Tuesday, February 10, 2015

            For years, I have prayed Isaiah 61 over my family, asking the Lord to give beauty for ashes, asking Him to indeed grow these daughters of mine into oaks of righteousness, a planting for the display of His splendor. I have cried tears straight into the words “freedom for captives” as I begged this promise for a certain few of my little ladies specifically. I have rested in the promise of the oil of joy instead of mourning and I have rejoiced with the prophet Isaiah as each one has come to her own understanding that He has clothed her with garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. My eyes stuck right there on Isaiah 61 praying in hope those words of verse 11, that the Lord would cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations.
            Only on Saturday morning, the morning after I married the very most Christ-like man I have ever met, did my eyes wander down past verse 11, down the page to Isaiah, Chapter 62. As if, now that I was beginning this new chapter of life, maybe God would give me a new chapter to pray over my family. My breath caught in my throat as I read these words that I somehow had never read before.
            “The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory. You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or your name Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land will be Beulah (married). For the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
            Right there on the thin, gilded page, was his heart for me, for Benji, for each of my girls, for our family – that we would know His delight in us, the way He rejoices over us.
            The last two years have been a different season. A season of quiet, of dark and sadness, of joys that felt too personal to share with anyone other than my Heavenly Father. I have tried to write many times, but I have been learning the beauty of the secret place, just Him and me. The Lord who knows my heart has been whispering to me of a new season for a long time, and my flesh has worried that this new season might take me out of my secret hiding place with Him, that somehow a physical, tangible relationship with another might take away from my relationship with my Builder, My Lover, My Life-Giver.
            Little did I know that this new relationship would only enhance the other.

            I became Mrs. Majors on January 2nd of this year. Benji is a discipler of men and a faithful maker of breakfast. Long before we shared a home we shared a hometown with only a few hilltops to keep our adolescent lives from ever intersecting.  As the Lord would have it, we would only meet on the other side of an ocean after He had captured our hearts with a love for the Ugandan people and a desire for The Word to go forth in this place. At first I was hesitant, but while Benji was patient, God was faithfully working on my heart. I watched him teach Bible studies and disciple men and fix my kids’ bikes. We laughed over coffee and all the crazy things that are life here. He taught me more and more about the love of Jesus, in his words, and in his example. He captured my heart. And on the night he washed my feet and asked me to be his forever, the yes jumped off my lips as if it had always been waiting there just for him.

I imagined marriage would be good. Wonderful even. But I did not even begin to understand that it would be this holy. I didn’t know that I would melt under this man’s gaze that is so full of the love of the Father for me. I didn’t imagine the way his delight in me would be my daily reminder of the way my Father delights in me. My husband’s love is just another way God has chosen to pour our His extravagant love on me, another constant reminder that He rejoices over me, and over each one of our daughters.
            I watch them come alive under the loving gaze of their new father, I hear the delight and the certainty in their voices as they call “Dad.” And without me even having to ask, God who knows my heart has given me my new prayer over them: that in knowing the delight of their earthly father, they would begin to grasp the delight of their Heavenly Father all the more. That they would be a crown of splendor in His hand, that they would embrace this new name: “my delight is in her.”

God gives good gifts. His delight is in me, in us, in them. May our delight be evermore in Him.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I have a friend named Simon.
He’s eleven.

I remember the day his family arrived here for the first time, Simon struggling to breathe and weak from the anesthesia of his first esophageal surgery. I remember the fear in his mother’s eyes as she left him here with his grandmother and me for middle of the night feedings through his new feeding tube and daily tracheotomy changes. They needed a place to stay that was near the hospital, just in case.

I remember when his surgeon first showed me all of his scans and my staff and I realized that we were looking at a miracle – a real, true miracle. How does a child live for ten years with out any ability to swallow food? I remember the certainty I felt that God wouldn’t have brought him this far unless He had an unbelievable plan.

I remember all the times I bumped into his grandmother coming out of her room to prepare food in the middle of the night as I got up to check on Betty. We nursed our patients and we swore when the power went out and we couldn’t use the blender to puree his food, and sometimes we just stared at each other through too-sleepy eyes. We whispered of God’s grace and we whispered of our sorrows. We reminded each other of the call to of God to longsuffering. I remember the way they held me when they learned that Betty had gone home to Jesus.

I remember all the things that went wrong. The moments of panic and the consistent, pleading prayers over Simon’s young, fragile life. His mom came to live with us when it got to be too much for his grandmother. We both learned to do things that we never imagined we could. We watched and prayed through eleven failed surgeries. Eleven. I remember the weight of our exhaustion that just settled down over my home and my heart. Would he ever get well? Ever?

I remember the day I realized with full clarity that Simon just Couldn’t get better in Uganda. We had the best surgeons and equipment our country could offer and it just wasn’t working. I remember his squeal as he took off on his very first airplane and his mother’s wide eyes as we entered the Atlanta airport over 30 hours later.

I remember the great delight I knew in watching my biological family welcome in members of our Ugandan family and the love that Simon and Anna felt everywhere we went. I remember how surreal it was to be back here in Uganda and know that they were safe and sound at the homes of my parents and closest friends in Nashville.

I remember the email that said that Simon’s surgeries were over and had been successful. Attached were confirmation numbers of his plane ticket home. I remember the elated, disbelieving faces of our dedicated staff when I shared the news. I remember my children counting down the days until they got here – our friends, now family members. And I remember her tears of gratitude on my shoulder as we embraced for the first time in months back where it all started, “God saved my son’s life.”

It is 20 months later. It feels like eternity.

And today they drove away smiling and laughing, arms excitedly waving out of van windows, as my children chased and waved just as hard. I stood in the driveway and let tears of joy well up in my eyes. They are well. They are well. Simon can swallow food just as well as any other eleven year old. He can play soccer with the best of them. Tomorrow, he’ll go back to third grade. Anna will be able to go back to work after completely surrendering all her dreams to take care of her son. They will wash dishes and do homework and laugh and sing and pray in their own little home just like so many other happy, healthy families. And we will stay here and do the same.

I stood in their room long after they left and ran my fingers of the words of Hebrews that I painted on the wall, mostly as a reminder to myself, “He who promised is faithful.” I can hardly believe His faithfulness to us, the fullness of all His promises unfolding right here before my eyes. I breathe deep relief. I allow myself to remember just how crazy hard it all was, just how long it has been, just how tired I have felt, and just how faithful he has been to each of us through all of it.

People ask me how we do it – all these people living, and sometimes dying, in our home. Most days I shake me head, I don’t know. Lots of days it’s just down right hard.  Some days it is more than exhausting. But today I remember. We hold out for the happy ending. Because where Jesus is, the happy ending is possible. It doesn’t always come, and that doesn’t mean He is not present, but still, it is possible.  Redemption is coming. And we don’t always get to glimpse His redemption here and now, but sometimes we do.

Today I remember. There isn’t always a happy ending… but sometimes, there is.

And He who promised is faithful.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdelene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away, terrified yet full of joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came and clasped His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Terrified and full of joy. This isn’t the first time I have been here, have felt this strange mix of emotion that is both trepidation and wonder, hesitation and excitement. Fittingly, I seem to find myself here most often during the season of Easter. This isn’t the first time this story has spoken deeply to my heart, stating exactly what I do not have words for.

Our family is extraordinarily blessed to have a small, three-bedroom “house” in our backyard. Over the years we have been very privileged to have people of many kinds live with us here as they recover from set-backs and move toward what God has for them next. Sick people who have been discharged from the local hospital but still have no place to rest, homeless families looking for jobs or a means of support, friends, who have quickly become like family, all of them looking for Jesus, looking for love. People have been loved to new life here, and some have been loved straight into the arms of Jesus.

In the quiet of the evening, after I have kissed cheeks and tucked in bodies and prayed over sleepy little heads, I sneak out to the back yard and I watch the new life. Anna reads to her son, Simon, as they wait for the 8th in a series of surgeries to repair his esophagus. They stay here so that they can be close to a hospital in case of an emergency, but Anna helps me and encourages me more than she knows. Yusufu, recently homeless in the community of Masese due to illness that caused him to lose his job, serves food to his two young children, Mariam and Shafik. In the morning, he will go again to dig in the garden and save up the money he makes so that they can move out and stand on their own two feet. Agnes, partially paralyzed due to a stroke and left to die by family members who were afraid and did not understand her condition, sleeps soundly next to her three year old, Lotuke, tired from a long day of walking practice. I bet she’ll be able to do it without her cane any day now! Margaret, her tiny, twenty year-old body ravished by AIDS, discharged from the hospital but with nowhere to go, smiles brightly at me with her son, Sam in her lap.

Beauty from ashes. I don’t just know it to be true, I get to live it. We get to watch redemption take place, we get to reach out and touch it, we get to be a part of it.

And then Margaret groans that her stomach hurts. In a moment, I am in a different place at a different time with another friend whose stomach had hurt. We are at the hospital and they are telling us that there is nothing they can do. I slowly watch her get worse and worse. I hold her hand and I read the Psalms, and she breathes her last. I can hardly breathe. I reach out to hold Margaret’s hand and it looks so similar to a hand I held not toolong ago – a hand I held for hours that turned into days and days that turned into weeks until finally I got to place her hand in the hands of Jesus as He took her from this earth. I blink. It is just a stomachache.

Makerere walks by and I catch a glimpse of the scar on his leg, a scar that God used to heal my heart. I breathe long and deep all that God is doing in this place, all that He is allowing me to participate in, and my heart swells with gratitude, with deep, unshakable joy. And in the same breath, just like the women at the tomb, I am terrified. Because I know it to be true: in order to experience the deep joys of the Father, we must experience the heartaches, too. In order to know Jesus the way that I have known Him, I have had to give my heart to people in ways that I would never have chosen.

I can see the women with their eyes wide as they tremble in front of the tomb. They listen to the angel’s words – can it be? – and they scurry, terrified and filled with joy.

Is it possible to be full of joy and thankfulness and simultaneously afraid of what obedience might bring next? I feel it stirring in my heart, the strange mix of pain and excitement that I will feel as each of our friends here transitions into the new life, outside of our home, that God has planned for them; the strange and devastating love that grows when we love the way Christ has loved us.

I sit there in the candle light, 13 growing young women sleeping soundly a few yards away and all kinds of lives being transformed before my eyes. I sit, terrified and full of joy.

And Jesus meets me. And He says, “Do not be afraid.”

And I ask simply, “How?” Because as excited as I am about all He has planned, there is no denying that sometimes I am just plain scared.

His answer comes clear, steady. “Go and tell my brothers. Go and tell them the good news. Go and tell all the world that they will see me. They will see me.

And His words ring true. We see Him here, in the midst of pain and hurt and suffering, we see His glory all around. We see Him reconciling all things to Himself, drawing all nations to Himself, making all things new.

I fall at His feet and worship Him, for it is the only thing I know to do. I clasp His feet and remember all He has done for me and all He has yet to do. I remember His resurrection - Life from death. Beauty from ashes. Beauty from the torture and the nail scars and the blood red life spilling out everywhere. Beauty from the black of the tomb. And He does this here in my life, He gives us life to the fullest, and we can see Him, even here.

We tremble. Because who wouldn’t tremble at the feet of the Savior? At just a glimpse of all He might have planned? But as we trust, we fill with joy and peace, we overflow with hope, just as it is promised. We know all He has done for us, and we know all that He has yet to do when He brings us into His kingdom.

And my prayer today is that we might not be afraid. Friend, whatever it is you are facing, do not be afraid. Whatever it is He is calling you to in obedience, rest assured – you will see Him! Go and tell the world of what He has done for us, for you! We can trust Him. And today, every day, we REJOICE in Him!

*I have asked my friends if I could use their names in these stories in the hopes that you would join me in prayer for each of them. As the Lord brings us to mind would you pray? We are so grateful.

Friday, March 7, 2014

August 24, 2012...

Nearly four years ago she bounced into my life in a dress with a bright red sash. She tentatively called me Mommy after having not known one for nearly her entire five years of life and all signs of trauma were quickly masked with little girls songs and dances and giggles as she adjusted to life in a family.

Years later I watched her feet run in bright red sneakers toward the towering swing set where she would pretend to fly. We had struggled for joy and were finding it; she had thrashed against love and by God’s grace I was learning to hold on tight.

She kicked and screamed and did the unspeakable and when logic said that I should be angry or might love her less, I couldn’t and my desire for her was only stronger. And as I saw the extent of her brokenness and mine, I loved her even more.

Red beads clicked around her face as she skipped into the kitchen to find her head a resting place now nearly at my shoulder, and she whispered of the wounds once covered but never healed and an unfamiliar panic crawled up in the back of my throat and settled in as it hit me, the full weight of how much we had yet to overcome.

I took her face in my hands and through blurred eyes assured her, assured myself, that Jesus thought of her and her red beads and her red sash as His red blood spilled out, and because I knew that, I knew this – He would not leave us here.

He didn’t and I saw progress, but the fears stayed. Nights of standing by her bed, days of checking and double checking and checking again. Blame and accusations from the enemy that I could have done something differently, done something better. Anger and hatred toward the sin that could allow someone to do such horrible things to an innocent, helpless child. I knew Beauty. I fought to see Him here.

Months later on a Tuesday in the still-dark house, I drank too-strong coffee and I drank of His grace. I prayed over my daughter, a splash of red in the tapestry of our family – feisty, powerful and full of care and compassion. I wrestled with the questions of “what if” and “if only” and I told them of His sovereignty, again.

And right there on the worn pages I read Zechariah call God’s people prisoners of hope.

And I knew that I hadn’t been. Once more I had become more of a prisoner of overwhelming concern about the trauma of my children’s pasts and shifted my gaze away from what, Who I was really captive to.

“but in Him, it has always been ‘Yes!’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1: 19-20)

My flesh wants to shake the head no but I am a prisoner to God who says “Yes!” All of His promises – peace, joy, love, forgiveness, salvation! – they are Yes to me and Yes to her in Christ! Eternity is Yes in Christ. And because of His Yes I can say Yes to all that He gives. Even all that He allows.

Hope is my captor – Hope for her healing here which has already begun and hope for our life eternal with Him. Hope that He who began a good work in us is not finished yet and will carry it to completion until the day that He comes and hope that He is coming.

The sun peaks over the horizon and dances patterns across the couch. I see with new eyes, a captive of the hope set fully on the grace given me through Christ. I must live my days as this kind of prisoner, because true freedom is only found in being completely captivated by a coming King.

She who is always the first one awake pulls a book off the shelf and snuggles up next to me in silence, her nine-year-old lankiness curling up like an infant inside waiting arms. I see hope in her – and I see myself. I kick and I scream and I thrash hard against the Father’s love. I shift my focus and become a prisoner to the panic instead of the promise, and still He says, “mine.” He looks at me, broken, and calls me daughter and ever so lovingly pulls me right back in.

I study her face and can’t imagine that I know only a fraction of His love for her as I whisper the prayers of every morning over her heart, “Jesus you bind up the broken-hearted…set the captives free…comfort those who mourn…bestow beauty instead of ashes… They will be called oaks of righteousness, a display of the Lord’s splendor.” I trace the curve of her face with my fingers and praise Him for such resilience and transformation as I have seen in this child. I praise Him for her salvation and the way she is hungrily learning more about Him each day.

And then I write it small, on her hand and mine, “prisoner of hope.

I want to live as a prisoner to the “Yes.” Remembering all we have seen, we set our hope fully on what we have not yet seen. We place all of our hope and all of our trust and all of our focus on the grace given us through Christ, and we beg to live captured by His promises.


I know I have been gone for a while. I think I am just having a hard time expressing all that God has laid on my heart. We are well, and experiencing a season of SO much growth and joy and peace in Him. I am so thankful, and I know that it is in part because of the prayers of so many. Thank you for lifting us up.

The Lord put it on my heart today to repost this blog that I wrote a few years ago during a very difficult season. Yesterday during some sweet, quiet nail-painting time, this same little (not-so-little-anymore) one shared with me some of the deep emotions of her heart, and I was once again floored and devastated to think of the way-beyond-their-years experiences each of my children have from their years outside of a safe and loving home. This morning, she bounded into the kitchen, laid her head against my shoulder (is it possible that she is this tall?!) and ask me to tie red ribbons in her hair for school.

Red ribbons. To match her red skirt. Isn't He in all the littlest details? He spoke hope over me, and her, once more. And I looked into each one of these young women's faces and saw unimaginable growth and hope and strength in Him. Is there a more devastating love than that we feel for our children? Surely only that which the Father feels toward each one of us.

Oh, friends. He is so faithful to us! Wherever you are, whatever impossible, broken situation you are facing, He longs to speak His hope and His favor and His beauty over you. Be blessed as you rest and hope in Him today.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’”

-Luke 2:8-14

You will find Him in a feeding trough.

You, on whom His favor rests.

You will find Him where you least expect Him.

Do you hear His whisper this morning? “You will find me where you least expect me.”

This, the very most unexpected place, this is where we find Him. Even more, this is where He finds us.

In the long dark nights, in the lowering of my friends’ bodies into the dark earth, in the resettling of their children into foster-families, in the impossibly hard parenting and the shepherding of my children through searing loss, I have known Jesus. In the endless blending and grinding of food for a feeding tube, and the endless chopping of carrots for soup, and the long lists of spelling words and multiplication facts, and the unexpected joy of just being, we have known Jesus. In the blazing hot sun, in the forever-caked-on-my-heels red mud, over the thousands of potholes, I have known impossible, unexpected Grace.

And this is my prayer for you this Christmas. That in the very most unlikely places, in the hard and the hurt and the dark, you would know the unexpected hope that can only come from our Savior. Impossible grace abounds, even where we least expect it.

Can you hear it? His message to the shepherds is His message to us today. “You will find a baby lying in a manger. You will find my love where you least expect it. You will find me in the mud, in the muck, in the dirt. And in the mess of your sin and the hurt of this life, I will find you.

Merry Christmas. May impossible, unexpected grace be yours through Christ our Savior.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Can you imagine the stench?

Joseph has walked and Mary ridden 90 miles in the scorching sun, the wind whipping around their faces and caking them with dust from the dirt road. More sweat pours from Mary’s brow as she experiences the pains of labor for the first time. The stable is packed with all the travelers’ animals. Flies buzz around them in the heat and the air is heavy with the smells of sickly sweet hay and manure.

And into this, a baby enters.

I have witnessed this kind of birth before. Woman sighs and baby falls right into the dirt, and in the dark of a tiny mud hut, with the light of just a thin candle, our eyes search for something, anything, sharp to cut the cord. Water is a luxury and too far to fetch at this hour so we wrap the baby in whatever filthy rag-scraps we can find without even wiping her off first.

Joseph, still merely a child himself, searches for anything he can find in the dim light to cut the cord and swaddle his child, probably rags carrying the afore mentioned stench and the dirt of the journey. Trembling and exhausted they wrap Him as best they can, and swatting flies away lay him in the same trough out of which these animals have been eating.

Behold, the Savior.

And in this moment God fulfils every promise and every prophecy. This, God’s perfect time. God does not wait for the world to get ready, He enters right into the mess.

He makes Himself very least, no more status or opportunity than an easily overlooked infant in the slums where I spend so many hard hours. Very least so that He can commune with the very most desperate – you and me. He doesn’t mind that I am not ready yet and He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of my heart or the stench of my sin. God’s time is now and He enters into the mess, ready or not.

His perfect timing, now. Now is where He has called us. And we are just not ready yet. We need to clean up the house a bit and pray a little more and seek more counsel and we don’t know how to do that yet and oh, we have our excuses. And God says, “I’m here now, and I am ok with the mess because I am here for the messy.”

God doesn’t need us to be ready for Him; He has been ready for us since the beginning of time and the Messiah is here calling us to commune with the Holy One, to eat at His table.

I want the house to be organized and kids to be clean and nicely dressed and I want dinner to come out of the oven on time, but at the end of the day they laundry still piles and there are still crumbs in the corner and can anyone remember if I brushed my teeth today? And it can’t be the New Year yet because I am just not ready for it to be a new year yet.

But I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to sponsor just ten children, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now. This is where He has called us.