That's the name of one of my all time favorite books, about one of my all time favorite men of God- Hudson Taylor. He is my hero in the faith! A pioneer missionary to China who learned through sacrifice and great loss what it means to REALLY LIVE "in Christ"! I've asked God many times throughout the years, since reading his biography, to increase my own faith and knowledge of Him that I might serve Him in some small way like Hudson Taylor did.
Following those prayers, I began to have the opportunity to speak to women's groups around the country - sharing stories of God's incredible grace and faithfulness in my life in spite of my great weaknesses. I have been told that I have the uncanny ability to bring an audience of women to tears. I like that! It means that my words are powerful enough to evoke deep emotions. What I liked most, was that God had found a way to use me that was so personally gratifying! I'd finally found something that I thought I was "good" at and loved thinking that ministry could be so "easy" and personally rewarding. In looking back now, I am beginning to understand that though I hope that my speaking glorified Christ and lives were truly impacted... In as much as it made me feel good about myself or brought applause to me as a dynamic speaker, it was about ME... not ministry! Real ministry is never "easy" and sometimes not "personally rewarding" at all. True ministry is actually found in following in the footsteps of Christ and it always (yes...always!) includes personal sacrifice and a death to "self". If ministry makes me feel better about ME... I've missed the point all together! :-(
Thus began my journey, my "ministry" of adoption. There was no mistaking that it was a call directly from the Lord! Why? Because it meant that I would have to lay my selfishness aside and give myself to a child when I felt like it and found it personally rewarding, and more importantly, when I didn't feel like it and when no one, save God himself, would see it or applaud. Has the journey been worth it? You bet it has! Personally rewarding? Like nothing else in my life! But it has been hard... and lonely... and thankless at times... and a kick in the back side from the Spirit of God to get my sometimes lazy, overweight backside in gear and discover what it means to die ...and yet live!
In the past few days I've been called "nobel", "really strong", a "wonderful person", and "incredible"...I like that! Even tonight, as I tucked my eight year old in, she told me that I am a great mom! I like that too! It makes me feel really good about myself! It makes me feel really good that other people think those things about me, even though deep down I know the things they are saying are really not true at all.
If those people really knew my heart the way I know my heart... they wouldn't say those things... they wouldn't even think those things. The Bible says that my heart is so deceitfully wicked that I can not even know it myself! Praise God, that when He looks at me, He sees me through the lens of Christ- my perfect covering. Apart from Him... there is really nothing extrodinary about me at all! But life "in Christ" isn't about ME anymore anyway! If I truly want to love wildly, and risk everything I have for the cause of Christ, and give my whole heart to reaching the lost with the Hope He offers,... it will have nothing to do with me... and everything to do with Him!
It is not death to die? No! Life is found in dying to yourSELF! The Bible says that if a man wants to find his life He must lose it... and that in losing it, he will truly find it! Losing my life?... I don't know... that sounds really painful! And these days, I'm finding that it is!
My husband is a mighty man of God... flawed... but a man of God, none-the-less! Doug loves Christ with all of his heart and he is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make Him known. 17 years ago he left a promising career with the FBI to go into full time ministry. No paychecks promised from Uncle Sam, no benefit packages, no promise of worldly gain or fame... just simple obedience to what he felt the Lord was leading him to do. He was called "crazy" by many... even "unwise"... but when his life is measured, it will be measured in light of eternal things... and I believe that he will be welcomed into the Kingdom with the sweet words "Well done, good and faithful servant"... Wow! Deep down, THAT is what I really want!
...To be a faithful servant! But wait! Just the word "servant" makes me bristle. It sounds like a lot of dirty work...whether I feel like it or not. It sounds like obedience might be required... whether I feel like it or not. It sounds like it may cost me my "freedom"! It sounds a lot like God's call to the ministry of adoption!
Don't get me wrong! If God calls you to the journey of adopting one of "the least of these"... I would applaud from the balconies... cheer you on... and yell "DO IT!" from the top of my lungs! It is miraculous! It is life-altering wonderful and will rock your world in every good way imaginable! But I'd also have to warn you... It is stinkin' HARD! It is servanthood at it's finest and not for the faint of heart! Yes... I said it... SERVANThood! You don't have to be "nobel", or "really strong", or a "wonderful person", or at all "incredible". (I am, in fact, none of those things!) All you need is the willing heart of a SERVANT! Maybe I should explain...
Rachel is precious... beyond words really. One of the happiest human beings I've ever met on the planet... in spite of 7 years of doing life alone with a broken heart... HAPPY! 99.999% of the time! I'm certain that I am probably one of the luckiest Mommy's in the world. If China only had 3 angels... God gave them all to ME! :-) But... I like to sleep late! - Rachel's still on orphanage time, which means she's up before 8 am! (Anyone that knows me at all, knows that this is just simply unacceptable! Just joking... kind of') ~~~ I like sitting and reading a magazine with a big glass of southern sweet ice tea while the kids ride their bikes and scooters in our circular driveway - Rachel's never sat on a bike or stood on a scooter in her 7 year old life! Sitting, reading magazines is just not an option anymore! ~~~ I love to ride bikes to the pool or to the ocean and lay flat on my back tanning in the Florida sun, while the waves splash up and cool my feet and the kids play happily by themselves- It would take Rachel at least half a day to get to the beach on her new little bike clad with training wheels, and let's just face it... I would not be lying flat on my back! ~~~ Worst of all, I am energized by time alone reading my Bible, riding my bike, walking along the beach... anything, really... as long as it's ALONE! - Rachel needs me/ wants me every waking moment of every single day. She even thinks that I must go to the potty (into the stall) with her each and every time she's got to go! I don't think I could even calculate how much time I've been spending in bathroom stalls lately! (Doug and Ryan find this insanely funny! Me...not so much!) ~~~ I'm a "hard-liner" kind of mom... especially when it comes to the issue of respect. I've prided myself in the fact that my kids have known since they were tee-iny that saying "no" to Mommy or Daddy just doesn't fly in our home! - Rachel didn't get the memo! She missed the tee-iny stage in our home and she's still trying to figure out how things work with a real family and real parents... Imagine my shock when I told her to pick up the books she had just thrown all over her bedroom floor today and she looked at me and simply said "no". Oh mylanta! This isn't going to be as easy as I imagined it! :-) ~~~ I could probably go on all night expounding on my extreme selfishness, but I will conclude with this most relevant example... I hate hospitals! I'd rather die than go sit in an ER all day! And PLEASE don't leave me to sit with a little patient for hours on end without relief! 24/7 just isn't my cup of tea! (hence my aversion to home-schooling!) - Why God would ask ME to adopt a little girl with a life threatening heart condition that will likely mean weeks or even months inside the 4 walls of a hospital room, I haven't quite figured out yet! I'll let you know when I do!
Oh, wait a minute... I think I just did!!! God's great agenda in my life is to teach me that "it is not death to die"!... to MYSELF that is! Death to "self" is painful! Don't be fooled! It's no easier for me than it would be for you! I am not "nobel". I am not "really strong", "wonderful" or "incredible". Left to myself, I am none of the above. I am just like you! Just "crazy" enough to ask God to use me,... to give my life significance,... and to enable me to meet Him one day completely emptied of mySELF! Several times in the past few weeks I've wondered what I could have possibly been thinking when I asked the Lord for such things??? But deep down I know... I was thinking that I want to know HIM, and be made into HIS likeness. Yes... even in His "death"! I know too, that it is the ONLY place that I will truly find LIFE! God is, indeed, a God of miracles! I'm asking that He will do a miracle in Rachel's heart... and I'm asking Him while He's at it... to do one in mine too!