Monday, June 22, 2009

I Am Second. Third, Actually. Maybe Even Fourth.

Maybe you've seen the billboards around your area, or the website advertised: I Am Second. The meaning behind it is that you are second behind Jesus. When Bethany went on her mission trip to Mexico in March, their motto was "I Am Third," meaning, that first is Jesus, second is others, third is yourself. I think that is pretty appropriate! I learned years ago that that is what J.O.Y. stands for- Jesus, Others, Yourself. Remembering that helps me keep lots of things in perspective in my daily interactions and expectations.

This spring, I have thought of those words in a different way. As an adoptive mom, I am not the first mom that Minte ever had. Since he was in the care of others for 5 years before he came home to live with us, I'm not really even the second. I am third. I've read a lot of blogs in the adoption world, and there are as many opinions about how to refer to this as their are bloggers and families. I certainly don't think the way we have done things is the only "right" way (or even right at all some days!) but I certainly have no problem taking my place as "third" in order of the caregivers in his life. Maybe even fourth, now that I think of it!

This past Mother's Day was an important day. A year ago (and the year before that), Minte was in an orphanage, wondering if he would ever have another mother, hoping that a family would adopt him. This year... here he is! Of course, he had never heard of such a holiday. They don't have "Mother's Day" in Ethiopia. So, when the day came, we explained to him what it was. As we began talking about Mother's Day, it became evident (and very obvious) that it wasn't just about me, his American mother. When he came home to live with us here, his (now deceased) Ethiopian parents came too, in a very real way. They are talked about and remembered in some way in our home every day. They are part of his every day conversation and a very real memory for him. So, how could we leave out his Ethiopian mother on Mother's Day? We decided to plant a rose bush for her in the back yard. I asked him if he wanted to plant something, light a candle, release a balloon... other things I had heard/read about. He chose to plant something. When he and his Dad went to the store for the rose bush, they came back with two because he wanted to plant one for me, too. Isn't that sweet? Here is what we ended up doing on Mother's Day... our "Mother's Day Garden:"

I love the way it turned out! His Ethiopian mother's rose bush is on the left, and mine is on the right. The purple flowers in the middle are for the relative who cared for him before he came to the orphanage, and the yellow flowers are for all the "mommies" at the orphanage. The stone in the middle is so appropriate: Ecclesiastes 3:2, "To everything there is a season..." All of us have had our season in this precious boy's life. Some object to referring to oneself as "2nd mommy" or "3rd mommy" in a child's life because that implies that there may be someone after you. Well? None of us knows what tomorrow holds. I can't be certain I will be the last and final mommy he ever has, but this garden reminds me that God is there at every season and will bring just the people into his life to care for him when it is time. This is my season, and I'm just glad to be a part of God's plan for this amazing young man, whether I'm his final mommy (which I hope I am!) or not. God is so faithful.

As Father's Day approached, we asked him what he would like to do, and decided with him that we would plant a tree for his Ethiopian father. We have a shady little nook outside our dining room window that is perfect for a Japanese Maple. It is a window we look out of everyday, so he will be able to see it all the time. Yesterday he and his brother and dad took some time to plant the tree.

I love the way this turned out, too! The tree will grow to about 6 feet tall (about as tall as his American dad), and will be a constant reminder of his precious Ethiopian father, who had so much to do with the man Minte will one day be. As I watched those precious boys (and dad) plant that tree, I was reminded of Psalm 1, and the fact that I've written their names beside that Psalm in my Bible. Oh how I pray that they would be planted like well-watered trees because they meditate on God's Word, whose leaves will not wither and that whatever they do will prosper. What a wonderful reminder! The stone at the bottom of this tree is Psalm 25:4 "Show me Thy ways O Lord, teach me Thy paths."

Hopefully we have helped him to feel like he has honored the memory of his precious Ethopian parents who loved him so much. He knows he was loved and because of that has been able to readily receive our love. It's important for him to know he can remember them. He can miss them. He can talk about them, and most importantly- honor them. These first Mother's and Father's Days have been important milestones in our family. We are so blessed.

Ten Things I Love About My Dad

by Minte, Father's Day 2009

When I helped Minte make his Father's Day card for Luke, I asked him to tell me ten things he loves about his dad. (He's been here about 10 months and he is 10 years old, so that number seemed about right!)

Here's his "top ten," exactly as he said it. :)

1. "He takes us to gun range place."
2. "He play with me, like play baseball or football."
3. "He taught me how to play golf today. There's a lot of things he taught me... like bike, swim..."
4. "He let us mow the back yard and the front. And teach us."
5. "He doesn't drink alcohol."
6. "He's a good father."
7. "I will have fun with him."
8. "He love us."
9. "He's good at playing golf."
10. "We love him because he loves Jesus."

Friday, June 05, 2009

Making Decisions

Recently I came across a book by pastor Kevin DeYoung that I just love. It's called Just Do Something or How to Make A Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing In The Sky, Etc. Isn't that great title? It's a short, powerful read (I read it in one sitting on a lazy spring afternoon) but it gives great advice. So, I ordered several copies of it and it is my gift to grads this spring. Oh, how I wish someone had handed a book like that to me at a pivotal moment like that in my life. But you know what? I'm still in those pivotal moments! I'm making decisions all the time about my kids' schooling, ministry opportunities, purchases, friendships, involvements, and any number of things. Additionally, I'm counseling my teenagers regarding how to make wise decisions and be confident that they're acting according to God's will. I would write a well-written, thoughtful review of this book, but that's already been done by Tim Challies here. I encourage you to go read the review, and if you get a chance, pick up the book.

This morning during my quiet time I happened upon something along these same lines that I wanted to share today. This is from John MacArthur's excellent book Truth Endures, which is a collection of his sermons from the past 40 years of his ministry. I highly enjoy this book. The sermon I read today was entitled "Making the Hard Decisions Easy." The sermon is found in its entirety here. (Isn't it amazing that such resources are available to us with just the click of a mouse? How I appreciate such ministries!) Here are his points for helping make decisions in a practical, God-honoring way. As he puts it, the ease or "E's" of making decisions:

  • Expedience Will it be spiritually profitable? 1 Cor. 6:12 (Will my doing this enhance my spiritual life? Will it cultivate godliness?)
  • Edification Will it build me up? 1 Cor. 10:23 (Will it strengthen me? Will it move me toward Christlikeness and toward greater spiritual maturity?)
  • Excess Will it slow me down in the race? Heb. 12:1 (MacArthur says, "There are lots of types of bulk: legalism, ceremonialism, and needless waste of time suck your energy and foul up your priorities. So you need to ask yourself a simple question, 'Will it slow me down in the spiritual race: Anything that impinges my effectiveness in serving Christ I won't do.")
  • Enslavement Will it bring me into bondage? 1 Cor. 6:12 ("We should never allow a non-moral thing to become our master.")
  • Equivocation Will it hypocritically cover my sin? 1 Pet. 2:16 ("In other words, don't put a veil over your evil intent, be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, Is this really something that benefits me spiritually and is for my spiritual profit?... Or am I cloaking over my evil desire?")
  • Encroachment Will it violate the Lordship of Christ in my life? Rom. 14 ("Ask yourself, Is this something I believe the Lord would want?... Don't train yourself to violate your conscience. Ask yourself the question: Will this violate my understanding of the lordship of Christ?)
  • Example Will it help other Christians by its example? 1 Cor. 8:9-11
  • Evangelism Will it lead others to Christ? (Will they see a difference in my life?)
  • Emulation Will it be consistent with Christ's likeness? 1 John 2:6 (Would Jesus do it?)
  • Exaltation Will it glorify God? 1 Cor. 10:31 (Will what I do exalt God? Will this lift up His holy name? Will this honor Him? Will this adorn the doctrine of God in my life? Will hHe be glorified and honored and praised as a result of this?)
We all have many decisions to make every day. Even every hour! These principles and books have helped me as I continue to endeavor to make each decision- big or small- honor God. It is so freeing! It is a journey, and He is so good. I hope these help you if you have some decisions to make in your life, or if someone you know is at a crossroads. God is so faithful to guide us.