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

Race, Caste and Class

A story is told of a prince who wants to marry a real princess, but is having difficulty because there are many pretenders who are in fact not princesses at all. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince’s castle, claiming to be a princess. So the prince’s mother offers her a bed covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds, with a single pea at the very bottom. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that has bruised her badly. The prince and his family rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through so much bedding! So the two get married.

Here is a children’s fairy tale with the subtle message that no one is worthy of the prince’s hand except those with the “blue blood” of princesses! Unfortunately it reflects a tragic reality that exists even today. An article about Princess Kate talks about the class divide that still plagues Britain: “She may be beautiful, graceful and fabulously rich, but Middleton is still a ‘commoner’.”

Coming even closer to home, I hail from a country where the caste system is ingrained in our culture. India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from god Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Sudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs. Outside of this Hindu caste system are the Dalits or the untouchables. Christians in India are also often associated with castes that depend on the region and the language spoken.

Yet another way we humans distinguish ourselves from each other are by our race and ethnicity. This is sometimes referred to by the color of people’s skin – red, yellow, brown, black and white. The extreme abuse of this was found in Nazi Germany during the second world war. Nazi foreign policy was guided by the racist belief that an enlarged, racially superior German population should establish permanent rule in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and this led to the horrors of the holocaust.

In addition to caste and race, there is also an underlying thinking about class and pedigree. We just looked at the story of “The Princess and the Pea”. However, even in everyday life,. We talk about the “poor”, the “middle-class” and the “rich”. We also talk about “blue-collar” workers and “white-collar workers”, as well as about the “educated” and the “uneducated”. An extreme abuse of this was found in slavery, that used to be practiced until relatively recently. Today the exploitation of human beings still exists in a twisted, evil form now known as “sex slavery”, where typically younger children and girls are forced into prostitution. Even leaving aside these extreme forms of exploitation, considerations about class and pedigree have seeped right into our own homes! For example, often the dignity of labor that is taken for granted in America does not exist in third world countries such as India. Most homes employ maids who are not allowed to eat at the table of the home in which they serve, but sit on the floor with a different plates and glasses that only they should use, and are often treated as working machines rather than people. All of us (the exploited and the exploiters) have been conditioned to believe that they do not have a right  to be treated the same way as we are, in society.

The Christian gospel does not give room to us, for using these kinds of differences for social stratification. There are two premises that our fundamental to our Christian faith.

  1. Every single human being is in the same plight – at odds with our Creator, and on the path of His wrath against our sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:11-12).
  2. God does not accept a person by any considerations based on race, caste or class. He opens his arms to welcome all of us – all who put their trust in Jesus, who died on the cross on our behalf, and bore the punishment for our sins: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). One of the apostle Peter’s early discoveries as a Christian caused him to say: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34, KJV).

Thus the playing field is flat. No one has any intrinsic advantage or disadvantage over anyone else. In fact, often the things that we consider to be advantages may actually work against us the other way! But I digress – more on that in a later post. Flushing this out in detail in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul concludes: He Himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall  … that He might create in Himself one new man …, so making peace, and might reconcile us all to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). And Paul triumphantly states: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This truth should so grip our hearts and minds, that it should spill into all our interactions with others: Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-4,8-9)

This radical way of thinking has caused fundamental changes in society that have reverberated across the annals of history. The US Constitution states: …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And after this there has been a civil war and a civil rights movement to uphold this now “self-evident” equality in the dignity and value of all human beings. Unfortunately, even truths such as this are not sufficient to erase centuries-old habits and biasses.

More unfortunate however, is the sad fact that although we Christians should be leading the way, we still have not fully embraced these profound truths in our personal lives and families. For example, these differences are deeply ingrained in the Indian Christian Community, and are evident in the choice of spouses we make for our children. One of the ripple effects of this is that most families do not even consider the option of adoption except when they have a need, such as in cases of infertility. Stay tuned for other posts, where I unpack the underlying reasons why I make these statements. May God grant us grace to transform our thinking from the inside, so that behavior becomes consistent with the faith that we profess!

IMG_1522

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

20 Verses About Hatred

Hatred is a feeling that can be both Godly and sinful depending on why it is there. The Bible speaks of loving God and hating evil, hating evildoers, and hating lies. The more we become like Jesus and understand the love of God, the more we will begin to hate lies, godlessness and the evil of the world. However, we are also warned constantly i the Bible of how hatred and bitterness can destroy us. God tells us in His Word that hate is a heart issue and that someone who hates a brother (anyone) is a murderer! We are encouraged to love one another, not hold one another’s wrongs against them, and forgive them, not building up bitterness or anger in our hearts.

Here are 20 Bible verses covering anger and hatred:

1 John 1:6
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

1 John 2:9-11
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Ephesians 4:31
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Proverbs 8:13
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Proverbs 10:12
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 10:18
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.

Psalm 5:5
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;

Psalm 31:6
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.

Psalm 36:2
In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

Psalm 45:7
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

Psalm 97:10
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 119:163
I hate and detest falsehood but I love your law.

Romans 12:9
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Leviticus 19:17-18
Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.”Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Luke 6:27-28
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Matthew 5:23-24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:44

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you

1 John 3:14-15
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

1 John 4:19-20
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Is Choosing to Adopt Going Too Far?

Adoption is a hard and lonely journey we undertook almost two decades ago when we chose two children to be our son and daughter. Hard because our children faced much loss and came into our family, overwhelmed by trauma and brokenness. Human nature causes us to lean towards personal comfort and away from brokenness. As we traveled this road, we found that most walked away but a few chose to walk alongside us and offered their support in deeply practical ways for which we are very grateful.

However, we are finding that adoption is a hard concept for our human minds to grasp.  Recently, when we were in the midst deep struggle, we were told by a well wisher that, “God only talks of orphan care in the Bible and doesn’t talk about adopting children. So, perhaps He only expects us to care for the fatherless by placing them in orphanages where the kids have each other, are well looked after, and might even be happy and thrive. Most adopted children seem so unhappy, and their adoptive parents struggle so much too. It just doesn’t seem worth it!” In other words, they were wondering if adoption was really required.

So the question we had to face was: Had we unnecessarily stretched ourselves too far? Did we go beyond what God had expected of us?

This caused us to pause. It is a very weighty question, because adoption had changed the trajectory of our lives! In choosing this path, had we inadvertently stepped out of God’s will, and were our struggles just a consequence of those self-made choices? We earnestly began seeking answers to these questions, because in addition to being deeply invested in it, we were also involved in adoption and foster care ministry in our church and county. Not surprisingly, the is answer embedded in the very core of our Christian faith! We re-discovered that God did not need to tell  us to adopt in the Bible, because He modeled it Himself through His actions, and Scripture is threaded with His invitation for us to be like Him! To understand this awesome truth, we need to first step back and remind ourselves of how far God was willing to “stretch Himself” for our sake, so we could belong to Him as His adopted children.

The Bible tells us that God created all human beings to reflect His nature and to bring Him glory. However, right from the beginning, we chose to rebel against God our Creator, and broke our relationship and fellowship with Him. Consequently, for His justice to prevail (since He is a perfect and holy God), every one of us justly deserves to experience His wrath against us, and we should be banished from His Presence forever into Hell. However, God in His mercy and compassion chose to do something about it, which He had planned before the world even existed! He sent His Son Jesus, to come to earth as a man, and to die on a cross, bearing the punishment for all our sins on Himself! In this way, God could  freely offer us reconciliation with Him, in perfect mercy and justice, and that we can live eternally with restored fellowship with Him. This is perfectly summed up in this well known verse: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Bible calls this salvation. It is a free gift God has given us, although we did not even deserve it. God demonstrates His love for us, in that while were were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Imagine that! God chose to save us when were were at our worst! He set His love on us! He sent His Son to die on the cross to take the punishment we deserved for our own sins! What a God He is! If He had done nothing more for us than to save us, the echoes of our praises for His mercy and His grace would reverberate throughout eternity!

However, the wonder of the Christian gospel is that God did even more. Far more! With a love that we can only marvel at but never fully understand, God chose to go above and beyond! God chose to adopt us into His family as His beloved sons and daughters, and make us co-heirs with Jesus. That is over the top, outlandish love! This very thought caused the apostle John to pause in the midst of his letter and exclaim in awe: “See, what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1). As Matt Carter once said, we will never understand the depth and intensity of God’s love for us, until we wrap our minds around the kind of love that He has for us. God didn’t just love us by taking our punishment on Himself. He did it by choosing to adopt us into His family at great cost to Himself! He is now our Father. We are now His children. The implications of this thought should really mess us up (in a good way)! Through His grace, we have been redeemed and are raised up  through Jesus as His adopted children. Nothing  can separate us from His love forever! May we never lose the wonder of this staggering truth!  In fact, one day as heirs of God, we will sit with Jesus on His throne and rule all of His creation along with Him (Rev 3:21)!

Here is a powerful message our family recently watched, which explains these truths more clearly: https://vimeo.com/51894525. This message is well worth the watch, and can be life-changing for you!

This is the heart of our Christian faith. It gives us the perfect framework to address the question of whether we go too far when we choose to adopt children! Yes, we can support children in orphanages – and orphanages do have their place. However when we choose adoption, it becomes a beautiful reflection of the very nature of God Himself, and stands as a testament of the gospel to a watching world! If God has loved us so much that He became our Father, how can we stop at less? We can step out boldly, knowing that it greatly pleases and honors God. with the deep assurance that even though the price we pay be extremely high, we are in the center of a His will and that He will walk along with us to provide for all our physical, emotional and spiritual needs! So, the next time we are asked this question, we can confidently say that we adopt because it reflects our Heavenly Father’s heart!

By His Grace, For His Glory!