship. John Calvin said that the human mind is an idol factory – it constantly creates or find things to worship. We can worship ourselves, our looks, health, house(s), wealth, status, spouse, children, parents, things, cars, sports, exercise, food, TV, entertainment, travel, vacations, work, success, internet, sex, academics, alcohol, hobbies, job title, etc. – anything that gets more undivided attention than God and which we need at high cost or crave if taken away from us is our idol. God tells us in the Ten Commandments that we are to worship no other gods but Him and that we should worship nothing that is created. The Bible also says that we cannot worship God if we choose to worship our other idols irrespective of what we may think or say. True worship is humanly impossible because we are born in sin. So, God gave us a way through the death and resurrection of His Son – Jesus to save us from our sins to give us new life and ability to worship Him alone eternally. The Skit Guys depict our Christian Idolatry well in this video!

I gave my life to Jesus as a young girl and shared my testimony for the first time in Sunday School in 4th grade. Since then, I have recommitted my life to the Lord many times. I believe that once I have surrendered my life to the Lord after repenting of my sins, the Holy Spirit gives me a new heart that is oriented towards the worship of The One True God. I also know that the gift God gives by opening my eyes to His truth is permanent, unalterable change in the deepest level of my life. But, the Bible tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked – also, being aware of my many idols in my past history, how do I know that I have ever truly repented and surrendered my life to Jesus? Also, we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling – not just live as we please, satisfied with a weekly church visit and a few good works as culture or tradition dictates. So, how can I know for sure? This isn’t a game of chance that I can risk losing!

We recently attended a doctrine class on “Worship” and learned the true meaning and purpose of worship in our lives. The pastor talked about the connection between “regeneration” and “worship”. Some of the characteristics of Regeneration through the Holy Spirit are:
– The Trinitarian God of the Bible becomes the new Lord of my life and false gods are dethroned.
– I have a new identity – Jesus! I become His child forever.
– I receive a new mind and develop a “love” for God’s Word – the Bible.
– I desire to love God, love fellow Christians, love friends and family, love strangers and even love enemies.
– I have new desires for holiness – sin and folly are not desirable even if accessible any more.
– it brings new life to my worship – different from before.
– I enjoy new freedom in Christ – I no longer feel the need to tolerate, manage, or accept sin but have the ability to put it to death and live free from habitual sin.

All this can be achieved only through the brand new power of the Holy Spirit who empowers the new believer and enables them to live in victory! Jesus is now the new Lord of their life. The regenerated believer then desires with His help to worship Him alone! This can work as a guideline to help me check my heart to see if I have truly been born again or if I am just fooling myself.

Armed with this teaching, the past two days have been a time of deep spiritual introspection for me. It has been a time of reading, listening, thinking and evaluating my stand before my Lord. I have not liked what I saw in my heart and life. I have had to fall down before God and ask for His forgiveness. It has been easy for me to know in my head the good news of Jesus and to even share it with others – but as I look back on my life, I realize that I have NOT desired to totally believe it or live it and it has been extremely hard to make Jesus Lord of all. I found that often my circumstances have derailed my worship journey. I have happily sung, “I surrender all” but have not always meant it in my heart or life. If I care to be honest, I can see that I am a pretty good “idolator”! I have had to examine my heart to see if I have even truly been regenerated.

I recently wrote out my life story of the past 20 years which gave me a good look back on my life. I realized that I was often the hero of my story – not Jesus. I have even treated God as my genie and my prayers as the magic words to grant me my wishes. It is easy to convince ourselves that Jesus is Lord until He takes something important away from our lives. Then, we are not so sure if we totally want to trust Him any more! In my life, over the years, I have lost stability with many uncertain moves across the world and the country, I lost acceptance in marriage from extended family, lost the ease of creating a family, lost my dreams, my desires and many of my hopes, lost friends, family and support, lost jobs and finances, faced much loneliness and pain. Life has not been easy at all for me or for my family. Through it all I realize that we stand only by the grace of God but I have not always humbly accepted these deep difficulties – as coming from the hand of my loving Father and God. In fact, I have have had quite a hard time trusting Him. I know I have often questioned His works, doubted His goodness, wondered at His silence or the wisdom of His ways. I have been angry, frustrated and upset with many situations in my life. He was NOT my all in all. I often needed Jesus + to make my life complete! Now I realize that all these were my idols brought to my attention patiently by my loving Father who wants my ALL for His glory!

It is hard. For example, I thought I absolutely loved kids and would be a wonderful mother, Sunday School teacher and mentor to kids. Then, God brought my adopted son into my life. He had faced trauma in his own little life. He struggled and totally rebelled against me for 11 years to the point of frustration, pain, agony and death of hopes and desires. Now, I was not sure any more if I really knew what “love” meant because now love called me to sacrifice and no rewards with much heartbreak. I was angry at God for this shift in my life and thinking. But now I realize that He had to break me down in order to show me that, and having a “good” or “easy” child and that that child’s success in this life was my idol. If my life had been easier in accordance to my plans and dreams, I probably would never have realized my idolatry and it could have cost me eternally!

Even now I wonder what other gods I continue to worship. I know that I rely on the comforts of life that God has graciously gifted me with. Would I be as willing to love and serve Him or even trust Him if He took it all away? What if I was left homeless and alone? What if my children were killed in an accident or my husband suffered from cancer or was paralyzed or could not provide for our family? What if I was dying leaving young children behind? What if my children walked away from our desires and even ended up in trouble, messing their lives and my image in society, would I still honor God completely? Also, do I always give Him all the glory and live in full gratitude when my life is going well? When we get a great job, a new home, higher pay, satisfaction in a hobby, great friendships or church, success, kids’ achievements, health, happy marriage, vacations, etc.? Do I choose to use all these gifts in obedience to His wishes for His glory and for His purposes. As a younger person, I probably would have quite flippantly said “of course”! But today, having years of struggles behind me and having betrayed my Lord in innumerable ways, I know worshipping God wholeheartedly is extremely difficult and only possible in His mercy and grace.

I am beginning to understand a little more of why Jesus said that it is harder for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Imagine the significance of that! We who have money in the bank, an education, a car or health are all rich – the top few percent in the world. According to Jesus, eternal life will elude us while we live deluded lives because we depend more on the gifts God has graciously given us – for, the more we have, the more idols we create and the more our Creator is overlooked. Heaven starts now by depending fully on our Creator – not a place in the far future attained after living and fulfilling our selfish dreams. It is to live daily with Jesus joyfully worshipping Him alone with a regenerated spirit. It is not being saved from hell, not living in bliss, not having no more pain or whatever our mind conjures up! We can enjoy heaven on earth if we choose to worship Him alone in spirit and in truth despite our circumstances – good or bad! This can be done only through being regenerated or born again through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, I am trying to thank God that He has taken many things away from me to bring me to the realization that I am such a great idolator and that I do not truly love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – better here where I still have a chance to repent than on Judgement Day where He will say He never knew me! I am coming to understand that Jesus says that based on our true worship and not on our achievements in this life which is why He commended the widow with her two mites! But, there is still so much work to be done in my life by the Holy Spirit. I pray that going forward I will willingly yield to His fires which serve to refine me. I pray that with His help, I will consider the sufferings of this life as blessings which are used to cleanse me of my idolatry and mold me into Jesus’ image. Lord, need your mercy as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. Mold me, make me, fill me and use me for Your glory alone!

My prayer is that just like me, someone out there who reads and hears this will be convicted of their need for true worship and repent – so paving the way for a “well done good and faithful servant” from Jesus on Judgement Day!

IMG_1521