The Gospel.

It’s been a year of blog silence… and what a year. Commonly known as the dark night of the soul. We have pushed hard for 7 children to get adopted within the last year (including our daughter). A helpful image the Lord gave me was of a woman in childbirth. Every time a contraction comes it’s time for Mum to push. Then, it’s time to rest. Without this rhythm over the past year we would have become exhausted with fighting and frustration over the future of our children. But the Lord has been faithful in showing us when it’s time to push, and when it is time to wait patiently. November 2017 brings with it the joy of seeing the youngest of those 7 children meet his adoptive Mummy and Daddy. How we have dreamt of that day!!!! He will be such a beautiful gift to his new family.

Our precious boy about to be adopted into his forever family after living in our care for 18 months.

It’s easy for people to look at how we live and think “wow!” but few know the darkness that exists around pursuit of these beautiful children. The darkness of being faced with my own sinfulness, despair and desire to control. The darkness of knowing there is a high judge out there somewhere whom we’ve never met who after 4 years needs more evidence before he will grant our daughter her human right to a nationality. I have been encouraged by psalm 23 “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” We are walking through the darkness….not pitching a tent in order to camp out.

God has felt silent but His presence very deep and very real. Recently my husband and I read through our “marriage scriptures” together. Proverbs 3 verses 5&6 said: “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” As I read verse 5 hot tears of pain started to fall. “Lean not on my own understanding God?!?!?” I cried out to Him in anger…”I will never understand!!! Not once in this lifetime will I ever understand why it costs R50,000 in this country to adopt a white child and R15,000 to adopt a black one…..I will never understand how a legal system can deny a child their human rights for 4 years and get away with it…..I will never understand why biological parents who exploit and abuse are given more legal rights than their children…I will never understand why you spoke to us again and again about our daughter, and now it feels like we’re abandoned to a broken system when family is all we ever wanted!” I ranted like this before the Lord for a while…I felt His presence bring healing to my heart as I was completely honest before Him. He was unoffended by my honesty. Then He showed me His face. He said “you have the same eye colour as me”. I broke.

Family time.

Whilst we were waiting to bring Mosa into our family from Joburg, people we barely knew would ask me “is she a black baby?” I would always answer the same: “she has the same eye colour as me”.

When Jesus spoke those words to my heart I was filled with His love for me once again. He affiliates with our darkness and our pain. He understands the pain of not understanding the “why?” of what we are in. He doesn’t explain why. But He does fill us with His presence. He took the pain off all of us when He died on the cross. When Jesus spoke those words to my heart: “you have the same eye colour as me” I felt His deep love. He saved me once again. From my sin. From my darkness. From all of my resentment and unforgiveness. From the pain. The gospel of Jesus rescues me time and time again. We are saved from our own sin by a love that hung on a cross and died for this broken world. For us. He took it all and when He did, He said my favourite 3 words in the whole Bible: “it is finished”. And by His wounds we are totally healed.

more family time 🙂

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Maybe trust is all He ever wanted from me. “I trust you…” I said through my tears. “I have a plan”. He replied to my heart. “I know”….I said, now smiling. “I trust you enough not to need to understand it”.

He’s already rescued the world. And He doesn’t need to do it twice. He has a plan. 🙂

 

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love.

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November brought the adoption of the 7th child through our care. A beautiful one year old with a fierce determination and courageous overcoming spirit. We always get reflective after a child leaves.

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Our newly adopted boy on the day we first met. 6 hours old.

Psalm 73 has been my food of late. “God is good – good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing His goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top… When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.”

On New Year’s Eve of last year, Richie & I prayed and asked God that Mosa would be adopted within the coming new year. We are now into November without a court order (it lapsed in September and is yet to be renewed). The department lost Mamosa’s file (we do have copies of everything…we’ve learnt a few useful things over the years!) Mosa’s Social Worker left her job, without telling us she was off (we do have another now). In essence, things look somewhat worse, than this time last year. Our child is still stateless. The only peace we have had, has been in the fact that God has spoken to us about Mamosa. But I have still reached many depths of despair if I am to be completely honest. Both Richie and I have shared the dream of adopting a child from our teenage years & the dream of adopting our daughter since we first clapped eyes on her, on the 20th of September 2013.

I have been deeply comforted by God’s presence, but I have not heard Him speak anything to me in my moments of despair. He has seemed silent. This was making me really angry on the inside, as I felt unseen. “God I need to hear you! What are you saying?!”

And then, last week, He spoke: “I see your heart and your dream. None of it is unnoticed by me. When I am silent, I am teaching you to remain silent too. Silent in the face of injustice. When accused by the Sanhedrin I remained silent….in My silence I was worshiping My Father. I am teaching you to do the same thing in the face of injustice. Complaining will only strengthen the enemy’s stronghold of injustice upon your heart. Satan loves to hear you complaining about the system… it takes your focus off what I am doing. I am teaching you to trust Me like a child. I am teaching you to be completely and utterly satisfied in Me alone…. not in the outcome you desire. The outcome will come, as I have promised you. But not before you have learnt to be content in all circumstances. Not before you have found your delight and strength to be in Me alone. This injustice will pass. And you will have learnt to be satisfied in me alone. I am enough for you. I am for you. And I love you. Do you trust me?”

” I trust you Jesus, but I don’t understand…” came my reply.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. You cannot have peace that surpasses understanding, unless you don’t understand…” came the reply of Father God.

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Family 🙂

Love is long-suffering. Why do I always want the love without the suffering? Perhaps you cannot have one without the other.

Meanwhile, Mosa is oblivious to all of this suffering… she is happy… content… teaching me to trust.

This song has been reminding me that life is not about a journey or a “destination”. Life is about the music and the dance of living in the moment. Experiencing the joy of being loved. Every day.

 

Adoption.

This piece of art hangs on our kitchen wall. I did not know when Yvonne Fredheim gifted it to us in August 2013 that we would one day work together. It is a drawing based on Psalm 56 verse 8: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”. The bottle in the picture is not symmetrical because people are not perfect. Each tear inside the bottle is different. It represents different times of sorrow.

There have been many tears cried into my pillow late at night in these last few months. Before our 4 year old was adopted, we received emails from someone whose job position at the end of the email read: “Adoptability Manager”. I don’t know if we can help you with a child like this…read the words. I didn’t need to ask what they meant. A child with a history of trauma who is 4. A child like this doesn’t often get adopted. But if only they could meet him. If only they could see how beautiful he is. How his eyes light up when he laughs. If only.

After 14 months a beautiful Christian family did adopt our boy, and he attached immediately to them. But how many are deemed unadoptable? This is the question that has been keeping me awake at night. One night the Lord spoke directly into my heart: “You have made adoption an idol. I have already adopted these children at the cross, when I laid down my life for them and rose from the grave. I do not need to do it twice. The world’s view of adoption is not mine. Your hope is in me, not in an outcome…I am the hope of the nations & I will not disappoint. Do not let your hope be in the world’s legal outcome of adoption. My name is above the name of these governmental and legal systems.”

20160515_204412I repented until my heart felt free again. I looked at the world map on our dining room wall. In the Spirit I saw the Lord’s hands holding this map I saw before me. “Take heart. I have overcome the world. These children are all mine, just as you are mine. I have all of eternity to bring justice where there has been injustice.” The clock above the world map spoke to me of Galatians 6 verse 9 “Let us not become weary in doing good. For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Our foster daughter has lived with us for 2 years now and we are still in a legal battle to have her adopted. Meanwhile she has no citizenship whatsoever. But it was done on the cross, and the Lord will bring about a harvest at the proper time. We just need to not quit. And meanwhile we shall say yes to as many other children as possible. In the knowledge that Father God adopts us all, without exception.

20160515_213554Upon meeting Jesus, I always knew that adoption would be part of the plan. He adopted me, introduced me to His kids and from then on I was hooked. As my identity often gets skewed into “what I do”, rather than in just being a daughter with a really big heavenly Dad, I recently asked Jesus why He showed me a picture of these kids on the same day I met Him. He responded: “You thought I introduced you to the children, so that together we could get them rescued. I introduced you to my kids, so that I could heal you through them. I want your heart to be childlike. Just like theirs.”

Faithful Father 🙂

Love is patient.

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words on one of our haven bedrooms.

I used to think that patience was a characteristic held only by those who had nothing else to do. When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth about love being patient, I would swiftly move on to the rest of the list. Love is patient (“well yes, God is merciful and wants all His children to know Him…but I’m not God”). Love is kind (“yes, I can see the point of me being kind. Please make me kind Lord”). As I would read through the rest of the descriptions of love, they all made sense to me. Except patience. At best I thought it sounded passive.

After all, there’s a lot that needs doing in the world, right? We are the body of Christ and so until we move, Christ as the head cannot have His way on the earth. We have been given the authority of Christ to bring the Kingdom and to see heaven come to earth. Why be patient, when there’s so much needing done? I was not aware that this was how I used to think, until we received Nkosi into our family and hearts.

Nkosi arrived into our world, in March of 2014. The 4th child to come home to us. On the first day we met in hospital I knew that he would change our lives forever. Aware of his severely malnourished and cerebral palsied state we knew that his life would be full of challenge. But we felt absolutely no fear. This is one of the many ways God taught us to trust Him. The absence of fear is the presence of the full, deep and pure love from God for ourselves and for others. In this case it was for Nkosi.

We were full of faith for this frail little boy. Of course we believed he would walk! Of course we believed he would live a full life! The doctors told us Nkosi would not live to reach teenage years, but of course we knew our miracle-working God would prove them wrong! On the day Nkosi arrived home to us I had a vision of him standing in heavenly places with Jesus. He looked like Mandela in his youth. A strong, smiling, confident, authoritative leader. I felt that this was Nkosi’s spirit man and that no matter how hard things got, we should always remember that in his spirit Nkosi was happy we’d brought him home that day.

Nkosi. Joy-filled, worshipping, miracle boy.

Nkosi. Our joy-filled, worshipping, miracle boy.

Nkosi lived for 19 months in our home with us. There were many challenges and we watched him overcome many of them. It was always two steps forward one step back. Like a dance. Nkosi taught us patience and endurance. After he received life saving surgery in August 2014 his health improved dramatically, and we felt we would have many years ahead with our beautiful boy. When he developed severe abdominal pain we discovered Nkosi had a bowel obstruction. It was agreed that an exploratory surgery would be carried out first thing next morning. My daughter & I said  goodbye to Nkosi the night before his surgery, confident that he would overcome yet another obstacle. Nkosi went to be with his Jesus at 2a.m the night before this ever took place.

Nkosi taught me the power of forgiveness as I felt God gently comfort me at his funeral. I said “but God…do you not remember the times I cried out to you? Frustrated in the small hours of the morning….tired, disheartened and overwhelmed?” The Lord replied “as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far I have removed your sin from you…..no…. I don’t remember it. You are made of dust. I know you in your weaknesses, just as I knew Nkosi in his. You are forgiven.” I had no idea God could forgive me for my moments of resentment and frustration with this little boy, whom we loved very much. I struggled to forgive myself for despairing at times. But Nkosi taught us to receive love from God, as we needed Him like never before. “I can’t do this!” was often my complaint before the Lord. “I know you can’t” came the reply. “That’s why you need me”.

For this reason, Nkosi’s life although full of challenge, led us to Jesus on a daily basis. People wherever we went were drawn to him. They gave their lives to Jesus, one after another including Nkosi’s Mum and brother when they saw the joy that he carried. More still on our repeated hospital visits were healed and saved.

When they rang to inform me that he had gone to heaven, we went to the paediatric ward and then to the mortuary to say goodbye to Nkosi. They know me at the mortuary because I have prayed for the dead a few times (with full permission!) in the last few months. They now saw me visiting for another reason. Each time I had prayed for the dead in the mortuary before (obeying the scripture when Jesus commanded us to: “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers & cast out demons” – Matthew 10), I had always sensed fear in that room. But the day I saw Nkosi there, I had no fear in me whatsoever. I felt nothing but love from God for Nkosi. God broke a fear of death in me & in Nkosi’s Mum that day, as we wept, kissed him and held him. He looked just like he was sleeping.

I asked the Lord to bring him back to life, so that I could say goodbye.“We’re having too much fun” God replied to my heart. I knew in that moment that Nkosi’s life had been taken by the Lord. God wanted to bring him home because of His mercy, to Nkosi and to us. I got reminded of Enoch in Genesis 5. “Enoch walked faithfully with God, then he was no more, because God took him away”. Nkosi was a worshipper, and in our many car trips up and down to hospital we would worship in the car together. Now whenever we worship on the earth I know that we are joining with Nkosi. We will see him perfect in his new body again. I know I shall recognise him & I look forward to that day.

Nkosi Funeral

At Nkosi’s funeral we worshipped and danced around his coffin… death where is your sting?

But for now, God has chosen to put me on a journey where I am learning to trust and to be actively patient. With each child there are challenges. Relentless patience says: “I trust you” to God. It is the one gift we can give Him here on this earth that we will never be able to give Him in heaven. There we will see Him face to face, and there we shall have no need to trust any more, for we shall see Him in His fullness. Nkosi has taught me patience, child-like trust and dependency upon God that I could not otherwise have learnt. I will continue to pray for the dead without fear, in the knowledge that one day at least one shall be raised. It is the Lord who gives, the Lord who takes, and the Lord who resurrects again from death into fullness of LIFE. Amen.

 

The Lover’s Arms.

It turns out that the second year living in another country is very different from the first. Things become more real. The adrenaline wears off. Sustainability becomes our first priority. New relationships that are deep and lifelong have a history to them. Older friendships back home have greater strength, because there is a sense in which God is weaving all our lives together, in Him. From Irish soil to the fabric of South African life. This reminds us daily that our lives are not about us. God is placing His children in families and we get to join Him. It is worth seeing. He is writing His story and the Godhead are the main characters.

Behind our public Penuel face of building 2 new children’s homes, lies some personal pain. We said goodbye to dearly beloved friends and family in Ireland (who are the best any girl could ask for) and we miss them. When Jesus said “come, follow me” to Peter and Andrew, they left their nets immediately. There is a cost attached to this life that we have seen in the last 6 months. Distance from loved ones. We have had to trust Jesus with our family as first my Mum and recently Richie’s Dad, became critically unwell and required emergency care. In both scenarios Jesus radically saved their lives and both are now journeying paths of recovery. Jesus is so kind to allow us to have more years with our beloved parents as part of our lives. We are forever grateful to Him for this.

Our decision to pursue adoption of Mamosa, means that we cannot travel with her until this is finalised. As such, Richie flew back to Ireland alone to be with his Dad when he became unwell. During times when Richie and I are apart, the Lord reveals Himself to me as my first love. Two months before I first met Richie, I was worshipping in my bedroom and the Lord gave me a vision of an engagement ring. Isaiah 54 says “The Lord your Maker is your husband”. I knew in that moment that He was asking me to marry Him. At this time I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be married. The Lord was asking me to lay down my desire for marriage, and to receive Him as my husband. My first love. The only one who can be more than enough for me. Who will always love me perfectly. I said yes to Jesus that day, knowing that He was asking me to be satisfied in Him alone. That day I received the fullness of His love for me. I believe this is the heart of God for every believer. He desires to be a husband to us. This is why the Church is called the bride of Christ, and not the friend or the disciple. One of our staff members during a time of prayer recently asked Jesus the question: “how much do you love me?” Jesus replied: “enough to marry you.” It was a beautiful moment for this “single” mother of two to realise she was no longer single. She now had the most faithful and loving husband in the universe.

I married Richie because he was the one most like Jesus whom I’d ever met. On our wedding day, we locked eyes and exchanged vows. During those short minutes I had an image of Jesus standing behind Richie: beaming! I don’t think Richie or I took our eyes off each other once that whole day. We didn’t see anyone else in the room as we exchanged vows before a crowd of witnesses. We only saw one another. So it is with Jesus and His bride. You. When He looks at you, you are all that He sees. And He loves what He sees! My prayer is that you would always see yourself in the reflection of His eyes. Psalm 32 says “I will guide you with my eye”. We need close eye contact with Him. I am learning that we are called first to be lovers of Jesus. Not servants nor even friends. Lovers. I am beginning to grasp hold of who I am, in this regard. This is not arrogance, it is a revelation of how much Jesus loves His bride. That He would betroth Himself to us in such a way that is inseparable and completely free from fear.

Jesus told us that to find our life, we’ve got to lose it. We are crucified with Christ to our sin and old ways, and then we are resurrected. Hidden in the resurrection life and love of Jesus. This means that no-one can kill us. Our lives are already laid down! If someone tries to take our life, then we get the privilege of leading them to Jesus. If they kill us, then we are more alive than we’ve ever been, with Him in heaven. I am learning that it is possible to live like this. Completely free from fear! The enemy is the father of lies and therefore fear is a lie. We need to stop listening and believing lies as the bride of Christ, and instead choose perfect love which casts out all fear. On our wedding day Richie and I were not worrying about divorce, sickness or the future. We were in love! The posture of the body and bride of Christ is to simply be in love. Permanently so.

I am more in love with Richie now after 9 years of marriage than I was on our wedding day. He has become more like Jesus,  so I am more in love with him. Richie has been God’s greatest gift in this life to me. Those of you reading this who would call yourself “single”, need to know that you are not. You are married to Jesus. He is the best lover you could ever have. Jesus reminded me whilst Richie was at home visiting His Dad that when you are in love you behave completely differently to your life as it once was. You sleep less. You eat less. You are happy all the time. You do things you would never have done before… all because you want your lover to grasp how much you love them.

When Richie and I started our relationship we would send each other text messages that always ended with around a million “xoxoxoxoxoxox” (those). These messages were always long. When it came to saying goodbye to one another after we’d spent time together, one of us would stand at the doorstep of their house & the other of us would stand at the car or walk away, all the time doing scissor jumps. The reason for this was that we were physically making the X shape out of our bodies, for the other person to understand how much we loved each other. It was also a giving up of dignity or respectability, for the sake of the other. A way in which we were saying to each other “you are worth me becoming undignified for. This is how much I love you. Enough to become a spectacle of love for you. So that you would understand how deep this love I have for you truly is”. Richie & I still do a few little scissorjumps whilst saying goodbye to each other in airports, once we’re through the security gate. No-one else watching us in the airport understands… they might even think we’re nuts. But therein lies the beauty of love. We don’t care. We are in love. And that’s all that matters to us both.

So it is with worship of Jesus. As the bride of Christ, we must live in a place that doesn’t care what others around us are either thinking, or not thinking. All that matters is that Jesus is seeing a demonstration of worship whereby He understands just how deep the love that we have for Him goes. He must understand how much we love Him. Sometimes worship looks undignified. The reason for this is because we are crazy, head over heels in love.

With Jesus.

He is beautiful.

(and you are made in His image).

So…  do you want to fall in love?

This song is by Ray Lamontagne. To me it sums up perfectly the dialogue between two lovers who cannot be apart.