Pushed into the Deep End

{Oh, the stories! Stories of heartbreak, confusion, disillusionment, and despondency. Not just my stories, but others have them, too. Stories validate our feelings. Stories give us hope. My story of parenting five children adopted from Russia is shared often in these pages. But what about the stories of other such moms? You’ve simply got to hear them! The struggles we all identify with are present in their stories – along with the hope that not all is lost.

Today, I have the privilege of sharing words of wisdom from Sarah E. Frazer. Sarah understands the struggles of parenting a nonbiological child; but she also believes God’s Word. Sarah shares her stories and her hope beautifully. I’m so grateful she’s allowed me to share them with you today.}


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Appalachian summers are filled with heat and humidity. 70 degrees feels like 90. On the really hot days, our family would pile into the minivan and drive three minutes up the hill behind our house. Mom would park at the bottom of the hill. My brother, sisters, and I would pack-mule it up the concrete path. Chlorine and 90’s music greeted us as we walked through the entrance to the city pool. The teenager behind the counter would smile, and pull out our family’s membership card. We dumped our snacks, towels, and blow-up rings in our usual spot: next to the baby pool, but within view of the deep end.

The water, cool and blue, beckoned us to jump. My ten-year-old brother would run to the deep end and climb the high ladder to dive into the 12-foot section. I was content swimming in the shallows. Even though I was a good swimmer, the dark blue water frightened me. I didn’t like to swim where I couldn’t see the bottom.

Sometimes my brother and his friends would sneak up behind me and push me into the deep end. I never found it humorous. I was always mad about it. I didn’t like the feeling of not touching. Panic creeped into my heart as the water lapped beside my neck, seeping into my mouth.

I wanted to know what I was jumping into. I still do. I’m a planner. Last year, I had a plan. As we began the adoption process, I was pretty sure I was prepared for the unknown, even planned for it. I thought I was ready for whatever God’s plan was for our family. But I wasn’t.

As I sat on a lumpy hotel bed in the middle of Zhengzhou, China, I realized I had just jumped into the deep end. And I was mad. The water of fear rushed around my face. I tried to grasp onto truth, but I felt my fingers slipping. God had called us. We had chosen this. But I felt pushed. Pushed into the deep end. I thought, This is not what I signed up for…..

Even a year later, I remember the feelings of drowning. The rushing water of uncertainty, creeping up and over into my comfortable life. It wrecked all of my hard work. Destroyed my plans.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11 (ESV)

In the middle of my ocean of fear, I couldn’t praise Him. One day I might praise God, but not today, I thought. I held out my hands, empty of praise and found a friend’s hand. Community surrounded our family. We knew the waters were deep, but God had not abandoned us. Until we could touch the bottom, they jumped into the water and held us up.

Living in the deep end, with the waters of fear looming close, brings me more to my knees and to Scripture than ever before. And to my friends. I poured myself into God’s Word and prayed every day for strength. I began living one day a time. It was all could handle as I treaded water. 365 days later, I’ve realized that’s ok. Our God provides just enough. Enough forgiveness. Enough strength. Enough hope. I’ve come to see a change in circumstances will not bring praise, only the truth of God’s Word and trust in His plan.

And slowly my anger melted into praise. Praise to the Father and Son who has revealed how deep His steadfast love truly is – especially while I learn to swim in the deep end.

Oh the river it rushes to madness
And the water it spreads like sadness
And there’s no high ground
Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees
Sara Groves

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-8 (ESV)

I understand that the deepest part of your heart just wants this hard place to be over. I ask you to walk through whatever circumstance you are facing one day at a time. You aren’t alone and you are made to be exceptional, right here, right now. I wrote a book about living in a new normal and finding grace for the moment. The Glorious Ordinary is an invitation to study God’s Word in your everyday life. You can find daily strength, joy, and peace when you look in the Bible. Read more about the book here.


20170227-sarah-picAs a momma of littles and wife to a busy husband, Sarah spends her days making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, reheating her coffee ten times a day, and sneaking quiet time with her earbuds to drown out the screaming. Sometimes she worries her sticky tables, cluttered counters, and crumby floors are not enough. Maybe she’s not enough.

In the empty places of her heart, Sarah has found God is enough. Enough to satisfy all of our longings. Enough strength to do the work He has called us to do. Enough hope to lighten the dark path. Enough grace to cover all the mistakes. Enough joy, even for just today. Sarah invites you to join her @sarahefrazer.com as we study God’s Word in our ordinary days!

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Twenty Years Ago Today

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he said with a gleam in his eye, and a tremble in his voice I’d never heard before. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he kept saying over and over.

Squatting before her in a cold, dark Russian orphanage, I couldn’t answer. This seven-year-old chatterbox in a deep blue dress scared me. I would soon become her mom. “Oh Lord, help! Am I ready for this?”

The next day a 30 pound, five-year-old, blonder than blond, boy ran into my arms. Tears filled my eyes, as the adults around me sniffled. Now this I could handle. But he was the scared one—appearing confident but too afraid to look us in the eyes.

Moments later, at the third orphanage we visited, he ran ahead of us to greet his brother whom he hadn’t seen for several months. His brother, eight-years-old, didn’t have as much time with us as he wanted because he had to keep little brother out of all the toys.

A few days later, we became their parents. Three children at once.

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That was twenty years ago today. Twenty!

Though I can’t tell you our twenty-year story, I can give you a rough outline. We’ve all been scared. Disappointed. Grieved. Angry. Beyond done with it all. But yet here we are today. Closer than I dreamed possible. Loving. Appreciating. Applauding.

Bang your pots and pans; blow your kazoos; whoop and holler; dance ’til you can’t breathe. It’s a day to celebrate.

Celebrate three amazing people: Katya, Sergei, and Misha.

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Katya is now a wife and mother of three. Almost every time we talk she thanks me for adopting her. She and her husband are working hard to move forward in life. She makes me so proud.

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Sergei, that little tiny blond, is now a husband and father of almost three kids. He no longer lives nearby but he gives me a long, hard hug whenever we meet.

 

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Misha, now a father of one he unfortunately rarely gets to see, is a favorite uncle to his nieces and nephews. He’s a hard-working, respected employee of close friends of ours. And, like his siblings, he loves to hang and chat with us as the hours speed by.

Those first years were so hard. You know, like those first ten years. All the stuff kids with attachment and fetal alcohol issues can throw at you, they threw. Lying, stealing, disobedience, rage, and all manners of acting out not suitable to discuss here.

I wanted to quit more times than I can count. I wanted to disappear. Sometimes jail seemed better than living in my home.

The early adult years were only better because now their misbehavior was being handled by landlords, bosses, the police, and judges. Their acting out happened somewhere other than my space.

Yes, raising them was far harder than I ever dreamed it would be. But there was so much good, too. Homeschool fieldtrips. Mealtime laughter. Vacations west to national parks. Camping on Lake Superior’s north shore. Remodeling a house. Birthdays and holidays. Accomplishments celebrated. Skills developed. Maturity happened.

These were the things that smoothed over their rugged foundations. And in time, the foundations have held firm. We love them more than ever—and they us. Our little chatterbox in recent years told us she learned how to parent from our example.

Does it get any better than that? Not much.

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Isaiah 58:10-12 (NASB)

This restoration process is no easy thing. It’s dirty, exhausting, painful, and discouraging. But when we keep working—stone upon stone, layer on layer, day after day after day—I promise—God promises—we will witness that light in the darkness, that soul-deep satisfaction, and that inexplicable strength. It’s being faithful in the little things that repairs and rebuilds and refreshes.

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Someday, like me, you will look back and be able to say, “Yes, this thing we’ve done is very good.”

When Foundations Are Messy

The Originator of life stood resolute. Heartbroken, but resolute. He loathed what He had to do. But do it, nevertheless, He would. Love demanded He do so.

He would take them seemingly backwards—as if before the beginning of time. Back where rebellion was cast down—banished from perfection—exiled from His presence. He would drive them from the garden—His children no longer having a home.

But love would allow, that unlike Lucifer, someday these creatures of the dust would have opportunity to return.

To repent.

To turn around and come back home. Not back to the garden. Rather, to a new home. Where moth and rust could not destroy. Where grace and truth would illumine the halls. Where love and peace and joy would adorn the walls.

And so it began.

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Laying a groundwork that made sense to these dust-filled minds, called for stories. Stories and stories, laid like stone upon stone. Each stone-story allowed evil to show it’s true face. Abel and Cain revealed murder and abolishment. The sons of Cain and Seth multiplied and grew so vile God ordered a total washing. This cleansing was an important part of the story but it allowed evil to think it had won. So God vowed to never flood the earth again, giving wickedness room to continue to draw many away from Him. And so many began to claim someone other than God as their father.

Oh how the Father’s heart hurt! Though the children thought they knew great pain, none felt the pain the Father did. None wanted to gift love in a way the children could absorb deep into their souls—only to have attempted gift-givings scorned and rejected. And so He continued laying the groundwork—letting the story play out, scene by excruciating scene.

Two thousand years into the story the Father began to call out a son through Abraham. And the story narrows, separating evil from good. And in His goodness, Abba began to show His own face.

As Jehovah Jireh, He abundantly provided—even when a wasteland was all that could be seen.
As Jehovah Rapha, He healed every wound and disease—applying balm to afflictions of the heart.
As Jehovah Nissi, He became their banner—their rallying cry, the standard that ignited allegiance, and the confidence that victory was certain.
As Jehovah Mekoddishkem, He set His children apart and made them holy—and wholly His.
As Jehovah Shallom, He bestowed a peace that passed understanding.
As Jehovah Sabaoth, He fought and won every single battle His children faced—as long as they obediently trusted Him.
As Jehovah Raah, He shepherded them—holding the young ones close, guiding, protecting, and feeding.
And as Jehovah Tsidkenu, He provided the sacrifice in Himself—paving the path to righteousness with His own blood.

He was all these things and more. Yet to truly know Him as such, these children had to suffer. They had to learn to need Him—desperately so. Because He had created them in His image, they were strong and capable, wise and loving. It would take hard, hard lessons for them to learn that though beautiful and resilient, without Him they were marred and lusterless; inept and insufficient.

And so, these children repeated the cycle:

obedience … abundance …

self-reliance … rebellion …

punishment … brokenness …

repentance … obedience.

Over and over. The Father had to allow this pattern to turn into a familiar story. The stone-stories: generation after generation, layer after layer. For another one thousand years.

And then in silence He let it sit. Four hundred years of settling—like petrified wood. A foundation. Rock solid. Glazed in tragic beauty.

Ready, this foundation had a hole in it. A Messiah-shaped hole. Soon the silence would be broken and the Chief Cornerstone would be placed. And a new building would arise.

A building of living stones. A temple—a permanent dwelling for God to be with—IN—His people. A HOME for the Father and His children to dwell—to commune and laugh and eat bread and drink cup—for eternity. Eternity—the front side of the story started long ago. The completion of cycling. (But not the end to the stories.)


Before we get too excited about the redemptive side of parenting (the finishing work) we need to first talk about the foundational part of parenting. That part where we watch our children experience for themselves the stories that lay the groundwork for everything else.

The learning to trust Mommy and Daddy would provide for their every need. That booboos would be kissed and bandages applied. That family provided an identity and a place to belong. Slapping hands taught boundaries. Disobedience led to discipline. Obedience brought reward. Truth and grace. Independence yet reliance. Numbers and ABC’s, colors and shapes—building blocks for the quickly growing mind.

These are the stones we expect to place in our children’s lives. We were prepared to do so. But what happens when someone else has laid that foundation? What happens when that foundation is sandy in places and glass-sharp in others. A foundation that’s uneven and causes our children to stumble. A foundation cracked and fractured by years of instability. What then?

These are the foundations my children had laid in their lives. How I longed to bring in the jackhammer, drill it all up and start over. But that was impossible. As I moved across the floors of their lives, I too often stumbled. I too was lacerated by the jagged pieces of their souls. I reacted in anger at something they very well had no control over. And truth is, neither did I.

No, but what I could do was do a little sanding down, leveling out, and filling in. And it took years. Years! I’m not sure I witnessed stabilization until my children were well into adulthood. Sometimes they—we—still stumble a bit.

So what was the sander, the equalizer, the filler I used?

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Truth. God’s truth. Truth about Him and all He could, and would, do in their lives—with and without me. Truth about the real enemy—and the limit of his reach. Truth that God was their Father—always had been; always would be. Truth about God calling me to be their mom. Truth about God’s love for me and His enabling power to accomplish the tasks He’d placed before me.

Truth found in Scripture! God’s promises. God’s heart. God’s rock-solid faithfulness.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)

When God Became a Father

He wanted more. He wanted something else. Though surrounded by a multitudinous army who unceasingly lavished Him with resounding praise, He craved a smaller audience—an audience of one. Someone He could talk to—face-to-face, soul-to-soul. In a intimate place … like … a garden.

And so He dreamed and planned and designed. And out of nothing, using only words, He created a home—an explosion of microscopic grandeur. But this one—soul of His soul, breath of His breath—He formed intricately, purposefully, with His own hands.

And He became a Father.

In a single moment, He knew love.

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Joy of joys! Better than merely “good”! One of His heart!

He called this one Adam. Man. Red from the earth. A name to remind this one that without the breath of God, he would cease to be—he would return to dust.

He provided for this Adam a beautiful garden, supplied with every item the dust part of him required for survival. And He provided His own presence, necessary for the God part of him to thrive.

He assigned Adam a job: tend the garden.

He warned Adam of the one choice that would siphon his breath and doom him back to dust. He protected Adam, as long as he said no to that one choice.

Father wanted man to love Him back—if even a fraction. He wanted this child to experience the same ecstasy He felt. And so He secreted His presence from man—a divine hide-and-seek—hoping Adam would long for Him and seek him out. And, like any good father, He always allowed man to find Him.

He left that one tree to test man’s love. Would Adam trust Him enough to choose obedience? Would Adam look at everything God had provided for him and know deep satisfaction? Would Adam crave the presence of God above all else?

But if, heaven forbid, Adam chose the one thing God forbade, then God was ready. Man would have to leave the garden—banished from His tangible presence. But some day He’d provide a way back. It would be a long journey, but Father knew the way.

He would always be Father. He would always provide—though now that provision would require toil and bitterness. He would always protect—though sometimes His ways would seem cruel. He would always warn and instruct and guide—reducing His love to a set of laws and consequences. He would have to enforce these laws because man would fail—over and over and over.

Eventually, He would surrender His own breath so man could be redeemed. But He would revive and send it forth again as a Spirit. His very Spirit would breathe renewal to the Father-child communion He’d always longed for. And once again, Father would embrace His children. Though marred and scarred, they’d be back. Back in His arms.

And that’s all that mattered.


I don’t know what kind of human father you had. No matter how wonderful, or how horrible, he can’t begin to compare to Father God.

Father God designed you, created you, and named you His own special name. He walks with you, plays hide-and-seek with you, and stirs a longing for Him deep within your soul.

He provides for your every need. He guides you, instructs you, expects obedience of you, and disciplines you. He knows your frailties, and understands you are but dust.

He died for you, forgave you, rose again for you, and redeemed you. He set things right for you and now dwells moment-by-moment with you.

He comforts you, holds you, sings over you, and assures you.

You are His joy of joys, apple of His eye, breath of His breath, love of His love.

You are His child.

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We all watch ourselves parent just like we were parented. Don’t we? Unfortunately, our parents fell short—some more than others—leaving us less than adequate models to follow. But God in Himself has provided a better—a perfect—example. To become the best moms possible, we need to study how God parents.

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at God’s role as Father in the Bible. I have a feeling we’ll find that God didn’t necessarily employ a set of skills or follow a list of “how to’s”. I think we’ll find He parented out of the deep recesses of His heart.

I don’t know about you, but I love delving deep into God’s heart and learning what makes it tick. So, pull out your shovels, and let’s dig in. We’ll start next week, going back to just after the very beautiful-but-sad beginning. We’ll look at the ways God parented the children He’d just kicked out of their garden home. Though they may not always have known it, He did not send them out alone.

I look forward to discovering with you what He was up to.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

Genesis 1:27-31 NIV