Arise, Darling! Winter is Over!

We only have one that pops up in our garden each spring. But it only takes one to make me squeal like a three-year-old …

“Look! The daffodil has bloomed!”

Daffodils are one of my favorites. They are the first to bloom around here. With their perky heads and sunny faces, they trumpet promises of warmth and renewal.

2017 May 22 Daffodil

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden @ Unsplash

God’s promises are like that, too. They trumpet hope like water in the desert, color after a long grey winter, warmth after a bone-deep chill, the beginning of a new productive season. God’s promises are like that because like the flowers we count on to bloom every spring, so God is unchanging and faithful. We can count on His promises because we can count on Him.

Yes, His promises reveal much about His character:

He’s not slow—He’s patient.
He’s bigger than any giant—and He uses the subtlest weapons.
There’s hope beyond our current difficulties—He’s with us in our difficulties.
There’s always a bigger picture—an eternal purpose.

But did you know …

His promises also reveal much about our character?

May 22 God's promises are meaningless unless they've been tested.

For example:

His promise to never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) doesn’t much matter until we’re in a place where He seems to have vanished. We can’t see Him, hear Him, or feel Him. It’s at this point we have to discover if we trust Him even then. It’s at this point we have a choice: to let our trust grow or falter.

What about His promise to prosper us and not harm us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)? Do we look at our future through the lens of our circumstances today or through His Word?

Then there’s His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). How many times have we allowed death or life, principalities or powers, present circumstances or fear of the future, convince us otherwise?

Oh, and the one we all think we’ve passed when in truth we have failed over and over. Whoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). How many times have we acted as if our salvation depended on our performance—as if it’s something to be earned?

And there’s other promises we often fail to believe when tested. I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And how about, He will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11)?

I find that it’s easy to perk up when we recite God’s promises—that is until those …

promises experience a hard freeze.

And for me, mothering unattached children frequently blew the door wide open to wintry blasts. But you know what? Though I doubted, I clung like crazy to God’s promises.

I’d like to say those promises have evolved over the years. The way they materialized in the end sure looked a lot differently than I expected at the beginning. But the truth is, the promises didn’t change. My understanding of them did. My mind—my heart—is what has been transformed. And I can tell you now, the scent of those promises is much sweeter than I ever imagined.

So what’s popped up in your garden this spring?

Have you considered

… the effort it took for that sprout to push through the soil? Have you pondered what it might be like to endure a long, cold winter, buried in darkness? Do you realize that near death had to happen for new life to grow?

Oh, but you’ve experienced these things haven’t you? Yes, me, too. And that’s why we take the time to stop, gaze, touch, inhale deeply, and praise the Creator as we see His promises blossom into new life before us.

Like Solomon,

Jesus invites us to enter His spring.

May we follow.

 

“Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers [daffodils?] appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

Song of Songs 2:10-13, NIV

When God Seems to Take His Sweet Little Ol’ Time

She was barren, this wife of his youth. Barren throughout her child-bearing years, and well beyond the cessation of her cycling. And THEN God tells him he will be father to a great nation (Genesis 12:2).

What would have gone through your mind if God had made such a promise to you?

May 8 Questions

{Photo courtesy of Evan Dennis @ Unsplash}

I think I would have looked around, trying to figure out who God was really talking to. And it would have been just like me to attempt to take responsibility for fulfilling this promise—and found another vessel to bear my seed. I certainly would have questioned my sanity—and maybe even God’s reliability—as year after year (twenty-five, actually) flew by, with me and the mother of this promised child quickly approaching the God-determined “ending of our years” age of 120.

But God’s promises are like that, aren’t they?

Given, and then left to marinate while we wait, and wait, and doubt, and fume. We question what we heard, or if we had done something to cause God to renege on His promise. We wonder if we’re supposed to DO something ourselves to make it happen. Over time, weariness of faith fogs our vision. In fact, this fog often prevents us from seeing the ways God is actually fulfilling His Word.

But promises from God require childlike faith from us. Trust that behind God’s promises is God’s character.

May 8 God's promisesare backedbyGod's character.

 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

Numbers 23:19, NASB

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23, NASB

What has God promised you?

If He is God, and He has promised, then He will be faithful.

“Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27:14 NASB

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
… Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
… But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.”
Psalm 37:7-9 NASB

A Basketful of Promises

The doorbell rang at our fairly new home.

My mom and we four little girls scurried to see who it could be. Nobody? Nobody was there. Instead we were greeted by an adorable tray of pretty purple pansies floating in little potpie-size tins.

“Look!” my mom sang. “May Day gifts for each of you girls! I wonder who they’re from?”

My memory may not be exact on this event. After all, I was only four or five years old. And it’s an experience never since repeated. Nevertheless, this one sweet moment solidified my belief that May holds a basketful of promises.

Weather warming. Colors blooming. Bare feet running through soft grass.

Mothers to honor. School days to end. Vacations to soon whisk us away.

May 1 Happy May Day!

I’ve said before that most of my writing focuses on hard stuff because I want you to feel welcomed in the midst of your own stormy weather. I want you to not feel like someone is just glossing over your pain—making light of the heavy weight you carry.

But sometimes

… we need to climb aboard the hot-air balloon that will lift us above the storms and carry us into the sunshine. Okay, so hot-air balloons don’t operate in the stormy weather, but let’s pretend they do. I suppose I could use an airplane as an example. But no, I want us to feel the sun warm our skin, smell the fresh air blow through our hair, hear the birds sing, and see the panoramic picture of all God’s really up to.

And let’s add a little taste to the scenario (got to use all five senses, you know). How about your favorite onboard snack? Hot cocoa and muffins? Coffee and chocolate? Wine and cheese? Or maybe it’s the wine and bread we need to savor. You know, that “every time you partake” reminder that all Christ did for us still meets us where we are today.

May is a good month to slow down,

… sit still, breathe deep, and savor God’s promises.

For I know the plans that I have for you … to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11, NASB

God causes all things work together for good …
Romans 8:28, NASB

I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5, NKJV

In all these things we are more than conquerors.
Romans 8:37, NKJV

Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Romans 8:39

I can do all things through Christ.
Philippians 4:13, NKJV

In due time we shall reap …
Galatians 6:9, NASB

[May 1 What promises are sitting at your door today-

… right at your feet, peeking at you in vibrant colors?

Maybe today is a good day to open your door and take a fresh look. I’d love to enjoy their beauty with you. Would you mind sharing with me in the comment section below?

How to See the World More Clearly

Once again I have the privilege to introduce you to another dear mama blogger: Lea Turner. Once again I have to say I love her message! Lea is a mother of five—two of which are nonbio—and one of which is brand new. If anyone can address the topic here today, she can.

In the midst of busy, busy, busy, how do you see clear enough to make an impact on the future? You might be surprised at Lea’s answer. 


What would you want your life to look like in 20 years?

At the beginning of 2017, our pastor asked that question.

The challenge of this question is its demand to focus on what matters most. To scale back the fluff of life and ask what of today will matter tomorrow?

I take the challenge and write one evening what I want life to look like in twenty years:

Continue reading “How to See the World More Clearly”

I Often Don’t Like Easter Services

I often don’t like Easter services.

I don’t. I like parts of the service—usually. But I often come away less than satisfied.

The Easter story is packed with lessons:

The prophecies of Passover fulfilled
“Not my will but Yours”
Peter denying Christ
Christ bearing the punishment for our sins
By Christ’s stripes we are healed
The crushing of Satan’s head
Light in our deepest darkness
The defeat of death and the grave
Eternal hope
And so on, and so on, and …

It must be rather difficult for preachers to decide what to focus on. Most usually choose a topic that will speak to those who rarely attend church. (I think that’s a great idea.) And for those who want to break the story into meditation-size pieces, many churches offer several services the week preceding Easter Sunday. (Another great idea.)

But if I was the one planning the Resurrection Sunday service …

Continue reading “I Often Don’t Like Easter Services”

Yes, She’s My Real Sister

I tend to write heavy stuff because I feel it’s essential we shine a light on the issues we’d rather keep in the dark.

Sometimes, though, encouragement is best gained from someone who points to positive experiences. Someone like Katie Carper. Besides the fact that her writing captivates me, and besides the fact she’s another owner of dark curls, Katie is also an adoptive mom. But mostly I’m intrigued by the fact that she brings to her children—and to us—lifelong experiences as a sister to three adopted siblings.

How refreshing to read the perspective of a child impacted by adoption. I hope you’ll find the same enlightenment from her story that I did.


Yes, She’s My Real Sister

Mar 27 Sisterhood is Real

In the early 1970’s, my parents learned that they would not be able to have any biological children. Though they had always considered adoption as a way to grow their family, this devastating news led them down that road sooner than expected.

After adopting two boys, Dad and Mom thought to increase the estrogen level in their home, so they adopted an infant girl. She was a dark-haired beauty with olive skin, full of giggles and spunk. They named her Melanie.

Ten months after the birth of my sister, I was born. Seems doctors can only make predictions regarding procreation. The Long family now swelled to two boys and two girls.

Growing up, I struggled to connect with Melanie, my almost-twin. I did not value our differences, made more apparent as we shared a bedroom. She was not bothered by a bit of clutter; I was a neat-freak. At 9 pm, she grew more animated while I crawled into bed. She often hit snooze; I jumped out of bed to beat the sunrise. Melanie did not stress over academics; I had mild panic attacks before every test. She was the optimistic extrovert; I was the overthinking introvert. She excelled in music; I began to sweat when pressured to publicly sing “Happy Birthday”. She had dark, silky smooth hair like Selma Hayek; I had a thick, course mane, like a brunette Ronald McDonald.

We were never mistaken for sisters. Strangers were stunned to learn we were siblings and even more confused to discover we were just ten months apart. Despite our conflicting personalities and interests however, I always thought of Mel as my big sister. I was happy to share stories that began with these two endearing words: “My sister…”

Over the years, many have asked, “So, is Melanie your real sister?” Real sister? What does that mean? Was that word a subtle attempt to cheapen Mel’s role in my life because we weren’t sisters by blood? Was it a question born of curiosity? Or did it reveal an ignorance in matters of adoption-speak? Whatever the reason, each time I was asked, I felt the need to explain myself, to provide concrete evidence that we were siblings, to prove to some jury that she was my legitimate sister. I imagined we were caught in a scandal, our sisterhood finally exposed as a fraud. Several years passed before I could name that feeling as shame–shame that we didn’t share the same womb, family history, physical characteristics, or core personality.

I’ve come a long way since those awkward, painful moments on the other side of that insensitive question. Time, adoption resources, and talking with other adoptive families have helped me to feel less alone as I’ve worked through those feelings of shame. I now have only deep gratitude for how God made us sisters through the pain and beauty of adoption.

I feel privileged to have enjoyed such a rich childhood, full of memories with my big sister, my only sister. Her feet kicked my own in the double bed we shared as kids. Beneath the handmade quilt and cool sheets, her brave hand reached for mine when late night thunderstorms scared me stiff. Those same strong hands yanked my thick hair during our knock-down-drag-out fights. Her fierce green eyes lost their sparkle when faced with my cruel words. Her stifled snorts only encouraged me to make her laugh harder when we got the giggles in church.

Melanie has always been and will always be my real sister. When we connect, we share real hugs, real laughs, and real stories while we sip our real blueberry wine over a real game of Scrabble. Regardless of the insensitivity of others, we know with certainty that our sisterhood is real and no one has permission to diminish that truth.


20170327 Katie CarperKatie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at katiecarper.com where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram.

I Just Want to Hold You

I’m not a crier.

Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. But one day my quivering voice confessed to my mom the realization that I’d never hear an enthusiastic toddler sing “Mommy,” as he ran to me, his arms reaching wide. I was wading through grief after coming to the awareness that I’d never be my children’s first mom. My arms would not likely be the ones they’d long for.

Have you been here with your nonbiological child? When all you want to do is hold them tight and tell them how precious they are—and have them believe it. To see that belief reflected in their eyes; and hear it in their voice; and watch it as they walk through life.

This desire is one of the strongest for any mom. But some of us have become painfully aware it’s not a desire that will necessarily be fulfilled. And so we find our arms achingly empty.

2017-mar-13-hold

This desire. It’s innate. It’s a God-image part of us. It mirrors Father God’s base nature.

This I-long-to-hold-you characteristic of God is seen throughout Scripture.

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a (NASB)

We see it depicted in God as our shepherd in Psalm 95:7 (NASB), For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 23 describes Shepherd-God as the provider for our every need: places of rest, nourishing food, refreshing drink, restoration for our souls, guidance toward righteousness, comfort in the darkest places of life, safety from our enemy, empowerment for our calling, abundance, goodness, mercy, and eternity with Him.

And can’t you just picture this from Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)?

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

And how about this image?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
… He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB)

In fact God delights in our presence so much, He is never far away.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
…You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
…Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Psalm 139:1-12 (NASB)

God is intimately aware of this longing in our hearts to draw our children close.

He smiles with us those moments we stand in moon-lit rooms, gazing at our sleeping cherubs. His heart swells with ours as we cheer from the bleachers and applaud from the auditorium. His heart aches alongside ours when a defiant one turns away from our instructions.

But one thing He does not do is embrace the emptiness that Satan’s lies have attempted to forge. Because this Father knows there is always hope. Always. Hope.

Why? Because when it comes down to it, He’s the first parent. He’s also the last parent. He is our Creator—He is our children’s creator. Author. And Finisher. The final say-so.

And whether our children want it or not—whether we believe it or not—His arms are eternally long. Our children are never out of His reach.

mar-13-no-one-is-everbeyondgods-reach

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 (NASB).