Gifts

When I got married, I was far away from God. Then, in His great mercy, Jesus called me to Himself. Although I rejoiced in my rebirth, the longer I walked with God, the more I could see that there was a problem. A BIG problem. I was living unequally yoked with my husband (2 Corinthians 6:14). Simply put, Jason and I were not walking on the same narrow path that leads to Christ. In fact, we weren’t even going in the same direction. Jason was heading south. I was heading north. God never intended His children to live this way because it is painful, annoying, frustrating, and divisive all at the same time.

As I reflect on this time, I am aware perhaps for the first time of how difficult my transformation had to have been for Jason. In the span of a few short months, almost everything that connected us when we had first dated dissolved away. I was no longer interested in the same movies, TV shows, or songs, I had no interest in partying or attending shallow gatherings where conversation was blurred by alcohol, and I had very different ideas about how to raise our baby girl.

At first, my priority was to “get Jason saved”. In my zealous desire to see his salvation, I did absolutely everything wrong. I remember one day in particular. I stood in our bedroom crying like an idiot sobbing into his chest, “I don’t want you to go to hell!” I lamented. Poor guy! I would give anything to have a video of this encounter so I could see the look on his face. It must have been a mix of amusement and annoyance. How did he ever endure my dramatics?

While my heart was in the right place, I was trying to do the work that only the Spirit can do. Instead of taking my fear for Jason’s soul to the only Person that could do something about it, I tried to win him for Christ using my own efforts. I anointed his pillow with oil, his shoes, his coat, and his car seat. I lectured often, probably making him feel guilty and put off, instead of feeling loved and drawn to the light.

Slowly, when I saw that my manipulations were clearly having no effect on Jason, I began to retreat emotionally. I stopped trying so hard. Instead, I directed my energies outside my home. I sought solace and fellowship with Christ, with my parents and brother, and with a Christian friend that I met at work. I poured out my heart to my friend instead of to my husband. I dreamed of serving the Lord in many ways, but never really included Jason in any of those visions and plans.

The end result of this was obvious: my heart became almost completely detached. I went to church by myself. I prayed and worshiped by myself. I even traveled without Jason or my kids. After a few years, because I had not invested my time and heart into my marriage, I no longer cared about my marriage. I just wanted out! “He doesn’t understand me!” I complained to God! “He’s difficult. He’s stubborn. He doesn’t love me like Christ loved the church, nor does he have any interest in trying!” I felt trapped and hopeless many days.

The lowest point came when I sold my wedding ring so I could afford to rental truck to move closer to my parents. I wanted to be nearer to the support system that I felt I needed to survive, and I no longer cared about Jason’s opinion on the matter. The ring and our marriage had little or no value.

Looking back at this time, I can see how selfish I was. Don’t get me wrong. Jason wasn’t blameless. But my heart was steeped in self pity and entitlement. God, in His patience and loving kindness, endured my tantrums and toddler like maturity. Hindsight allows me to stand in awe at the Lord. He was doing work in me to prepare me to be a partner instead of an island, and as always refining me in the process. Praise Him Who is altogether holy and Who knows me better than I know myself!

There are two things that kept me clinging to hope and to my marriage vows throughout these years. The first and all encompassing reason was my love for Jesus. I loved my Lord (Lord = King and Master) more than my own desire for happiness. So, I chose to die to myself and lay down my desire for temporal happiness as a sacrifice to my King. I knew from all the hours I had spent studying scripture that God hates divorce. He hates divorce because He is in the business of restoration and reconciliation. In fact, all God’s efforts throughout the history of man have been to restore our relationship with the Father that had been severed in the Garden. How could I not then continue to try to maintain the connection with Jason? I was self aware enough to know that giving up would be because of my own hard heart and selfishness. I also knew others were watching my walk with God- many many others. I prayed for these precious souls almost nightly. They needed salvation just like I did. What would it say to them if I simply walked away from my marriage? What would divorce say to my kids? If I could stand firm and hold fast, I knew that our home would serve as a much better launching pad for their future service and ministry in God’s Kingdom. I had stay married if only for them! Finally, Jesus hates divorce because marriage is the only earthly relationship and institution that echoes Christ’s relationship with the Bride, the Church. This is a great mystery, and I wanted to uncover that mystery! I’ll admit this daily death to self was hard. Hard doesn’t begin to describe it really. It was gut wrenching and heart clinching- especially when Jason failed me. When he hurt me. The worst pain I endured was when he was aloof to the efforts I made to try and build upon our crumbling relationship. Throughout it all I continued with Jason because I loved Jesus. When I was weak willed, He was strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The second reason I stuck it out had to do with a promise. In my communion and conversations with God in prayer, Jesus said that Jason was called to youth ministry. He promised that one day Jason and I would plow side by side, equally yoked, in God’s service. This promise was confirmed by a precious few (including the mysterious woman who wrote me the encouraging letter described in my last post). The promise was given before Jason was saved, and it took faith to believe. I may have lacked discipline at this point in my walk. I may have been selfish. The one thing the Lord has always given me in abundance is faith. So, I clung to this promise with all my might during the really really tough days.

As I clung to this promise, the Lord would often remind me of the reasons I fell in love with Jason. Back in the summer before we married in a hurried frenzy, we worked together at a YMCA summer camp. He was one of the associate directors of the camp, and I was a lowly camp counselor. Growing up, I had a reputation for being observant. I had always watched and observed others closely, and Jason was no exception. I spent many days that summer with my probing eyes on Jason. As I watched him work, my respect for him grew. The kids at the camp absolutely adored him. He was brash, cocky, and could handle both the campers and parents in an unfamiliar inner-city population with ease. His brutal honesty was something that I wasn’t used to, but I loved it nonetheless. I knew exactly where I stood after a conversation with Jason. I also recognized and valued Jason for his strengh. There were many days that summer when I struggled to control my assigned group of campers. Because I had had such a sheltered suburban upbringing, I had no idea how to handle the problems and disrespect that urban kids can throw at authority figures. So, when I was failing, Jason would come and literally rescue me. At first, it wasn’t preferential treatment. He rescued all counselors who struggled because he just had a way with the students. Then, after we started dating, he became my knight in shining armor whenever I faltered or was overwhelmed. I felt protected, cared for, and loved just knowing that he was in the same building. Years later, God would constantly remind me of these qualities, and would further promise that all of Jason’s Godly characteristics would be put to use for His glory… someday. So, I hoped, prayed, and believed the word spoken over my husband.

After that low day I used my wedding ring to pay for a moving truck, things started to change. God really began to work on my isolated detached heart. It was during this time that Jesus stripped almost all material things away. The only thing I had left to focus on was my own selfish ways. Eventually, I understood that I had gotten it wrong when I had spent all those hours serving as only a single person should! In typical Julie style, I had run ahead of God hoping to do “big things” for Him. All my ambitions, dreams, and desires to participate in great missions seemed like good ideas. However, the root of those plans was selfish. They were my dreams and really had nothing to do with God’s will for my life. The Lord had to use the hook on His Shepherd’s staff to pull me back to Him and His heart and will. I had to repent of my ways and behave differently! Again, I had to lay down my dreams and die to myself. My desire to “go” and “do” for the Kingdom would have to be put on the back burner for a time while I concentrated on far more pressing matters: loving my husband and children. Jesus beautifully and kindly taught me that being a good mother and wife was just as important to Him as feeding orphans and visiting prisoners.

One evening during this season, I was spending some time walking around the local town square with my twin brother. We were chatting like we always do when my best friend and I get together and looking for some place tasty to have dinner. As we walked passed little boutiques and shops, I saw an advertisement for a beautiful wedding band set. I frowned down at my naked ring finger and prayed a silent repentant prayer, “Lord, I would really like to have a wedding ring.” God responded with one of those goosebump raising replies that indicate He is indeed sovereign and the examiner of all hearts. He said, “You will get a ring when you are ready.” Wow. How much had been said and implied in that one small kiss of a sentence? He knew I was working on changing the direction of my heart- and recognized my effort. Jesus also had said with only a few words that I hadn’t arrived yet. Finally, enclosed in those words was a promise: I would get a ring when my heart had matured and was spiritually ready to be married. “OK, Lord. I’ll wait on Your timing,” I replied.

A few months passed. At first, I impatiently waited for a ring to mysteriously fall from the sky and drop into my lap. That never happened. The daily grind and monotonous tone of my life continued to try to wear down my resolve to stay faithful to my vows and persuade me to wave a white flag of defeat. Throughout this time as always, I sought strength and encouragement to continue in the Body of Christ. Because I loved writing, I found solace and kindred spirits in an online Christian forum. I met so many beautiful people from across the country and around the word during the days I was active in this online thriving community. I established life long intimate connections with a few precious saints including a friend that lives in North Carolina, one in Illinois, one in Washington, and still another in Oklahoma.

One day on the forum, a beautiful artistic lady living on the east coast named Laurel wrote an open message to members describing a dream she had had the night before. Laurel knew she was to paint a picture of two children dressed in black, and that the children were connected to the forum. After reading the description of her dream, I knew that the picture she was describing was a recent photo of my children! When I sent her this particular photograph, she quickly wrote an ecstatic reply confirming that, yes, these were indeed the children she saw in her dream! Laurel promised to begin working on painting my beloveds and to send the painting to me when she was finished. I was flabbergasted! Laurel knew that I was dabbling in painting myself. What she didn’t know was that I had given all my creations away. I thanked God. We do reap exactly what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

During spring break 2008, my daughter and I made a trip to Oklahoma to visit one of my forum friends, Valerie. It was a great time in the Lord! Valerie has four daughters, so Zoe played and connected with her kids while Valerie and I prayed, laughed and fellowshipped. The whole time I was gone, however, I missed my family. In fact, the theme of the entire trip was family. I knew that God was honored and served by how His beautiful daughter and my friend served her husband, daughters, and parents. She was a model of womanhood, and I wanted to be as beautiful as she was! As I drove back home after my few days in Oklahoma, the closer I got to Indiana, the longer the miles became. I was so excited to see my husband and son! I couldn’t wait to get home, throw my arms around Jason, and begin to love him as I had seen Valerie love.

I pulled into my apartment complex and lugged my bags up the stairs. I remember that I was completely alone, so I must have dropped off my daughter to see her grandparents as she had probably missed them terribly while she was in Oklahoma. When I got to my door with my keys in hand, I saw that a big, square, brown paper wrapped package was sitting there waiting for me. I knew instantly from the package’s shape that it was the painting Laurel had made me. When I opened it, I cried. Here is the painting:

kids

Of course the first thing I wanted to do after opening the painting was to write Laurel a gushing thank you note. How could I convey how much her gift meant to me? I sat down at my computer and quickly logged into the online forum with shaky fingers.

Suddenly, Jason burst through the door. He was home early from work. “I have something for you,” he said. His eyes were excited and my heart fluttered. As he walked towards me with purposed steps, he reached into his pocket. To my utter shock, he pulled out a wedding ring. Not just any wedding ring. I recognized it immediately as my grandmother’s wedding ring that had been on her hand for 45 years.

That did it. I SCREAMED with shock and joy at the overwhelming grace of God.

I knew exactly what the Father was saying in giving me these two precious presents on the same day. The fact that the painting and ring had arrived within minutes of each other was… well even now words fail. Jesus was saying that my heart had indeed moved back home towards my husband and children. My heart… HAD CHANGED! I shook. I cried. I worshipped. Only the Lord could have orchestrated such magnificent gifts in His glorious, extravagant, endless love and perfect timing.

I called my mother immediately to thank her for giving me Grandma’s ring. When my mother didn’t answer her cell phone, I left a tearful message of thanks. My throat was thick as I struggled to form coherent but inadequate words. (My mother saved particular voicemail message and I believe still has it in her saved messages today.) What I didn’t know that afternoon but learned in a later conversation was that while I was in Oklahoma, God had spoken directly to my mother instructing her to give me the ring. Of course He had! I’m so glad she obeyed. Only later was I able to tell Mom the whole story and explain why the gift had meant so much to me.

I can’t lie. Things didn’t magically get better with Jason and I after this day. I didn’t find myself at the end of a some fairytale living out the words “happily ever after”. In some ways, things got tougher. However, change and progress is slow but as steady and faithful as the sunrise. Jesus promises to finish the work He begins (Philippians 1:16).

I will end this entry on a very happy note: God did keep his promise to save Jason. When I stopped “trying” and began to love, Jason became curious. (More on this later!) Today, he is currently serving in youth ministry and hopes to work as a full time youth pastor soon. God’s Word and His promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20).

I have seen miracles, and they are precious and fabulous to behold.

Fire

My move towards Jesus didn’t happen over night. Surrender was a slow progression over many months. God called out to me through songs, His people, and in a quiet but ever present pull. Eventually, as I began to read His word at first sporadically and then night after night, the Truth became too bright to ignore. After a small uneventful confession of both my sins and Jesus’s Lordship one day (and to be truthful, I don’t even remember a specific day that I prayed that fateful prayer of faith), I really began to seek out God’s will for my life.

When I read Scripture in those early days around my twenty-third year, the pages seemed to be alive. I would weep with deep gratitude at God’s love. I would shout with happiness at His forgiveness. I imagined myself walking in sandals next to Jesus listening to the Master speak as I poured over the red words. One night after reading the book of James for the first time, I was so convicted that I wouldn’t touch those chapters again for months. Gratitude poured out of me like an overflowing cup. One summer evening in the back yard I danced for Christ in the darkness, and Jesus sent shooting stars to light up the sky to say, “I love you too, Julie”! Oh there was so much joy in the spring season of my walk.

I discovered that the #Bible was not a dusty old book. His Word was ALIVE! I also found that I had developed some false thinking and misconceptions in my many years going to Sunday school. The thing that stuck out the most was that the God described in Scripture was powerful and that the church I knew looked nothing like the early days in Acts. I was so in awe of God’s might that praying was difficult, not because I was fearful of sounding silly, but because I knew I was speaking to the awesome omnipotent Creator of everything. When I approached the throne, I knew I was speaking to Jesus: Victor, Champion, Healer, Restorer, Author of Life, The One True God! I trembled at His authority.

But even while I trembled, I ached to experience Jesus in all His fullness. So, although I was only a little child, I began to take tiny baby steps in faith. Many days movement forward looked like this: “Oh, Jesus, I love you. Show me how You love me today.” I quickly discovered that my prayers were answered. Often times the answers left my mouth on the floor.

One morning I began reading the Book of Acts and about the Upper Room:

Acts 2:2-4 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

As I read those words, I thought, “I need the Spirit too, and Jesus promised that He would send The Helper!” (John 14:16) Later that day, I was in the shower again thinking about these verses. As I lathered my hair with shampoo, I prayed (I pray a lot in the shower!), “Lord, please give me the gift of the Holy Spirit like You did for Your followers in the Upper Room.” I paused a beat as the water poured down, waiting for something mysterious or miraculous to happen. Nothing did. So, I just accepted that God had heard my simple prayer of faith and answered because my request was according to the promises in His Word.

Something miraculous would happen a couple weeks later.

I was dead asleep one night when suddenly my “spirit” became aware of a Presence in my bedroom. Although my physical body was unconscious, my inner man was awoken. I wish I could describe the experience better, but words fail. One moment I was lying on my tummy sleeping, and then suddenly I was awake. More awake than I had ever been in my life. I felt two hands rest softly on my back. When they did, I felt a surge of energy and heat burst out from my middle to my extremities. I tingled with electricity everywhere. I obviously wanted to see who was in the room, so I rolled over and looked up. What I saw was the single most amazing, indescribable, life changing sight I have ever seen. A Being hovered above me, near the ceiling. Again, there are no words. The Spirit looked like an Angel on FIRE. The eyes were absolutely holy, and absolutely terrifying. I knew I was in the presence of power. As soon as my spiritual eyes saw the Spirit, I instantly jerked to fully physically conscious. I was still lying on my stomach. However, the energy that had been imparted was still coursing through me. I lay panting, but very still. I was too scared to move a muscle for many minutes.

Finally I got enough courage to look over at my husband sleeping beside me. Had he noticed anything? Nope… he was still sleeping soundly. “How could he not have noticed!?” I thought. After a long time, I bravely turned over to my back to sheepishly gaze up at the ceiling where I had seen the fiery Being. Of course I could not see Him with my physical eyes. I knew He was there, though, living inside me. The Spirit had been given as a down payment on my soul. I would never be alone again (2 Corinthians 1:22).

I am retelling this event more than a decade later, but the image is still burned into my memory. I was a life forever changed. My walk with Jesus took on new power after that night. I was filled with faith. I also believe that God gave me spiritual gifts that day- one of which would be the gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 14:1). Occasionally the Lord has pulled back the curtain allowing me to see into the spirit realm in dreams as He did that first day.

Father God is so generous, holding nothing back from His children (Luke 11:11-13). He wants to hear from us! We should pray simply, with faith and always within His will (Matthew 7:7). We have not because we ask not (James 4:3).

I would challenge you, beloved, to approach the throne of Grace boldly, and to ask for His Spirit to fill and lead you this and every day (Hebrews 4:16). Amen.

The Beginning

I suppose the best way to start my blog about miracles is to begin with the the most impactful miracles I have witnessed: my adoptions!  Twice in my life I have been invited into another family and given a new name. I was spiritually adopted when Abba Father called me His daughter in my early twenties. I will write about that wonderful day in my next story. However, today I will expound upon my first earthly adoption and explain how it forshadowed the second.

I’m two years old.  It’s the middle of the night and I wake up cold and in need of another blanket.  I sit up in my crib and look around a big dark room.  Other cribs are situated around the perimeter of the room – each one containing another sleeping child.  I strain to see in the dark.  Where is my twin brother?  I cannot find him here.  I have no mom.  I have no dad.  It would be pointless to cry… no one would answer me.  After a few seconds, I lay back down, pull my knees to my chest, and fall back into a fitful sleep.

 This is a snapshot of my story.  But let me back up a few years to explain.  See, I was born into a tumultuous family.  My biological father met my biological mother in high school.  After many years of dating, affairs, and on again off again relationship, they finally got married.  After only a few months, the couple was pregnant with a baby girl named Candy Rose.  About a year or so later, the couple had twins- Scott and me.  One day at a family outing full of strollers and amusement park rides, it became obvious that Candy Rose was sick.  A trip to the doctor followed.  Then radiation.  Then chemotherapy.  After months of struggle, Candy died of leukemia at Riley Hospital For Children.  She was only three years old.  After the loss of her daughter, my biological mother went AWOL.  I don’t know if this is because of the immense grief she was experiencing.  I don’t know if she took off for another man- because I do know there were many men in her life.  Maybe it was both of these reasons.  But what I do know is that she abandoned her husband, my brother, and me.  My biological father, having lost his job after spending so much time at the hospital caring for my sister, was unable to cope.  He’d lost his daughter, his wife, and he did not have the financial or emotional reserves that were required to take care of toddler twins.  So, one sunny day that is permanently etched into my memory, Scott and I were dropped off at a children’s home for orphaned kids.  The children’s home was a lonely place, especially in the middle of the night when you are cold and in need of a mother.

 Fast forward a few months.  I’m out of the children’s home.  Things are a bit better.  Scott and I have been placed in our first foster home.  An elderly preacher and his wife take care of Scott and me.  I remember the sanctuary of their church.  I remember the Easter Bunny and ice cream.  I remember playing outside with Scott- and being terrified when Scott was stung by a bee.  But most of all, what I remember from this time is Jesus and His love.  It was during this time at this Godly home that I heard the Name of Jesus for the first time.  I was only three years old.  Sadly, things didn’t stay better for long.

 Another snapshot.  Scott and I are four.  You see, the state doesn’t like foster children to stay too long in one home because they don’t want the kids to become too attached to the foster parents.  So we move to another foster home.  It is a tiny house in a small town Indiana full of other orphaned children.  Sandy, my foster mother, is screaming at one of my foster brothers named Mikie.  Mikie is just six-years-old.  Sandy has a 2X4 in her hand and all of us kids are shaking with fear because of her unbridled anger. 

 Another snapshot.  Again I’m five.  I’m in a bedroom.  Lisa, my fourteen-year-old foster sister, clearly in pain herself, closes the bedroom door and locks it.  I beg her “not again”.  She makes me promise not to tell.  Once again, another piece of my innocence is robbed.

 A final picture.  A big white and red Chevy van picks my brother and me up.  God has granted us parents.  Not biological parents.  Parents born in love and grace.  We have been adopted.  We have a family.

 It’s hard to sum up the first five years of my life in a few minutes.  The experiences of that time permanently shaped my life.  For instance, one of my first requests in my new family was to attend church.  I wanted to know more about Jesus.  And I hadn’t heard His Name spoken in years- I had only been three years old when the good preacher and his wife taught me about Him.  There is something about that Name.     

 But of course- the residue from my early years wasn’t all good.  Having been robbed of my innocence and having fears of being alone, I spent my teen years chasing and clinging to boys.  I didn’t feel whole unless I was in a relationship.  I ran away from God and His goodness in exchange for things that can never truly satisfy.  Maybe you have done that too.  Maybe you’ve chased girls.  Drugs.  Material things.  Power or control.  These things will never truly satisfy, but instead they leave you searching for more or at worst leave you empty and completely out of control.

 I was a liar.  You could not believe a word out of my mouth.  During the years in foster care, lying became a habit.  I lied in my mind to escape the reality that I faced daily.  

I lied to get out of trouble.  I lied to get attention.  Stories I told had to leave the listener captivated… so I’d add a little “innocent” extra detail here and there to make my stories more interesting.  Maybe you have done that too.

 Some of my rebellion against God was purely my sinfulness.  I wanted to run this show.  I wanted to direct the course of my life.  I … I … I.  Whenever I made my own decisions regardless of the rules, wisdom, or sound advice, it usually didn’t work out so well for me in the end.  You see, sin has a season.  It’s fun, you feel in control, sometimes you get what you want.  But then… oh but then. The Bible says that “there is a way that seems right to man.  But in the end it leads to destruction.” 

 One day, September 11, 2001, I suddenly realized I was on this very road to destruction.  After living my life for myself for the majority of my twenty-one years, I had married a man that I didn’t really know (under two months of dating before the courthouse), I had dropped out of college, and I had alienated my brother and my parents because of hurtful choices I had made while directing my life.  

 As the terrible horrors of 911 flashed across the screen, words like terrorist and hijackers flooded the airwaves.  All day as I watched the events unfold, I looked down at my baby girl and then back up at the screen.  It suddenly dawned on me that my child’s destiny literally lay in my hands.  I thought, “How does one go from an innocent baby to a terrorist willing to kill thousands of people?”  I saw for the first time how powerful my position as a parent was!  My beautiful innocent six-week-old daughter needed a real mother- not someone who lived a life for herself.  Surely parents are a child’s first line of defense against evil.  On that day and over the next few months, it slowly began to dawn on me that I had a responsibility to my daughter’s soul- her eternity!  But how could I protect her and show her the good way if I continued living a life for myself?  I was humbled by this realization.  I had to fight for her!  For those of you who don’t have a mom or a dad fighting for you, I have good news.  There is a Father in Heaven who fought and continues to fight for you and your eternity.  He fought so hard that He was willing to send His only Son to die so that you would be able to be free from evil and free from a life lived on the path of destruction.

 Something else hit home on that day.  Almost every great story has a good guy v. a bad guy.  Superman v. Lex Luther.  Cinderella v. The Evil Step Mother.  William Wallace, or Braveheart v. a corrupt English empire.  This universal theme of good v. evil is so prevalent in our stories because I believe we are in a real battle between good v. evil!  On 911, I wondered how my story would go.  How would my daughter’s story end?  I had to pick a side!  I knew I wanted to be on the winning team- the good team.  And I also wanted to know the Captain of that team: His Name is Jesus Christ.  It was evil that caused me to be physically and emotionally abused as a child.  It was because of the selfish and sinful choices (evil choices) of my mother that my brother and I were abandoned.  Don’t worry, I have totally forgiven my biological mother.  But her sin, our own ability to make selfish evil choices, must be called what it is: sin.  911 showed us all just how low evil can stoop.  But, I also knew that September morning that good exists because just as I had seen and lived through the effects of evil, I too had tasted and seen the effects of the good in my life!  My brother and I were given a mom and a dad who were willing to take in and adopt two five-year-olds and love them as though they had come from their own bodies.  But I think this earthly adoption was just a foreshadowing, only a glimpse, into another adoption that I would experience in my life: when the Loving, All Knowing, All Powerful God of the Universe adopted me as His daughter.

And this good news of adoption continues now as I tell you something marvelous: you too can experience the loving embrace of a new family.  God wants to adopt you!  Once we are in God’s family, we are called God’s children- sons and daughters of the Most High.  Princes and Princesses in Christ the King’s Kingdom- no Evil Step Mothers allowed in Jesus’ house.  What does it mean to be God’s child?  It means that we are loved and embraced.  We are welcome to come into His kitchen, open the fridge, and get daily food to live on.  We are invited with open arms into a relationship with Our Abba Father, our Daddy!  WOW!  But guess what?  It gets even better. 

 Let’s look to an example on earth to fully understand what it means to be adopted by God the Father.   Most of us know that when a father dies on earth- all of his possessions are usually given to the father’s children.  The children are called “heirs” to the estate because they inherit everything that was the father’s.  Do you know that Bible says that we, God’s children, are heirs to the Father’s Eternal Kingdom- His “Estate”?  The Bible says that God’s children are co-heirs with Christ, the Son of God!  The moment we believe and trust in the Son Jesus, we partake in the divine nature of God because we are legally HEIRS to His Kingdom!  Look at the following astounding verse:

 Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 Isn’t that amazing?  CO-HEIRS with JESUS- God’s Son- because you see, we are also God’s sons and daughters!  That’s why Jesus says to us that whatever you ask for in my Name according to God’s will, it will be given. (John 15:16) WOW!  BEING ADOPTED IS GOOD!  Here’s another earthly example to illustrate the point even further: when I was living at home, if I went to my dad and asked him to get me McDonald’s French fries even as late as 10 o’clock at night, guess what?  He did it!  Why?  Because my dad loved me!  How much more will our Father in heaven give us good gifts when we ask!

 The last part of that verse in Romans 8:18: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” sounds a little scary.  But let me “unpack” that a little so that maybe you’ll understand what Paul is saying. 

 At the beginning of this story, I shared details about a time in my life when I was alone in the middle of the night in a children’s home.  That scene always haunted me until one day Jesus showed me this verse:
Jeremiah 18: 1-4 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

 You see, I am clay on the Potter’s wheel.  The Potter is God.  I was marred in the Potter’s hands.  Marred means to disfigure or spoil.  So going back to that lonely moment in the crib- do you see that God was there?  Shaping me.  Molding me.  Always ALWAYS in HIS hands.  It wasn’t God who caused the pain of my early childhood- that was because of the poor choices and sinfulness of others.  Of my biological mother.  Of Sandy.  Of Lisa.  But, the pain I experienced wasn’t wasted.  I was being marred in God’s hands.  What happens in this verse after the clay is marred?  It says that the Lord “formed [me] into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”  God, my Daddy, is shaping me into a pot that He can use for His purposes, will, and glory.  Because of my experiences, I am more compassionate.  I know what it’s like to feel alone.  I know what it’s like to feel forgotten.  Because He is remaking me, I reach out to tell others about the Good News of Jesus.  I love to tell people that they too can be forgiven and loved and welcomed into the Father’s House.  God does not forget us.  His eyes miss nothing- He numbers the hairs on our heads- that’s paying very close attention!  He sees all of us.  He knows our hurts.  He understands our pain- because He suffered as you and I have suffered.  Let’s read that verse in Romans again:

 Romans 8:18 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 I suffered and was marred so I could be remade into another pot.  As this new pot, I share in His GLORY!  After the suffering, the pain, and the loneliness, God takes that pain and uses it to advance His kingdom.  That’s how we share in His glory!  We are adopted sons and daughters in His Kingdom.  There is NO better place to be than in the palm of His hand. 

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”